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.
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Saturday, 1 June 2013

The end of the dig is upon us... it brings sun and a well-deserved trip to the pub...

Helen wishes next year's team well: 

My blog post from the first day talked about the excitement of starting digging and the chore of removing backfill. Well, 4 weeks later we all entered the site excited to see the return of the sun (which of course only appeared on the first and last days) but sad to have reached the end of the excavation. Before morning tea break we: cleared the site of water that had accumulated over the past few days; put down a new breathable fabric layer (terram) to protect the site till next year and disassembled to marquee that we had for the last week. Over tea break games of frisbee and football were played (to make the most of the sun) with friends we had made over the excavation.

Bailing out the rain water
We then recapped some of the photography tips from previous weeks. Returning to Grosvenor Park for lunch break we witnessed the JCBs putting the soil back in the trench. The speed at which to machines seem to undo 4 weeks work was both upsetting and captivating.

The afternoon was spent washing the remainder of the finds in the sun with an ice cream. Then all that was left to do was remove the fencing surrounding the now bleakly flat site. Even though we all knew this day was coming it was still a shock how quickly the end of the dig came round. But to celebrate a good months work we, as all archaeologists do, retreated to the pub.

I very much enjoyed my first excavation experience and can’t wait for my next opportunity to dig. Finally, I would like to wish next year's 2nd year archaeology students at the University of Chester the best of luck removing the extra backfill we created for them, especially in Chris, Marc and Lauren’s ditch.

Michael enjoyed his time at the dig:

Well today was the final day of the four week excavation in Grosvenor Park. This morning we placed fresh terram over the site, which was fairly simple and did not take much time at all. Once the terram was placed, we were then tasked to take down the large tent that was put up a few days ago for the open day. Once that was complete, we were all moved to Albion Street, where we had a lecture on how not to take an archaeological photo.

During lunch, the JCB’s came in and started to fill the site back in with four weeks’ worth of spoil. I think a great many of us found it quite heart-breaking due to all that work we did being filled back in just like that.

In the afternoon there were still finds to be washed, so we were all tasked with washing the remaining finds, but we did it outside due to the nice weather. After the finds washing we had to collect the fences from the site and deposit them back in the compound.  All in all I found it an engaging and enjoyable experience and I feel that I understand archaeology a lot more now than I did before!

Finds washing al fresco!


Andrew reflects on the blood, sweat and tears:

The last day of our 4 week excavation is finally over. It's been fun and a great experience. Friday consisted of moving terram, falling down holes, washing finds and carrying fences. To top that all off the day ended with a pint at the Falcon.

When we arrived on site at lunch it was a mixture of relief and sadness to see the JCBs piling the dirt in on a site we had spent our blood, sweat and tears excavating. Without a doubt I will be visiting the site next year to see what the year below gets up to and to see what else is uncovered about the site, it's been a blast.

Covering the site to protect the archaeology from the backfilling and save our place for next year!

Well done team CAER 2013...
and take two, with Julie (and Marc!!!)...

Friday, 31 May 2013

Julie gives us a wonderful overview of the post-Roman finds from this year's excavations...

After a bit of a slow start quite a large assemblage of finds has been retrieved over the last 3 and a half weeks and predictably this week the excavation of part of a ditch running north/south across the site is producing bags and bags of animal bone and pottery.

Last year’s backfill produced an amazing range of finds: clay tobacco pipes, lead shot, fragments of Samian pottery, as well as Westerwald stoneware and post-medieval Spanish olive jar and a variety of other post-medieval wares, including slipware dish fragments, blackware vessels and pieces of Cistercian ware cups. It’s interesting to see what ended up on last year’s spoil heap rather than in finds trays but it is easy to miss fragments when it’s wet and muddy.
Once the backfill had been removed the quantity of clay tobacco pipes found fell considerably and stopped completely after the last of the 17th century demolition deposits were removed from the south side of the trench. It looks as if we are firmly in the 16th century across most of the trench and in some areas possibly the late medieval.
A plaster-rich deposit lying to the east of the stone building and excavated by James, Andrew and Dan produced quite a variety of objects and there seemed to be a race as to who could find the most, which certainly upped finds retrieval. Two tiny twisted loops of copper alloy wire are examples of objects common on sites from the 16th century onwards, they may have been used to reinforce textile purses and stop them being cut open by thieves (cut-purses). Alternatively recent work by costume historians suggests they are the ‘eyes’ from hook and eye fastenings.   The remains of a double-sided ivory comb would have been a possession of quality as would have been a jet bead found by Maeve.
The bead is the size of, and looks like, a black olive or grape; it was found in a deposit containing Roman and medieval pottery as well as 16th century Cistercian wares; initially it was suggested to be Roman like most other finds of jet from the city however a medieval or later date is a possibility. A variety of jet beads have been found in medieval contexts in York and a similar but slightly smaller bead has been described as being from a rosary (Ottaway and Rogers 2002, 2948, fig 1516. 13500). A small glass bead from the same context needs more work to identify as to date, it displays an intricate pattern of blue, yellow and opaque red glass largely obscured by dirt. The remains of a beautiful blue glass bead was found by Lauren as it fell out of the section at the east end of the site, the bead is quite large and possibly had applied spots in another colour, again some research is needed to suggest a date which is likely to be between the Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon periods.
Another find associated with dress and appearance is a well-preserved late medieval copper alloy buckle with semi-circular cut outs on the edge of its plate,  a similar plate but attached to a different shaped buckle has been published from Meols (Griffiths, Philpott & Egan 2007, 99-100, Pl 16 719).

A potentially important copper alloy seal matrix was found by Frances close to the northern wall of the stone building. The surface is obscured by dirt but the legend around the edge can be seen and x-radiography should enable us to read it and to identify the image in the centre of the seal. The seal matrix is a pointed oval, a common medieval shape, with a suspension loop on the reverse. If the matrix carries a name we might be able to identify whether the owner was a member of the Fraternity of St Anne whose building we may have found or perhaps a clergyman from St John’s.
As well as providing new information about the past of Grosvenor Park the excavations have the potential to help us understand changes in the use and supply of pottery in late 15th and 16th century Chester. Large jars and cisterns in a coarse Coal Measure fabric (Ewloe-type ware) are a feature of late medieval pottery assemblages in Chester but we don’t know for sure whether they continued in use into the 16th century nor do we know when Cistercian-type ware cups were first used.  However the ditch running north-south across the site is producing large fragments of Ewloe-type ware jars and Cistercian-type wares suggesting they were in contemporary use, something also suggested by an assemblage excavated at 25 Bridge St, Chester (Debenhams) in 2001. Analysis of the ditch assemblage may therefore help clarify the pottery sequence for this transitional phase between the medieval and post-medieval periods. The ditch fill is also producing a lot of well preserved animal bone, Ian Smith last week identified much of this as cattle and probably good quality cuts of meat suggesting high status eating.

Ewloe-type ware jars

Finally in this brief summary of this year’s finds building materials should be mentioned. Fragments of floor tiles including one with a griffin, a pattern found in previous seasons in the park, continue to be found as well as  crested ridge tiles and Welsh slates, a number of which are coming from the ditch, all give clues as to how the building we are excavating may have looked.
Sadly this year’s excavations are coming to an end and we will have to curb our curiosity about what more there is to discover below the ground until next year. It is uncommon to find a medieval and early post-medieval site in Chester that has not been disturbed by later buildings. Moreover to be able to excavate an open area containing a stone building and associated features is also a rare experience these days, especially for this archaeologist who normally is confined to the office!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

It's the last few days on site, Ben and Christian bring us up to date...

Ben gets to grips with geophysics:

Today began as every other day it seems, wet and cold. This morning me, Andrew and Dan were given the task of clearing a section of the site where it was believed the main wall would continue across the site. Needless to say this was not very pleasant as the area was covered with pools of water and mud, after this was cleared we began to trowel at the area, and started to uncover the wall. However after break we did not get a chance to finish our job as we then had the task of surveying an area using geophysics, more specifically a resistivity meter. This process was quite enjoyable and was certainly a new experience for all of us.

Christian talks us through the last full day on site (boo! L)

After almost four weeks at Grosvenor Park today was the penultimate day of the dig and the last day of any excavation on site, so everyone was busy finishing digging and recording the features before the terram is laid and the trench filled tomorrow. Despite showers throughout the day the levels were taken and plans drawn of every wall, ditch and pit on site. I planned and, with the dumpy level, measured a section of the culvert or drainage ditch that runs across the site. In the afternoon site photographs needed to be taken so along with Rafie and Fran, I had the task of troweling what seemed like half the site and removing every one of the many leaves which fell into the trench (it didn't help that the area being photographed was under a tree!).

Once all the photographs were taken all that was left was to clean all the tools and start packing up all the equipment ready for the trench to be closed tomorrow. Despite the mud and rain, with one day left to go, I will miss the excavation and will be disappointed when I see the backfill being placed in the trench on Friday afternoon. 

Helen and Christian continue to clean features on site

Wednesday 29th May - Cat and Ryan report...

Ryan’s plans are scuppered by the changeable weather…

As the last day approaches it's all hands on deck as everybody is trying to finish the features and other areas of interest before Friday comes. The weather has been vile over the past few days starting mostly with the open afternoon which happened yesterday. To everyone's surprise, we had  quite a few people turning up, even in the continuous heavy downpour of rain. As for today, the morning was sunny and the afternoon was dull and overcast until the last hour when, yes, the heavens opened AGAIN. The context that Michael and I have been digging has finally been finished, removing the mortar and brick layer. We used the last hour of the day to plan the feature but with the dumpy level ready and set up it decided to rain so we left it until tomorrow. Group C finished the last session of finds washing this morning and we now have a completed list for the portfolio. All in all another day on site however with the end looming its almost sad that it has to end but then again it can’t come quick enough.
We did get some sunshine... for some more geophysics in the morning (Helen carrying out some of the resitivity survey with Meggen and Karen assisting!)

Catherine has an illuminating day of finds recording and discovery…

This morning group C took part in the fourth finds session and Julie taught us about small finds numbers and how to care for them which was very illuminating. Then after lunch Maeve and I cleaned the areas around the wall which ended up unearthing a few large iron finds which were exciting. We were not put off by the heavy rain!
Finds recording with Julie

Tuesday 28th (continued!)

Maeve reflect's on Tuesday's events...

Tuesday was a pretty fun day, despite it consisting of rain, mud and more mud. In the morning me, Cat, Jay and Dan were taught how to do geophysics with Amy and Meggen (who we were all happy to see!). We measured and set up the ropes and the resistivity machine adjacent to the site. This was to try and determine how far the features seen in the trench continue across the park. However we had some problems with the machine as the ground was too compact, so this will be continued another day.

It was open afternoon after lunch and while some people were giving tours and washing finds me and Cat were still trowelling in the pouring rain. Our finds mostly consisted of bone and tiny fragments of pottery and after around 2 hours of trowelling we were slowly starting to sink into the mud! We swapped with some others so we could do finds after this and enjoyed talking to the public about our finds (in a nice dry tent!). Despite being covered head to foot in mud every other day, I will definitely miss the site on Friday when we finish the excavation L
Maeve (in light blue) and Cat (in pink) working hard in the trench despite the rain

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Rafi and Marc report on a slightly soggy but successful Open afternoon at the site!


Today has been the coldest and rainiest day of the four weeks, but possibly the funniest!

In the morning, my team went to the finds store for the final finds session in which we finished our "finds record sheet" with the help of Gill and many interesting books. We definitely have gained a lot of practice and we realized we can easily recognise most of the artefacts in our trays. After that, we carried on washing and marking some finds, while Gill explained what we were doing and what we had found.

In the afternoon all the team were on site for an exciting (and wet) open day. Despite the rain, many people gathered around (we were really pleased to see people from past weeks coming back for the open day). We showed them the site and how we worked (digging and troweling), we displayed the best artefacts (pottery, glass, etc.) found also in past years, and we did some washing of finds directly on site, to make people see how it worked. Despite the rain, it has been a success!  

Not the best weather, but we had visitors nonetheless!

Marc’s last blog entry (sad face)…

Well folks, this is my last entry for what has been an undoubtedly awesome 4 weeks. This morning was spent in the finds room applying the finishing touches to our individual finds trays, coding, bagging etc and we also had a surprise visit from a film crew who were spending the day creating a media presentation for the local council and our Uni and yours truly got my 5 minutes of fame discussing the importance of public engagement with archaeology (after my agent agreed remuneration terms obviously...). Apparently I managed not to embarrass myself or the Uni so that’s a first then :). This afternoon is the much publicised public open day and the weather forecast is not good to say the least but the show must go on and it appears that no matter how hard the wet stuff comes down, we will be hard at it knee deep in the brown stuff for the good of the cause...... I’m oddly looking forward to it...

Once again the weather forecasters get it spot on (funny how they always manage to accurately predict bad weather but when it comes to sunshine....?). It really is raining cats and dogs and we all doubt whether anyone will bother to turn up. We are however, prepared and the marquee is up with finds display tables and 'interactive' finds washing (ha ha!....glad I’m not volunteering for that one!) is ready to rock. Imagine our surprise when a steady stream of observers start to arrive and show genuine interest despite the deluge!  I for one, and im pretty sure this is a view shared by my fellow diggers, am quite humbled by the extent of interest and enthusiasm shown by the public and I personally took great pleasure in doing a few guided tours of our site and engaging our attentive (if not soggy) audience.   Hard to believe that in two days time, we will be laying down the terram and filling the whole site back up. I’m actually a little disappointed!........anyway.......I think that well-earned hot bath I’m running for myself is overflowing......!

Laters........Oh....and thanks loads for following us, it’s been hugely appreciated.  :) 

Ryan describes the site to a group of visitors 

Marc and Chris talking to another group of hardy visitors

Daniel and Andrew report on Friday finds washing

Andrew finds the pressure too much…

Friday was a good end to the week. The first half we troweled a new patch of the site and discovered a cut feature with some good finds in. Ben found the remnants of a 16th century glass drinking vessel and I found half of a copper alloy pin (similar to ones that Jay, Dan and I have found before). We made it through the windy and cold morning to then spend the rest of the day washing and marking finds.

Finds marking was torturous, the guilt of messing up the finds was too much to bear and soon only Helen of team D was left marking finds. The rest of us went back to the calm waters of finds washing. The week was full of illness for myself, but next week looks good. I look forward to the open day which I hope many of the blog readers will attend. It has been a great experience and I have had a lot of fun. 

Helen, Andrew, Ben and Daniel wash finds

Daniel finds finds-washing peaceful…

In the morning I continued the excavation of a potential rubbish pit in the medieval layer above the Roman road. After cleaning the area and searching for signs of the outline of the pit in the surrounding area, the supervisors agreed that the bottom of the pit had been reached. I then spent the second half of the morning drawing the feature.

In the afternoon I had another finds washing session. In this session we learnt how to organise finds into groups and bag them after they had been marked. This was a quick process and afterwards we could mark or wash more finds from other contexts . I chose to wash some more finds as I absolutely despise the pens we use to mark items, they refuse to write’s so frustrating, unlike washing finds which is peaceful :)