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.
Keep up to date with all the discoveries, brought to you by our daily bloggers.

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Friday, 12 May 2017

Day 6: Everyone knows archaeologists dig, but did you know we also clean? Matt, Peter, Abbi and Amelia report on another cracking day on site and the latest finds from the Roman period to the Civil War…

Day six of the dig has been very much about cleaning; cleaning finds and cleaning trenches. Group B spent the morning sat at washing bowls full of water with toothbrushes in our hands, carefully scrubbing centuries of mud from artefacts recovered during the first week. Making sure to leave fragile late medieval glass and a corroded iron horseshoe to one side, we worked our way through sacks of finds, taking care to keep track of labels telling us which trench and layer items have come from. Decorative patterns appeared from under mud on tobacco pipes, and pottery glazes from custard yellows to acid greens brightened the finds trays. 
Carefully cleaning our finds...
The afternoon saw Neil and I back working on the narrow 19th century land drain trench that we’d spent the previous day excavating, this time cleaning out the last of the soil with a brush and narrow shovel for a dustpan. Then it was time to start cleaning the whole area we’ve been excavating, ready for it to be photographed and a plan drawing made of our progress. But there was still time for a last-minute cluster of intriguing finds; a bone-handled knife, an iron spike, more musket balls and a pig’s tooth; all surrounded by animal bone deposits and less than a yard from the spur found last week.
Cleaning back the trench
More cleaning.. but looking great and ready for photographing and drawing!

As sensible cautious archaeologists, we will have to wait and see the bigger picture before we know how these items got here. But in the meantime, my money’s on a life-and-death struggle between a Parliamentarian cavalryman and a hitherto unrecorded Royalist pig of war, armed to the teeth with muskets and knives. Our trench supervisor remains unconvinced however…

Today was brilliant and for our team meant continuing the dig into an undisturbed patch we now are almost certain is Roman. The finds from today were overwhelming compared to previous days, finding numerous sherds of Roman pottery, including Samian ware, Black Burnished ware and Mortaria. We also found numerous pieces of animal bone, including a metatarsal and some teeth. Can’t wait to continue excavating tomorrow!
Finds from Peter's team
What more could an archaeologist ask for, but more sun, sun, sun? We were delivered this beautiful weather today on day 6 of the exciting archaeological dig in Grosvenor Park.
Team A have been working on a recently discovered feature, possibly a boundary ditch or drainage ditch that faces North-East and extends right the way under the medieval building, which is suspected to be St. Anne’s Chapel. This morning’s archaeological finds have been interesting, a piece of Roman Tegulae (roof tile) has been found in the fill of the ditch that we have been excavating along with sherds of Samian pottery. The finds from this fill show promise as to what is to come, however they were difficult to attain due to the soil being hard and clay like, with many flecks of black charcoal and bright orange sandstone.  Overall a cracking good morning for team A and an even better afternoon as team-mate Amelia reports on the rest of the exciting day.

A piece of Roman roof tile (tegulae) from the fill of the ditch

Following on from Abbi, the afternoon was as sunny and hot as the morning. For Team A the afternoon involved scraping the bottom of the pit to reach the natural layer of yellow clay. By uncovering the clay it showed a round cut that could either be a post hole or evidence of a cistern. While uncovering this there were multiple finds. To Sophie’s joy we managed to find two pieces of Samian ware, both with decoration, we also found some animal teeth and bone, altogether a good day for finds for Team A finding more and more as we kept digging. During the afternoon it was Team A’s turn at public archaeology. There was a variety of people to meet. The majority of the public were interested to learn about what had been found and what we hoped to find and what we thought things were and we got the chance to show them some of the finds, some even had their own anecdotes about digs they themselves had been part of, one lady being involved in heritage in Llandudno. However, one particular member of the public voiced his concern about the way the dig could negatively affect the park. Fingers crossed for another good day tomorrow and we hope for more sunshine.
Part of a circular cut feature visible in plan

Jess, Sophie and Victoria report on a scorching day 5 full of levelling and finds washing…
Today’s day on site started with murmurings of “Have you seen how hot it’s going to be?!” and “Do you have any suncream?” as we all anticipated another scorching day in the sun; we soon settled though and got stuck in for another day in Grosvenor Park.
Team A revisited yesterday’s fresh section and cleaned the area to reveal a clay-like surface which we were itching to dig into and discover what lies beneath. The other groups persevered through the increasing heat and barrow after barrow was delivered to the spoil mountain. The rest of the morning was spent in the shade for team A, which was a little light relief, as we topped up our level (and maths!) reading skills. Using the base level just outside of the park, the readings were taken to note the height of the freshly cut trench. The remainder of the day was spent cleaning finds, but I’ll let Sophie talk to you about that excitement! Overall another fab day on site, I can’t wait to carry on!

Using the dumpy level to record relative levels (height above sea level) across the site
Another glorious day greeted us in Grosvenor Park for day 5 of our dig. Following our morning of level readings it was team A's turn to clean some of our dirt ridden finds. Abbi was our queen of intricately designed clay pipes with patterns ranging from a Diamond to a Phoenix (but have been described by most as the Liver birds).

Intricate designs on clay pipes revealed by washing
However, the best part of the day by far for me was when I cleaned away the dirt on a rather small find, to discover a piece of Samian ware pottery beneath. FINALLY, after days of searching through endless buckets of mud in the scorching heat, I had managed to get my hands on some Samian ware. It may be tiny but the best things come in small packages.

Here's to day 6 and some more exciting finds.

Sophie's fragment of Samian ware
Today brought another full day of sun to Grosvenor Park. The morning was spent clearing the loose soil to reveal more of the brick and plaster demolition layer. Finds today included lead musket shots, animal bone, pottery and once again a lot of clay pipe! Most of the afternoon involved finding and digging down to find a drainage ditch laid down in the Victorian period. We were also able to have a go at practising level reading before getting right back into trowelling. All in all a very steady and productive day, looking forward to seeing what comes up tomorrow.

The finds keep coming!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Day 4 brought evidence for horses, board games and an apostle… find out more about this intriguing combination from Ben, Steph and Max…

Today was a bit cooler than the other days have been but we didn't let that stop us. The central part of the trench was cleared of rubble and detritus, revealing the plaster and brick beneath. As always, clay pipe fragments were everywhere but more unusual artefacts were also uncovered. Jamie found a horse shoe (perhaps related to the copper alloy spur?), and me and Pauline both found gaming counters. Matt found a spectacular purple-patterned piece of pottery. As well as these leisure items, I uncovered more martial artefacts: another musket ball, small and ceramic so likely used in canister shot, and a lead lid from an 'apostle', a gunpowder container worn on a bandolier.

A gaming counter

A ceramic musket ball

The lead cap of a powder measure (also known as an apostle since there were twelve on each bandolier).

Day four of the dig was another lucky day of sunshine and ice creams, the public showed a keen interest in what we were doing and many of us were on hand to show them the finds from the excavation so far. Team A spent the afternoon taking the trench section back further to reveal the white rubble layer that can be seen in the stratigraphy of the trench. We discovered plenty of interesting finds including animal teeth, bone, medieval pottery and of course more clay pipe! The shovelling of soil and wheelbarrow runs will have our backs aching tomorrow but as always another enjoyable day of excavation. Other groups started levelling the site and clearing up features such as the possible hearth and medieval wall, while others were learning about the importance of public engagement. Fingers crossed for more sun and finds tomorrow!

Team A's finds tray

Today we finished clearing the trench from 2016 of spoil and finding small finds such as nails, animal bone (pig teeth and a piece of sheep scapula) and even more 16th-18th century clay pipe. Another group extended the northern section of the trench and cleaned up the stratigraphy and we have evidence to suggest we are nearing the Roman period as indicated by hob nails and black burnished ware. We now wait for tomorrow morning to get into the real meat (or new contexts) of the excavation and see what awaits us beneath the tightly packed earth!

Max and co's finds from Day 4
The backfill all removed we now wait to see what this year's discoveries will be!

Day 3 brings more finds and a special visitor…Megan and Emily report

Another sunny day down in Grosvenor Park today, fantastic for the public who came to see what we were up to, but not so great for us. The heat had baked the ground solid making our lives quite difficult, and there were definitely a few pink foreheads on site by the end of the afternoon. Still, we've made good progress!
Sunny weather is nice but can make for hard soil!
Team C spent the day removing the last of the backfill from the edges of our trench and neatening up the sections. Doing this exposed the site's stratigraphy making a mortar-rich demolition layer clearly visible.
Our trench sides (sections) need straightening so that we can clearly see the layers of deposits - a mortar-rich demolition layer starts to get clearer here
The backfill we removed also produced a few finds, my favourite of which is a broken glass bottle with "Chester" moulded into it! Looking forward to Day 4 when our team should hopefully start getting to grips with some virgin archaeology!
A 'Chester' bottle
It's the start of a new week but still boiling hot in Grosvenor Park. Today we finished clearing the backfill from our corner of the site and there was a lot to do! The cleaning of the site allowed us to uncover some small finds such as clay pipe, animal bone and teeth. It's very hard manual work! The public thoroughly enjoyed finding out about the finds we had collected and more about the park itself. Later in the day we then had a go at taking some levels - a quick refresher on what we learnt on survey week last year. By doing this we were able to establish the site’s height above sea level. Following this we also had a special visitor on our site - overall a busy, fun-filled day!

Archaeologists don't dig dinosaurs but dinosaurs do sometimes dig!


Amy, Pauline, Sarah, Jamie and Jack report on Day 2 - the best finds always come at the end of a mattock….read on to find out more!

Another perfect day to start day two of the excavation on, the sun was scorching but the occasional breeze was enough to keep us cool. The digging started from where we left off yesterday, with us working on removing the top layer of soil to reach the beginning of the demolition layer. The soil had hardened after being baked by the sun which made getting through a little harder but worth the effort in the end. The first find on my side of the trench was, yet again, more clay pipe but as the day progressed we found pottery, animal bone and a musket ball.
Many members of the public approached the fence today ranging from children to seniors, from doctors to ‘rappers’. It was nice to see so many different people taking an interest in what we were doing and learning their thoughts on the excavation.
Hopefully, this weekend will be enough time for our tired bodies to recuperate from the last two days. Looking forward to what next week has in store.
Hard work paying off as the trenches are uncovered...
All the lovely weather and all the lovely finds. If we weren't clay pipe experts beforehand we will be shortly with the masses found alongside the demolition layer of a building. Some large chunks of bone in the finds tray turned out to be sheep bone which continues to appear across the trench, more exciting finds can surely only continue to appear.

Lots of lovely finds

Well, that’s today done and dusted - literally, as the hot weather continues.  The guys have done a great job of cleaning out last year’s excavation pit, and most of the tarpaulin is now removed, showing all of the walls, drains and other features there.  Some of them needed wellies as they hit the water table, and talk was of paddling pools....  In the new trench the girls were let loose with mattocks - be afraid!  So the site is levelled and they are getting down to the demolition layer.  More finds of pottery, clay pipe and bone, but I'll let someone else tell you about the really nice find from today…
The mattock crew

At the start of the day we continued to take the top layer off from day 1, using mainly mattocks and shovels. Around half an hour into day two I found a possibly late sixteenth century copper alloy spur using a mattock, the most destructive tool, I wasn’t expecting to find something so interesting so close to the surface in such good condition.
A wonderful copper alloy spur, probably dating from the late 16th century
Later in the day, Matt, Vicky and Ben found multiple long bones on the upper and lower left corner of the trench as well as this they also excavated a slate deposit. Whilst taking off the top soil layer with the mattocks the group found in total 7 musket balls as well as a few other bits of slag metal. Throughout the day we found loads of bits of clay tobacco pipes, large amounts of bones and ceramic/clay pottery. Me, Neil and David, excavated the top layer until we hit the under mortar layer which took up most of the day’s work.

A proud Jamie
It’s the end of the first week of excavating and for our team this has finally signalled the end of almost endless backfill removal! Our section of trench 7 is now down to the new archaeology ready for excavation after the weekend. We may finally get to uncover some features not seen since their original deposition which is quite exciting!
All the groups have been productive on each of their sections and there was one stand out find found today of a complete copper-alloy spur! This is quite the rare find and was shown to nearly every member of the public that came to the fence to watch what was happening. 
I’m sure everyone is now looking forward to a lie in tomorrow morning and looking forward to discovering any more rare finds or features.