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, 23 May 2015

Week 2 in pictures

Day 10: the halfway point and the rest is looking bright

The second week is over and we are finally free of the backfill

Today, me and Ellen finished the drawing of the clay deposit, that can be seen to the west of the site, adding the rocks and the hachures to indicate slopes and dips in the clay. To make this drawing accurate a metre grid had to be placed onto the earth with all of the 4 sides being level. This does not sound like a hard task, but we have concluded that this is extremely difficult especially as once it becomes perfect it can be easily knocked. This is mainly due to the fact that each of the corners are held up by a series of rocks balanced precariously under or on top of the grid itself, resulting in a test of whether or not the rock or brick we are holding is going to cause the bubble to reach the middle of the spirit level or whether it will throw the whole thing off balance.

We also attempted to take levels using a dumpy level this morning however, this needs the use of mathematics and my early morning brain got very confused with the decimal places. Although, I did manage to understand eventually and we did get some records of the dips and rises of the deposit.

This afternoon we were marking the finds with the context number to avoid any losses. This was a very tedious task as many of the finds were small and the ink kept turning into blobs, therefore making some marks only just legible. After this we were washing are second lot of finds. Between us we have washed, what is thought to be, pig’s teeth, clay pipes, bone and numerous fragments of pottery.

To finish the week off we were given a tour of the site in order to understand where we have got to in these last two weeks.

We are now halfway through our dig and the finds we are getting back from excavation are making the site look very promising for the next half of our dig.


Day 10: What a week!

The weather went from being awful and raining (typical British weather) to lovely sunshine and then it ended on a moderately warm but not sunny day. We also had many laughs at various things, one being a piegeon flying straight into the fence and leaving behind its body weight in feathers, and another whilst playing the Alphabet Game which got a little out of hand. But all in all we had a very productive week and we found many interesting things! 

Personally my goal has been to find animal bone or teeth and I finally achieved that and found my first ever cattle tooth!!! Woo! My mother thinks it's slightly weird how excited I was but she's supportive none the less. Whilst I was excited about finding my first tooth, Kate was onto her billionth. Our team had been slowly but steadily excavating the Roman road which has been amazing! Although we did mistakenly take out a few stones but the road is still intact, thankfully.

For today and yesterday Meg and I have been drawing the site plan of the clay deposit, which has been more fun than I expected but getting the drawing frame level has been both a pain and a great laugh! We almost killed Ethan because he knocked it just after we got it level. But there was no bloodshed. After we finished we went to do some more finds washing and we had to write the information on the artefacts with quill and ink style equipment which was fun! Although my handwriting leaves much to be desired, some of them were legible. 

Overall our week has been fun and filled with new techniques and equipment (none of which I broke [yey!]). I hope next week will be filled with more interesting finds and we can finally take off the clay! Fun times! :) 


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Day 9: Selina's outline of finds processing

The past week mostly consisted of digging and interacting with people coming to the site, but one of the things I found myself enjoying most was our finds workshop.  Whilst in all honestly, brushing bone with a toothbrush in some lukewarm water is most definitely not the first thing I feel like doing in the morning, I found the exercise to be rather relaxing, though I had to enlist the help of Dan and Chiara on both sessions to clean the teeth for me – I sincerely refuse to like to texture, it’s so… gross. 
There’s not a lot to explain with the actual process of washing teeth; you fill up a bowl with warm water and brush the artefacts with a toothbrush, or a sponge if you’re unlucky enough and you then have to leave the artefacts to dry. Whilst I’ve lost the pictures of them being squeaky clean, I do have pictures of some of the artefacts we had to wash, though thankfully they can be seen even without the hard work of a toothbrush and a sponge.
After being left to dry, the artefacts had the wonderful chance of being written on with good old fashioned ink and nib pens. We soon found out that we all struggled with calligraphy apart from Cameron (who seemed to have partaken in calligraphy school at some point), though Nathan seemed to particularly struggle the most unfortunately, alongside Dan. From there, it was just a matter of finding where to write the artefacts context number and trench (which I embarrassingly mistook for II instead of IV, though nothing a quick line couldn’t fix). 

The conversation during the workshop managed to range from tennis to Godzilla, to Jurassic Park, to Pacific Rim and Bioshock – everything but archaeology and the artefacts we were cleaning. All in all, a successful finds workshop part 2!


Day 9: Digging with different abilities

It is  fairly often that I get asked what I am studying for my degree and generally the initial response I get is 'But how can you be an Archaeologist?'. This is often followed by a swift glance at my crutches, wheelchair or mobility scooter, dependent on which mobility aid I need that particular day.

Obviously the whole idea of having mobility issues and working in a trench does seem wildly improbable at the outset, but it is simply a case of doing what I can, when I can. Today, for example, I have been having a pretty good pain day. My pain levels were low enough for me to be mobile without straining any of my joints.

The other major factors with being 'in the field' as a disabled, Trainee Field Archaeologist are the team around you and the weather. We had almost perfect excavating weather today - cool enough to be comfortable with the troweling, but warm enough to prevent us freezing to the spot! I am very, very happy to be working with the amazing bunch of students, lecturers and professional archaeologists who ask me what I feel up to and assist me when I need help. It is often very hard for a newly-disabled person like myself to ask for that help and I felt terrible that I could not assist with the really heavy work of removing the top-soil, but all my colleagues have made sure that I know my limitations and accept that this is something beyond my capability.

My first job on site today was helping another student take 'levels'. These levels are used to plot out areas of completed excavation in '3D'. We know how wide a feature is by measuring tape and we can see how deep it is in various parts with the levels. These details are then used when it comes to any 'mapping' of an archaeological excavation on a computer. 
The most difficult part of this for me was balancing sufficiently well on one crutch to keep myself upright, but also holding the pen and paper record with my free hand. It didn't occur to me on site that sitting on my mobility scooter seat would have given me sufficient height to work plotting the details, but this foray into juggling things between my free hand and crutch hand was enlightening!

Once the levels were completed, it was time to get into the trench! I have a wonderful helper who is very knowledgeable about my condition and with his help I was able to balance on one crutch and have him guide me down the incline to the trench. Once there and down onto the floor, I was fine. Crawling around may seem rather undignified by it works. It meant I was able to move around my work area without constant assistance, as well as actually getting some valuable experience of field work.

The trench I was working on had been used during some bad weather last week as a walkway, which isn't unusual, but this use had occurred during torrential rain so initially I thought I had a trench full of a lovely stone surface, but it was not to be (not yet anyway)! Chester has very clay soil meaning that as the footprints had dried, they had baked dry in the sun and my lovely 'stone surface' was not really there.

One of the best things about being able to do some field work is that sense of mystery, knowing that with each scrape of the trowel you may well find a missing piece of the puzzle which makes up the story of our human past. Being able to get the sense of unfolding stories is by far one of the most satisfying any archaeology lover can have. Even though the finds tray was rather empty for this trench, except a few pieces of tile and Roman Samianware, it has not felt worthless. Whoever takes over that area over the next few days will be able to peel back some more layers and the hidden story will be revealed. Team work within archaeology is key, and I cannot thank my team enough for their support, patience and kindness. It is by having such great people around that disabilities are not as much of an issue as could be first considered. I have abilities that others on site may not, meaning, in reality, I have 'differer-abilities'.


Day 8 in pictures

Sam, Celine and Maddy clean the area within the structure, adjacent to the Medieval ditch

Rachael, Ellen and Katie cleaning down on to Roman(?) layers
Ethan and Megan removing the last of the Medieval deposits in their part of the trench

Harry and Hannah learning to record their pit with the help of Simon

Kim and Katie getting handy with a mattock

The top of the Roman road is starting to appear

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Day 8: Once more into the breach dear friends, once more …….

The battle continues …. 

Charcoal layer beneath the clay deposit
Myself and Meg were still battling through the clay mound situated near the drainage network trying to reach the charcoal surface, but at the same time searching for our hidden treasure hoard. Alas no treasure hoard was found! Nonetheless we embraced the same exuberance as we unearthed some more crunchies (bones) and some ceramic sherds of the Roman and Medieval period. Although, hands down, Meg found the best find so far in our section; two fragments of bone that tailored together, possibly a leg joint. Good job Meg, I guess the gold will have to wait for now.

Come dinner time we’d completed our mission and reached the charcoal surface, which was timely as Ellen, Rachel and Kate had finished their section on the western section of the site, finding a lot of cattle teeth and few ceramic sherds. Unlucky girls!

It was at this stage that we began playing the alphabet game in the morning which extended into the evening. It’s truly amazing how long you can play the alphabet game and say each letter over and over a thousand times and still be entertained, oh dear….. 

Learning to use a planning frame
After the dinner break our team regrouped and tackled drawing plans with the assistance of mathematician maestro Simon.  The purpose of this is to record each detailed feature. I’m no ‘da Vinci’ but I give it my best and to my own surprise pinpointed each rock and stone precisely… whoop!!

Before we knew it the day was over and it was a successful day. Who only knows what tomorrow will bring, probably dirtier finger nails…

Good job team



So for today's task, some of the finds collected over the six days, needed a good 'wesh' as us Yorkshire folk might say. That is where we came in. The morning was spent washing finds, using toothbrushes, washing up bowls and long thin sticks. There is something very satisfying shifting mud from the little crevasses of the bone and ceramic revealing that pretty surface under all that mud. Not everything can be 'weshed' though, metals and some wood are best left alone for now. I ALMOST sacrificed a piece of wood, but saved it from the bowl at last minute.

After the washing the finds our group went back to the site, which had been restored by the morning groups to its former fencey glory. This was after some delinquents, in there idea of 'faffing' around, had pulled down the fence and some of the tent overnight. Although it annoyed us all, some light relief was brought from a pigeon dive bombing and face planting the fence. I could also finally get some use out of my freshly redecorated trowel, so I could TROWEL THEM ALL (bad pun).

The afternoon for our group was spent excavating; Kate found 60000x (small exaggeration) teeth again, other than that, we found some other cattle bones such as a flat one that seemed to be from a pelvis and some pretty green ceramics. We also managed to convince Ethan to take our muddy buckets (after the rain the buckets made great mud castles) to the wheel barrow again (sorry Ethan!).
I also got to bag up the finds! Which surprisingly I like, because I am a stickler for organizing things... well except my room. Some awesome stuff in there too, bones, ceramics, building materials and I'm sure I saw a shell! Although there's always that one joker putting a rock in their finds tray to make it more difficult.  

A last note, this pretty large bone was found by Jenny’s group. Nobody laughed at its interestingly questionable shape. We swear.

Anyway I am cream-crackered, in a bit folks!

Rachael (your friendly neighborhood Pikachu archaeologist)

Monday, 18 May 2015

Day 6 Cleaning the Finds

This morning began with the interesting task of cleaning the finds; which was a very delicate, time consuming (especially when playing ‘who am I’ for 3 hours) and even relaxing job of removing all the dirt from the finds which have been unearthed over the previous week. Most of the objects we had to clean were bones and some ceramics; this included my most favoured find which is a large cow horn or possible Minotaur… It took well over an hour to clean this one object, the whole horn was filled with clay like dirt and thankfully most of the other finds were much smaller in size and didn’t take long at all.

The day was definitely going our way as it had been raining all morning so as soon as lunch comes the rain cleared, the sun was dazzling and so my path to food was sealed. 

The second half of the day was not as relaxing but still very delicate as me and Cam were tasked with keeping the rocks in place whilst working around them to push the trench further back, swerving our trowels and removing the soil from around the rubble was very uneventful. However, we have now hit our next context and I look forward to what is thrown at us.


Week 2 begins with some spring cleaning...

18 May 2015 18:33
Week two of our dig started poorly..... I lost a bet to Dan.

This however didn't dampen my spirits for the days activities as today was the first day of post excavation with the finds. We were only cleaning the finds today, which for the first couple of hours was very therapeutic. Mine and Ross' boasting over our horn finds started to deteriorate during this activity as cleaning them took a long time and was extremely tedious and annoying as the dirt got into every nook and cranny. Also, towards the end of the session our hands became so wrinkly that it became very uncomfortable to wash the artefacts.

Luckily I missed the showers, which the other groups got hit with in the morning and the sun came out for the afternoon. We carried on excavating our designated areas, and it was business as usual really. Our finds were typically of animal bone and pottery sherds, although it seemed as though Harry and Hannah had come across quite the find - a large animal bone, possibly from a cattle. Their group also uncovered what appeared to be a sherd from a ceramic jug which was thought to hold ale.

The mysterious mud thrower was at large again today, Ross is the prime suspect so far.

Onwards and upwards to the next day, and hopefully we will get our first slip soon...