Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Just call me Peter Jackson!

Yes, I am now giving up a life of Archaeology to become a world famous movie director! Here is my first offering to the world, I call it "Lifted". Its a story about a girl. Girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, boy ... oh hang on sorry, what I meant to say was ... Girl goes on an archaeological dig, girl camps in a tent for six weeks in the pouring rain, lots of girls and boys dig lots of holes, and then we find lots of nice Roman things! Its a story of fashion, glamour and parties ... well, mud, trowels and parties at least.

There will be many more updates on Caerleon to get everyone up to speed on what I've been doing but you will have to make do with this for now! Oscars here I come, Id like to thank my boyfriend, Jesus ... ok not Jesus, my cat ... and my tolerance of all things muddy. Please don't try and view it full screen as the quality is AWFUL! If you can read the tiny tiny writing then great, you don't need glasses. If you cant read the tiny tiny writing (you may need glasses) but please take a look at the film on my mobile me account (well, my boyfriends mobile me account!) at this address,


Hope you enjoy it, it's my first attempt at making a movie/film/video thingy so be gentle!

Im off to the land of nod now (well after I've got through a few pages of my current read "Roman Britain"). I'm enrolling for the 3rd year in University tomorrow, Freshers Flu here I come!!!

Keep Digging, Archaeology Bee x

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Time for a Quickie!

The Caerleon 2010 dig team, where walls once stood.

Ooooo errrr! Yes indeedy, just time for a quicky update from me. You may (or probably may not) have been wondering where I have been for the past month or so, well the answer is ... Caerleon! Yes, I have been digging part of the Roman Fortress of Caerleon, or Isca as it was then known, which is in South Wales near to Newport. I shall update you on all of the wonderful things we found soon, and no, not just shiney things but lots of amazing archaeology! Just one week left of the dig now, which is a joint dig between Cardiff University and UCL, so that will be 6 weeks worth of hard work that I need to fill you all in on!

Before this I also spent the day digging in Ammanford near Swansea, this was a mote and bailey castle which was subject to a week long excavation to see what remains of the castle. From what I dug during my brief stay the answer appears to be,"not much!" but it was a great oppertunity to have a play in the mud and learn to use the E.D.M a little.

Back to work early tomorrow so Im signing off for now!

Keep on digging!

Archaeology Bee x

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Goodbye from Cosmeston

Its been a while since the Cosmeston dig finished so I am going to bring everything I have together in this blog to kind of finalise the excavation then continue onto some other things I have been doing.

The Cosmeston dig turned out to be a very successful research project. We did indeed locate the manor house or "Cosmeston Castle" as it was known. The main exterior wall was clear to see with the internal floor surface showing as a compacted clay with possible hearths and burning events. During the last few days I found a possible stake hole while cleaning up an area supposed to be the outside of the building. This adds to the evidence that it was outside and also aids interpretation of what the area may have been used for or looked like.

The small finds were much fewer than were found in the earlier season, but in my opinion the actual archaeology we found was much better and answered more questions. Shiny objects are great but they would be useless without features such as walls and pits to be able to relate or tie them back to. However, I know how much everyone likes to see (not so) shiny (anymore) objects. Here are a couple that were found towards the end of the excavation as we were getting down onto better archaeology.

I hope I will be able to find the rest of the photos I took from Cosmeston. The final pictures from the trench just before we left illustrate how much work was put into the dig. Even though the weather was quite hot, we got so much done. The excavations at Cosmeston, will (I believe) continue for at least one more year. So hopefully, even if I dont get the chance to dig there, I can update you with how our interpretation of this site changes in the future.

Just incase the pictures of the artefacts weren't enough for you, here are some Cosmeston archaeologists bidding you a fond farewell. Please be warned not all archaeologists look this good ;o)

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Cosmeston Dig Day 5

This is the day where our modern line of stones was photographed and planned. As usual we gave the context a clean with trowels to remove any loose soil or stones from the surface so everything is clear for the photograph. If you take a look at our cleaned wall, then go back and have a look at Day 3 where we start to see the top of this wall come through, it gives a good indication of how the excavation progresses over time and how our understanding of the features we have develops.

While we were cleaning up the edges of the stones Rebecca, one of our volunteers, found a part of a thimble. This is very interesting as it appears to be quite early in date yet in a layer of mainly post medieval finds. It may have been redeposited or reworked in the soil to be found by us today! More on that in the small finds section at the end.

Back onto the recording of the stones. We usually use two methods of recording. The first one is using a planning frame, which is placed onto the area being recorded in line with the site grid, we used a tape and nails to mark where the planning frame needed to go.

The frame is made up of squares which enable us to look over the top of it and see what is visible in each square, then transfer that onto our paper. The paper we use is called permatrace, its a bit like thick tracing paper and enables us to draw even when its raining, we also use specific pencils, a 6H or higher stops the pencil from smudging or running in the rain. The other method of planning is called offsetting. We measure off a tape along our gridlines at a right angle using a hand tape and position it over what we are trying to record using a plum bob. We take lots of point measurements and mark them on the permatrace then join them up later like a big dot to dot. This method is good for outlines of pits or postholes and ditches. Planning frames are better for cobbles, stones or areas where there is a lot going on. Below is a picture of our planing frame over the stones.

Small finds
As I mentioned earlier, we found a piece of thimble today on the south side of the line of stones we recorded. There are two photos underneath for you to have a look at. As you can see the thimble is a ring thimble as opposed to a closed or 'domed' thimble. Ring thimbles are usually earlier than the closed kind and are used for heavier work than the closed kind. Ring thimbles are found in British contexts from generally about 1450.

While I am not a thimble expert, the indentations in this thimble do not look to be particularly large to me. The indentations usually show what type of work the thimble was used for - small holes go with narrow gauge needles for fine work and light fabrics. With this being a ring thimble associated with heavy work, we would expect the indentations to be large. As I say, I am no expert, maybe someone can tell me whether these are large or small indentations but they don't look that large to me. Either way though a very nice find, and from a context associated generally with much later finds.

Cosmeston Dig Day 4

A huge amount of time today has been taken up removing post medieval demolition layers, as I am writing this entry close to the end of the dig now (thanks to someone hacking into my email account) I can safely say that taking off all of these demolition layers takes us until the end of week 3 in some areas of the trench. This is Matt working in the "tongue" as we call it. This is the area in which the coin was found in the North western corner of the excavation area.

The layers we are on at day 4 are quite modern. The discovery of a line of stones possibly indicate a modern boundary wall. There was a lot of pottery and bone coming from these deposits but also things like 2 modern cylinder locks from a shed or outbuilding. These had traces of green paint on them and a lot of small fragments of brick were found also with green paint. I have drawn a reconstruction of a 2 door outhouse in green which I believe to have sat to the North of the boundary wall ..... (I joke!), however there was something like this probably over the site when the area was still being used as a limestone quarry. This shows how high up in the stratigraphy we still are at this point. These stones were photographed, drawn in plan and then removed so we could continue down to the juicy medieval layers!

The geotextile covers for the walls which were excavated last year are still on at this point and I was getting very excited to see them come off. Nothing really interesting small finds wise today, maybe tomorrow will bring more luck!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Cosmeston Dig - Day 3

Today was a great day weather wise, not too warm (my sunburn doesn't like warm!) and no rain. We mostly finished clearing out the trenches from last year this morning, so time to move on! We started cleaning back the other areas (removing the very top layer of soil with the trowel so you can see any contrast in soil colour/compaction etc) ... oooor, so you can see the top of a wall! The photo underneath is of what might possibly be the remains of a boundary wall which was uncovered this morning. This will be cleaned more carefully for a photograph and for a plan to be compiled.

This is another one of the areas (photo below) where we have been cleaning back. You can see the possible demolition remains of another wall running diagonally across the corner. The roots here were a nightmare! We had to cut some of these with pruning scissors but some of the bigger ones had to be sawn out. I felt a bit guilty about the tree but he's a big boy and I'm sure he can cope with the ones left. Three of us were cleaning this section back and the area where the stone is starting to taper off is where poor Jas had moved over so I could work ... and also the area where I then flicked out a silver threepence piece!!!! (I am so sorry Jas! I know how annoying it is to be moved then the person who takes over finds something!!) More details of the coin in the finds section at the end!

This is the cleared out trench (below) from last year that we were working on yesterday. All of the protective covering is still down, I cant wait to take it off and see what is underneath! Obviously our edges need sorting out but our main aim was to get the bulk of the fill out to begin with, the edges couldn't be done until we found the sides! The area where the coin was found is the section off to the right in the front of the picture. Hopefully you can picture the layout a little better if I try and describe it until I draw a rough plan of everything for you. The deep trench that you can see at the back of the picture running off to the left is shown in the next photo along. They form a long T shape across our area.

This photo below is the other arm of the T shape which I told you about. You can see the sides cut nice and clean along this trench. This helps in the same way as cleaning the flat horizontal surfaces, you can see the different layers of soil, in which order they formed, from which direction soil was washed into ditches ... it is really important to keep these clean when you are trying to interpret formation processes or even work out where or what to dig next. You can see most of the team here hard at work!! (Apart from me who was bunking off taking pictures!)

Okay, here is the section you have been waiting for!!! (Well I got excited about it anyway!) This is the silver threepence which I found today (below, im sure you can see the photo/text trend here). It had been reworked into the soil, meaning that it was probably not in the place where it was originally deposited (this can happen due to many things such as ploughing or even worms!). It is a Victorian threepence from 1887 as you can see from the picture below. This particular coinage, interestingly enough was changed in 1887. Our coin features the younger head and the early version of the crown on the reverse, this was the last year that this coin was struck. Later in the same year the crown changed and the head became either the elder head or the coronation version. It may have been that both types of coins were produced all through 1887 but I think it more likely that one went out of production early in the year (our coin) to be replaced by the new one.

You may also be surprised to find out that this was how the coin came out of the ground. It hasn't been cleaned in any way for the photo. It was so clean I actually thought it might be a very thin, modern, five pence piece (this should also give you an indication of the coins size). This was our first small find from the site, and also my first small find too!!! (I have a big grin! ... yes still ... that's how sad I am!)

These photos below are some of the bulk finds which have been found over the three days. They include various iron objects, animal remains and pottery

The photo below is I believe a tooth from a sheep and a bone from a young sheep. (although I may be wrong, small bones are quite hard to identify as a particular animal unless you specialise in studying them) These were found in the fill of the trenches from last year.

These finds below are again from the backfill, as you can see the bag has been labelled. Possibly a buckle and some kind of iron nail.

The next photo is of (mainly) pottery finds which can sometimes provide valuable dating evidence (although not on this particular occasion) There is also a small piece of bone.

Hopefully some more finds, walls and (fingers crossed) coins, tomorrow!!! I best get some sleep now as my muscles are wrecked from all of the shovelling!!
Nighty night! Archaeology Bee, out! x

Cosmeston Dig - Day 2

Today started out with the continuation of the work from the day before. Emptying out the backfill from the trenches that were dug last year. The archaeology had been covered and protected by a textile sheeting which you can see in the photos as a white layer. Some photos from the past two days show how work has progresses in the first trench I worked in. This is just after we had begun. The orange markers you can see in the grass are setting out a 2 meter by 2 meter grid for us to work from.

In this area we are uncovering where last years trench revealed a substantial wall, although the emptying seems like it is never ending it is surprising how much soil you can actually move. Our problem was the amount of huge stones and boulders that had been thrown back in to fill the trench. These slowed us down a lot but even then we made good progress.

Here, in the above photo, you can see the white of the covering which shows us we have reached last years levels. It is usually a geotextile which is used. Lots of people ask why we fill the trenches back in only to dig it all back out again next year. Well probably one of the main reasons is for protection. The geotextile and soil backfill provide both protection and support from many environmental and human factors. It is also a cheap and easy solution. If the trench was left open, weeds would quickly take over the area, it would start to silt up with the deposition of soils washed in by rain and the archaeology would quickly start to physically deteriorate. Even something as seemingly permanent as a stone wall can fall into complete ruin in a very short period of time if left unmanaged.
This is the trench just before lunch time at 1.00 p.m. We are 'chasing' or following the geotextile along so we can see where the edges and bottom of the trench will be. As you can see here, there is still a lot of soil to come out.

This is as we are reaching the end of the trench having found the bottom. The trench still needs extending at least 1 foot to the right on the picture above. This is shown by the geotextile continuing underneath the current edge. The roots caused a huge problem on the left side and we had to really clean up the edges of the trench later on.


What did we find today? As with yesterday, this work is removing soil that was dug out by archaeologists last year, so nearly all of the finds should have been spotted by them the first time around before the soil was put back in. However Amy here found a lovely pound coin. It seems one archaeologist was missing some beer money when they got to the pub last year!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Cosmeston Dig - Day 1

Today was the start of the dig at the Medieval Village in Cosmeston, South Wales. The site was discovered through archaeological excavation in 1977 and 1982. The foundations of around five 13th and 14th century stone buildings were discovered and representations of these were built in their exact locations to reconstruct part of the medieval village which is now open to the public.

This year the dig is concentrating in the area where the manor house is believed to have stood. Our trench positioning was guided by both geophysics and also trial trenches that went in last year, revealing the remains of some substantial walls. The area is also labelled "Cosmeston Castle" on some old maps revealing what once may have stood there.

Most of the first day was spent setting up the site. The various large canvas tents had to be put up for areas to sort finds and almost as importantly to make a nice cup of tea! The weather was glorious which would be great if we weren't all working so hard! My first top tip for the budding archaeologist is WEAR SUN LOTION and reapply constantly!! I did not reapply and am now a shade somewhere between a beetroot and a lobster. It's seriously not good for your skin so please remember to cover up and apply sunblock.

Work on the trenches started after lunch. The area had been de-turfed previously which was great as it is a very large area to de-turf by hand. That alone would have probably taken the rest of the afternoon so it was a good job it was done before we got there! The aim for the afternoon was to clear out the backfill of the trenches from last year down to archaeology so we could begin the new work. It was hard going I can tell you! The trenches were full of huge rocks making it painfully slow to mattock and dig out.

I'm thinking we should be done clearing the backfill by lunch time tomorrow and then we can move onto more interesting things.


Nothing much finds wise to report today as it was all backfill and anything found was unstratified. However I did find some nice fossils which I took home and a small piece of Medieval roof tile which was coated on one side with a green glaze to my surprise. It is apparently a common feature of the high Medieval period, you learn something new every day!
Hopefully tomorrow may bring some new finds!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Poetry for the Colosseum.

This poem is one of the surviving works of the Roman poet Martial, written to celebrate the inaugural games which took place on the completion of the Colosseum in Rome in AD 80. It was translated by Henry Killigrew in the seventeenth century (in this particular version.)

Egypt, forbear thy Pyramids to praise,
A barb'rous Work up to a Wonder raise;
Let Babylon cease th'incessant Toyl to prize,
Which made her Walls to such immensness rise!
Nor let th'Ephesians boast the curious Art,
Which Wonder to their Temple does impart.
Delos dissemble too the high Renown,
Which did thy Horn-fram'd Altar latelt crown,
Caria to vaunt thy Mausileum spare,
Sumptuous for Cost, and yet for Art more rare,
As not borne up, but pendulous i'th'Air
All works to Caesar's Theatre give place,
This Wonder Fame above the rest does grace.

The poem shows the hype which surrounded the buildings construction and opening. The claim by some scholars that the fame of the Colosseum is a purely modern phenomenon can be challanged to some degree by this book fo verse. Although Martial was obviously bias due to his role as the house poet of the Imperial Court, there is literary evidence to suggest that even later Emperors themselves (such as Constantius II) and visitors from other countries were left in awe by seeing the Colosseum. It seems that then, just as today, people were captivated by these magnificent buildings.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Chester Amphitheatre

Part of my work at the moment is on the Roman Amphitheatre at Chester, or Deva as the settlement was known during the Romano British period. The amphitheatre was first excavated in the early 1900's and then again in the 1960's but recent work by English Heritage and Chester City Council has uncovered new information which will, in my opinion, change the way in which this amphitheatre and British amphitheatres in general are viewed. This work has been published as an interim report but is due to be fully published in 2011, which I personally am very much looking forward to reading.

I would have liked to have done my dissertation on the importance of these discoveries but I think the publication will come too late in the year. I may look closer to home and work on the amphitheatre at Caerleon. The Legionary fortress at Caerleon here in South Wales is a place I am very fond of and which I highly commend for it's accessibility, to not only the general public but to many school groups who visit throughout the year. I will be excavating here during August and cant wait to get my trowel dirty!!

Anyway, back to Chester! I will be visiting the Amphitheatre for the third time on Friday and am being shown around by Alison Heke an archaeologist with Chester City Council who has been most helpful. She really has gone beyond the call of duty. Hopefully I will have some interesting photos and insights from my visit to talk to you about after Friday. Until then its back to the rather out-dated books for more research! If anything interesting comes up I shall let you all know!

Until then,

Archaeology Bee is saying, "Good Night."

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Archaeology Bee

Welcome to Archaeology Bee!

So why the Archaeology Bee I hear you ask? Well much like bees, archaeologists seem to be disappearing. There are theories as to why this is happening but again, much like the bees, no one seems to be doing much about it, or taking it very seriously. Who cares about a bunch of bees?

I however, unlike in the bee world, am at a disadvantage for being female. Far from the Queen bee here, I am probably not even classed as 'strong' enough to be a worker bee. In fact I get the feeling that I would be quite happily pushed out of the archaeology 'hive' completely and so I have something to prove - and prove it I will.

This blog will be about archaeology, history, heritage, people and me and my struggle to become an archaeologist. Some of the blogs will be general some of them specific to me, but hopefully all will be an enjoyable and informative read.