Thursday, 29 July 2010

Day Twenty-Four: it's all over, for now...

Today was the final day of digging, so in traditional fashion there was lots of last minute activity taking place all over site. Gareth's team finished cleaning up inside the building and demonstrated that there are all sorts of medieval features below. As these are not part of our research design we're leaving them intact, but we are recording their presence so that other people in the future will know about them.

The final push

The other main digging job taking place was the final clearance around the stone tank and drain features, which saw Andy, Pete, Alex and Gareth all diving in to expose the final portions of the drain. Otherwise, the main activities taking place were (lots of) drawing, photography and note taking.

It's not Tudor, but it's still lovely

Given we weren't digging many new contexts today we weren't expecting to come across any nice new finds. However Ian surprised us all by discovering the prettiest piece of medieval sculpture we've come across so far. It's a decorative 'crocket' from the church which was probably chipped off and thrown away when the stonework was being taken away and reused at the dissolution.

Towards the end of the day we started the long process of backfilling, and this will carry on for the next couple of days. Although rather boring and hard work, it's very important we return the site to the state we found it in.

Alex digs in

Gareth makes it look so easy

So after four long, but really interesting, weeks it has all come to an end. However, the work will still continue after we've left the site. Pete and Hugh still need to scrutinise all the plans, photographs and notes and piece together all the evidence we've uncovered. All the finds need to be studied and recorded and these will help provide an accurate picture of the site in the past. This will take some time, but eventually all our hard work will end up in a published report and all the records and finds be sent to the museum.

Goodbye everyone and thanks for following our progress!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Day Twenty-Three: Archaeology down the drain

Today, much as yesterday was a day to finish up all those little jobs that needed doing before the mammoth task of recording begins! Success was found in trench two with the crack team of Alex and Andy finishing excavation and leaving only the west and east sections to be drawn on the morrow. Hugh began this recording today by drawing the elevation of three adjoining walls. This was done using the same technique as that employed in drawing the upstanding priory buildings.

Hugh attempts a world record length elevation

After completing their digging mission Rachel and Ian began to fill out context sheets, recording infomation about each layer, cut or structure discovered.

Two down...two hundred to go...

The fun jobs had also been left until the end of the dig, these included
removing the caps to a drain and emptying the fill (this may not sound that much fun, but to archaeologists its pretty much as good as it gets!). All the deposits found within the drain were also sieved and kept as samples to be proccessed back in Sheffield.

Susannah digs out the drain...

...And Ann sieves it for goodies

While the team under the direction of Gareth cleaned out the drain Sandy 'volunteered' to produce the final plan for the centre of the trench

Its not even raining Sandy...why the jacket?

The day was coming to an end and we thought we had discovered all the features...but as always with archaeology another suprise was lurking under the soil. Kourosh, trowelling back like a pro began to uncover one stone, then another, then another. Not to keep you in suspense for too long...we found another drain! (Remeber how i said archaeologists love drains...well not so much on the second to last day of excavation!)

The team look down on yet another feature to interprate

The new drain!

Will the team manage to complete the work on time? Will Alex and Sandy be able to plan the trench before Friday? Will the Total Station run out of battery? The answers can only be found here...until next time dear reader...stay vigilant!

Hugh has a funny turn at the thought of all the work left to do
and tries to truely engage with the archaeology

Day Twenty-Two: Where there's a Willmott there's a way!

Today, our eminent leader got down to the nitty gritty in Trench One to do some offset planning as the team pull together for the final push towards the end of the excavation.

We also revisited Trench Two today. Sandy, Robin, Jordan and T-Mac returned to the trench but as of yet haven't found anything wildly exciting since the robbed out linear feature found last week. Hopefully there will be more to report tomorrow, lest we discover that trench two is a "HOLE lot of nothing" (Ritchie, 2010).

Sandy surveying her keen workers.

Gareth's team concentrated on taking down the area in the centre of Trench One in an attempt to find another surface. Emma and Lesley were also kept busy working on a new slot in Trench One to try and decipher one of the more confusing walls in the Trench.

Team Gazbo hard at work.

Brendon and Andy just scraping the surface.
The find of the day came from Ann, the newest member of Gareth's team. As the day rolled on, it seemed a bit of a gamble as to whether or not we would find any desperately interesting artefacts. Then Ann found a wonderfully preserved Medieval playing die made from animal bone.Gambling with dice was very popular throughout England during the 1500's through all ranks in society, including Royalty and even the clergy. In fact, it is even believed that King Henry VIII lost the bells of St. Pauls Church on an unlucky throw. Pictures of the die to come!

Ann with her eyes peeled for more exciting finds in Trench One.
There was also a touch of media induced glamour in today's proceedings when visitors from "We are Barnsley" came to interview Boss Man Hugh about the excavation. "When and where can we watch this video?!" I hear you cry, well fret not, as soon as the video is available on the internet there will be a handy link for you right here on your favourite Blog.
Moving on, after Alex's absolutely admirable efforts towards drawing plans of Trench One over the last few days, he gives his eyes and nerves a well deserved rest and lets out some of that frustration with a mini mattock in Trench One.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!

That is it for now, check back for tomorrow as for more updates on the teams frantic efforts as the excavation comes to an end.

Find of the Day: Playing Die.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Day Twenty-One: thinking it through

With most of the digging done in Trench 1, any visitor to the site today would have seen people often standing around chatting. Whilst it is true we're a very sociable bunch, this isn't just idle chit chat. With most of the walls, surfaces and other features now on view, the long process of figuring out what it all means is starting in earnest.

The empty bucket takes centre stage

Hugh, Suzanna, Sandy and Andy discuss the features

With the end in site it's pretty safe to say most people are looking forward to a well deserved rest, as it's been a really impressive effort by all.

Ian and Rachel enjoying a banana break! No jokes about monkeys and zoos.

There's still quite a lot we don't understand, particularly how some of the features relate to each other. This is quite common on excavations, and it's often only long after the dig is finished, plans have been finalised and the finds accurately dated that we can piece everything back together.

Emma figuring out what's happening to one of the walls

Not everyone has been standing around today. Despite the challenging conditions, Alex has completed the final overall plan of the walls, leaving just the first phase surfaces and the elevations to draw. To save his sight (and the remains of his sanity) these tasks will be shared by everyone.

X marks the spot

However, in best archaeological tradition, there's still quite a bit of digging still to be done through some of the surfaces, and we still have to look properly at the drain. Erm and there is still Trench 2 to finish off, so expect a flurry of last minute activity...

Brendan demonstrating his 'flick'

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Day Twenty: going down the drain

The start of the start of the final week has seen us getting to grips with the more sensitive archaeology. With all the demolition finally removed it's just 16th century walls and surfaces everywhere. These need careful cleaning, recording and excavating.

Back to work!

The greatest excitement of the day has been the discovery of an intact cobbled surface running along the south side of the trench. This is in (almost) as good condition as the day it was laid around 450 years ago, and careful trowelling had revealed this very nicely.

Andy, Charlie, Robin and Susanna revealing the 16th century surface

One feature in this surface that has really got people talking is an intact capped drain running down the length of the cobbled surface. We're not sure where it's running from and to, but it has never been disturbed so hopefully it might contain some interesting gooey deposit.

Only in archaeology can we get excited by a capped drain, but it's as near to 'Indiana Jones' as it gets for us

Gareth can't resist the urge to take a sneaky peak, terrible things may happen

Another exercise we've undertaken today is to extend a small slot from our trench to the wall of the church. This is so we can 'tie in' the features we've found with the upstanding masonry, and see if there were any connection between the two. This has been undertaken by Emma, who's thrown herself into the task with her usual enthusiasm and verve.

Emma demonstrating that the trowel is not the only way to clean a surface

It's exhausting work

Being a weekend we've had a good number of visitors as well as being joined for work by some old hands from previous weeks, Paul and Charlie. The next few days are shaping up to prove the most exciting yet, so make sure you check the blog daily; and we might remember to take the photos on time!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Day Nineteen: Ooops

With the excitement of getting back to work after a day off, we forgot to take any photos, so here are a few from past days that didn't quite make it onto the blog.

It all gets too much for Sandy

Freya's hat (to remind us of sunnier days)


Thursday, 22 July 2010

Day Eighteen: Rain....

Well it was bound to happen at some point, but today saw the heavens open and the rain came. And came.

Alex tries to find the bottom of the trench

Everyone donned their finest raincoats and we tried to get some work done, but it was soon apparent we were being overwhelmed. Operations moved to the community tent where we did some pot washing, but after a chip lunch it was decided to call it a day.

Rachel battles on, not having heard the call to abandon ship

So beaten back we left site, determined to return with a vengeance on Saturday!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Day Seventeen: it just keeps on getting more complex

With most of the heaby shifting of soil in Trench One completed, we've started the more careful excavation and recording of the various walls and surfaces. As well as photographing everything we have been producing stone-by-stone plans of what the features look like from a bird's eye perspective. This will soon be followed by the drawing of the wall elevations so we have a complete and permanent record of everything.

Alex in a planning frenzy

One new development today was that we decided to extend the trench just 1.5m towards the trees so that we could see more of the wall running along the western section of the trench.

Kourosh mucking in, but not realising that the shovel is supposed to have soil on it

This gave us a much better view of this wall but, as is so often the case in archaeology, made the picture all the more complex! The original wall did continue as expected, but then was joined to what seemed to be an earlier and even thicker wall running off to the north west. Hopefully this will all make some sense soon!
Ian stood at the join between the two new walls and wondering where it's all heading

It's really best not ask what Gareth's up to.

The artefacts continue to help us identify what's going on. We're still finding lots of 16th-century pottery and window glass, as well as more mundane items such as nails and animal bone. One interesting piece of information that came back 'hot from the lab' was that a rather corroded portion of green metal we found some days ago is probably a portion of tin-bronze mortar that might have been imported from Rammelsberg in Germany.

I think it's a pot Rachel...

As well as digging we've also been extending our survey work around the site. So far the main form of geophysical survey we've undertaken is resistivity survey, which is particularly good at identifying buried walls and solid structures. However, today Pete undertook some 'magnetometry' which looks at variations in the earth's magnetic field caused by the presence of structures such as hearths and other burnt features. Hopefully this will lead to some interesting results!

Not actually another one of Pete's fashion disasters, the comfy 'leisure trousers' and gumboots are worn to make him non magnetic to the fluxgate gradiometer, as well as everyone else

Whilst archaeologists, such as Pete, aren't normally renown for their smart dress it doesn't mean everyone on site is always a scruff-bag. Sometimes our visitors help lend a little colour, even if at times creates a slightly surreal feeling to the place.

We had no idea what was going on either...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Day Sixteen: surfaces everywhere

With the hard slog of the day before (largely) over, all were rewarded by the appearance of 'surfaces' across the the trench. This is a term used by archaeologists to describe features such as floors or occupation layers, as opposed to the large dumps of demolition or collaspe material we've largely been removing to date. In layman's terms this is the fun stuff! In the centre of the trench further flat flag stones started to appear and these seem to be related to the fireplace structure we've all be admiring for ages.

The site looking largely rubble free! Spot the possible floor flags.

To the west of the fireplace removal of a demolition layer that contained lots of burnt material revealed a hard packed surface. Although this doesn't appear to have a flagged floor, we did get a glimpse of what might be an early phase of occupation, as there is another wall running at an odd angle to all the others underneath.

An earlier phase wall emerging?

Everyone seemed to really enjoy the new developments taking place in Trench One, or perhaps it was just Beryl's home cooked bacon sarnies that raised morale. Whatever it was, all were relived that the somewhat apocalyptic weather warnings that had been issued through out the day proved unfounded and we hardly experienced a drop of rain.

Phoebe is overjoyed at having travelled all the way from New Zealand just for this!

Millie just loves cleaning up that floor

All the finds we're getting now are now much more significant, as they relate directly to the occupation and use of the buildings, rather than having been dumped after the structures were abandoned. We've been finding lots more pottery and some interesting 'small finds', which are artefacts that we record the exact three dimensional location of using the total station. These include another nice copper pin, which mysteriously came two pins once it passed through Pete's hands and a very small piece of glass found by Ian. This got Hugh rather excited, who announced it was part of a portion of decorated Venetian drinking glass, despite the fact it looked distinctly 1970s in date to everyone else.

A tiny piece of rather groovy Venetian glass

Back in Trench 2 things were also hotting up. With the removal of a spread of stones a new feature crossing the trench was seen. This was running at a different angle to the large wall, and appears to be a narrow cut filled by large stones set on their edge. No one would really tell what this was, but once this is cleaned up it can be excavated properly.

Emma and Dane cleaning up the new linear feature

So all in all another successful day!

Day Fifteen: better late than never

Well it was inevitably going to happen at some point, but with Hugh off site for just one day (teaching on the Manor Lodge material culture field school) all went to pot, including getting the blog posted! (Emma, you're sacked).

The 'Great' Dictator

With Pete firmly in the driving seat it looked like all was going well, a five year plan had been introduced and Alex sent back to Sheffield for 're-education'. The team of course pulled together in the new spirit of collectiveness.

I know nothing

I've seen nowt

Bolstered by their new found allegiances, newbies Millie and Gareth took the lead and almost single handedly removed the demolition layers from across the site.

Showing how it should be done

This clearly proved inspirational, and soon that soil was flying, and all were pitching in.

Digging for victory

However as all historians know, such reigns are usually short lived and by mid afternoon the news was received that Hugh would be back tomorrow!

Yeah back to normality soon!!