Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 2)

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 7.

Finds work under the bell tower.

Finds work under the bell tower.

We’re getting into quite the routine down on North Street. Every Monday morning, we head out and greet the latest additions to the team and show off our rather flashy medieval site hut. After a quick induction, we head out into the trench and show everyone what they’ll be working on. A good place to begin, for both new trainees and Archaeology Live! veterans alike, is to break out the trowels and have a quick clean. 

Ellen & Biagio, trowellers extraordinaire.

Ellen & Biagio, trowellers extraordinaire.

This allows everyone the chance to ‘get their eye in’ and to experience the volume of finds that pour out of rich, urban deposits. Once people are happy with basic trowelling and can resist the temptation to pull out finds from unrecorded contexts, they can tackle just about anything!  

Team This End began their week this very way. New additions Daniel, Ben, Linda, Jeanette and Kirsten worked together to freshen up the surface and re-expose edges that had become a little muddled after the weekend’s rain. 

Trowelling begins in This End. I wonder what Gus is pondering...

Trowelling begins in This End. I wonder what Gus is pondering…

With the site looking clean and tidy, the team began to work on a number of possible 19th century graves that were identified last week. Historic references date these to between 1823 and the late 1850s, hopefully the finds we recover may allow us to tighten this dating sequence. No articulated burials are scheduled to be removed at present, but we will be recording and then re-covering any inhumations that we encounter.

Ben and Daniel picked up the excavation of a possible grave that was started last week.

Ben and Daniel working on a 19th century inhumation.

Ben and Daniel working on a 19th century inhumation.

The edges proved tough to follow at first, but with a spot of guidance from Toby, the pair were able to spot and follow the extent of the grave cut, in turn revealing earlier deposits in section. Like other grave cuts under investigation, this feature proved to be rather deep, it also contained some great finds! Daniel was particularly chuffed with a copper alloy coin. Difficult to date before it is cleaned, it appears to have been deliberately bent.

Daniel and his first ever coin.

Daniel and his first ever coin.

This year marked a big year for Archaeology Live! regular Kirsten. Travelling from Denmark, Kirsten is currently enjoying her tenth year digging with us! It seemed only right to pair her with Kaye, who’s come all the way from New Zealand for the dig and was part of the team for our inaugural season of Archaeology Live! way back in 2001. 

Kirsten and Kaye hard at work.

Kirsten and Kaye hard at work.

The international duo got to work on another possible burial, started by Kaye in the previous week. It quickly became apparent that this was another very deep grave cut, with some interesting finds in the backfill.

Decorated stoneware.

Decorated stoneware from Kirsten’s feature.

Kaye found a great piece of 19th century banded slipware complete with a design that Arran quickly decided represented the Tree of Finds…

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The Tree of Finds? Maybe…

As the feature grew deeper, a looser rectangular area was exposed in the centre of the deposit. This most likely represents material that collapsed down into the cut at the point when the timber coffin decayed and gave way. Kirsten and Kaye also began to notice the presence of coffin nails and fragments of degraded wood around the edge of this looser soil. At present, work on this feature has been suspended until the surrounding area is reduced to a lower level. This will allow for better treatment of the feature and safer working conditions.

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Kirsten and Kaye’s grave cut. Note earlier stratigraphy in section.

The frustration of stepping away from of the feature was happily offset when Kirsten spotted a small copper alloy coin. It looks to be Roman in date was a nice way to mark Kirsten’s decade of digging!

Kirsten's coin.

Kirsten’s coin.

Elsewhere in Toby’s area, returnees Jeanette and Linda were involved in similar work. Taking one grave cut down to around 500mm in depth, the pair also temporarily abandoned their feature with a view to picking it up later. They then turned their attention to a wider rectangular feature slightly to the north. After completing a plan drawing, context card and photography for the context, they began to excavate the backfill. This will be an interesting feature to follow as its width is unusual. It could be a large refuse pit, or alternatively, it could be a double grave. Excavation will continue next week.IMG_5132

 As several of the grave cuts were being put on ice, the This End team made thorough records of the cuts as they were currently exposed. This resulted in one of the years busier planning sessions!

Planfest 2014!

Planfest 2014!

Joining us for a two day taster, Annie picked up work on an enigmatic feature close to the trench’s southern edge. 

Annie working on her rectangular feature.

Annie working on her rectangular feature.

Somewhat shorter than the surrounding grave cuts, the feature was packed with finds, including a medieval jug handle… 

Green elephant or medieval jug?

Green elephant or medieval jug?

…and a post-medieval copper alloy lace tag.

Annie showing off her lace tag.

Annie showing off her lace tag.

As the feature deepened, juvenile human remains were reached at the base. However, excessive depth again meant that this feature will have to be left alone for now. Investigation will continue later in the season. 

Work also continued on the post-medieval rectory, with two events of robbing being identified over ‘missing’ sections of wall.

Recording robber cuts over the rectory.

Recording robber cuts over the rectory.

These features were recorded and will be investigated next week. This should hopefully free up the deposits that date to the building’s use, as opposed to its demolition. All being well, we will now be able to learn more about how the buildings were used and what role these surviving structures played.

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The trench increasingly resembling a moonscape.

In Gary’s area, Ellen and Biagio began their week by cleaning up and recording the grave cut they had worked on last week, which will also be temporarily abandoned. 

Ellen and Biagio's cut is proving to be very deep.

Ellen and Biagio’s cut is proving to be very deep.

Turning their attention to another possible burial, Biagio and Ellen recorded the backfill and began excavation. This allowed Biagio to practice his patented ‘relaxed’ digging posture…

'Dig me like one of your french girls'

‘Dig me like one of your french girls’

Finds were again promising, as Ellen discovered a lovely copper alloy stud alongside a mass of pottery, animal bone and CBM (brick and tile). Work on this feature will continue next week. 

Ellen shows off her latest find.

Ellen shows off her latest find.

Sue and Gill took on the unenviable task of tackling ‘contrary corner’. They continued work on a deep pit that has been in play for several weeks now. Reaching a maximum safe depth, this feature was also put aside for now. A dump of rubbly material, possibly a rough yard surface, was then recorded and excavated.

Sue and Gill peeling away a layer of rubble.

Sue and Gill cleaning up a layer of rubble.

The context contained early 19th century material alongside some high status medieval and post-medieval pottery. Beneath the rubble, a small layer of burning was exposed, part of a complex sequence of varied activity within the old yard space.

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Sue and a fragment of fancy medieval pottery.

The value of sieving was once again proved as Gill picked up a copper alloy brooch from her deposit!

Gill's copper brooch.

Gill’s copper brooch.

She also unearthed an interestingly scorched fragment of a post-medieval vessel.

Gill's scorched pot sherd.

Gill’s scorched pot sherd.

Alan and Rosie started the week by removing more of the ‘horn pit’ backfill. Almost exclusively containing fragments of cattle crania and horn core, this deposit looks increasingly likely to be a by-product of the tanning industry that formerly operated close to North Street. When freshly filled, this pit would have been somewhat fragrant…

Alan working on the 'horn pit'.

Alan working on the ‘horn pit’.

No less than fifteen tubs of bone and horn core have now been recovered from this feature, all of which has been diligently sieved.

Rosie cheerfully sieving the backfill of the horn pit.

Rosie cheerfully sieving the backfill of the horn pit.

As the pit appears to be showing no signs of stopping, it has also been left aside for now. It can be finished later in the season and the finds team will need a good deal of time to process all of the bone! Alan and Rosie recorded the pit as it stands before moving on to some nearby deposits.

Rosie and Alan investigating a new feature.

Rosie and Alan investigating a new feature.

The pair recorded and excavated a feature that cuts through a cobble surface discovered back in week 5. As work on this context progressed, it became increasingly likely to represent an infant burial. Again, we plan to complete work on this feature later in the season.

A continuing theme of industrial use is appearing in the northern end of the trench, with burials proving more sparse, and surfaces, pits and post holes more abundant. Clearly, the yards of the 18th and 19th century were used in different ways at different ends. 

Jemima, Julie, Elizabeth and Carmen joined Gary’s team on one and two day taster courses and helped to excavate a number of deposits. Close to Biagio and Ellen’s deep grave cut, a dump deposit was lifted that revealed some interesting features. These included dumps of mortar and an edge-set tile footing, some goodies to play with in the coming weeks!

Carmen exposing new features.

Carmen exposing new features.

Finds highlights included some more great medieval pottery, one sherd complete with the potter’s fingerprints on the interior!

Carmen with a sherd of medieval pottery.

Carmen with a sherd of medieval pottery.

Quirks like these are a wonderfully personal way to get in touch with the people who lived through the times we study.  

The fingerprints of a medieval potter.

The fingerprints of a medieval potter.

Heavy rain on Friday saw the team focusing on indoor activities, but this didn’t hamper a week of real discovery! New deposits and structures are appearing in abundance, the next few weeks are going to be very exciting!

It rained a bit...

It rained a bit…

Under the Tree of Finds, Arran and the finds crew had a very busy week! The remaining contexts that were already washed and dry were sorted into categories and bagged separately in advance of being looked at by relevant specialists. Some nice small finds were noticed including these lovely 18th/19th century knife handles.

A bone (upper) and antler  (lower) knife handle.

A bone (upper) and antler (lower) knife handle.

Trample deposit 1116 from Toby’s area proved to be a real monster! Hundreds of sherds of pottery and fragments of animal bone were sorted and bagged up. The pottery varied from 19th century to Roman, with great examples of Viking and medieval wares.

The pottery from context 1116.

The pottery from context 1116.

Fingerprints would prove to be an enduring theme this week. Not always visible when covered in dirt, fingerprints were noted in several artefacts as they were cleaned. One medieval tile sherd featured the fingerprints of a child!

Child fingerprints in a medieval tile.

Child fingerprints in a medieval tile.

Viking and medieval pot sherds were also recovered with ‘pie crust’ decoration.

Viking Torksey ware, complete with thumbprints.

Viking Torksey ware, complete with thumbprints.

A bit of historic research revealed why we have been finding so many clay pipe bowls decorated with a fleur de lys motif; it turns out that a Prince of Wales pub was in business on nearby Skeldergate in the 19th century. Clearly the people working in the yards we have been excavating were partial to a lunchtime ‘pint and pipe’ deal. 

Fleur de lys decorated pipe bowls.

Fleur de lys decorated pipe bowls from the Prince of Wales pub.

The last of the finds from Biagio’s bone pit from week 6 were washed this week. Once they are dry, we’ll have a closer look at them and see if any surprises lie hidden.

Biagio and his mountain of finds.

Biagio and his mountain of finds.

The mammoth task of washing all of the horn core from the infamous ‘horn pit’ is now underway. This will take some time…

Horn, horn, horn...

Horn, horn, horn…

It could easily have become frustrating to start work on so many features and have to step away, but our trainees understand the value of dealing with human remains in a proper manner. Delaying the work until they can be easily reached will allow for more delicate treatment of the burials and a safer working environment. This way, we will be able to learn a little about the former parishioners of All Saints, before re-covering them and leaving them in peace, safe from any future development. 

The variance of activity between This End and That End is becoming ever more pronounced, with That End proving to be busier and more industrious in nature. Perhaps the residents of the old rectory preferred a quiet life and kept the noisier, smellier activities at a distance. This relationship will be studied further next week. We now know the location of numerous burials and will continue to identify new ones, but we will also look to investigate even earlier activity from hereon in. 

Week 7 has succeeded in bringing much of the site back to the late 1700s/early 1800s. We have found even more structural evidence of the rectory and begun to reveal the site’s more industrial past. All of this is down to the hard work of our dedicated team of trainees and placements, who all deserve a good pat on the back. Great work guys! 

The week 7 team.

The week 7 team.

The only downside this week was seeing site mascot Planty the Plant succumb to the rain and topple over. Don’t worry though folks, he’s down but not out!

Planty!!! Nooooooooo!

Planty!!! Nooooooooo!

Next week, we’ll continue to spot new burials and investigate the activity that pre-dates them. The post-medieval horizon creeps ever closer, onwards and downwards!!

 

– Arran

 

PS. One final highlight of this week was seeing Biagio’s classic relaxed pose catching on. Maybe this is how we’ll all be sorting finds in the future…

Take it easy guys...

Take it easy guys…

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 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.

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 1.

Cleaning begins in 'this end'

Cleaning begins in ‘this end’

The waiting is finally over! Toby, Arran and Gary have wrapped up work on numerous other commercial excavations and watching briefs and work has commenced on All Saints, North Street. Week one has seen Archaeology Live! 2014 off to a flying start, welcoming trainees from as far away as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, the USA and Barnsley to the new trench. As ever, it’s been great to see a mix of new and familiar faces and we couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of trainees.

Week one has been a busy one, with lots of finds and features being excavated. Arran’s team, or Team That End, began the week by investigating the south wall of the former boxing club.

Katie, Jade and Janet take a breather from cleaning their construction backfill.

Katie, Jade and Janet take a breather from cleaning their construction backfill.

In glorious sunshine, new trainees Katie, Jade and Janet have spent the week recording and excavating the wall’s construction cut. In doing so, they have revealed the wall to have sizeable foundations, laid on a bed of concrete. The finds from the construction backfill were varied in date and type. Detritus dating to the construction of the building included a rather lovely pipe mouth-piece. You can almost picture the builder’s annoyance at breaking his favourite pipe!

Jade and her freshly discovered pipe fragment.

Jade and her freshly discovered pipe fragment.

As the 1860s foundation trench was cut through intact archaeology, finds from earlier deposits have found their way into its backfill. Janet was delighted to unearth an 18th century clay pipe bowl. Smoking seems to have been a bit of a theme over the centuries!

Janet showing off her clay pipe bowl.

Janet showing off her clay pipe bowl.

At the northern end of the trench, returning trainees Rob and Yvonne were looking at features within a yard space that pre-dates the boxing club. Yvonne tackled a pit that was packed full of pottery, two full finds tubs in fact! The ceramics were mainly 19th century in date, with some earlier medieval examples. A high occurrence of oyster shell makes this likely to be a pit dug to dispose of domestic refuse.

Yvonne beginning to excavate her 'pot pit'

Yvonne beginning to excavate her ‘pot pit’

Nearby, Rob spent the week looking at a sequence of rather enigmatic cut features. Again dating to the 19th century, it appears that this area has been peppered with the pits and interweaving tips and dumps that you would expect from a well used yard space. A finds highlight was a small decorative copper alloy object that is possibly post-medieval in date. We’ll look forward to seeing what our small finds experts think of this object.

Rob's copper alloy object.

Rob’s copper alloy object.

Elsewhere in Arran’s area, Gina and Geoff recorded and excavated a number of interesting features. After exposing the footings of the boxing club’s north wall, they turned their attention to a small pit containing a mix of animal bone and disarticulated human bone. It appears that a medieval charnel pit, probably within the churchyard of All Saints has been disturbed at some point, and the upcast remains re-deposited within this pit. The remains of a number of individuals were identified, varying from juvenile to elderly. One tooth was found to have a large abscess, which would have been very painful indeed. Any disarticulated human remains discovered during the excavation will not be removed from the church compound and will eventually be re-interred. Intact burials, if encountered, will be left in-situ.

At the end of the week, Gina and Geoff began work on a truncated cobble and stone footing. A number of linear features are beginning to appear in this area. Could we be finding evidence for earlier buildings? We’ll find out as the weeks pass.

Gina and Geoff cleaning up a truncated footing.

Gina and Geoff cleaning up a truncated footing/surface fragment.

Toby’s area, or ‘this end’ had an equally busy first week. During the spring excavations, the team exposed a network of ceramic drains. With work on these complete, this week saw a lot of work on the boxing club wall construction levels. Marlene and Bri did a great job of recording the construction cuts of the building’s south-west corner before beginning to pick apart a heavily modified set of drains. This area is proving to be extremely complicated, but the diligent recording work has made the archaeology start to make sense.

Bri, Gus and Marlene hard at work picking apart their difficult sequence.

Bri, Gus and Marlene hard at work picking apart their difficult sequence.

Sammy, Virginia, Barry and Jan also had an eventful week, working on a number of features. More wall construction cuts have now been cleaned, recorded and excavated. At points the area was rather busy as the team worked out the boxing club’s construction sequence.

All hands on deck in 'this end'!

All hands on deck in ‘this end’!

Later in the week, Toby’s team began to work on new areas, removing a number of trample deposits. Tantalisingly, elements of a brick building pre-dating the boxing club are beginning to emerge. Could this be part of the post-medieval rectory that once stood in this vicinity? Hopefully week two will bring some answers.

Early brick walls beginning to appear.

Early brick walls beginning to appear.

A finds highlight for Jan was a fragment of high status glazed floor tile that may once have been part of the fabric of the church. As All Saints has been altered countless times over the centuries, the deposits within our trench may shed new light on the evolution of the church building.

Medieval glazed floor tile.

Medieval glazed floor tile.

As well as working in the trench, the trainees have done a number of specialist sessions at YAT’s Aldwark headquarters. These involved an introduction to ceramics, a tour of our conservation facilities and a seminar on identifying and processing small finds. On top of this, the trainees have also been working with Gary in the churchyard, helping him to run the finds processing element of the excavation. This involves finds washing, cataloguing and bagging and provides an opportunity to practice new skills in finds identification. Archaeology Live! placement Tess has been on hand to share her knowledge of bone, pointing out methods of species identification alongside how to spot evidence of age and illness.

On Friday, Gary led the team through a seminar on building stratigraphic matrices, the diagrams we use to relate each excavated context to each other in the order they occurred. Working on complex, urban archaeology means that our trainees are dealing with difficult sequences. A good knowledge of stratigraphy allows us to keep on top of this and really get to grips with interpreting the story we are uncovering.

Gary in animated form explaining the art of building stratigraphic matrices.

Gary in animated form explaining the art of building stratigraphic matrices.

Thursday evening saw Toby lead the team on an archaeological tour of York. This week, he focused on how elements of the Roman city have been preserved in the fabric of the modern town. The team were fascinated to hear about how the archaeological remains beneath their feet have continued to influence York’s development.

Toby pointing out  the continued effects of the Roman fortress walls on present day structures.

Toby pointing out the continued effects of the Roman fortress walls on present day structures.

A number of taster students joined the team for one and two day introductions to archaeology. It’s always surprising how much can be fitted into a day and the tasters did a great job of trying their hands at new techniques. The excavation received a visit from a Council of British Archaeology (CBA) delegation, who enjoyed a tour of the site led by Toby. It’s always a pleasure to share our findings and we will be scheduling a public open day for later in the summer.

Toby explaining the project to a CBA group.

Toby explaining the project to a CBA group.

So that’s a wrap on week one. We’re underway and already finding some fascinating archaeology. Also, we already seem to have gained a site mascot in the form of the imaginatively named ‘Planty the Plant’ (to whom Toby has taken quite a shine!). Odd things happen on archaeological excavations…

Toby lovingly watering his beloved Planty.

Toby lovingly watering his beloved Planty.

 

Big thanks must go out to our fantastic team of trainees. They’ve made the site a really fun place to be and worked hard to really bring the dig along. Our team of placements, Tess, Gus, Craig and Andy have also been a pleasure to work with. It’s looking like Archaeology Live! 2014 will be a season to remember!

Onwards and downwards!

– Arran

The week one team.

The week one team.

 

 

Oh, and cheers to Planty!

Planty.

Planty.

 

Archaeology Live! 2014 Prologue.

SONY DSC

Back in October 2012, the Archaeology Live! team and All Saints church warden Robert Richards met up to plan an excavation in the grounds of the church. With a rich history and a central location close to the River Ouse, the site was clearly brimming with archaeological potential. There was of course one minor obstacle, a derelict 19th century boxing club.

Image

The boxing club before demolition, October 2012.

The boxing club entrance, October 2012.

The boxing club entrance, October 2012.

Built in the 1860s, the boxing club was originally a mortuary chapel, later serving as a Sunday school among other uses. Abandoned for over a decade, the building was in very poor repair and populated only by pigeons. A 20th century addition of a skin of engineering brick along the building’s south face had caused the walls to become irreparably damp, leaving the church with no choice but to schedule the building for demolition (after proper archaeological survey of course). This did however provide opportunity, with the site being a prime spot for re-development.

The boxing club interior, looking west.

The boxing club interior, looking west (note the scatter of boxing gloves!)

The archaeology of the site was not a total mystery, as a previous archaeological evaluation by FAS had uncovered evidence of 18th/19th century floor surfaces immediately overlying medieval refuse pits. Clearly, a good deal of excavation would need to be carried out in advance of any future building work. As Archaeology Live! is an entirely trainee-funded entity, this provided a mutually beneficial opportunity for both All Saints and York Archaeological Trust and it was agreed that the site would play host to the 2014 season.

The FAS evauation trench at the building's southern end.

The FAS evauation trench at the building’s southern end (and posing pigeons!)

The two week spring excavation in April and the May training weekend have proved that All Saints is a fantastic location for a training excavation, with the church providing a chance to study upstanding remains as well as subterranean archaeology. It is known that a post-medieval rectory with a medieval predecessor have occupied parts of the site, with other areas being used as yards in the 19th century. Before this, very little is known about the history of this small corner of York. As the weeks pass, the Archaeology Live! trainees will peel away the layers of history and tell the story of this fascinating site.

The north end of the boxing club interior, or 'that end' as it is now known.

The north end of the boxing club interior, or ‘that end’ as it is now known.

– Arran

A history of Archaeology Live! Year one: St. Leonard’s 2001

With the 2014 summer season almost upon us, it seems like a good time to take a look back at the sites we have excavated in previous years. As a charity, a main aim of York Archaeological Trust’s work is to promote public engagement with the past, allowing people the opportunity to do more than view a site from behind a fence and there is no better way to do this than getting people in trenches making discoveries of their own. The archaeology of York is an amazing source of potential new knowledge and has to be dealt with in a careful and thorough manner, with this in mind the Archaeology Live! training dig was born. The excavation work and subsequent analysis and publication that make up each season of Archaeology Live! is entirely funded by the trainees. In essence, the project has been ‘crowdfunding’ since long before the term was coined.

 

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14th century stained glass. One of the first finds recovered from the site. Not a bad start!

 

The site chosen for the inaugural season had an excellent archaeological pedigree. The excavation was located in the west corner of the Roman legionary fortress of Eboracum, bounded on two sides by surviving fortress walls. The area continued to serve a defensive function throughout the Anglian and Viking periods and became the site of St. Leonard’s hospital in the medieval period. The Victorian era saw the site used as an archaeological garden, housing finds from the Yorkshire Philosophical Society before again resuming a defensive purpose with the construction of a Second World War air raid shelter. On Wednesday 13 June, the site was formally opened by the Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Irene Waudby and work began.

 

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The official opening of the site attracted a great deal of press attention.

 

Three trenches were excavated during the 2001 season, all uncovering a diverse range of fascinating finds and features. In fact, a total of 600 individual contexts were recorded and excavated over the 13 week dig! As is typical of York, deposits were uncovered representing an unbroken sequence of activity covering two millennia.

 

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Trench locations.

 

A short blog post isn’t sufficient to detail the full findings of the 2001 dig, but here are a few highlights. The World War II air raid shelter proved to be an evocative reminder of a dark time in York’s past. A number of personal items were recovered, including coins, pins, marbles and beads.

 

Finds from the air raid shelter.

Finds from the air raid shelter.

 

A curious collection of archaeological features were found to be ornately laid as part of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society’s archaeological garden. A large column base proved to be one of the more impressive artefacts on display.

 

Re-used archaeological materials were displayed in the Yorkshire Philosophical Society's garden.

Re-used archaeological materials were displayed in the Yorkshire Philosophical Society’s garden.

 

The dig took place in the infirmary area of the medieval St Leonard’s Hospital. This was founded as St Peter’s Hospital in 936 and transferred to its present site in the 11th century. The hospital, one of the largest in medieval England, once supported 225 beds. In the 14th century it maintained up to 18 clergy, 16 female servants, 30 choristers, 10 private boarders and 140–240 poor sick people. This gives some idea of the range of religious, spiritual, medical, social and charitable roles undertaken by a medieval hospital. Parts of the hospital can still be seen, including a vaulted entrance passage, an undercroft to the infirmary and a chapel, all of 13th century date. Other remains of this once vast hospital survive inside the nearby Theatre Royal. 

An unanticipated discovery was an impressive medieval stone lined drain. This proved that the hospital had a substantial and complex drainage system, taking sewage and run-off away from the infirmary.

 

Investigating the interior of the medieval drain.

Investigating the interior of the medieval drain.

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The impressive interior of the drain.

Substantial stone wall footings relating to the hospital allowed for new insights into the construction and development of the medieval buildings. An array of exciting finds were uncovered from the hospital, with masses of pottery, bone, glass, etc delighting the trainees. These gave an idea of the activities going on within the hospital complex and the lifestyles of the people living and working there. One particular highlight was a beautifully preserved medieval bronze seal ring.

 

A medieval bronze seal ring, the type used to imprint a person's seal into the wax on a document.

A medieval bronze seal ring, the type used to imprint a person’s seal into the wax on a document.

 

Evidence was found of earlier structures being incorporated into the medieval hospital buildings. Week seven of the dig revealed the north-west wall of one of the Roman legionary fortress interval towers. Known as SW6 because it is the sixth tower along the south-west side of the fortress, the wall was left upstanding within the cobble foundations of a wall belonging to the medieval hospital, re-used in order to form part of the medieval foundations. Clearly the medieval builders were aware of the quality of Roman construction, making good use of the surviving wall. 

 

Roman interval tower footings surrounded by medieval cobble foundations.

Roman interval tower footings surrounded by medieval cobble foundations.

 

The site was open to visitors throughout the season, with thousands of people flocking to see the discoveries as they were made. Events were held to give local children a chance to lend a hand with finds processing and learn more about York’s past. As has become normal for Archaeology Live! trainees came from across the globe to get involved with the dig and the team ranged in age from children to pensioners!

 

Local children washing finds.

Local children washing finds.

 

The 2001 excavations set a great standard for what training digs can achieve. At Archaeology Live! we believe that with the right training, no archaeology is too complex or difficult for members of the public to work on, with or without prior experience. The team of staff, placements and trainees made a great start to what would be a number of seasons at St. Leonards. We’ll be posting about the findings of those digs in the coming weeks. As we enter our fourteenth year of trainee funded archaeology in York, we look forward to many exciting discoveries to come!

Watch this space!

– Arran

 

Archaeology Live! trainees at St. Leonards, 2001.

Archaeology Live! trainees at St. Leonards, 2001.

 

PS. I’ve found no explanation for this picture of Toby and a bird, but it seemed vital to include it.

Toby and a bird.

Toby and a bird.

 

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Safety first!

If anything in life is certain, it can be guaranteed that a bank holiday weekend will be met with at least a moderate to generous amount of precipitation. Our first training weekend at our new All Saints, North Street site was certainly no exception. The Archaeology Live! weekend courses have become increasingly popular in recent years, the May weekend having sold out some weeks ago. Fittingly, it was to a rather waterlogged site that our eighteen new trainees arrived on a drizzly Saturday morning. However, it became quickly apparent that this group would not be deterred by the prospect of getting a little muddy. The team quickly got to work cleaning up the site and it was great to see a mix of returning Archaeology Live! veterans and brand new archaeologists.

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Cleaning the site.

Trowelling over the majority of the trench proved that a trample deposit relating to the construction of the former mortuary chapel was the archaeological event that immediately preceded activity recorded during the spring training dig. With the recording for this context complete, it was now free to excavate. Unfortunately, the rain was becoming increasingly heavy and the team were forced indoors. All was not lost however, as the church of All Saints, North Street makes for a rather splendid site hut. Sheltered from the elements, the weekend team spent the afternoon cleaning, sorting and bagging recent finds from the trench as well as taking part in a session on pottery dating and identification. As the afternoon progressed, the trainees became quite adept at separating their Cistercian wares from their Brandsby wares (and so on!)

When the day drew to a close, the team donned their glad rags and gathered at the Golden Fleece Inn for a well-earned (and generously proportioned!) evening meal. Everyone left rather full, but full of excitement for the following day’s discoveries.

 

Day two saw further persistent rain, but this yet again failed to deter our intrepid archaeologists. Work began on excavating the trample deposit that had been cleaned up the previous day. As digging progressed, we had something of a good finds day…

Lizzy showing off her rather splendid splash gazed pot base.

Lizzie showing off her rather splendid splash gazed pot base.

Lizzie was lucky enough to find the base of a medieval pot, alongside a rather lovely piece of Roman samian ware decorated with the image of a lion!

Decorated samian ware.

Decorated samian ware.

Further finds highlights included the spout of a Victorian jug, sherds of numerous medieval vessels and several more fragments of Roman pottery.

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Victorian & Roman finds in the same deposit. Classic York!

Jeremiah’s discoveries included yet more samian ware and a fragment of high status medieval tile. The latter may well once have been part of the fabric of the church.

Glazed medieval floor tile.

Glazed medieval floor tile.

The team also worked on recording the upstanding remains of the Victorian mortuary chapel, producing detailed elevation drawings of the walls. To top off a busy day, the trainees were also shown the ins and outs of archaeological recording – from taking levels to filling out context cards.

Drawing wall elevations.

Drawing wall elevations.

 

Despite the inclement weather, the team did some great work. New skills were learned and practised and our understanding of the site was dramatically improved as new features were exposed.

The Archaeology Live! training excavations are entirely trainee funded and would not be possible without the dedication and hard work of the people who travel from far and wide to dig with us. The May weekend team were no exception, turning a wet bank holiday into a real archaeological adventure! Thanks to all that attended!!

Thanks must also go to our team of placements whose tireless work is always appreciated, despite occasionally lacklustre jazz hands…

Come on Dave, you can do better than that!

Come on Dave, you can do better than that!

 

– Arran

Training weekend at All Saints, North Street

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After a great start on our new site in the Spring, we’re gearing up for our first weekend dig of the year. The Spring session saw our trainees peeling away the very latest layers of archaeology and beginning to understand the 19th century building sequence of the recently demolished boxing club (originally a Victorian mortuary chapel). The team also began work on a sequence of dump deposits that appear to pre-date the mid-19th century structures.

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As ever in York, mixed in with the Victorian finds was evidence of earlier activity, with pottery being unearthed from the Roman, Viking, medieval and post-medieval periods. The team did a fantastic job of practicing their new skills, producing records of a professional standard across the board. The only frustration was having to stop at the end of the two week season!

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Toby, Arran and Gary from the Archaeology Live! team are now moving tools and supplies back over to North Street from our Hungate HQ. This weekend, our trainees will be working on the aforementioned dump layers that appear to pre-date the boxing club, washing and sorting finds from the Spring session, doing sessions on elevation drawing, pottery dating and looking at archaeological recording. The team will also be gathering in the evening for pub grub and a chance to discuss the discoveries of the day. Who knows what discoveries we’ll make.

Onwards and downwards!

 

– Arran

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