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.

CAER Banner

CAER Banner

Follow by Email

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Aye fond farewell...

Jonathan says farewell:

Last Day:

After being rained off site yesterday, we were all looking forward to a final day in the trench. Unfortunately we didn’t get to excavate anything new; instead we were just cleaning up the trench for the site photo and setting up for the Roman Festival that’s happening over the weekend. However with a water fight breaking out and wheelbarrow jousting the site was far from boring. After this we went for a drink at the pub to celebrate what has been a really fun 4 weeks enjoyed by everyone.

Dan W. offers up musings on his final day:

It was the last day of the dig and it had the perfect start. I began and eventually planned (in partnership with a beautiful lady) what remained of the hearth, its sandy underdeposits, with militaristic precision that left my lady-friend initially confused. But with practise makes perfect, she learnt with signs such as 'C2 four clicks east from west' and we drew what was I believe is one of the most detailed plans around. This took us, along with the levelling for heights, all morning  - but the detail, including the number of levels taken, made it an information rich data set.

Over lunch I copied a copy of my context sheet, context 603, to ensure I had sufficient material for my portfolio, scribbling way in much the same illegible handwriting that characterises my lecture notes. I argue that it was illegible because I was trying to ensure that after lunch I would have time to plan and take heights on the possible grave slab so it could be lifted before we left the site for the last time (except for the Roman open day of course).

Although rushed, it was done to a military standard with a well drilled work college who, after earlier plans, was now well versed in my vernacular.  It was all done in eager preparation for what would happen subsequently, but Uncle Simon had other ideas - it was going to be left till last. Instead of revealing what was underneath, we had to erect a gazebo for the weekend.

He may have been technically in charge, but Mike wasn’t exactly sure how to put the gazebo up for the weekend so he decided to leave it in the capable hands of myself and another.  With her guide experience and my obvious talents it was up in no time.

It was only after the gazebo was erected that I realised what had happened, our last task on site had been complete and I suddenly felt remorse. It wasn’t due to the fact that I had done a good job, but due to the fact I had had a great time with an excellent group of people and it now meant I had finished the year.  But I was determined to fix my sorrows and I decided that a drink at the Falcon would fix that.

It is thus with sorrow and joy, that we all headed to the pub. A great dig supervised by great people.

Tomorrow it is Roman Day in Grosvenor Parkand I will try and educate them that it is not all about Romans in Chester!

Dan lounges along with the 2012 Team.

Wheelbarrow Joust

Lauren's account of her final day of the season:
On our last day of the dig Sydney did not get to see the light of day. Drawing a complicated feature meant he was not needed. However it gave my knees a nice break!
At lunchtime the boys got inventive with a game of wheelbarrow jousting, with drawing boards for shields, buckets for helmets and metre sticks for weapons. I really don’t know where they got their ideas from.
No wheelbarrows were hurt...
However, after a relaxing pint in the local and all my essays nearly finished I can safely say I will miss our trench. From possible sixteenth century outbuilding to chapel and Roman road a good time was had by all.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Ye Olde Pens

Matt B posts his final blog:

Today was looking good, we had rain! After two weeks of intense sun, rain seemed like a blessing. It would no longer feel like we were scraping at concrete, but mud, real mud where we would see what we were actually looking for. Sadly it wasnt to be, we were told that because the rain would last the day we couldn't dig ( I think Simon, Dan and Julie just didn't want to get wet). So, our morning was taken up by washing all of the bricks from the hearth. Yay brick washing! Julie did try and make it sound more exciting by telling us that it was the earliest brick structure known in the area.

After dinner there was still no sign of digging in the nice soft soil. My afternoon was taken up by marking our finds that we discovered during our dig. Now, I know archaeology is mostly about the past but the olde fashioned pens we had to use are probably older than most of the finds! It was good practice at getting your handwriting to microscopic level on the other hand.

An army of post-ex workers.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Open Day and Olympic Torch

Jasmine gives an account of the big day on Tuesday:
Yesterday was a big day for everyone on the trench as it was finally time for the big open day. This also happened to fall on the day that the Olympic torch passed through Chester. The morning started with everyone on site planning some of the remaining features including the chapel/robber trench/ cellar (interpretation still changing) and although it was still sunny there was more of a lack of people in the park than normal recently.

It wasn't long before that changed. After morning break the people that had finished their planning went to gather tables and other equipment for the open day. Ollie's method of doing this was to carry two tables on his back. This worked pretty well until it came to helping to get them down, when he nearly took out three of us. We spent the rest of the morning setting up and opening up the fence around the trench to make the site look more inviting. We had an information point at the front of site that had leaflets and brochures on the amphitheatre. Inside of the site we had set up a table of finds including, that's right you guessed it, one of the bone dice! Jonathan was pleased.  There was also finds washing for the children and some very keen adults and we gave site tours throughout the afternoon.

At about half three everyone started to pile into the park ready for the torch, including the tv crew (I'm still waiting for my tv appearance) and the trench became the center of attention. The finds table was incredibly popular as everyone enjoyed being able to handle the artefacts, but a lot of people were interested in seeing the new finds that had just come out of the soil. At about half five the attention seemed to die down as everyone went to look for the torch, so we all sensibly decided this was a good time to get ice creams and climb to the top of the spoil heap to look for the torch. After one incredibly disappointing mock run through "was that the torch?" the real deal finally passed through the park and we all had a brilliant view.

All in all it was a brilliant day on site and I can't wait to get involved in it all again for the Roman Weekend (come down to the park this weekend!).

Final recording is underway!

Time flies!

Sam starts to pack up her trowel and say farewell:

Well its our last week, and that means that this will be my final blog entry. In the last 4 weeks we have all worked very hard and have gone from being curious students who were nervous about getting stuck in lest we inadvertantly destroy a find, to being confident enough to take a mattock to the ground. Our skills have increased greatly and I don't think there's a single person from our group that hasn't been bitten by the archaeology bug. Yesterday we were delighted to open our gates to the public for an open day (coinciding with the torch going past our dig site) and were very pleased with the numbers of people we managed to get in to see the site and some of our finds. Although this meant that our day was longer leaving us a little more tired, it was definitely worth it.

After yesterday's celebrations we began to realise that we have now hit midweek and our time is running out. Although you would expect that this would see us winding down with our work on the site it has had the opposite effect; there is now a great sense of urgency to try to get as much done to the areas that we have been working on as possible. So I spent my morning with "Del" my trusty hand trowel digging through a layer of brick, clay and mortar searching for the limits of the sandy layer that is a part of the late/post medieval hearth. As the hearth is located right next to the chapel wall this meant that finds were scarce... mainly small fragments of animal bone, and I found myself missing the clay pipes that we had all gotten a little disillusioned with due to the multitude that were discovered in the first weeks making them less exciting. The monotony of having no finds was broken up by our token duck (who I like to call Goose) that likes to visit our Roman Road Trench for a paddle in the puddle there.

This afternoon was spent at the finds lab finishing our individual reports that will eventually become part of our portfolios for the university course and bagging up our finds ready to go into storage or be sent to specialist laboratories for analysis/conservation. The sense of urgency at the finds lab is now equal to that of the dig site, if not more so, as every day there are a great number of bags of finds that are sent in to be cleaned and assessed. As the cleaning and labelling process is a fairly slow one, there is a danger of finds getting backed up, but hopefully we will be able to get them all washed and divided up before we have to end our project on Friday.

Working together as closely as we have been, we have all began to feel like a large, diverse family group and I'm sure we will all be sad to see it end. We have been through a lot together; back-breaking labour, the excitement of new finds, sunburn, meeting the public and learning new skills. Thank you to all the people who came to see us, and also to our supervisors and lecturers: Simon "the eager tourist", Dan "the troll hunter", Mike "the camera man", Gill and Julie "the finds experts", Jane "PR rep", and Meggen "boss of all".
Ed note: I'm not really the boss of all....!

Sam seems at home in the finds room.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tiles and a Roman Brooch!

Julie, our finds expert, hghlights some of the great artefacts uncovered so far:

A quick update on finds. We’re continuing to find large amounts of building materials: roof slates, ceramic crested ridge tiles in white and red fabrics, mortar, white wall plaster, brick, apparently structural ironwork and floor tiles. Most of the floor tiles are medieval with two colour or line impressed designs but a few fragments are from large square tiles which are possibly late 15th or early 16th in date. These tiles have two types of design: one is  line impressed with floral (daisy like) designs similar to those found at the 25 Bridge St excavations in 2001, the other  has unglazed relief moulding  and is similar to tiles found associated with the redesign of the west entrance of Chester Cathedral in the early Tudor period.

Some of the medieval designs are types that have appeared in previous seasons a griffin and the remains of this stylised lion’s head (14th century):

These tiles are possibly from the ecclesiastical buildings that formed the precinct of St John’s Church perhaps even the buildings that Cholmondeley acquired at the Dissolution for his townhouse. The mortar floor in the western end of the site uncovered last year may be the foundation for a tiled floor.

Back to the demolition debris and bricks; despite the earlier postings the bricks from the site are potentially quite interesting. The earliest bricks so far from Chester were found in a 16th century cess pit at 25 Bridge St and many of the bricks from the Park look like these. At this time bricks appear to be only being used for hearths and chimneys so if the brick hearth or fireplace belonged to Cholmondeley’s post-Dissolution house then we could have found one of the earliest in-situ brick structures in Chester.

Quite a wide range of pottery has been found including some residual Roman and medieval wares but the majority are of 16th and 17th century date and include Cistercian-type ware cups, Midland Purple-type ware jars, imported Beauvais earthenware and Rhenish stoneware, blackware and yellow ware.

As you might already know three bone dice were all found in the same context, these all appear to have the same configuration of dots which regularly appear on dice found in London in 16th/17th century and later deposits (see Geoff Egan’s Finds Research Group datasheet 23); it has been suggested that perhaps dice production was being regulated by this time and hence the standardisation of the dot configuration. Clay tobacco pipes with bowls dating to the first half of the seventeenth century are also being found, some of them stamped with makers marks but none are initials previously recorded in Chester. Then of course there are the musket balls which are still being found by the students or by Colin on the spoil heap.
An unusual find last week was an amber bead, it was found with some 16th/17th artefacts and may well date to that period as amber beads have been found elsewhere in early post-medieval contexts.

 So the evidence suggests that we are still dealing with demolition deposits of the Civil War or just after.

However today’s star find is a bit earlier, an enamelled Roman brooch of possible mid 1st – late 2nd century date; it is a residual find from an early post-medieval layer on the northern edge of the site (ok it was actually found on the spoil heap – the ground was a bit hard today and the weather very hot so it escaped notice as it was shovelled into the wheel barrow).

As you can see it is in quite a fragile condition but the form a plate or disc with circular projecting lugs and a central projecting stud is quite clear. Alternating squares of blue and red and white enamel can be seen circling the central stud.

A Chapel? And photography

Katie describes the robber trench:

Today was the start of our final week on site and once again the sun was out making some of us uncomfortable and even mildly disorientated on my part.

Last week and today giant strides were made on what was thought to be a cellar, but is now thought to be a robber trench. Robber trench for what you may ask? Now this is where it gets very exciting.
Dan and Uncle Simon believe that this trench was used to rob out a very substantial wall structure, which looks to have had buttresses on the outer wall. This is exciting as it could indicate that this wall belonged to a medieval chapel, the location of which has been lost for centuries.

The majority of today was spent cleaning areas of the site in order to take photographic records of features. Although we still record all the features with plan and section drawings to record accurate levels and measurements, we take the photographs so that we can look at the archaeology after it has been destroyed and refer to them in cases of doubt in the initial paper records.
(l-r) Sam, Emma and Katie define the floor of the possible medieval chapel.


The Final Week

Emma updates us on Monday's news:

Today was the start of the last week of the excavation. It’s strange to think that next week that we won’t be digging, but putting the finishing touches to our portfolios instead.

For Monday’s task there was not much digging involved. Group D was assigned to clear up some areas of the trench that needed to be photographed. It’s important to have the site look tidy for photographs just in case they are ever used for publications. By mid-morning we were sent to the Chester Renaissance building to get a further session in photography. Unlike the session we had in week 1 this time we were giving open criticism on the photos that we had taken in week one. This was insightful as it was good to have a better idea on how to improve our photography skills. For the rest of the afternoon we were sent back to the trench to clear more areas.

To give our readers a little update about the site - I would like to mention that we now believe the building we are investigating was a Medieval chapel that was later converted to a residence after the Dissolution. We’ve been uncovering a lot of decorated floor tiles from this period that are normally associated with chapels. Other features that we have discovered also point to the building being a former chapel. 

This is my final blog entry. I would like to thank the site team for giving us the opportunity to be a part of this excavation and for teaching us a lot of skills. I would also like to thank Meggen for spoiling us all with home-made treats. I’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks. It’s been brilliant.
Emma (in black) prepares the site for photographs.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Breaking News: A Chapel?

Meggen gives us news from the start of Week Four:

I popped down to the trench first thing this morning to see the latest since I was digging elsewhere on Friday - and the site looks very different! What we had thought was a cellar pit now appears to be a robbed out wall. Not just any old wall, either - this was a very substantial and well-built stone wall with nice facing stones and a rubble core. It even looks like there may have been buttresses on the outside of the wall.

This has made Dan and Simon very suspicious (and excited) since there is an account of an old medieval chapel (St Mary's) that used to be in this area. It was demolished and/or built into the post-medieval mansion house and its location has been lost for centuries.
Have they found the missing chapel!?! They've only got one week left to find out!

Picture of the robbed out wall.

Uncle Simon's Birthday!

A big happy birthday goes out to dig director Simon who celebrates a rather important milestone today.
For he's a jolly good fellow........