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.