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, 10 May 2014

Day 4: The stage is set

Team 2014 reflects on a tough first week of work, but the stage is now set to reveal the Roman road and what lies beneath the floor deposits of last year's stone structure.

Troweling party in a rare moment of sunshine

Although today started off windy with a bit of rain, I fortunately had the morning in a classroom looking at the impact archaeology has on the public and how that has made archaeology into a trend. The second half of the day was spent removing any remaining backfill and then using the trowels to reach the Roman remains. The highlight of the day would have to be Nathaniel and Freya finding a large amount of animal bone remains.

The site is really beginning to take form. With more of the Roman road uncovered earlier in the week it is becoming easier to see. We also had a refresher course on the use of the Dumpy level, which is used to take height readings across the site. There is a real feeling of camaraderie among the whole team and everyone is excited, if tired, and looking forward to getting to some proper archaeology next week.

Our arrival to the Grosvenor Park dig on day 4 was met by a quick shower of rain, so armed with sponges, hand shovels and buckets we were tasked to removing as much of the water on the site as possible. All was going well as Team C continued to trowel the top layer from the ditch until the rain started again! We decided to take an early tea break and to enjoy the downpour from a more...comfortable distance. Even at this stage, many finds were being discovered from the top layer of the pit, such as small fragments of bone and small shards of pottery.

After our tea break, I managed to uncover bricks within the area of the ditch that have been placed on top of a drain pipe. As lunch approached, it was clear to see that everyone was in need of a rest! Needless to say, the first week of digging has been hard work, enjoyable as well as successful. And as the week drew to a close, we packed up our tools and slowly made our way home, welcoming the coming weekend as we went.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Day 3: Mud Wrestling

Our third day on site was only slightly curtailed by the elements, but Team 2014 managed to clear off the last of the terram sheeting and learn survey techniques as well. Plenty of tantalisingly unexcavated layers to play with now...

Day 3 of the dig and it's...yep, raining. The mud, now starting to get sticky, feels like it weighs a tonne as you try and walk with a pair mud boots and shovel it into an ever tipping over wheelbarrow. There's nothing better than consistency! The first break was welcomed by all as we sat down groaning with muscle ache. Break being over, The A Team took the lead in using the dumpy level to record the ground measurements, whilst the others were left to get down and dirty once again! Thankfully, by lunchtime the rain decided to abate a little and we all tramped back to the hut for sandwiches, tea and hand washing queues.

Adam learns to pull girls! Whilst the thick of the rain hits the site it has turned in to a muddy mess. This led to poor Freya sinking into the trench whilst clearing the backfill. However her saviour was at hand as Adam came to the rescue and pulled her out of the sticky mud, resulting in them both falling backwards into the trench and Adam landing a mud bum. However, Adam didn't receive a token for his heroics so he still has something to learn.

It rained today, a lot. This made the site very slippy and the mud very sticky, as I found out when I nearly lost a shoe getting stuck in it. Thankfully I was rescued by Adam and alls well that ends well. The rain stopped briefly after lunch and we did some work with the dumpy level, however, somewhat inevitably the rain started again. This unfortunately led to us having to stop a bit early for the day.

The day began to pack away the terram sheets which were used to protect the underlying archaeology of the trench. Although first done with relative ease, it became increasingly difficult when the rain began! Although we began to find some artefacts, overall it was a very uneventful day.

Today’s start was quite wet but the job was to finish off removing the topsoil from the rest of the east site of the trench. This was interesting as this started to reveal the Roman road beneath. However after the afternoon break finished only 15 minutes of work was done before a heavy downpour occurred resulting in an early finish, which was a shame since I hadn’t finished fixing the barrow run up the spoil heap!

Rain can't stop us.

Some pictures courtesy of Julie and Cheryl!

Day 2: Trowels out!

A bit of rain never hurt anyone! Today's progress involved lifting more of the terram sheeting laid down at the end of the 2013 season, and Team 2014's first taste of context sheets. The ditch and Roman road are starting to reappear. But don't take my word for it:

Tom, Jon and Dave bash last year's backfill out of the trench

Today was a good day for firsts, which is odd what with it being the second day. For starters we had our first encounter with adverse weather which was bearable though I imagine there will be plenty more to come. The second first was our first on-site exposure to context sheets. And finally, today we first saw the bottom of our hole, which was a huge relief as we were worried we'd never find it. If the weather holds out and we do another half-days' worth of digging we should be able to lift up the terram and uncover the actually archaeology beneath, which I am very much looking forward to.

Still no signs of dinosaurs yet, though it is still early days.

After the excitement of the first day of the dig, we returned to the site with sunburnt faces, necks and arms, along with being very tired from a hard day of 9-5 digging. We started the day off removing the topsoil from the previous digs. For the rest of the day we were blessed with some breaks of sunshine throughout the rain which barely stopped from about lunchtime. In this time the majority of the terram (a sheet which is used to cover up the previous archaeology and protect it from the backfill used to cover it up) was removed from the site, unveiling the work of the past years. By the end of the day, some of us even got to start troweling the uncovered soil which the terram covered.

After our introductions everybody knew what was going on and who was meant to do what. My particular job today was to empty out a ditch full of backfill and uncover the fabric (terram) which was covering the archaeology. Admittedly when I first looked at it I thought, well, that backfill will come out in no time. How wrong I was! After an hour or so a rhythm was found and the ditch was beginning to take shape. After lunch, it became considerably more difficult, with the soil sticking together and to our boots due to the rain. Towards the end of the day there wasn't a great deal driving our group on apart from the thought of the nice cold pint at the end of the day. However once the work had been done, it is very easy to admit that being on site is perhaps the most fun I have had in a long time.

When we got to the site Simon Ward put me straight to work pulling up the sheet we fought so bravely to get to yesterday. After removing this, I, along with 5 others, started to scrape off the residue spoil and top of the 'new' layer. Halfway through the day Team A (The A-Team) were pulled aside so that Simon could educate us on the use of context sheets on site. Following this we got cracking with removing the top layer of soil, which with the assistance of some Disney nostalgia we continued to do till finish at 5pm. Then we retreated to the pub for some sweet sustenance.

Although the afternoon on Day 2 was dismal and wet, that did not dampen our spirits! While half of the team pulled the fabric layers off the ground to expose last year's archaeology, the other half, including me, were concentrating on exposing the Roman road that was discovered. A lot of back-breaking labour was involved, but the result made it all worth it: a fantastic Roman road slowly appeared out of the layers of clay that pushed down upon it. I have to say the buzz from finding and exposing it is second to none!

It's all very well reading about these things, but actually exposing them and seeing it with your own eyes after hours of labour is fantastic. This is why I love archaeology, you really get a sense of history, and you really feel like you are doing something that will help future generations understand the history of Chester.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Day One: The team makes short work of backfill

Work in the park has begun! You may find it tricky to visit us this year as there is other work going on in Grosvenor Park at the moment, which means parts of it are off limits for visitors.  We will still find a way to have our annual Open Day event (watch this space) and of course we can offer lots of virtual visits through our blog.

We kick off with two fresh archaeologists' views on their first day on site! Some pics hopefully to come soon!

Laura becomes OK with dirt and is impressed by the finds so far:

Today, was the first day of the 2014 Chester Archaeological dig in Grosvenor  Park. There was a lot of anticipation and excitement for today’s dig and we weren’t disappointed! The sun was shining and the spades were working away and everybody enjoyed doing so.

In the morning, we were briefed on site and introduced to the friendly and attentive staff we were to be working with. After this, we got straight to it! We began by clearing the backfill from the previous years’ work, which was difficult and took the whole day to do.  Although challenging, our efforts were not in vain as many various and unique finds were uncovered. This included a beautifully crafted clay pipe, which most of us had never seen the likes of before.  Another find was an incredibly large animal tooth and a vast array of large bone pieces. This opened our eyes to the fact that although copious excavations have been undertaken here, there was still so much archaeology for us to find.
I have to say even with my OCD and tendency to hate getting filthy, today's experiences have really opened my eyes to commercial archaeology. As an individual who has never experienced a dig such as this one before, today has made me realise how fun it can be and how much closer you become with your colleagues.

Jess becomes one with the mattock and even appreciates rain!:

This is the first day of the 2014 Grosvenor Park training dig and this year’s group of second years got to the site filled with anticipation and excitement to get some practical experience! Introductions to the site and the staff took place in the Mess Room before we headed out to the site. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves, shovel, mattock, and wheel barrow in hand getting stuck in! Clearing the backfill from the previous year’s excavations was today’s task, and it was testing labour but successful.

By lunchtime, everybody was ready for a break, either walking into town or eating lunch down by the river under the sun, nursing developing blisters and fuelling up for the next part of the day. A lot of discussion was about the interesting array of finds we found that morning such as an intricately decorated clay pipe, various pottery types and even a stray beer bottle! The afternoon brought more exciting finds like bone fragments and chunks, and a large animal tooth. The day ended on a good note with all of us strolling home in the rain through town, picking up food on the way and eagerly awaiting bath and bedtime. I’m sure the next three weeks will prove as entertaining, insightful, and educational as today has been!