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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Thursday, 16 June 2011

The graffiti on the window glass

Julie has been doing some research -
This website may be of interest for anyone who may have been intrigued by the graffiti on the window glass from the training dig:
This is a website for a project based in Norfolk, but it gives a good idea of the range of graffiti that can be found. There is also some good 16th century graffiti at Acton Court, which includes ships and the names of the inhabitants.

Monday, 6 June 2011

This is Deva - Chestival report

Flynn tells us what happened at the big event this past weekend -
The excavation has officially finished, but there was still work to be done. The Chestival extravaganza engrossed the city with one of the main focal points being the hoards of re-enactors that filled Grosvenor Park to the brim. The Romans and the Celts had come to town, (although I use those terms loosely) bringing with them a feeling of wonderment that captivated all visitors. As part of the recreated Roman military camp that occupied the park, with tents ranging from those of surgeons to that of a blacksmith, our excavation featured prominently in activities available to visitors. Much like the open day, a plethora of information was made available to the public, including site tours, ‘Create a tile’, the wondrous Mini Dig and the now world famous 'Dumpy Level Arcade' featuring alongside the finds tables, colouring sections and information point.
The first day began as it ended, drenched in blistering sunshine. The day was glorious, and sure enough the crowds began to flock into the park even as the set-up was still taking place. With the furious heat of the day raining down, it was a test of our strong-willed team of hardy volunteers to appease the crowds and ignite their own interests in archaeology. All members of the archaeology team taking part were busy from the outset with scarcely any time to catch our breath as the curious visitors inquired into our activities of the past four weeks. Even after enjoying various beverages the previous evening as a celebration of the completion of our excavation, the team stood strong and once again appeased the masses.
The most popular of the activities once again proved to be the Mini Dig enthralling (almost) all participants; whereas the Dumpy Level arcade seemed to have suffered a fall from grace as many visitors shunned its delights in favour of the Mini Dig. As the day began to wind down, due to most visitors choosing to attended the gladiatorial battles taking place in the amphitheatre in the afternoon, the volunteers had time to ponder the day’s events and give themselves a well-deserved pat on the back. The expectation of 10,000 visitors to the park could very well have been met - it was a triumphant success.

The following day was predicted “to be a different animal”, and that it was. The day began grey and glum with showers. This seemed to create a different atmosphere in the camp - it had nothing to do with the fact that several of the voluntary group had enjoyed another evening, night and early morning of pleasant revelry following the first days success! The team came fully prepared to commit themselves as they had done previously; alas, this was not necessary. There were not the same multitudes of the Saturday event, but the team still did a sterling job of informing and entertaining any visitors. The number of people visiting the site did amplify in the early afternoon as the clouds began to fade slightly and glimpses of the prior day’s warmth began to be seen. Following this the crowds swiftly headed to the amphitheatre for more gladiatorial bouts and so by late afternoon it was clear the day, at least for us, was over.

I would like to thank all the visitors to the site on both of these days. You made it the success it was and also a tip of the cap to all those following the blog online. Also a large Thank You to the organisers and supervisors from CWAC HET: Gary, Jane and Julie. And last, but by no means least, I would personally like to thank all of the volunteers who did a tremendous job on both days. It was a pleasure to work alongside you (except Mike). I believe this was a marvellous way to finish off our four weeks of excavation, and in the words of the great Terry Tibbs: 'Thank you, good night, much love.'
p.s Only kidding Mike... but not really.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Big Roman Festival in Chester

Hello followers - if you are local or can get to Chester, make sure you head down to Grosvenor Park this weekend. The Roman Festival (part of the series of events known as 'Chestival' this summer) is taking place on both Saturday and Sunday. From viewing yesterday's setting up, it looks like it will be amazing. There was a reconstructed (polystyrene) temple, busloads of Roman soldiers and even a beer tent
(somehow they knew to place this right next to the archaeologists and the trench...).
Check out the details at:

Some of the students are helping out in the trench this weekend and there are lots of activities on offer for all ages.
We hope some of you come along - make sure you tell us if you have been looking at the blog!

The Final Day!

Shameem gives us a final look into the life of the diggers -
I'm typing out this entry from the comfort of a wheelbarrow!
It's been a very easy going day since it's the last day of the dig. We've been busy cleaning up the site to prep it for photography, and we've been setting up some tables and gazebos for the Roman Festival at the park over the weekend.
During our morning break, a few of us indulged in a well deserved ice cream since the intense 24 degree sun was draining us.
Apart from all this work, there was a bit of sunbathing thrown in for some of the girls (
It's been a fantastic four weeks, and I'm sure we've all learnt a lot during our time here. Now to get stuck in with our last piece of work before the summer holidays!
Sat in this wheelbarrow, I can't help but eagerly await our after-dig drunk, since at the moment, I have luke-warm water. I'm dying for an ice-cold Coke....

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Mysterious Inscribed Glass

Julie has provided us with a fantastic picture (taken by Cheryl) of the inscribed piece of glass found a few days ago. We still have lots of research to do on it, but thought our followers would like to see it!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Tidying up the loose ends..

Jenine's story of the *almost* last day...
The end of the excavation is approaching. So, today it was less severe excavation and more trowelling and recording. To begin the day we started by recording the location of the site so that the group next year will know where to excavate. To do this a surveying instrument called a total station, which looked similar to a dumpy level as it has a tripod to hold the device, was used. The total station electronically records and measures the northings, eastings and heights of allocated points around the corners of the trench and the park by using a laser that is transmitted from the total station.
Later, trowelling continued to reveal more of the archaeology so that more detailed planning could take place.
The afternoon was spent in the finds room, which consisted of marking the finds using the foundation pens and bagging them. Double checking what exactly you have found is very important as some materials can look very similar - mortar and plaster, for example. Metal is treated differently from the other material in the bagging process as holes need to be pierced for the air to circulate so the decomposition rate isn’t increased.


Emily updates us on the penultimate day...
Today was the second to last day of the dig. I can't believe how fast these last weeks have gone by! The trench has revealed a number of features and offered a few surprises during the excavation. We clearly encountered a demolished building and came across a number of features related to it, most significantly the hearth area and the curious slab-stone ditch, but still cannot tell the exact function of it. The layers also produced a number of interesting finds and everyone had their share of interesting items; although, some seemed to have had more luck than others! It is a shame that we have to finish tomorrow and can't go down deeper to the Roman Road, which is believed to be present underneath our building.
But the most important thing is how we all developed and learned. Although we are already in second year and have studied archaeological practice thoroughly, the practice we had these past weeks has taught us more than books can. There are always problems and aspects encountered one would never expect from theory alone. The dig also improved the group dynamic and everyone seemed to get to know each other better. All in all it was a very enjoyable experience!
So today we spent the day giving the site a "beauty makeover" (trowelling the surface, tidying up...), to prepare it for professional photography and the Roman Festival this weekend (and for it being backfilled!)

Post Scriptum: Still no sight of the 10,000 pounds!
[Ed. - We always get asked by passers-by if we've found their lost money...honest, we haven't found a thing!]

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Who is Randall? We found his glass...

Zoe talks about her day in the trench -
This afternoon was spent filling out context sheets, working out all the details of each context and recording it so that others can go back to the sheets and tell what was there without actually having to re-excavate. It records what type the context is; whether it is a structure, a cut (eg. a ditch) or a fill (what fills up a cut) and also records the condition of the soil, its colour, texture etc. The colour of the soil was recorded using a Munsell Chart, which displays a variety of different hues and shades that can be found in soil. The context sheets also record the relationships between the different layers in the soil.

Probably the best finds of the day were the two fragments of medieval glass, both of which were inscribed! One of the inscriptions is clearly readable as “Randall” followed by some more letters that we were uncertain about.

Too much animal bone?

Andrew tells us what goes on after the Open Day -
Today was only a half day for group C as Wednesday afternoon is our scheduled study leave.
The morning consisted of taking finds that were used in yesterday's Open Day back to the finds HQ - Albion Street.
We then progressed to completing our finds assignment for our assessed portfolio based on our own individual assemblages.
This was followed by much washing of finds - particularly animal bone for myself and the labelling of finds with their context numbers and excavation information.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Open Day

Adam (aka 'Flynn') tells us about the site today -
The beginning of the day was filled with preparatory tasks in order to transform our humble excavation site into an extravaganza of archaeology. Following the initial set up of the activity zone, including the tremendously entertaining dumpy level arcade, it was time for the entire group to prepare themselves for the masses that were predicted to descend upon the site. However, soon after the 10:00 am unveiling of the site to the public, the heavens opened and thoughts of the most impressive spectacle to ever grace Grosvenor Park faded as the crowds were put off by the rain. Some hard-core individuals did appear, despite the heavy drizzle, to sample the activities and gain an insight into what had actually been uncovered on the site.
As the sky cleared and the sun began to shine, larger groups of inquisitive persons, including some of the group’s family and friends, began to fill the site and soon there was a throng of activity around the whole area. The group stood up to the test of the tide of visitors, answering all queries competently, efficiently and professionally; a true credit to their educators.
The ‘create a tile’ section was constantly bustling with children and adults alike clambering to create their very own clay tiles, but often many of the blank tiles did not fit the mould and had to be reformed by our professional clay worker Neil. Many of our younger visitors seemed so excited by this it could have been mistaken that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer had come to town early.
Throughout the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon the enthralled visitors were thoroughly entertained by the entire event, especially the height of the dumpy level staff, which one witty onlooker noted “was taller than a sycamore tree”. But, as the day wore on the number of visitors waned and soon enough it was time to pack our things and lay the open day to rest. The heat of the day continued to warm our backs as we, including the group rapidly becoming known as 'Three Friends ... and Tom', toiled to round off a very successful day.
Finally, a big Thank You to all who visited the site today. It wouldn’t have been a success without you.

Tile making, finds washing, squirrel biting! and a robbed out wall

Ali tells us about the Open Day -
After a torrent of rain this morning, the weather turned into a beautiful sunny warm afternoon.
Our Open Day was a brilliant success!
Family, friends and the local people of Chester flocked to see our Dig In The Park and also took part in tile making, drawing, our display of finds, washing our finds, levelling, a mini dig and a tour of the site with 'Action Diggers' excavating.
The finds washing and tile making was a great success with the children (even in the downpour of rain). The finds display was favoured by various age groups.
Bev and I decided to stay on site instead of take advantage of our afternoon study leave; we got to excavate the backfill of a possible robbed out wall feature. A perfect ending to a perfect day, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all
.... apart from my daughter who got bit on the finger by a squirrel, possibly by a jealous Bertina. It was tempting to perform a streak in the background whilst Mark was interviewed on camera, but age and gravity convinced Bev and I that it was definitely NOT a good idea as it would possibly frighten the public away.

Ali signing off (and still singing!).
p.s. This is my last blog and would like to thank all of the staff of Chester University Archaeology Department, Cheryl, Jane, Gill, Julie, Simon, Mike, Alison, Colin and lastly a huge thank you to Gary for everything you have taught us this last four weeks. It has been a fantastic experience and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I feel privileged to be part of a brilliant year. Thank you to all of my fellow second year students - you are all stars.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Tiles, the culvert and cookies

Mark updates us for Friday -
After the climax of yesterday's Elizibethan coin find (courtesy of Zoe) and my total jealousy of it, my finds today were a little lacking. These consisted of two body sherds of Black Brown ware and a slightly more interesting copper alloy artefact, which looked as if it had totaly mineralised into verdigris. The tubular object was approximately 35 mm wide and 40 mm long, possibly the broken part of a product of a tinman (solderer). This was too fragile to remove and remained at the lower margin of the rubble fill, between the hearth and culvert. It may even defy the most attentive attempt to lift it, and disintegrate by the look of it.
However, during the "finds 4" session (with Julie) a reappraisal of the medieval green glazed floor tile fragment I found in the first week showed that it may have more diagnostic significance than first thought. The pattern on the fragment depicts the lower legs and talons of what could be a Gryphon, Wyvern, Dragon or similar, and may be from the late 14th or 15th c. This tile could be from St John's Church or the Chapel of St Anne and maybe was re-used in a high status building prior to breakage / dumping into the rubble fill of the current trench. The tile does have an ecclesiastical style to it, and it has now been separated out for further examination.

And Tom lets us know about the progress in the trench -
Despite the early rain and the besieging army of squirrels, it has been another productive day at the dig. Work continued on the building area and culvert in the afternoon by team D (or the newly coined Joseph Tong experience) who uncovered something rather interesting. Gary believes that we have found the area of the culvert that would have resided in the structure of the house. It is reported that Adam has found ‘stuff, important stuff,’ but as of yet this source cannot be verified. In between the Joseph Tong experience and Gary’s manic trowelling, teams B and C continued to record and excavate the site taking us down to a level past the demolished layer of Cholmondeley’s manor.
Of course the highlight of the day was no simple find or feature, but cookies baked personally by our very own Meggen (Thank you kindly). Aside from that, the students are geared up for the open day on Tuesday, which will be filled with fun activities, a chance to see the site in all its glory and possibly a chance to meet yours truly. So my friends, eat, drink and be merry on Tuesday, for on Wednesday we work.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Elizabeth I and a floor surface

Katie H. tells us about today's action in the trench -
We had a bit of a hectic start this morning, as the heavens opened all last night and this morning so the site had to be assessed first by Gary and Julie. Once it was decided that we weren’t going to damage our treasure trove of a trench we were able to begin the day.
Group C had finds this morning and we had to identify our artefacts and divide them into different categories. This involved filling out context cards and bagging them into specific groups. We also had to fill out context object summary sheets which were hard to grasp at first; however, once we got into the flow of things we sorted ourselves out (and underestimated the amount of bags we needed). We again were provided with a cup of tea thanks to Ali, which sorted us all out on this cold wet day.
This afternoon we carried on excavating and continued on an area that had been started this morning. We cleared back the westerly side of the trench, and tried to get down to a level that had been excavated by our group on Tuesday. Whilst excavating, the phrase “we hit rock” was an understatement as our entire section was filled with building debris; however, we did discover some mysteries!!! Zoe found another Elizabeth I coin, which we didn’t hesitate to applaud her for (well done Zoe!). We also discovered a floor surface that we got very excited over, especially Gary, and clay bases that could have been for structural use. Upon excavating a parallel area, another opposing floor surface was unearthed, which relates directly to the hearth that was uncovered previously. To what relation this has with the hollow on the northerly part of the trench is yet to be uncovered! However, tomorrow we are hoping to solve this mystery and uncover certain hidden secrets as to what we are actually looking at.

And Lyndsay gives us another viewpoint -
Today started out rather wet and got wetter in a hurry. After deciding that it was safe to start work, groups A,B and D were sent out to the trench. For Group B it was a whole day of excavation. Well for me and Jenine it was, with two members off sick our six were down to four. Then others were recruited elsewhere on and off site.
We started our morning periodically taking the top layer off the area where there was thought to be a cut and then running to the gazebo as the rain battered down. Turns out there might not be a cut and ditch but something else, but what isn't quite clear yet. Tom serenaded Lewis with his song "Get Hoe" while we all enjoyed the slightly drier times of the morning. This will be being released as a Christmas single in the near future.
By lunch the weather was nice and sunny and the park was running over with GCSE students who had finished their year. Things got a bit chaotic, and the community police officers were called in to make them clean their rubbish :S.
In the afternoon groups C and B were called in to clear the debris layer from part of the trench. This was time consuming but well worth and the find of the day was found by Zoe with her Elizabeth I coin!! This was duly paraded around the trench before being safely put in a little box. When this layer was being taken away a hard layer of mortar was revealed, which got Gary very excited. Only time will tell what we'll find tomorrow!!!!

Another coin weight!

Julie, one of our finds experts, updates us on some new discoveries -
A couple of interesting finds came up this morning when we started to remove some of the remaining demolition layer that seems to be sitting on top of the demolished building. One is a fragment of decorated wall plaster similar to material found in 2007; this piece is perhaps from the edge of a rectangular panel, possibly late sixteenth or seventeenth century.

The other is a copper alloy coin weight. We don’t find these very often, but Colin our metal dectorist also found one in the backfill removed at the beginning of the excavation. These were for checking the weight of gold or silver coins and so are made to precise weights. The one from the backfill has a hand on it which suggests that it is from Antwerp. The other has marks on both sides, but I need to look at it more closely to make out what they are.

Students stood up to the rain well this morning. It was a good lesson for them in what they should and shouldn’t do in varying levels of rain. Bert the squirrel was not deterred by the wet weather, however, and kept up his ferreting around people’s bags despite being chased away several times.

Finds and a squirrel raid

Bev gives us the lowdown on Wednesday -
Hello Global Watchers,
Wednesday started with 'finds' for Group A, which consisted of bagging and tagging with a spot of artefact recognition with Alison. (On a more personal note, this meant comfy chairs, the toilet nearby, and soft loo roll!).
After lunch instead of excavation Group A carried on with some planning in a rapidly drying trench, which was much akin to drawing in a dust bowl. We soldiered on in the trench, however!
In other news:
Mark had an argument with the replacement Gazebo and came off second best! There was also a 'Squirrel watch' as 'Bert' had vandalised my bag in his search for food!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Katie S. updates us for the 25th of May -
The day started with only groups C and D in the trench, which was strange as it felt too few of us to be on site. Yesterday our group was excavating a section in an area that appeared to be a layer of building debris. We cleared the soil and broken bricks and eventually revealed a few bricks that appeared to be in situ and may be part of a structure. Before any further excavation could be done to see whether these bricks may continue under the rest of the building debris, the section needed to be recorded and this was mine and Andrew's task for the morning.
The section was quite complex so it took us until about 12 to complete it; it would have been nice if the sun was out whilst we were drawing but I’m just thankful it did not rain. As we only had half an hour until lunch, Andrew and I went off with Gary into town to pick up two gazebos to replace Gerry. This was definitely an interesting end to the morning. As it was my group’s study leave in the afternoon, we left at lunch; however, the work doesn’t stop off site as everyone has a portfolio due in a few weeks - so still plenty of work to be doing!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Environmental archaeology and torn trousers

Shameem updates us for Tuesday -
We started the day with the boys attempting to resurrect the gazebo after yesterday's mishap concerning poor Gerry (RIP). We then broke off into our separate groups where all four groups did some excavation under the glorious sunshine; a welcome change from yesterday's drizzle. We scraped off another layer of clay and brick and discovered a sandy layer, which is thought to be part of the brick flooring previously discovered. After our morning break, we all welcomed the fact that we had a talk by Ian Smith from Liverpool John Moores University about environmental archaeology. The privilege of sitting on a comfortable seat had definitely been taken for granted before this dig started!

After lunch we broke off into our groups once again, and my group got stuck in with our second photography session in which we photographed some sections. After this the digging recommenced, and we unearthed more of the sandy layer until the end of the working day.

When I awoke this morning I anticipated walking away with no cuts and bruises (for once), but of course this was ruined when I caught my trousers on a wheelbarrow...*riiiip* lovely.

May 23rd - Part Two!

Jenine gives us some updates on the finds -
Today the dig began with excavation and the major concern was to clear and tidy the excess soil so certain areas could be photographed effectively. One area that was successfully cleaned and photographed was the brick structure that was unearthed in the middle of the trench, which shows signs of burning concentrated in the centre of the bricks suggesting that this may have been a hearth at some stage.
Finds in the morning include that of a small sharp tooth (found by myself) and some other small fragments of bone. The drainage ditch reveals the brick beneath and part of the morning was spent removing soil to reveal the bricks that once may have formed a building in this area.
During lunch the heavens opened and the gazebo was much appreciated at this point. Later in the afternoon came separating the finds into different categories. The analysis of the finds was very important in being able to place them in the right area, particularly the pottery, which has shown the most variety and many different types of wares. The colour of the fabric can be very important when separating pottery; for example, a piece of Midland purple ware, because of its distinctive purple colour, it immediately reveals its place of manufacture.

Monday the 23rd - Half Way

Joe misses the Gazebo and draws a section -
So this is our halfway point, we’ve battled uphill risking scraped knuckles, battered shoulders and bent backs yet still we return for more. The workforce seems in no way subdued in spite of this being a Monday morning and the soil almost seems to shy away as we enter the compound style fencing. For me, I’ve not had a digging session for days and my trowel’s thirst to scrape and reveal archaeology is almost unbearable.
Alas, I must wait for the afternoon as in the morning I was section drawing. The section I was drawing was in the north-eastern corner and is where our site supervisor Gary located what appears to be a cut in the section. This led to the working out of how to draw this coherently on the drawing film. In our cleaning up of the section Flynn and I also located what could potentially be where a timber object once lay. The reasons for this is that the soil is so different from the rest of the section and devoid of the inclusions common to the other contexts (also Julie said so).
After a morning of putting pencil to film I was ready to dig…or clean as it turned out! Team D dutifully picked up mattocks and took to the concrete like surface with precision befitting a mechanic’s estimate and dancing around masonry like we were born for the West End. The features are popping out of the ground thick and fast now and the early site theories are still holding water. We continue to use the term “Barn” for our building, albeit tentatively, and hopefully the final weeks will continue to be as successful.
One final notable entry to the blog is an obituary to Gerry the Gazebo who succumbed to wind related injury as the sides of the Gazebo acted as a Buccaneer’s sails. May you rest in pieces Gerry.

Monday, 23 May 2011

The pigeons are on our side....

An anonymous report has just come in from something claiming to be an undercover pigeon reporter in the Park:

Students in the Park have been befuddled and bemused by the identity of a so-called 'Bert the Squirrel'. There is in fact a whole crime syndicate of squirrels in the Park masterminded by Big Bad Bert and his gangster moll Bertina Squirrel. Cheshire Constabulary (Squirrel Investigation Branch) are investigating the following crimes: obtaining nuts by false pretenses (notably by looking cute and cuddly), cheese sandwich laundering and the planting of clay pipe stems. Arrests of the culprits are expected imminently.

Even more paperwork!

Anna gives us an account of her activities on Friday -
Today group A spent the very warm morning filling out archaeological paperwork (yes, it’s not just digging). It was our second session on learning how to fill out context sheets. The relevant information needed for these context sheets includes: the colour and texture of the soil in the deposit, layer, cut or fill being discussed in the context sheet, and general information of what is happening in the given area, and also a sketch plan of the trench pointing to where the area is located. Hopefully these context sheets will help in the creation of a Harris Matrix at the end of the dig and provide us a paper record of what we've done once the site is backfilled.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Through stained glass...

Emily updates us on yesterday's progress -
Today we started our day with planning - not world domination, but in our trench - the large bit between the two field drains, which includes a lot of building debris. Although it sounds a bit dull, drawing what is on the surface onto a grid, it can also be challenging and gives a really close insight into the archaeology and allows one to pick up details and features which one wouldn’t see at first. For instance, we found two as yet unidentified metal objects and could make out changes in the soil, which gave evidence of the structure of our mystery building. Meanwhile, at the north egde of the trench, excavators revealed a long ditch aligned with large stone slabs, the function and significance of which is unclear, but that is the charm of archaeology - you don’t really know what you’re dealing with and when you finally start to figure it out, something new comes up and changes everything.

We continued our day with excavating and focusing on a section, getting carried away and burnt by the sun in return, which shone on and off all the time, making it all in all a nice day in comparison to the previous rainy ones. The section in the west part of the trench revealed the usual - bone, pottery...and a lot of window glass! Some was still quite intact and similar to the one found previously in the south eastern part of the trench.

I would also like to take this as an opportunity to apologize to Bert the Squirrel who got a fright by a flying glove. Sorry, little one!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A day of recording

Zoe updates us on today's activities -
Today we spent the morning working with the finds already uncovered at the beginning of the excavation. We took some of our washed and cleaned finds from the previous session, and our job was to label them with the site code and context number. This involved using Indian ink and carefully inscribing all the relevant information onto the find.
This was tricky at first, because most of us had not had the practise of working with that sort of ink before. It was sometimes tricky to work out where the information should be written, and sometimes the find was too small to fit all the information onto it!
In the afternoon, myself and the rest of the group were asked to take our turn at section drawing, which involved observing the soil at the edge of the trench, taking a measurement of each layer, and recording it down onto a piece of paper. Hopefully when all the drawings are put together they should form a sort of vertical map of the site (and no-one will be able to see where we have rubbed out mistakes!).

Singing in the Rain....

Ali sings 'Do the Conga' and perhaps has a touch of trench-fever already! -

It was a rainy beginning to the day, but it did not break our spirits. We were still singing 'The Conga'.
Joe and Lewis were tunneling... I mean excavating... most of the day ('Do do do'...) Bev, Mark, Anna and I spent most of the day planning. Thank god for umbrellas! They are very useful for protecting drawings. (Do do do...)
I discovered many useful pointers for completing elements within my assessment for the dig. Cheryl is a star for putting up with us all day.
Gary very nearly became a girl in an unfortunate accident, but luckily quick reactions and communication by a shouting Mark prevented this. Mark did not even nose-dive into the trench or swan-dive today! However, he did display good creative dancing skills whilst avoiding the drainage ditch.

Ali signing off (Do do do, come on and do the Conga......)

Heidi admitted to committing ant murder with her trowel. She watched guiltily as they tried to carry their eggs away to safety. They seemed to get revenge, however, as she ended the day by saying 'I think I inhaled one of the ants.'

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Day 6 - Bert the squirrel

Lyndsay manages to write an update even after mattocking most of the day -
Today was an eventful day. In the morning we were sent down to remove a plinth of soil that stuck out like a sore thumb before having group B’s first photography session.
Here we learnt about the zoom, focus and how these cameras are so much better than mine, which is broken and sitting in my wardrobe somewhere. It was then explained that there are two types of photography used in archaeology: the commercial and the academic shots. Commercial shots are all the awe-inspiring elemental shots on front covers and for those of us working hard on things such as newspapers and blogs!! But as we were focusing on the academic side, our shots were for recording purposes. We looked through the camera eye piece to frame the final photo, we added scales and important information on a photo board, such as the site reference, trench number and a north arrow. All in all this was a really good experience and I wish we could have seen the pictures, but the laptop decided to play up and refused to let us see them!
In the afternoon we were excavating again, but this time we were taking a context off and setting up a section so that we’ll be able to draw it eventually. This was exhausting, but well worth it. We found tons of slate and brick using the mattock and rotated so that our arms didn’t drop off! Soon though Andrew finished drawing and the boys came back from finds cleaning and with their help we managed to get the top layer off, so tomorrow we’ll hopefully be able to see if there’s anything interesting (or sinister) underneath the building rubble!
During the afternoon break, Mark’s friend Bert the squirrel came to look for him, but he’d disappeared. But don’t worry Mark! Heidi fed him her fruit flakes before bullying Andrew into giving him the last of his afternoon snacks!

Day 6 - Learning the ropes: section drawing and finds processing

Katie H. describes non-digging activities -
My morning began with finds processing, where we were finally able to reveal the artefacts from the mud and soil covering them. It was nice to finally be inside in the warmth, instead of being cold and damp in the trench. We were able to warm our hands whilst cleaning pieces of pottery, glass, bone and the large array of clay tobacco pipes. On our break Julie even made us a cup of tea to complete the hospitality, which we thank her for greatly! Brushing the mud off artefacts was actually quite therapeutic and calming, and generally set the day off to a good start. We can now begin to get a clearer picture of what was happening on the site and having sherds of pottery dating from around the 16th century we can get an idea of the dates that we are looking at.
After lunch I, along with my group, started section drawing, which we had never undertaken before. After adjusting to the scale of the drawing, the trench became clearer and the different layers and levels in the ground were explored. A detailed drawing of the layers was revealed.
We had no rain today (which we were very grateful for). Although overcast and slightly chilly, once you were set doing something you never really felt the cold! All in all the excavation is proving a success so far and day by day we are discovering more about the history behind the area.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Rain for Monday.. but still we dig.

Day 5 - Week Two Begins
Lewis reports from a soggy but still cheerful trench -
In spite of the overcast conditions (and the fact that it was a Monday morning), the excavation got off pretty much the same as most of the other days. This primarily involved the trench being cleaned, resulting in even more finds being uncovered. Although, surprisingly only a small handful of clay pipe was found today.
There were other activities going on at the site, as well, such as photographing the site (see pic of my group getting instructions) and site planning.
Despite the sun coming out during lunch, which gave us a chance to play ball in the park, this didn't last very long. The miserable weather returned for the rest of the day with heavy rain for the most part of the last session. This didn't seem to affect my group much as Adam and Joe did their best to boost moral.

The building emerges

Mark starts us off early on Monday morning -
Now that a good deal of the compacted overburden has been prized from between the gaps in the 17th c. rubble surface, it is much easier to envisage the footprint of the building previously mentioned by Heidi. Regularly occuring padstones on which timber posts may have sat protrude over the surrounding building debris. These padstones do not appear to be of homogenous manufacture. One appears to be made of a series of mortared Tudor-style bricks indicating that materials from an older building was used, and this structure may have been a service or lower status wing rather than a mansion hall (if at all associated with Cholmondley's Hall). A medieval green glaze sherd was also found in this level.
Metallic artefacts have not been abundant at the dig as yet, but an interesting copper alloy chain and attached "T" bar (see pic - possibly part of a suspension mechanism, size approximately 30mm x 30 mm), was found centrally within the structure footprint. Director Simon Ward also poined out what could have been a brick pathway, leading to what would have been the south wall. Supervisor Gary's policy of brutal troweling and cries of 'That's not deep enough!' have visibly paid off.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Friday 13th's lucky - timber building??

Day 3 -
Heidi gives us an update -
Definitely not an unlucky day for the archaeologists! Another productive day turning up many finds and uncovering several features. Various activities were carried out across the site including excavation, levelling and plan drawing with everyone getting stuck in with enthusiasm. In spite of a bit of rain all of the students enjoyed themselves and the archaeology is beginning to take shape. A number of stone plinths, possibly once supporting a timber framed building were uncovered early in the day along with sections of flooring, demolition rubble and a possible brick entranceway or path associated with the building. It is early days yet but the evidence seems consistent with material from Cholmondeley Manor and outbuildings with other features appearing in the area.

Everyone worked through the afternoon with good cheer after being lifted by a lunchtime game of ball in the park. As the day drew to a close Simon summed up the archaeology everyone trudged off optimistic about the events of the week and those yet to come.

And Tom gives us his take on the day -
Even with the weather not making up its mind, the teams rolled with the punches and got stuck in with the excavation. Team A was Levelling, while both B and C were site drawing. Throughout the day team D were trowelling back to get a view of the site as a whole.
There was an enormous amount of finds today. Though most were from the mid 1600s, there were some surprises in store for the teams. Roman sherds from black burnished wear and mortaria were found in this layer.
There have also been some interesting features emerging. We believe that we have found structural evidence of a building that was here during the 1600s. Hopefully as the excavation progresses we will be able to see this better.
Another fruitful day in the Grosvenor Park excavation.
Day 2 continued
Katie S. reports from the trench -
The morning started with everyone cleaning the trench; this is to reveal the archaeology ready for excavation. I must have been a bit too excited to use my trowel for the first time as I accidently cut two of my fingers whilst clearing the soil. There were definitely bricks and slate present, but any finds that were not part of the soil we were clearing were left untouched. After lunch I, along with my group, went to refresh our memories on Levelling with Simon and we were later joined by some nosey squirrels.
Whilst doing this we had some rain which was no surprise as it had been overcast all day. Then it was back to help everyone in the trenches again. Near the end of the working day Andrew and I, with the help of Simon, filled in a context record for the area we were working in. I am very much looking forward to the next few weeks and learning further skills, but also discovering the archaeology in the trench and what information it will reveal.

Who needs skin on their fingers, anyway?

Day 2

Bev reports from the 'naughty corner' -

The day started with some 'light' excavation (more like cutting through concrete with a toothpick!). After removing the skin off our fingers for an hour, Ali discovered a sherd of her favourite pottery - Black Burnished Ware! Hmm.... a tad out of place given the deposit we are excavating; perhaps the landscaping of the park had a hand in its deposition.

Aside from an informative tutorial on site photography, the highlight of the day was Mark's audition for 'Swan Lake' when trying to exit the trench!

Our finds of the day were medieval floor tile fragments and a complete thimble!

PS - I feel obliged to mention the vast amount of clay pipe fragments Ali and I uncovered. Yes, it seems we have located the 17th c. 'Behind the bike sheds, smoker's corner!'

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Second Hand Archaeology

Day 2
Dig Director Simon introduces us to the trench -
Work has successfully started for the new season blessed by some fine weather with the odd shower to keep the site moist. We have reopened Trench IV, which we last looked at back in 2008. It is an area that has great potential with loads of demolition material from the mansion destroyed during the Civil War in 1645 and the hope that a Roman road passes under it. The process of emptying out the old backfill (mainly by machine but finished off by students) has produced quantities of finds even though it had been excavated before (that's the second hand archaeology!). Our metal detectorist, Colin, has found a quantity of musket balls from the Civil War, whilst the students have found lots of pottery and clay tobacco pipes from the period.
Now we have cleared that away, we are on to the serious stuff, cleaning up new undisturbed layers.
More updates soon!
Julie sums up the day's events -
As well as clearing out the backfill, everyone was introduced to context recording sheets today and refresher sessions on using the dumpy level were started with Lewis, Joseph, Adam and Tom setting up a new temporary benchmark for the site. The Park started getting busy this afternoon with people enjoying the sunshine and many of them stopped by the trench to ask what we were doing, including one small boy and his dad visiting from Scotland.
Colin and the students found quite a variety of finds in the backfill. Apart from the lead shot, there was also the cap from a gunpowder flask, which is about the fourth one we've found in the Park. Amongst all the modern coins was a coin of Elizabeth I and Colin also found a coin weight (more information to come on that one). Lots of clay pipe fragments, including several with stamped marks and decoration, and some that appear to be wasters from the many tobacco pipe kilns that were once in this area of the city.
Amongst the fragments of pottery are the handle from a 16th century Raeran stoneware mug, the rim and handle fragments from 16th century Cistercian-type ware cups and a nice little fragment from a North Devon slipware dish.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Friday, 4 March 2011

Countdown to Dig 2011!

It is almost here... the 2nd years are buying shiny new trowels, dig director Simon is plotting a trench location, Meggen is dusting off the wheelbarrows...
Excavations will begin in Grosvenor Park at the start of May (May 10th we think, weather permitting!). We'll be blogging daily with updates from the trench and fingers crossed for good weather, great atmosphere and even better archaeology!