CAER 2017 Begins... Thursday 4th May!

CAER 2017 Begins... Thursday 4th May!
What will be uncovered this year?
We're back for our 11th season during which examination of trench IV will be continued. Our work will examine the interior of the masonry building (the possible chapel) with its drain discharging into the ditch, the western part of the ditch feature where it is overlain by the medieval building and the underlying deposits. This year trench IV will also be extended to the south in order to locate and examine a stone structure identified during the excavation of a service trench in 2013.
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Friday, 27 May 2016

Heritage and that old Chestnut

Digging holes and interpreting what we find within forms a part of the role of an archaeologist. This is what we've been telling the numerous people who've stopped by to inspect our rather wonderful excavation. But why do it in such a very public place? Clearly the very obvious response is, because that’s where the archaeology is. However, we could just as easily clear off to a hillfort in Wales, excavating, recording and interpreting as we go; and we do.

Whilst the latter ticks all the boxes in terms of archaeological research it also lowers accessibility to the public generally and we run the risk of inadvertently returning archaeology to a realm of exclusivity typified by Chester’s amphitheatre excavations during the 1960’s. You’ll notice from the photograph that the impenetrable wall surrounding the site pretty much rules out any prospect of public participation; it also kept the archaeologists out of pubs, which is possibly a good thing.
I realise that I am, to a greater extent, preaching to the converted. However, accessibility is key to the future of archaeology, which in itself forms a part of research that makes the heritage ‘industry’ possible. The heritage industry, in case you weren't aware, isn't faring too well in the current economic climate. Funding, an always tricky beast to capture, is becoming harder to secure and we have witnessed the closure of the nationally important ‘Bede’s World’ at Jarrow with several other notable museums in Lancashire and elsewhere facing the axe.

Chester Amphitheatre Excavations, 1960 (CWAC)
If you were expecting a politically charged conclusion to this, you’ll be disappointed. I could of course wax lyrical about an Orwellian nightmare where the populace starved of culture are fed a fast food diet of government approved ‘entertainment’ in the name of state control.
But I won’t, such a thing is fantasy.

What I will do is suggest that when you go out into the world visit your local museum, attend a historical re-enactment or even join a local archaeological group and dig stuff up.  Instead of spending a fortune at a the theme park, or heaven forbid, visit a retail park on a Sunday afternoon to look at three piece suites, dress up like a Viking or an Anglo- Saxon and hit like minded individuals with foam padded swords and axes.

What could be more fun than this? Clearly nothing, there again I'm biased, but it would seem to me that the groups of primary school children staring wide eyed at the artefacts we’d excavated were just as fascinated by the past as I am.

So, here comes that old chestnut I promised, brace yourselves…….The children are our future, it is undeniable and inarguable, and whilst I’d rather have quoted Dylan, Morrissey or at a push Jello Biafra, they've never actually sung that lyric. And i
f they had, they’d only have ruined its simple sentiments with a follow up line dripping with cynicism, maudlin or political rhetoric. So you’re stuck with Whitney Houston and I have to wear a Hair shirt for a month, unroll your eyes and take back whatever utterances you made to whichever omnipotent being you chose to invoke and accept that education, in any form, is crucial to the continuation of the Heritage Industry.

Those classes of six and seven year olds who bounced loudly into Grosvenor Park on Wednesday morning, left knowing a great deal more than when they arrived. They may have been slightly disappointed by the lack of dinosaurs, treasure and flamingo’s sporting a full set of molars; frankly the lack of the latter disappoints me also. But who knows, some of them might have been sufficiently inspired and may go on to study archaeology, history or one of the many disciplines that strives to understand the human condition. I certainly hope this is the case, because it means we will have succeeded in our outreach activities and secured the future of heritage generally.

Which reminds me, if a future archaeologist unearths a small plastic headless soldier from the ruins of a suburban semi-detached house in Nantwich, destroyed in the dinosaur uprisings of 2157; who knew? He wasn't merely discarded. The truth is he received what nine year old me considered to be a full military funeral complete with a hummed version of the last post and is firmly representative of ritual deposition. Quote this to your hearts content, but for the love of your tyrannical dinosaur overlords, don’t forget to reference.


Day 14 – The rain and the road

So today got off to a wet and bleak start - but it soon picked up and got better as the morning progressed. It was back to digging out a fill near the edge of the trench, in which we managed to find bits of pottery, animal bone and a tooth. A section drawing of the feature was also taken, which triggered a very productive afternoon!

The lifting of the Roman road also continued today which led to a very large number of finds, these are going to take some serious sorting! We are also thinking there may be a possible cess pit, Jonathan had fun with the smells coming out of that. 

We also had a couple of school visits today.  They really enjoyed seeing some exciting finds and learning about the site in general. It’s really great to see young people engaging with archaeology!

Overall it's not been the most exciting day in Grosvenor Park but we have made some seriously good progress and looking forward to what else we can find in the reducing time we have left.  

Dig Team A

The section that has been excavated and drawn today.

Sorting the very large amount of finds from the Roman road

Some dashing before and after shots of the Roman road

And the possible cess pit found today. 
Beth, Becky, Shaun and Robyn

Thursday, 26 May 2016

DAY 13: The Horde descends

Day three of week three Team E (still recovering from its laughing fit yesterday) continued carving through the western section of the trench:

Just after lunch we were visited by a horde of school children wanting to look at what we’d found and eager with questions about the Archaeology and the Romans. Talking to them was actually quite fun they seemed very inspired by the finds and interested in the bones and pottery in particular. 

Aaron and Hannah carried on removing the soil of their portion ending up with an excellently neat section by the end of the day. They managed to find plenty of pottery sherds from varying dates even finding a large chunk of handle and rim with some decoration on it.

Iwan and Lee continued their plight against the never-ending clay and managed to excavate a large hunk of bone out of the Roman rubble layer that they have been chasing all week before they remove it completely.

Meanwhile we finished excavating and cleaning a brick section near the corner, the day was spent trowelling back and mattocking a section protruding from the trench wall. Many finds were had, including a mix of roman and medieval pottery sherds, some more clay pipes found (as usual) found on the top soil and even a shoulder blade. Some particular finds were another Roman tile with what looks like a paw print from a troublesome cat, along with a part of a Roman drinking cup.

The day ended with a discussion on who were the best and worst kings or queens of England while we cleared off our sections ready for more work tomorrow. Here’s hoping for more great finds tomorrow! 


Jack and Callum

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Day 12: Not so daunting after all

The second day of the third week seemed so daunting on the first day. However time has flown by and now there does not seem to be enough time left.

 Today was again a day were time flew. Team D again was split into two groups one of which were tasked with expanding context that we had been working for nearly the entire time that we have spent on site. Unfortunately the context was not as nice to us today as there were very little finds. In terms of what had been found today there was not many of great importance however Mona had a two sections of an unfused vertebra. 

Unfortunately after the morning came to an end and even with the help of Joe we just about managed to find the bottom and the end of the context.  After being in the same spot for what feels like forever, clearing a deposit of which we thought was a Roman feature, we had the misfortune to find out that it was in fact a hole made by a tree being uprooted. The excavation of this context was not in vain as Roman glass and some bones were found as well as some interestingly decorated pottery. 

The other half D team however were clearing a MASSIVE section of stone set solidly in the deep cold earth. Eventually, after much lifting, the Mighty Matt and Super Sacha were able to pull the rocks from the ground.  But there was a trick afoot; one of the big stones was in fact a nice section of medieval archway, which was as always a delightful find. 

So as days go it was rather uneventful, no secret cities discovered, Time Team did not show up and no shirts were taken off, SEE CALUM! I DON’T always take my shirt off. 

So if you’re ever in the mood for a day in the park and to see a bit archaeology then come on down to Grosvenor Park where the fun never stops ;)

Joe and Josh

Monday, 23 May 2016

Day 11: A tale of two diggers

Group D began the day by sorting through the finds from site. Like a group of rejected Harry Potter extras we sat there staring into the ink blots, fountain pens poised to label each item with its context. None in team D were well versed in the use of fountain pens and for some, not to name names, the knack of using one came harder than others…..Matt Wilkie.

After the break group E then joined us and we were treated to a short talk on animal bones by Ian, a specialist who had come to help hone our skills. Bags of bone were handed out with the task of identifying the type of bone and the animal it belonged to, which proved to be challenging but really interesting. The hardest part of this process turned out to be working out which side of the animal the bone had come from. Relief from this came by finding the odd vertebral bones from time to time. 


After lunch we eagerly rushed to the site to do some digging and get some finds of our own. We were both given the task of mattocking down an area near what has been interpreted as ovens. Luckily we had our mattock maverick Joe with us who basically did most of the work, indeed it was quite hard to stop him from helping out....or taking off his top. 

Ironically, the area was to bare little fruit in the way of finds, the odd piece of ceramic here and there but nothing we hadn’t found on the slipway to the site. During this time we were also on PUblic Archaeology duty. We were quite happy to engage the public with archaeological conversation and give tips on where to get a good meal. Yes it was steady as she goes today on the S.S.Archaeology; even the hot summer's sun was calmed with a pleasant breeze...

...until a large group of schoolchildren gathered at the entrance, it was then our tranquil calm had ended. But in its place came a youthful enthusiasm and a sense of awe on our part as the kids soon started finding pieces of pottery and metal from seemingly thin air. After a rush of excitement the group left (hopefully with some future archaeologists now in it). 

Calum & Sacha



Sunday, 22 May 2016

Week Two Comes to a Close

With a Friday vibe onsite today, there was an enthusiasm to finish areas and round up the week.  

Onsite, good progress has been made, reaching the natural geology, the recording and subsequent excavation a selection of roman pits and post holes, in the north and south east corners of the trench are nearly finished. 

A multi-facetted investigation of the medieval structure has given us some more clues as to its construction and potential uses. An intrusive section has been cut into the outer wall of the medieval building to see how far it was built in to the drainage ditch, whilst also confirming there were two stages of fa├žade with a substantial supporting infill, of large masonry blocks. 

Yesterdays deluge of rain had turned the rock hard clay into a workable surface, after an intensive trowelling session a few new features came to light within the structure; a third fireplace emerged (to add to the suspected oven like hearths, currently being drawn and planned), two medieval pits and an articulated hoof (suspected to be sheep/goat/deer).

Finally a hypothesis changer was discovered today of some Roman mortar within the existing medieval structure, this means there may more Roman buildings or even a singular larger one yet to be discovered. 

Elsewhere, in the north part of the trench, two coins were discovered, possibly of Roman origin and further tests should tell us more about them...

Next week, we are planning to concentrate on taking out a section of the Roman road to retrieve some more accurate dating evidence and a deeper investigation into the multiphase building covering the west of the site.

Aaron and Hannah