Month: July 2014

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 5.

The beginning of week 5. Something is missing...

The beginning of week 5. Something is missing…

 

 

After many successful years of Archaeology Live! on Hungate, one of the great pleasures of this season has been the opportunity to get to grips with a whole new site. We have taken the exciting step of crossing the River Ouse and begun an excavation within the colonia of the Roman city, after thirteen seasons nestled safely in or around the fortress. New sites bring new challenges, but thankfully the rich archaeological deposits of York have yet again failed to disappoint.

The sun always shines on North Street (it seems!)

The sun always shines on North Street (it seems!)

At Archaeology Live! we are great believers in throwing our trainees in at the deep end. We always endeavour to have a site stripped of overburden and ready to excavate before the first trainee steps foot into the trench. This means the people that dig with us spend the entirety of their stay working on stratified archaeology – we leave the joys of clearing topsoil to our long suffering staff!

The first four weeks of the summer season saw the team piecing together the story of the recently demolished boxing club (former church hall, mortuary chapel, Sunday school, etc.), how it was built and how it was used. With this complete, the team then began to uncover the story of the half century leading up to the church hall’s construction in the 1860s. Last week saw a herculean effort to clear the construction deposits (i.e. compacted mess made by Victorian builders!) to expose the extents of earlier features and deposits, the only problem being that these were somewhat hard to come by! If last week was defined by the word ‘trample’, then this week was all about the hunt for that most elusive of archaeological creatures, the Clear Edge On A Deeply Stratified Urban Site (or CEOADSUS as we call it in the biz…)

What are these edges everyone keeps talking about?

What are these edges everyone keeps talking about?

Urban archaeology is a complicated beast. The merry olde city of York has been constantly occupied for over two millennia, its citizens seemingly obsessed with digging pits and filling them in again. This makes for a complex mess of confused edges and interweaving deposits. That said, the week 5 Archaeology Live! team were more than up to the task of picking apart this archaeological jigsaw.

In Arran’s area, Arleanne, Beverly and Katie (from the USA, Canada and Scarborough respectively) began their week by excavating a small post hole. Sealed by the seemingly endless C19th builder trample, this was one of the first pre-1860s features to be identified and its dark, charcoal-rich fill was highly visible. With this recorded, it took a full day of trowelling to reveal the next context in the archaeological sequence – that most glamorous of deposits, a dump.

Katie and Beverly recording their post hole.

Katie and Beverly recording their post hole.

As with so many other contexts across the site, this early-mid 19th century dump deposit contained pottery dating from the Roman to early-Victorian periods.

Katie and Beverly hunting edges.

Katie and Beverly hunting edges.

Beverly added yet another decorated clay pipe bowl to our burgeoning assemblage. This particular example featuring a floral decoration.

Beverly's clay pipe bowl fragment.

Beverly’s clay pipe bowl fragment.

With the sun beating down, Katie, Beverly and Arleanne carefully pealed away the mixed dump deposit, before seeing their hard work rewarded with the clear edge of a rectangular cut feature. By the end of the week, the team had begun to excavate the upper fill of this feature and had recovered a good amount of medieval to post-medieval pottery.

Katie looking suitably delighted upon discovering the edges of a new feature.

Katie looking suitably delighted upon discovering the edges of a new feature.

With its size and orientation, it is possible that this feature may be a burial, although it is equally possible that it could turn out to be a pit. This will be investigated next week and any human remains that may be discovered will not be removed during this project. While work is ongoing on this context, an intriguing find was recovered during the dry-sieving of its backfill –  a small, circular copper object. Too thick to be a coin and not an obvious shape for a button, it will be down to our conservation team to solve this riddle.

Beverly's enigmatic copper alloy object.

Beverly’s enigmatic copper alloy object.

Elsewhere in Arran’s area, Anne and Terry were also seeking out the next feature in their sequence. After a thorough clean of their area, it became apparent that the latest feature was a stone post-pad. An exciting possibility relating to numerous structural features in this area is that the surviving row of buildings now known as All Saints Cottages (built c.1396) may once have extended into our trench. The present day buildings exhibit structural timbers sitting atop stone post-pads not dissimilar to this feature.

Anne and Terry excavating a post-pad that may once have been part of All Saints Cottages.

Anne and Terry excavating a post-pad that may once have been part of All Saints Cottages.

With the post-pad recorded and removed, Anne and Terry then recorded another dump deposit which yielded some lovely ceramics.

Medieval thumbprint decorated pottery.

Medieval thumbprint decorated pottery.

Beneath this deposit was a pleasant surprise, a truncated fragment of a well-laid cobble surface. Whether this proves to be a structural footing, or part of an early yard, it is great to see this area beginning to settle into a clear sequence.

Anne exposing her cobbled surface.

Anne beginning to expose her cobbled surface.

Anne and Terry ended their week by recording and beginning excavation on two deposits sealed by their dump. Terry’s context proved to be yet another layer of dumping reminiscent of laminated yard deposits. Anne’s small scatter of bone-rich material proved to be the upper fill of a large pit full of animal bone. This is exciting evidence of butchery activity occurring on site and a rare example of a pit being used for one focused activity other than domestic refuse disposal. A finds highlight was the handle of a medieval, green glazed jug. Work will continue on this pit next week.

A decorative, twisted medieval jug handle.

A decorative, twisted medieval jug handle.

At the north-eastern extreme of the trench, Gideon and Jess took custody of what we have come to know as Complicated Corner. In this area, numerous layers of dumping and trample have already been recorded and lifted, punctuated with small pits and post-holes. This week, yet another dump deposit was uncovered and removed, revealing a confusing mass of ephemeral edges.

Gideon and Jess peeling away a dump deposit.

Gideon and Jess peeling away a dump deposit.

The painstaking trowelling of Gideon and Jess paid dividends as they revealed the backfill of a rectangular pit, alongside the beginnings of a structured dump of rubble. The pair began work on recording and excavating their pit at the end of the week and up to press, it appears to contain ceramics of a date no later than the late 1700s. We do indeed seem to be creeping back in time in this area, despite the complex nature of the archaeology! As this area finally, if reluctantly,  yielded some good edges, it has now been re-named Contrary Corner.

Gideon and Jess showing off their medieval finds.

Gideon and Jess showing off their medieval finds.

Tom and Gill joined Arran’s team on a two day taster course this week and joined the effort of finding new contexts that had previously been sealed by the 1860s construction trample. Exposing another bone-rich deposit, they began to excavate a second pit full of butchered animal bone.

Tom and Gill hard at work on their pit.

Tom and Gill hard at work on their pit.

Filled in particular by fragments of cattle skull, this deposit would have been rather pungent when fresh! As work progresses on this area, it is becoming possible to see evidence of the zoning of activity. Two neighbouring pits full of primary butchery waste strongly suggest that meat processing had been occurring on-site. Hopefully more trends will appear in the coming weeks that will continue to give us a flavour of the site’s many past lives.

Team This End hard at work.

Team This End hard at work.

Over in Toby’s area, the search for new edges was equally ambitious. Close to the 18th century rectory, it quickly became apparent that the area had been a busy and well-used yard space. The team began the week by cleaning up, recording and excavating a new layer of trample.

Setting up for planning.

Setting up for planning.

As Team This End stripped away this layer of trample, a number of earlier deposits were revealed.

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Toby’s team working on numerous yard deposits.

Jim spent a lot of time cleaning up a patch of burning with particularly tricky edges. As the deposit was cleaned, it became clear that a number of shallow cuts post-dated the burning event, yet again emphasising the busy nature of deposition in this area. Persistence again paid off however, as Jim pieced together the sequence and began to record and lift the latest deposits, proving himself a dab hand with a trowel!

Jim begins work on an intriguing area of burning.

Jim begins work on an intriguing area of burning.

Bill and Sarah also put in a fair shift of trowelling, themselves revealing a distinct layer of mortar. True to form, the edges of this deposit were subtle at best.

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Recording a mysterious mortar filled feature.

With their deposit recorded, Bill and Sarah began to excavate the mortar layer and it wasn’t long before they were rewarded with an exciting find; a large sherd of a Roman amphora. Used to transport wines and oils, these large vessels were a mainstay of Roman trade and hint that luxury goods were being consumed close-by in the Roman period.

Sarah's amphora sherd.

Sarah’s amphora sherd.

Elsewhere in ‘This End’, Minty and Coco were revealing an increasingly complex sequence relating to the old rectory building. What we had presumed would be a simple external wall was proving to be much more complicated. With a series of dumps and wall adjustments and re-builds becoming visible, this part of the rectory could possibly correspond with an odd porch structure marked on an 18th century engraving of the building.

Minty, Toby and Coco ponder their sequence.

Minty, Toby and Coco ponder their sequence.

A number of interesting finds were revealed as Minty and Coco excavated a small pit close to the rectory wall, including an unusual early C19th glass bottle.

Coco displaying a fragment of a glass bottle.

Minty displaying a fragment of a glass bottle.

In the same feature, Coco was lucky enough to find a fragment of medieval floor tile, that was almost certainly once part of the church floor. Again, comparison with the current floor of the Lady Chapel (which was based on excavated finds) proved to be a perfect match, glaze and all.

A freshly unearthed floor tile, reunited with the present church floor.

A freshly unearthed floor tile, reunited with the present church floor.

Elsewhere in Toby’s area, the finds were coming thick and fast! Jackie, digging with us on a one day taster, was delighted to find a fragment of a worked bone clothing pin, similar to a number of Viking examples found on Hungate.

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Jackie and her worked bone object.

Cleaning up the latest trample layer provided returnee Helen a chance to find her second medieval coin in two years! While fragmentary, the coin is well preserved and should be dateable once cleaned.

Helen finds a medieval coin... AGAIN!

Helen finds a medieval coin… AGAIN!

Archaeology Live! regular Sharon teamed up with new trainee Lucy to work on a small rectangular feature. This was one of the first features in This End to reveal a clear edge and proved to be surprisingly deep! Containing a mix of Roman to post-medieval pottery, the pit was excavated to a depth of around 400mm. While the feature was not bottomed, it will be far easier to resume excavation once the surrounding area has been reduced. As it could possibly represent a burial, this will be a feature that certainly warrants a cautious approach!

Sharon and Lucy hard at work in their increasingly deep pit.

Sharon and Lucy hard at work in their increasingly deep pit.

Under the shade of the Finds Tree, Gary and his team continued to shed new light on the site with the ongoing work of finds processing.

The site is producing an impressive assemblage of butchered animal bone,  a key insight into past diets. Many fragments of bone exhibit clear butchery marks, allowing us to see how meat was processed and what species were preferred.

Butchered bone.

Butchered bone.

The base of a dog skull was an unusual find within a domestic waste assemblage, proving that not all ‘pets’ were buried carefully during the early 19th century!

Arleanne displays a fragment of a dog skull during cleaning.

Arleanne displays a fragment of a dog skull during cleaning.

The week was rounded off with the usual specialist sessions on conservation, small finds, pottery, animal bone and stratigraphy. These sessions provided a chance to escape the fierce sunlight and to get to grips with some new aspects of archaeology.

Gary begins his stratigraphy masterclass!

Gary begins his stratigraphy masterclass!

The week 5 team continued to maintain the high standards set so far in the summer session. It’s been a continuing pleasure to work with such a diverse and motivated team and, as everything we do at Archaeology Live! is entirely funded by our trainees, it is important to recognise their hard work and enthusiasm. Thank you to all our trainees, tasters and placements for another thrilling week of archaeological discovery.

The week 5 team.

The week 5 team.

As we delve further into pre-boxing club layers, we are really beginning to get a taste of the site’s story. The most encouraging fact is that we are barely halfway through the season! Here’s to next week’s exciting discoveries!

Onwards and downwards!

– Arran

 

PS. I feel it would be bad form to not include this wonderful moment of bonding between Toby and Frankie (Craig’s dog) from Thursday night. I feel the two really connected…

Frankie and Toby.

Frankie and Toby.

 

 

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 4.

All Saints Church in the 19th century with the newly built church hall (later a boxing club) to the left.

A very Victorian view of All Saints Church with the newly built church hall (later a boxing club) to the left. (Image copyright City of York Council)

Week 4 of Archaeology Live! 2014 saw us one third through the summer excavation. Time does indeed fly! As is becoming something of a theme, this week saw the team working with almost constant sunshine and birdsong. The week also saw us reach something of a benchmark as work across the whole trench was now focused on archaeology pre-dating the Victorian boxing club.

Our trainees have taken the trench back in time to the turn of the 19th century and gained a detailed understanding of the site’s Victorian past.

IMG_4743

Toby’s team peeling away construction trample layers.

If one word could define this week it would be trample, as archaeologists on both sides of the trench made a concerted effort to remove the remaining areas of the trample deposit laid down by Victorian builders preparing to erect the boxing club. Compacted by nature, this deposit has made for some sore wrists, but the finds recovered from it have proved an ample reward!

Trowelling away trample in 'This End'

Trowelling away trample in ‘This End’

The 19th century builders were certainly not a tidy lot and churned up a great deal of earlier material during their work. In Toby’s end, this resulted in a very exciting discovery! While a specialist eye will be required to confirm the precise date, a fragment of a possibly prehistoric worked stone object was recovered.

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A fragment of a worked stone object.

Judging by the size, shape and type of stone used, the team suspect this to be a neolithic stone axe-head, something which would have been highly prized in its time! While it was found re-deposited in a 19th century context, it adds to a growing body of prehistoric artefacts unearthed in central York.

Could York have been occupied prior to the Roman invasion? Finds such as this certainly add some weight to this exciting possibility.

A fragment of a worked stone object.

A fragment of a worked stone object.

A somewhat more recent discovery in the trample layer was a sizeable animal burrow, most likely created by an suitably industrious Victorian rabbit. This explained why new trainee Minty’s area hadn’t been making a lot of sense until that point!

Minty goes down the rabbit hole...

Minty goes down the rabbit hole…

The removal of the trample layer at the south-west end of the trench exposed yet more of the 18th century rectory that occupied the site before the boxing club. Still standing on the 1852 OS map, this structure was cleared in the 1860s. Despite later truncation, the remains of this building are proving to be surprisingly extensive.

Recording 18th century rectory walls.

Recording 18th century rectory walls.

Close to the edge of the trench, Toby’s team have uncovered wall footings that may relate to additional structures such as chimneys, cesspits, etc. While the purpose of these structural elements is still being investigated, the presence of a deposit of ash and clinker could suggest we have discovered part of a chimney/fireplace. Excitingly, it seems that deposits relating to the use of the building survive in some quantity. As these are investigated, we hope to discover clues as to what was happening in the early-modern rectory.

It was a particular pleasure this week to welcome back Archaeology Live! legends Clive and Juliet who have worked with us on each of our fourteen training digs!

Jack exposing use deposits relating to the 18th century rectory.

Jack exposing use deposits relating to the 18th century rectory. Note the dark deposit in the foreground.

Team This End made some other exciting discoveries during week 4. Beneath the trample layer, Jack and Louise came across a small refuse pit dating to the mid-19th century. It contained a huge amount of pottery, some with identifiable stamps and some memorable designs.

Jack and Louise's C19th refuse pit under excavation.

Jack and Louise’s C19th refuse pit under excavation.

More unusual artefacts recovered from this context included a curious copper alloy disc with a floral decoration and a clasp from a corset. The finds from this pit date from the same period as the later use of the rectory buildings, perhaps these objects once belonged to the Rector himself!

An unusual copper alloy object.

An unusual copper alloy object.

Over in That End, Arran’s team were equally busy. In the centre of the trench, more of our seemingly endless trample layer was removed exposing a confusing mass of interlacing edges. This is the kind of complex archaeology that we love at Archaeology Live! It gives our trainees a chance to test their new skills on some genuinely challenging contexts.

Kate and Becky working on the last remnants of the trample layer.

Kate and Becky working on the last remnants of the trample layer.

Katie and George spent Monday and Tuesday attempting to isolate the latest of the many features revealed beneath the trample. Establishing the order archaeological events occurred in is a crucial element of single context archaeology. We begin with the latest feature and travel back in time as we dig – a process that can be quite the challenge!

George and Katie begin work on their pit.

George and Katie begin work on their pit.

In this case, persistence paid off and Katie and George exposed a refuse pit dating to the 18th century. This appears to be the last of a sequence of inter-cutting pits that will be investigated in the coming weeks.

Like many deposits we have encountered, the pit backfill contained finds ranging in date from Roman to 18th century. Finds highlights included a rather smart copper alloy button, a fragment of glazed medieval roof tile, stamped clay tobacco pipe and a small lead weight.

George's copper alloy button.

George’s copper alloy button.

One of Katie’s finds proved to be a real show-stopper! She discovered a fragment of very decorative medieval pot lid, the handle of which being in the form of an animal. Debate within the trench rages on as to whether it is a dog, serpent, chicken or Dino from the Flintstones (?!)

Katie's fantastic medieval pot lid.

Katie’s fantastic medieval pot lid.

Close inspection reveals a flat head that has lost its ears and a curved tail. Stylised legs may be seen in the glaze of the body, we can’t wait to show this one to our medieval ceramics specialist!

Yoshi? Dino? Hmmm...

Yoshi? Dino? Hmmm…

Elsewhere in Arran’s area, returnees Ray and Ian came back for their sixth year of York archaeology and were thrown into what is lovingly known as ‘complicated corner’! Situated at the north-east of the trench, this area contains a myriad of tips, dumps, post-holes and pits that relate to the yards marked on the 1852 map.

Ray and Ian catch up on their records.

Ray and Ian catch up on their records.

A good deal of trowelling saw Ian and Ray take up a trample layer and reveal two small cut features dating to the earlier 19th century. The finds again proved to be very mixed, with Roman pottery appearing in some quantity. An interesting pair of sherds from a small pit dug by Ray were very similar in appearance, but very different in date! One is 19th century, one is Roman Samian ware. Can you tell which is which? (Clue: The Samian is unglazed)

Samian and a Victorian imposter!

Samian and a Victorian imposter!

Digging in York is always a pleasure as each feature will tend to provide an interesting mix of finds, allowing people to handle artefacts of various dates and to spot clues to assist in their dating. Another nice sherd from ‘complicated corner’ was this medieval piece of green glaze, complete with the potter’s fingerprints!

Medieval fingerprints.

Medieval fingerprints.

Another interesting object from Ray and Ian’s area was this scrap of twisted lead relating to repair work on the stained glass in the 19th century.

Leadwork from stained glass repair.

Leadwork from stained glass repair.

This difficult corner of the trench is now starting to make more sense and seems to be markedly less disturbed than other areas. This will hopefully allow us to create an unbroken sequence from boxing club demolition through to the earliest deposits we reach.

Ian excvating a deep, narrow cut feature.

Ian excvating a deep, narrow cut feature.

In the robber trench that we began work on in week 3, Anne was joined by fellow returnees Carol and Martin. An enigmatic feature, the cut proved to be quite deep, with some sizeable pieces of worked limestone appearing in the backfill.

Anne, Martin and Carol cleaning their robber trench.

Anne, Martin and Carol cleaning their robber trench.

The backfill of the feature contained a good amount of medieval to 19th century pottery and a particular concentration of disarticulated human bone.

Carol showing off a medieval jug handle.

Carol showing off a medieval jug handle.

As the base of the cut was cleaned, the team revealed a number of in-situ burials, something that raises interesting possibilities. While we will not be excavating any burials, it is important that we locate and record any that lie within our trench. This will inform any future building work of areas to avoid while also answering the question of whether or not this area has been used as part of All Saints’ graveyard. Quite what was happening in this area in the middle ages is little understood and it will be fantastic to shed some light on activity during this period.

Anne's medieval buckle.

Anne’s medieval buckle.

Other finds highlights from this feature included corroded remains of coffin furniture, a small ferrous buckle and our second Roman coin of the season.

Anne and her coin.

Anne and her coin.

Under the ‘Tree of Finds’, Gary and his team were working flat out to keep up with the volume of finds pouring from the trench. The sun was fierce at points this week, making it a pleasant respite to wash some finds in the shade. As ever, numerous points of interest were revealed as the finds were cleaned up.

Finds washing in the shade of the Tree of Finds.

Finds washing in the shade of the Tree of Finds.

A pipe bowl fragment marked ‘York 1828’ was an unusual example of a find kindly letting us know its provenance!

York 1828

York 1828

A small glass stopper appeared amidst a mass of 19th century pot sherds.

A Victorian glass stopper.

A Victorian glass stopper.

Finally, a sherd of transfer ware was washed that depicted a woman stood beside a deer on a leash. This is a trifle odd to begin with but worsens as you notice that the deer’s head appears to have exploded. While this is was clearly a fault during the pot’s manufacture, it did raise a few laughs!

'The Maiden and the Exploding Deer' 1858

‘The Maiden and the Exploding Deer’ 1858. Maybe…

Taking a closer look at the finds gives the team a chance to voice theories about the nature of the deposits they have been investigating, a lot of good ideas and interpretations emerge from the Finds Tree!

Later in the week, Gary and Tess reprised their masterclass on animal bone identification and the trainees enjoyed a tour of the YAT conservation lab and talks on ceramics and stratigraphy.

Sorting and bagging finds.

Sorting and bagging finds.

The week wound up with the Friday site tour, where the team get to look at what has been happening elsewhere in the trench. After looking closely at individual features, it is always good to see these features in their broader context.

Toby explaining the week's findings in This End.

Toby explaining the week’s findings in This End.

Week 4 was an important week for Archaeology Live! as the team really began to get to grips with archaeology of greater antiquity. With the boxing club recorded, we are now looking more closely at the rectory and yards marked on the 1852 OS and learning how the site developed between the post-medieval and Victorian periods.

The week 4 team were a perfect mix of returnees and new additions and once again did some great work despite the hot conditions! With the groundwork firmly set, we will now continue to delve deeper into the past of this fascinating little trench! Thank you to all the trainees and placements for another busy week of exciting discoveries!

The week 4 gang.

The week 4 gang.

To celebrate the Festival of Archaeology on Saturday, Gary, Gus and Arran opened up the site to members of the public. Robert Richards, All Saints church warden, led tours of the stained glass, the history of the church and the medieval tile while Gary showed off the latest finds from the trench. Outside, Gus and Arran showed people around the excavation and explained our latest theories and features.

Gary's finds talks proved very popular!

Gary’s finds talks proved very popular!

Despite driving rain (finally!) a good number of visitors joined us, our favourite being a very bright six year old with all the makings of a future archaeologist! It’s always a pleasure to present our sites to the public and we hope to do several more such open days during the All Saints dig.

Gus declares the site open to all!

Gus declares the site open to all!

 

So, we’re one third through the summer and it really feels like we’ve stepped up a gear. The finds keep coming and the sequence is wonderfully complicated. Long may it continue! Until next week, onwards and downwards!!

 

– Arran

 

PS. An honourable mention to Jack who went above and beyond when I asked him to pose with his find and look pleased with himself!

Ladies and gentlemen, Jack Pestell.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jack Pestell.

 

 

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 3.

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Following the yellow bunting clad chaos of the Grand Depart weekend, the Archaeology Live! team were glad to return to the relative normality of All Saints, North Street and meet the latest additions to the team.

The success of the first fortnight had set a high standard for week 3 to follow. Already, trainees from far and wide had done some excellent work and made some genuinely intruiging discoveries. One of the great cliches within archaeology is the tendency of new findings to pose as many questions as they answer. Fittingly, just as Arran’s ‘That End’ team were beginning to understand the construction sequence of the former boxing club, tentative evidence was emerging that the range of medieval buildings at the site’s north-eastern boundary may have once extended further into our trench. Also, Toby’s ‘This End’ team had their mid to late 19th century sequence fully understood just in time for an increasingly complex sequence of earlier structures to emerge. The week 3 team began the week eager to shed some light on these emerging features and discover just what had been happening along Church Lane in the twilight of the 18th century.

North-east facing view of the trench. The range of medieval buildings is visible at the top of the shot.

North-east facing view of the trench. The range of medieval buildings is visible at the top of the shot.

The new trainees once again proved to be a good mix of old, young and in-between, returnees and beginners. All of the above were keen to get started and start adding new chapters to the All Saints story.

In Toby’s area, the sheer number of walls, footings, construction cuts and trampled surfaces meant that a lot of recording was going to be required.

This End's complex sequence of Victorian walls, drains and surfaces. And Planty.

This End’s complex sequence of Victorian walls, drains and surfaces being prepped for planning. And Planty.

An excavation is certainly only as good as its records. At Archaeology Live! we place a great deal of emphasis on giving our trainees the skills to record features to a professional standard. This can involve modern techniques such as putting together digital context records and matrices on iPads, creating 3D models with photogrammetry and surveying features with GPS units. However, we always endeavour to thoroughly cover the basics of planning, levelling and creating context records in particular detail. With a good understanding of the core techniques, it is possible to use the latest equipment more effectively.

Gus and Calum creating the records of a wall construction cut.

Gus and Calum creating the records of a wall construction cut.

To get things moving, Toby’s team drew a detailed composite plan of their area, allowing individual contexts to be traced from this master plan. Features like the 18th century brick floor took some time to plan, as the fine details of wear and tear were noted and recorded.

Planning the 18th century Rectory floor.

Planning the 18th century Rectory floor.

As each context plan was created, Team This End added heights above sea level to each drawing. This allows the records to work in three dimensions, taking account of the varying heights and undulations within any given context. The dumpy level is a delightfully simple device which refers from known benchmarks to establish the elevation of new points.

Gus explaining the use of the dumpy level to Melissa, Emily and Lara.

Gus explaining the use of the dumpy level to Melissa, Emily and Lara. 

Single context excavation is based around finding the latest identifiable archaeological event to occur and creating a detailed record  of it prior to excavation. Once this has been completed, the cycle repeats as each context is excavated in reverse chronological order. In short, as we dig each feature, we move further into the past.

As the records and interpretations were compiled for the south-west end of the trench, this opened up earlier contexts for recording and excavation. A similar trample deposit to that seen in Arran’s area was identified and recorded. This context represents the site being prepped for construction, workers bringing materials on to site, levelling off the ground surface and generally leaving behind a compacted mess!

Toby introducing Calum and Jack to 'robust' trowelling.

Toby introducing Calum and Jack to ‘robust’ trowelling.

The compacted nature of the deposit meant that it was quite difficult to excavate and required a firm approach with a trowel. Toby’s team quickly got their eye in and began peeling away the trampled surface to expose earlier features and deposits. Being a context comprised of disturbed material deposited during construction, the finds were very varied. Jack made a lovely addition to our growing collection of ceramic pipe bowls when he found an intact bowl with a fleur de lys decoration.

Jack's C19th pipe bowl.

Jack’s C19th pipe bowl.

More of the possible 18th century rectory building was uncovered, revealing that its walls survive to at least four courses in height. As more of this building is exposed in the coming weeks, we hope to learn more about its history and construction.

Footings of the 18th century rectory slowly emerging from the ground.

Footings of the 18th century rectory slowly emerging from the ground.

Coco discovered more evidence of earlier activity with a large sherd of Torksey ware pottery. Widespread in the Viking period, this ware is very robust and often decorated with thumbprints around the rim. While this 10th century discovery is in a secondary context, it does add to a growing amount of evidence that Viking activity was present on-site or nearby.

Coco displaying her rim sherd of a Torksey ware vessel.

Coco displaying her rim sherd of a Torksey ware vessel.

Even earlier residual material also continued to emerge, with numerous sherds of Roman pottery being recovered. These were not terribly abraded, suggesting that they haven’t been turned over repeatedly, perhaps remaining in their original contexts before being disturbed and re-deposited by 19th century workmen. Again, this volume of material bodes well for Roman archaeology being intact in deeper layers.

Roman pottery from 19th century trample layers.

Roman pottery from 19th century trample layers.

A final highlight from Toby’s area was the increasingly inquisitive behaviour of the local wildlife. Lunch breaks are now often punctuated by birds looking for a cheeky crumb or two. Working to a constant backdrop of birdsong is certainly one of the bonuses of our trench’s leafy location.

Gus and his new friend.

Gus and his new friend.

Gary has continued to make good progress on the post-excavation side of things. Small, rotating teams of trainees spend one or two sessions a day with him working on finds or enjoying seminars on archaeological specialisms. This week, the finds team looked at identifying and dating the myriad wares of pottery that we find in York as well as a fascinating session looking at animal and human bone. With this introduction to ceramics and bone in mind, the team were able to then look at their own finds with a keener eye and gain a better understanding of the deposits they have been excavating.

Gary explaining the art of dating ceramics.

Gary and Tess explaining the art of identifying the species, age, sex and pathology of human and animal bone.

The complex, multi-phasic nature of York’s archaeology requires a detailed understanding of stratigraphy. With this in mind, we always take our trainees through a session on understanding stratigraphic sequences and putting together a Harris matrix. To this end, each team invents a hypothetical section through a sequence of deposits before putting together a matrix. Despite the attempts of a mischievous pair of magpies to disrupt proceedings, the team picked up the art of matrix building very quickly.

Gary and the team beginning this week's matrix session in the dappled shade of the Finds Tree.

Gary and the team beginning this week’s matrix session in the dappled shade of the Finds Tree.

The volume of finds pouring from the trench has again kept Gary very busy this week. Under the Finds Tree, hundreds of artefacts have been cleaned, dried and sorted into type (ie. animal bone, clay pipe, etc.) and bagged up.

Finds drying in the sunshine.

Finds drying in the sunshine.

One of the nicest finds that was cleaned up this week was a complete medieval floor tile. When laid on the church’s current (replica) tile floor, it was great to see that the medieval original was a perfect fit!

A medieval tile reunited with the church floor.

A medieval tile reunited with the church floor.

 

Over in ‘That End’, Arran’s team have also had a very busy week 3. Unhindered by the complex series of drains seen in Toby’s area, Arran’s team have been able to investigate pre-boxing club features a little sooner and have unearthed some intruiging and enigmatic features.

In her second of four weeks with us this summer, Anne was joined by Terry, a returnee who also worked with us on last year’s Hungate excavation. Anne and Terry began the week by completing work on a small refuse pit cut by a post-hole excavated in week 2.

Terry and Anne excavating a late medieval refuse pit.

Terry and Anne excavating a late medieval refuse pit.

The archaeology of this part of the trench is slightly unusual in that late medieval features appear to survive immediately below the construction trample layers of the boxing club. It is possible that the land here was quite irregular during the post-medieval period before being terraced flat by the construction of our 19th century buildings, thereby removing any 18th century archaeology. This theory will be investigated as we further explore this area.

Anne was lucky enough to come across a particularly lovely find from the backfilling of the pit when she found a large fragment of a glazed medieval roof tile. These were high status items and open up the possibility that the church once had glazed tiles on its roof. If more appear during the summer, this likelihood will certainly increase.

Anne showing off her glazed roof tile.

Anne showing off her glazed roof tile.

In the north-east corner of the trench, a different pattern of deposition appears to have occurred. Ro, another returning trainee, spent much of the week picking apart layers of trample which date to the crossover of the 18th and 19th centuries. The interweaving nature of these layers made it very difficult to isolate individual contexts, however, with the help of Archaeology Live! placement Andy, Ro exposed a post-hole backfilled with demolition rubble.

Ro hard at work recording her post-hole.

Ro hard at work recording her post-hole.

Dating to the early 19th century, this feature appears to cut yet another layer of trample. This suggests that we may have surviving elements of the open yards marked on the 1852 OS map, with the intermittent pitting and dumping you would expect to find in such a space. Interrupted by later activity this trample layer is now reminiscent of swiss cheese and earlier features can be seen peeking through eroded or damaged areas. Something to investigate in week 4 will be a linear rubble-filled feature transecting the area. This shares the alignment of the range of medieval buildings that still stand nearby and could relate to their use or alteration.

Andy adds another coin to our growing collection.

Andy adds another coin to our growing collection.

Andy also had a great find from this area as he discovered a small medieval coin. While very delicate, the coin still boasts a visible design and, when cleaned by our conservators, should be dateable. It’s been a great year for coins so far!

A closer look at Andy's coin with an improvised scale.

A closer look at Andy’s coin with an improvised scale. (Nice gloves Andy!)

Elsewhere in Arran’s area, Gloria and Tony joined the dig for a two day taster course. The pair of Cumbrians went to work in removing more of the construction trample of the boxing club. While this proved hard on the wrists, Gloria was rewarded with some lovely finds as she unearthed a couple of sherds of Roman pottery.

Gloria and her newly discovered Roman ceramics.

Gloria and her newly discovered Roman ceramics.

Again, these pot sherds were not as worn as you might expect after almost two millennia in the ground. Both were fairly high status wares, one being part of a colour coat drinking vessel and the other being a rim sherd of a mortaria – the distinctive Roman predecessor of the pestle and mortar.

More Roman pottery, we're getting spoiled now. Mortaria (left)  and a colour coat drinking vessel (right).

More Roman pottery, we’re getting spoiled now. Mortaria (left) and a colour coat drinking vessel (right).

Tony’s trowelling was also very fruitful as he discovered more possible structural features that may add evidence to the theory that the medieval building range once occupied this area. Numerous post-pads, cobble footings and post holes have now been revealed. As these are excavated in the coming weeks, the dating material we recover from them will be vital in interpreting this complicated sequence.

Tony uncovering a mortar filled feature.

Tony uncovering a mortar filled feature.

Later in the week, Ro joined forces with Anne and Terry to work on a newly exposed robber trench. It took some careful trowelling to spot the edge of this subtle feature, but with some persistence it was possible to identify the full run of the context. Once recorded, the team began to excavate the backfill of the feature.

Anne revealing a backfilled robber trench. The fill is the darker material to the left. Can you spot the edge?

Anne revealing a backfilled robber trench. The fill is the darker material to the left. Can you spot the edge?

Running parallel to the boxing club wall and the run of Church Lane, the trench was found to contain 19th century material. As it is cut by the foundation trench of the boxing club, this context clearly pre-dates the 1860s building event. The most likely explanation at this point is that some form of building or boundary wall running along Church Lane was demolished and robbed out to make way for the new building. Excavation is ongoing and what we find at the base of the robber trench will hopefully shed light on what it was the Victorian builders removed. Will there be any surviving structure? Only time and more digging will tell!

Terry, Anne and Ro begin work on their robber trench. What lies at the base?

Terry, Anne and Ro begin work on their robber trench. What lies at the base?

Ro was delighted to find a small bone object in the backfill of the robber cut. Possibly a small button or spacer, the object is very neatly finished.

Ro and her bone small find.

Ro and her bone small find.

Week 3 proved to be a week of real discovery at All Saints. Delicate small finds such as coins and copper pins were recovered from trample layers and more early structural features were uncovered in both ends of the trench. There are countless questions yet to answer, but the first quarter of the Summer dig has succeeded in its initial goal of understanding and recording the origins of the boxing club. Now our attention will turn to earlier archaeology as we look to answer the age old question ‘what happened before?’

A tiny copper pin.

A tiny copper pin.

As ever, it’s important to thank our dedicated team of placements for their hard work this week. Spoilheap removal day is always a tiring day and all involved worked hard in helping us keep on top of our ever-growing heap!

Spoilheap removal day: Before...

Spoilheap removal day: Before…

...and after!

…and after!

The biggest thanks must always go out to our team of trainees. Since our first dig back in 2001, Archaeology Live! has always been entirely funded by the trainees who take part and actually carry out the excavation. Without this cosmopolitan gang of enthusiastic and hard-working people from all over the world, none of our countless discoveries would have been made. Pat yourselves on the back guys, great work!

The week 3 team.

The week 3 team. What is the collective term for a group of archaeologists? A rabble? A parliament? Anyway, I digress…

 

So, on to week 4. Here’s to another great week. Onwards and downwards!

 

– Arran

 

Oh, and cheers to Roger the sparrow for his non-stop singing. I like to think he was encouraging us along.

Oh, and cheers to Roger the sparrow for his non-stop singing. I like to think he was encouraging us along.

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 2.

 

Shocking, I know. An archaeological excavation held during the British summertime with consistently good weather!? Thus far,  Archaeology Live! 2014 has seen a lot of sunshine and an equal amount of exciting discoveries! Week 2 of the All Saints excavation welcomed some new members to the team. This mix of Archaeology Live! veterans and fresh faces quickly joined those carrying on from week 1 as work resumed in the trench.

The week 2 team get started...

The week 2 team get started…

Toby’s team, working in ‘This End’ carried on with the challenging task of picking apart the much altered drain network below the south-west end of the former boxing club. Cleaning and recording features like these can involve squeezing into some tight spaces, not that returnees Bri and Matt were deterred! Working with Archaeology Live! placement Gus, they recorded the various phases of the drainage system and began to lift the ceramic pipes and record their cuts. The sections of these pipe cuts provide a sneak preview of the medieval archaeology that we will be looking at in the coming weeks, with a series of refuse pits becoming clearly visible.

Archaeology Live! legend Bri hard at work.

Archaeology Live! legend Bri hard at work.

Removal of a ceramic U-bend (pictured above) allowed us to see a clearer view of the wall sequence at this end of the building. It seems numerous separate walls have been incorporated into the boxing club. The earliest appearing to have a footing of large limestone blocks, possibly relating to the church. A challenge in the coming weeks will be to remove several layers of render to help make sense of this construction sequence.

Various elements of walling becoming visible behind the ceramic drains.

Various elements of walling becoming visible behind the ceramic drains.

Scott and Barry, another pair of returning archaeologists, were working close by on the footings of the boxing club walls. In this area, the construction cuts were masked by later dumps of rubble and cement that had to be recorded and removed before the wall footings could be exposed. Once reached, the construction backfills rewarded Scott and Barry’s hard work with some lovely artefacts. Scott was very pleased with his first copper alloy coin. Once this is examined and cleaned up by our conservation department, this find may prove useful in tightening up the dating of this wall sequence.

Scott and his freshly unearthed coin.

Scott and his freshly unearthed coin.

Barry made an exciting discovery of his own as he found a fragment of a decorative seal from a medieval vessel. These circular decorative features appeared on many green-glazed jugs and pots, some of which could be quite elaborate! The imagery can relate to family groups and trade guilds.

Barry and his possible guild seal.

Barry and his possible guild seal.

A closer inspection of this particular example reveals an image of a bird, with parts of the body and wings remaining visible. Further research may allow us to relate this to a particular group or family.

A closer look at Barry's medieval seal.

A closer look at Barry’s medieval seal.

Elsewhere in ‘This End’, Lauren and Ben were also working to free up wall construction events. Removing these deposits relating to the boxing club’s construction have revealed more of an 18th century brick floor. It looks increasingly possible that this floor relates to nearby structural elements that were discovered in week one (http://archaeologylive.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/archaeology-live-summer-2014-week-1/).

Recording wall construction events in 'This End'

Recording wall construction events in ‘This End’. The brick floor is visible under the hand shovel.

The 1852 OS map of York shows a building to the north-west of the church marked as ‘The Rectory’. It is likely that the brick floor relates to this structure. The boxing club construction has destroyed much of the Rectory building, but as work continues in this area we hope to learn more about the post-medieval building sequence. The map also shows that the footprint of the boxing club was still open space in 1852.

An excerpt of the 1852 OS map. Copyright http://www.york1852.org/

An excerpt of the 1852 OS map. Copyright http://www.york1852.org/

It is interesting to note that today’s narrow footpath running along the north of the church, was once the medieval thoroughfare of Church Lane.

Church Lane looking north-east.

Church Lane looking north-east.

While Arran and Toby have been busy in the trench with their respective teams, Gary has been working under the ‘Finds Tree’ on processing and cataloguing our finds. It is often in post-excavation that new insights can be gained into what has been going on on-site. Here, Gary summarises the patterns and trends he has identified in this week’s finds.

The finds team dating pottery from contexts they have excavated.

The finds team dating pottery from contexts they have excavated.

Report from the finds tree

The first two weeks of Archaeology Live! 2014 have had us busy processing the finds from the ongoing excavation. As per usual for a site in York there has been a high quantity of material culture recovered. The features investigated on site so far mostly relate to the construction of the mortuary chapel in the 19th century with some earlier deposits starting to be investigated. Activity in the finds tree has involved washing the material and bagging the dry clean material by type. Washing and bagging the finds is starting to give us an insight in to what we may find at earlier levels due to the amount of upcast residual material found.

Gary's finds team taking a closer look at the animal bone recovered from a 19th century context.

Gary’s finds team taking a closer look at the animal bone recovered from a 19th century context.

The majority of the ceramic appears to be 19th century and post-medieval in date (so probably contemporary with the features been excavated). Interestingly we appear to have about as much residual Norman gritty ware (11th-12th C.) as we do medieval green glazed wares collectively. Whether this is going to be representative of changing levels of activity over time on site remains to be seen. In addition to the medieval wares we have already found a small number of 9th-10th century Anglo-Scandinavian pot fragments and Roman wares.

In addition to the ceramics high quantities of ceramic building material in the form of bricks, roof tiles, salt glazed drain pipe and occasional floor tiles have been recovered. Some of this material may relate to structures that were demolished when the mortuary chapel was constructed in 1860.

The fired clay tobacco pipe recovered so far also appears to be contemporary with the construction of the mortuary chapel with the occasional earlier bowl (probably c18th – c19th) starting to turn up. Several decorated bowls and the occasional glazed pipe stem have been recovered so the dating of those particular objects can probably be refined at a later date.

A cleaned up clay tobacco pipe bowl. The initials 'TM' are clearly visible.

A cleaned up clay tobacco pipe bowl. The initials ‘TM’ are clearly visible.

Animal bone has also been recovered in high quantities. Most of this material appears to relate to consumption. The high percentage of bone horn core we have recovered possibly indicates primary butchery waste although it could also indicate horn working taking place in the vicinity. It is impossible to actually determine specific activities at this point, however, as a lot of the animal bone has been redeposited from earlier features.

These residual finds are exciting indicators of what we should continue to discover as Archaeology Live! progresses over the next ten weeks. For those of you planning to attend we look forward to seeing you and many thanks to those who have already done their time in the finds tree.

– Gary

Team That End hard at work.

Team That End hard at work.

Arran’s area has also seen a number of exciting developments this week. As this area doesn’t have the same level of truncation from 19th century drains as ‘This End’, the team have been able to move more quickly onto deposits that pre-date the 1860s boxing club.

In the north-east corner of the trench, Jade and Rob continued to investigate a sequence of pits and trample layers that once formed part of the yard that pre-dates the boxing club. While still dating to the early 19th century, these contexts are beginning to produce an increasing amount of 18th century ceramics as we work towards earlier archaeology. The trample layers were particularly compacted at this point, prompting Jade to have her first experience of mattocking. From the smile on her face, I doubt it will be her last!

Master of the mattock!

Master of the mattock!

Rob and Jade’s area, produced some great finds late in the week. Highlights included a lead hook, a medieval ceramic pan handle and a fragment of masonry carved with a cross. This well weathered stonework may have once been part of the church, removed during one of the building’s numerous alterations.

Jade displaying a fragment of church masonry.

Jade displaying a fragment of church masonry.

Gina and Geoff continued to work on another area of early 19th century yard surface. An increasing amount of possible structural elements have begun to emerge, adding evidence to the theory that the standing medieval buildings at the north end of the trench once stretched further to the south. These include a number of possible wall footings, post-pads and fragments of cobbled surface. Gina had a great start to the week as she found a rather wonderful bone dice.

Gina and her newly discovered bone dice.

Gina and her newly discovered bone dice.

The dice is most likely medieval in date and is in excellent condition, with the opposing sides adding up to seven – it could still be used today!

Gina's bone dice.

Gina’s bone dice.

Geoff joked that he was going to find us a chess piece to continue the gaming theme and he didn’t disappoint! Later in the week, he was delighted to unearth a worked bone gaming piece.

Geoff and his bone gaming piece.

Geoff and his bone gaming piece (and his favourite crisp flavour…)

Gina and Geoff were joined on Friday by Dylan, a taster student from New Zealand. Working on a 19th century yard deposit, Geoff and Dylan both found well preserved sherds of Roman pottery. Dylan’s example was the base of a colour coat drinking vessel. Geoff’s find was a piece of decorated samian ware.

Dylan and his Roman pot base.

Dylan and his Roman pot base.

A sherd of decorated samian ware.

A sherd of decorated samian ware.

The next few weeks could prove increasingly exciting as we continue to examine this interesting and fruitful area of the site. Elsewhere in ‘That End’ Anne and Branka recorded and removed levels of construction residue relating to the boxing club. An exciting find from this deposit was a Roman coin, upcast from earlier deposits.

Anne and Branka's Roman coin.

Anne and Branka’s Roman coin.

The pair then began to investigate a series of earlier features, beginning with a post hole complete with surviving packing stones. While uncertain in date, this feature contained 16th century pottery making it post-medieval at the earliest. The post hole was found to cut in to a small refuse pit, which Anne and Branka began to excavate on Friday.

While the dig remains in its early stages, it is encouraging to be getting our teeth into the stratigraphic sequence!

Anne and Branka excavating their post hole.

Anne and Branka excavating their post hole.

The week 2 team did some fantastic work, dealing with awkward, cramped spaces and complex stratigraphy while still producing some excellent records and finds! Perhaps the best thing to see is that our understanding of the site’s development is really coming along, with tantalising glimpses of early structures appearing in both ends of the trench. Added to the new insights from under the finds tree, the 2014 season has got off to a great start. Thank you to all our week 2 team! Great work by all.

The week two team.

The week two team.

 

Thanks must also go out to our team of placements who worked very hard to remove the first load of our spoilheap off site. A skip-full in a couple of hours is no mean feat!

Dave. Craig anf Gus of the placement team working on spoil removal.

Dave. Craig and Gus of the placement team working on spoil removal.

Here’s hoping week 3 maintains the excitement of the first fortnight, onwards and downwards!

– Arran

 

 

PS. For those interested in an update on our site mascot, Planty the Plant finally flowered! :’)

Planty the Plant in full bloom.

Planty the Plant in full bloom.

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