Tag: inhumation (page 1 of 2)

2017 Site Diary: Weeks 5 & 6

Weeks 5 and 6 of the 2017 season saw us reach the halfway point of the dig; summer was flying by! We had a host of new and returning trainees at North Street and, as always, some questionable “summer” weather…

A damp start on Monday didn’t deter the Week 5 trainees from getting straight in the trench!

Week 5 started with inductions for all our trainees except for Joanna who was continuing from week 4. With the new starters all tooled up, Nina was paired with Joanna and placement Paul to continue work on one of the 19th Century burials. As this burial was known to overlay another individual by this point, the girls added the finishing touches to the records before lifting the remains for storage within the Church until their reburial. Then it was onto recording the cut for this upper grave, and the fill for the lower one. It was clear that the coffin from the upper burial had decayed and collapsed directly above the lower remains, with only a thin layer of grave backfill separating the burials as individual events.

Joanna and Nina carefully removing grave back fill from a lower burial in this plot.

By the end of the week Joanna and Nina had managed to lift one burial, record the cut for it, recorded the fill and coffin on the lower burial and begun exposing the remains. Bearing in mind that every piece of recording consists of photography, scale drawings, levels and context cards, that’s a lot of work for one week done to a very high standard!

Paul introducing Nina to the art of leveling with Joanna as the trusty staff-master!

Paul showing Joanna and Nina the single context recording process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also returning to North Street this summer was Jennifer, who was paired with new starter Sarah, for some fiddly work involving the cleaning up of a skeleton first uncovered by Gill and Sue in the previous week. The girls were more than up to the task, despite the awkward digging positions required due to the depth the individual lay at.

Sarah and Jennifer were all smiles as they tried out their best Archaeo-Yoga positions whilst excavating a difficult-to-reach burial.

Once cleaned up, it was time to record! With some help from placement Hannah, the trio made a very effective team and produced some top-notch plans.

Sarah plots the points, Jennifer plum-bobs the points, and Hannah calls out the measurements to Sarah. Good team work!

Working nearby were returnees Janet and Pete, who traveled all the way from Texas and Stoke respectively. They were joined by new starter Gillian and between the three of them worked on a burial and on some of the pre-graveyard deposits.

Pete and Janet working on a burial, and Gillian trowels off possible pre-graveyard deposits and surfaces.

Whilst lifting the burial Pete, Janet and Gillian observed a strange deposit on the left forearm of the individual. Upon closer inspection it appears that a pin, likely to be for a shroud, had corroded close to the bone and preserved some of the fabric around it. This fascinating piece of preservation is a poignant reminder of the care and attention taken with the burials of these individuals. Not only was this person buried in a beautifully decorated coffin, but they were also wrapped in a shroud. Given that North Street is known as one of the poorer areas of York at the time the graveyard was in use, it is apparent that bereaved families wanted to do what they could when they lost a loved one, as decorative plated coffins and burial shrouds were not easily affordable. Yet many of the burials here have had decorated coffins and evidence of shrouds or clothing in the form of buttons and pins associated with the remains. With plenty of time and care, Pete, Janet and Gillian lifted the individual and set about recording the grave cut.

Janet was visibly happy to be back at North Street once again!

As the trio cleaned up the grave cut, features became visible that pre-dated the graveyard. One deposit in particular was a bright orange colour, which is could be related to heat-based activity that has scorched the earth here. This could relate to the post-medieval workshops or perhaps earlier activity. However as we were at the maximum depth in proximity to the walls, the deposits were recorded and the cut backfilled.

Pete cleaning up the deposits now visible in the bottom of the grave cut. The orange colouration could be due to heat-based activities or events.

Another pair of returnees this week were Dan and Lucy, who carried on in the area that Josh and Laura worked on in the previous week. They lifted the last remains of a previously undiscovered infant and proceeded to record the cut. It was important to go over all of the recording process with the pair as they moved on to placement following this week of training. Once the cut was fully recorded they moved onto the next feature in the stratigraphic sequence at the site – the construction backfill for the Rectory walls.

Dan and Lucy get shown the ropes of single context recording by supervisor Katie.

The Week 5 tasters also had a good week, especially where finds were concerned! On Tuesday and Wednesday, Anna and Richard joined us and were given an area of build up against the rectory walls to plan and excavate. Whilst trowelling, the deposit revealed some rather lovely finds, including a lovely sherd of pottery with a very obviously square rim, dating it to the 11th/12th Century.

Anna looking suitably impressed with her 11th/12 Century piece of cooking pot.

Richard and Anna get their trowels stuck into a build up deposit against the Old Rectory walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday tasters Annie and Steve joined us for a day of digging about in the Church Lane trench, and then two day tasters Tim and Alan took over on Thursday and Friday. This trench has already yielded many lovely finds through sieving, from Roman coins to Medieval pottery, and so our tasters were eager to get digging. However due to some pretty poor weather towards the end of the week, Tim and Alan had some issues to deal with; sieving very soggy, sticky, clayey mud. Fortunately the guys took it all in good humour and got (literally) stuck into it.

Tim and Alan get stuck into some very messy sieving, with a little help from Katie.

Their efforts were rewarded with a great find, although they spotted it without needing to sieve it – a large fragment of a Roman hypocaust tile! Whilst at first glance it looks like a big unattractive lump of ceramic building material, this is quite an informative find, as these tiles were part of the hypocaust system used in Roman villas and bathhouses to heat rooms up.  Underfloor heating is a luxury only the wealthy could afford because of the high maintenance needed to keep everything going; this find is one of several from North Street over the past few years that adds to the growing understanding of the possible appearance of this part of the city in Roman times.

Alan with a very large fragment of Roman hypocaust tile.

Week 5 had great work from all of our trainees on the burials, and saw the start of the investigation into some of the older features across the site. However it wasn’t all work and play in the trench, as the weather had other ideas on quite a few occasions; fortunately we had plenty of indoor things to do, including finds bagging. This is our opportunity to have a bit of a closer look at our cleaned up bulk finds and keep an eye out for anything unusual about what we’re sorting through. The week 5 team were very sharp eyed and spotted a few finds that were a bit different…

Clockwise from the top left: A roof or flue tile with scored lines, an oyster shell with a hole through the centre of it, a possible part of a slate pencil, and a fragment of stone with multiple scratches on it.

All of these finds have evidence of modification or working and so have been classed as ‘small finds’ and kept with our growing collection of interesting objects. Usually tile would be a bulk find, however as we are currently unsure if this is a roof tile or a flue tile (with the latter being part of hypocaust systems), it is unique enough to keep it separate. The lines on it are likely to be for the purpose of making it more adhesive to a surface. As for the oyster shell, it is unclear if the hole in the centre is a natural occurrence or from human activity, and so it has been catalogued separately. The item in the bottom right is made of slate and although it is broken at either end, the profile is circular, and resembles slate pencils or styluses found elsewhere. The stone with the parallel scratch marks on it is a bit of an unknown in regards to function, but could have been a surface for items such as leather to be cut into strips on for example.

Finds bagging with the trainees wasn’t the only opportunity to look at some small finds as they had their usual specialist session. On the Wednesday of Week 5, we had a visit from the Friends of YAT who came for a “behind-the-scenes” tour of a live excavation. This meant they were introduced to the site, the history of it, what we have discovered so far, what we hope to learn from this season and of course, they also got the chance to look at some of our small finds…

A selection of our small finds were brought out for the trainees and the Friends of YAT behind-the-scenes tour. Even Dino came out to say hello!

Friday came around all too quickly this week and we celebrated the #dayofarchaeology with some proper sunshine, our matrix session, and lots of work in the trench. Thanks to the Week 5 team for being fabulous!

The Week 5 team.

Week 6

With Arran and Katie finally having a whole weekend off, it was time for the week that would take us to the halfway point of the last season at North Street. On Monday morning, Katie hopped in the trench with continuing trainee Janet as Arran inducted the Week 6 starters, which included quite a few familiar faces from seasons past, both trainee and placement alike!

 

The start of Week 6. Lots of awkward features to reach down to!

Joining Janet was returnee Bill, and over the course of their week the pair worked with placement Hannah on some of the post-medieval workshop deposits and cleaned up a previously discovered skeleton ready for a full set of records and lifting.

Janet is all smiles (as always) whilst Hannah and Bill take the next measurement for her to plot!

Now in her second week as a trainee this year, Janet was really getting to grips with planning, and along with Bill and Hannah the trio put together some very detailed records and started to lift the skeleton with due care and attention.

Hannah and Janet looking rightly chuffed with their finished records!

As far as the post-medieval deposits were concerned, it is thought they relate to the period of time when the various workshops stood at the site. However so far we seemed to be getting layer after layer of mixed up tipping deposits that may relate to repeated levelling activities, possibly due to a subsiding deposit further down. The more we investigate this particular area of dumping, the clearer it should become – in theory!

Elsewhere in the trench, we had more familiar faces back for another season at North Street, and we set them to work on another area of pre-graveyard archaeology; the Old Rectory wall! Kirsten and Abi  started by adding finishing touches to paperwork for the infant burial Dan and Lucy worked on in the previous week, however once those records were squared away, it was time to empty the rest of the construction backfill of the wall! As the duo kept digging, Kirsten was rewarded with a lovely little small find – a worked bone object that could be a counter or something similar.

Kirsten proudly shows off her worked bone object.

Abi adds finishing touches to the records for an infant burial first found near the Old Rectory walls a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we’re digging stratigraphically, once the fill was excavated it was time for the wall itself to come out next! Where normally we advocate careful and steady excavation with trowels and even smaller tools for burials, this task required slightly more heavy duty implements…such as a hammer and chisel! Fortunately Kirsten and Abi were more than up to the task with a little help from placement Lucy.

Kirsten and Lucy looked quite entertained as they started demolishing part of the Old Rectory walls.

As is often the case, by Friday afternoon of Week 6 we had more questions than answers as Kirsten and Abi demolished all of the brick wall to reveal a substantial mortared stone wall footing. It wasn’t yet clear if the footing contained re-used medieval masonry or if it was in fact an in-situ remnant of our 14th Century Rectory. To confirm this as well as the extent of the footing, we’ll have to keep investigating this feature in Week 7!

Kirsten cleaning off the top of a substantial stone wall footing.

The only surviving image of the Old Rectory. Have we found evidence for the earlier building, or is it later/post medieval additions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part way through the week Abi teamed up with nearby duo Jasmine and Suzanne to help record a burial partially exposed by Joanna and Nina in Week 5. Suzanne and Jasmine spent most of their week carefully cleaning up the fragile remains and coffin so they could be photographed and of course recorded. Despite the challenge presented by this burial, as it lay quite far down, the girls did a fine job of cleaning up under the watchful eye of returning placement Imogen. Recording a skeleton requires patience and care however Suzanne, Jasmine and Abi were more than up to the task, and began lifting by the end of the week.

Suzanne, Abi and Jasmine team up to record a skeleton.

Also working on a burial this week was returnee Kristy and new starter Harry, who picked up from where Sarah and Jennifer were working in Week 5. Their burial lay in the centre of the trench in a particularly well preserved and beautifully decorated coffin. The coffin contained the remains of an adult male aged between 20-40 with teeth in a noticeably poor condition, which may relate to a poor diet or lifestyle.

Harry and Kristy lifting the remains of their burial.

As the pair lifted the burial, Kristy spotted something just underneath the left wrist of the individual. On closer inspection it turned out to be a button made from oyster shell and was smaller than a one penny coin! The location of the button could suggest the individual might have been buried in a buttoned shirt of sorts, and gives a very personal window into the life and death of the parishioners of All Saints.

Kristy and her tiny little oyster shell button. It will be kept with the remains of the individual lifted from this grave.

After lifting the skeleton at the start of the week it became apparent just how well preserved their coffin was. We decided to clean it up and get additional photographs as well as amend the existing plan to include the areas where handles, fragments of the base and even some of the fabric lining had survived.

Harry carefully cleans up the coffin sides and base. The plating is just visible on the left. On the close up, the fabric lining against the sides of the coffin is quite clear.

Kristy and Harry made a great team this week. Recording was straightforward and up to a great standard!

 

The pair took to the process very well and produced a great amended record for the coffin. With records completed, the pair lifted remaining pieces of coffin and they were set aside with the skeleton to be reburied together at some point in the future.

 

 

 

Harry and his whetstone. Yay for small finds instead of stones!

Towards the end of the week, Harry had a lovely find during a washing session. After several objects turning out to be pebbles and stones that were promptly sent for “further research” on the spoilheap, Harry had yet another stone, but noticed there was something a little different about this one. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a fine worn fragment of whetstone. At last, Harry had a find we didn’t throw away; in fact it got the small finds treatment, along with obligatory victory shot…

It was a busy week for tasters too, and on Tuesday and Wednesday we were joined by Mike and Candice, who hailed from Hull and California respectively, and mother-daughter duo Laura and Jess. Excavation of a construction backfill for the Rectory cesspit was undertaken by Laura and Jess, and they turned up quite a few finds in the process. At the end of their two days they got the chance to wash some of their finds and were amazed with the variety of things that turned up. Jess was thinking of pursuing archaeology further at university – so hopefully the taster course has piqued her interest! Candice and Mike also had a great time in the Church Lane trench and found a variety of pottery types as well as participating in some of our specialist and finds processing sessions.

Jess and Laura with their crate full of finds from a construction backfill.

Mike and Candice delve deeper below Church Lane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our other tasters this week were another mum and daughter duo, Cara and Alexandra, who despite a lot of rain on their day managed a little bit of trench time to practice their trowelling skills. They also had a go at finds processing and participated in one of our specialist sessions. On Thursday Laura and Mike joined us for a couple of days, so we paired them up and they got stuck into the Church Lane trench, as well as participating in Arran’s matrix masterclass and finds processing. Their highlight however, was a fragment from the rim of a Roman Black Burnished ware pot. Whilst lovely enough in itself, a closer look at the rim led to the discovery of a deliberately incised ‘X’ mark. As this is a little different from a nondescript pottery sherd, and is the second piece with this type of incision found over the past few years at North Street, it was retained as a small find.

Laura and Mark excavating in the Church Lane trench.

‘X’ marks the spot? Visible on the left of the rim.

 

 

 

 

 

Along with Kirsten’s discovery of the mortared stone wall footing at the Old Rectory end of the trench, we had a lovely, sunny and exciting finish to Friday afternoon. What a way to mark reaching the halfway point of this final season! As always, huge thank you to our trainees old and new for making this possible, as well as the placements for making mine and Arran’s job that bit easier…

The Week 6 team.

Till next time!

-Katie

P.S: Whilst we’re on the subject of placements, after reuniting with the force of nature that is Imogen at the start of Week 6, Arran kindly asked us to demonstrate some key archaeology poses for the twitter updates. We’re fond of general daftness and so were quite happy to oblige…

Placements (and former placement) reunite to recreate those classic archaeology poses, all of which are good workouts for the legs in particular!

2017 Site Diary: Weeks 3 & 4

After a hectic first fortnight at All Saints, there was no time to pause for breath. The second Saturday of July dawned bright and sunny and the first weekend team of the year got straight to work!

Digging gear ready to go!

Digging gear ready to go!

Weekend Warriors

Inducted, oriented and tooled up, the new team took straight to the trench. The plan of attack was to attack on two fronts, investigating two very different sequences of archaeology.

Dineke, Sue and Gill get started.

Dineke, Sue and Gill get started.

In the centre of the trench, Archaeology Live! veterans Sue and Gill were joined by new starter Dineke and began work on what was believed to be the final grave plot to be investigated. Over the previous three seasons, a sequence of 19th century deposits had been excavated and the team had begun to wonder if the space had ever received a burial. As work progressed, a faint rectangular edge did eventually emerge and the new team made quick work of recording their suspected grave backfill.

Let excavation begin!

Let excavation begin!

Recording done, it was now time to break out the trowels and start digging. As the depth of a burial can never be predicted, this process is carried out slowly and with great care and one of the edges of the grave cut proved to be very clear – the others were somewhat less co-operative.

When graves have been tightly packed together and repeatedly re-opened in the past, it isn’t unusual to find their edges to be a little diffuse and the trio tackled the task with admiral patience. Thankfully, this was met with fine reward when  some stunning finds began to emerge.

Dineke's enigmatic lead object.

Dineke’s enigmatic lead object.

Dineke struck first, spotting an oddly shaped and distinctly heavy object from the mass of animal bone and pottery that was being recovered from the backfill deposit. The object was made of lead, but didn’t appear to relate to maintenance of the stained glass, as so many of our other lead artefacts have. Its purpose may remain a mystery for now, but an assessment of our small finds is scheduled for next year and may tell us a little more.

Gill and her freshly unearthed coin.

Gill and her freshly unearthed coin.

Not to be beaten, Gill celebrated her fifth season of Archaeology Live! with a real benchmark in any archaeologist’s experience – her first ever coin!

The tiny object appears to have been made of copper alloy and was covered in a thick layer of corrosion. Nonetheless, its shape and thickness appeared distinctly Roman, making it another addition top a growing assemblage of Roman coinage found at All Saints.

As we’re digging in the heart of the civilian Roman city (the Colonia), finding a good number of coins isn’t a great surprise. The interesting development is the relative scarcity of any later coins, which appear in far less quantity.

There could be numerous reasons for this skewed assemblage, but it seems very likely that the site was an important place in the height of York’s Roman splendour. As with Dineke’s lead object, we hope to learn more about Gill’s coin in post-excavation.

On the road again…

In the very north-east corner of the trench, Debi, Sonia and Richard were making their Archaeology Live! debut in a very exciting new sondage (archaeologist parlance for a ‘trench within a trench’). Church Lane is a narrow passage that runs along the north side of All Saints and connects North Street to Tanner Row. Today, it is a quiet, private footpath, but it was once a busy route between the waterfront of the Ouse and the centre of York’s tanning industry. Only one section has ever been excavated across the street back in the 2015 season and the results of this were unexpected to say the least.

Richard, Sonia and Debi beginning the Church Lane slot.

Richard, Sonia and Debi beginning the Church Lane slot.

Beginning with a sequence of 19th and early 20th century service cuts for drains and cables, the 2015 sondage didn’t get off to a glamorous start, although the fill of the drain trench did yield a beautiful Roman coin. The surprise came later as, buried beneath 18th century road surfaces, a pair of post-medieval burials were revealed close to the wall of the church. These burials appear to have been interred at a point when this area was not an active burial ground – what was going on?

Sonia hard at work

Sonia hard at work

Of course, there was only one way to find out – time to dig!

With the (incredibly heavy) flagstones of the path lifted, the first task was to quickly record the latest feature beneath them. In this case, the drainage beneath the street appears to have been replaced in the 1920s, leaving a long thin trench beneath the street.

While this is hardly Stonehenge, this drain cut is one of the deepest features on the whole site and, as a result, was cut through many centuries of archaeological deposits which, following the installation of the 1920s drains, were then used to backfill the hole. This means that lots of earlier finds have been re-deposited within the trench, finds that can tell us a lot about the site’s more ancient past.

Sonia, Richard and Debi immediately began to see the results of this process as a wonderful array of finds veritably poured from the trench.

Sonia and her Cistercian mug base.

Sonia and her Cistercian mug base.

There were many highlights, with a particularly stunning array of ceramics stealing the show. Sonia discovered the base of a 16th century Cistercian ware cup with a lovely iridescent purple brown glaze. The cup would likely have been a two handled vessel and provides a direct connection to one of the area’s post-medieval inhabitants. Holding the objects people used on a day to day basis is one of the real pleasures of archaeology after all!

Debi, Sonia, Richard and a selection of their many finds

Debi, Sonia, Richard and a selection of their many finds

All told, the pottery found in the top few inches of the feature filled several finds trays and spanned from locally made 2nd century Ebor wares to late 19th century white wares – that’s a date range of just shy of two millennia! You really can’t beat digging in York.

The good weather held for the whole weekend and the team made an excellent start on the two new features. There would, however, be no rest for the wicked – it was time for week three!

The July weekend team.

The July weekend team.

Week Three

The fine weather of the July weekend didn’t last for long and the third Monday of the dig began on a decidedly damp note. Undeterred by grey skies, the continuing trainees from week two dived straight into the trench with Katie, while Arran inducted the new starters.

Sam and Jenni cleaning a pair of neighbouring coffins.

Sam and Jenni cleaning a pair of neighbouring coffins.

Bad weather hampered much of week three, forcing the team to juggle the schedule to make best use of gaps in the rain, but it would take more than cold, wet ‘Yorkshire sunshine’ to hold our team back!

Spirits remain high as the team shelter beneath the Tree of Finds.

Spirits remain high as the team shelter beneath the Tree of Finds.

New starters Linden and Karu took over the excavation of the burial started by Gill, Sue and Dineke at the weekend and successfully defined three clear edges to the cut. The remaining edge remained elusive, with the loose backfill deposit spreading further to the north than might have been expected.

Linden and his stopper.

Linden and his stopper.

In spite of this curious edge, the feature yielded some interesting finds including a ceramic stopper from a 19th century bottle. The stopper most likely had a second life as a child’s marble as bottles of this type were frequently smashed by children to recover the stoppers.

Karu's bone object.

Karu’s bone object.

Not to be left behind, Karu came across a fragment of beautifully worked bone. The object appears to have been purely decorative and may well have been made by the horn and bone workers who occupied the site prior to its use as a graveyard.

After three days of patient trowelling, the gents were rewarded with the discovery of the coffin. While the wood only survived as an organic stain, the decorative band of metal around the edge of the coffin was clearly visible and a fragment of the collapsed lid demonstrated how beautifully decorated the coffins would have been.

A fragment of decorative coffin plate.

A fragment of decorative coffin plate.

By the end of the week, Karu and Linden had exposed around half of the coffin, which was no mean feat considering how difficult it was to reach the base of the cut. There was also one more find in store, as Karu spotted a rather enigmatic sherd of pottery…

Karu and the Demon Duck

Karu and the ‘Demon Duck’

The sherd appears to be the handle of a 19th century vessel and has been shaped in to the head of an animal. Debate raged in the trench as to precisely what creature Karu had found; was it a swan? A snake? A dragon? Karu’s suggestions of a ‘demon duck’ seems sensible enough to us…

Whatever the truth of the matter, this is certainly an unusual find – and a strong contender for find of the season!

The team hard at work.

The team hard at work.

Sam and Jenni continued work on a double burial in the centre of the trench. With one individual lifted, they were now free to clean up the remains of the other occupant of the grave.

While the upper burial had been challenging due to its collapse into the underlying coffin, the lower burial proved to be equally challenging. There was no further issue with subsidence into a lower feature but, in this case, the remains were incredibly delicate. As more of the skeleton was revealed, Sam and Jenni could see that the skeleton was female and that the bone was unusually porous, with evidence of extensive wear and tear in the spine and joints. Furthermore, almost all of the teeth were missing and had been absent long enough for the sockets in the maxilla and mandible to have almost totally healed over – this had clearly been a very elderly lady.

Jenni and Sam recording a skeleton.

Jenni and Sam recording a skeleton.

Discovering an individual like this was an important development as it provides a window into a an aspect of 19th century life that isn’t always apparent in the archaeological record – compassion.

To a casual modern observer, the 19th century can seem remote, cold, even callous. At All Saints, we have certainly seen a very high occurrence of infant mortality and the countless ways that this may have touched the lives of families living in the parish can only be imagined. Workhouses, debtors’ gaols, child labour, outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have become emblematic of this fascinating period of British history; permeating the fabric of the public consciousness.

Sam and Jenni’s discovery, however, demonstrates that a woman who must have been in near constant pain and struggled with her mobility was cared for well enough to live to a ripe old age. With the few records that survive relating to our burial ground still awaiting further study, we may never know the name of this woman, or who it was that cared for her in her final years, but we are able to put forward some possibilities.

Colton's Hospital as seen on the 1852 OS map.

Colton’s Hospital as seen on the 1852 OS map (image credit https://yorkmaps.net/1852)

The 1852 OS map of York depicts a row of buildings marked as Colton’s Hospital a mere stone’s throw from the west end of Church Lane. An annotation reads, ‘An Almshouse for Poor Women’ and contemporary census data even lists the names of some of the residents. Was our lady a resident of Colton’s? Or was she cared for at home by her family? Whatever the truth, this lady was certainly not abandoned.

Crucially, it is clear that at least some measures were in place to care for the most vulnerable parishioners of All Saints, North Street and it is certainly refreshing to see a more human aspect of 19th century life visible in the archaeological record.

Sam, Hannah and Jenni washing finds in the sunshine

Sam, Hannah and Jenni washing finds in the sunshine

At the south end of the trench, close to the walls of the former Rectory, Josh, Hannah and Laura picked up the excavation of another burial. As has become something of an All Saints tradition, this feature required the team to adopt some unusual digging positions…

Josh, Hannah and Laura working on a burial.

Josh, Hannah and Laura working on a burial.

The team proved to be very capable and didn’t take long to have the skeleton recorded and carefully lifted. The next task was to fully clean and record the remains of the coffin, which now stood empty for the first time in around 160 years.

Katie pointing out the clear outline of a newly empty coffin.

Katie pointing out the clear outline of a newly empty coffin.

Laura pointing out bands of medieval stratigraphy in section.

Laura pointing out bands of medieval stratigraphy in section.

 

Before the end of the week, the coffin was also ready to lift and the trio started to clean up the cut of the grave, revealing a tantalising surprise in section.

Clearly visible in the edge of the grave cut were bands of grey and black ash and charcoal that clearly pre-date both the lifetime of the graveyard and the workshops that came before it. Were we looking at more surviving elements of a medieval yard? Only time would tell…

Medieval yard surfaces?

Medieval yard surfaces?

Finally, Josh, Laura and Hannah topped off a successful week with some great finds, including a piece of decorative glasswork from the 18th/19th century and a cute little bone button.

Hannah, Laura and Josh with their latest find.

Hannah, Laura and Josh with their latest find.

Cute as a button.

‘Cute as a button…’

In the neighbouring burial plot, were also faced with the challenges of excavating the uppermost burial within a single burial plot. With a great deal of patience (and occasionally numb legs!) the pair squeezed into a difficult space and made really good headway.

Gill and Adele

Gill and Adele

Discerning what elements of a burial are collapsed and in-situ can be very difficult, but Gill and Adele were quick to adapt. On a rainy afternoon, they also accurately transferred a benchmark around the inside of the church with a dumpy level. We love gadgets, but it’s always good to master the old fashioned hard skills too!

Indoor levelling exercises.

Indoor levelling exercises.

The team were bolstered by a healthy crowd of tasters who joined us for one to two day sessions on-site. Early in the week, the team of Juliet, Bernard and Janet took over the excavation of our Church Lane sondage, before passing the baton to Sarah, Helen, Janet and Bev.

On your marks, get set, TROWEL!On your marks, get set, TROWEL!

On your marks, get set, TROWEL!

Finds of Roman, medieval and post-medieval pottery continued to appear in the service trench backfill running beneath the street surface, as did a substantial amount of disarticulated human bone.

Juliet, a doctor from Cambridgeshire, unearthed the star find – a small shard of what appears to be post-medieval window glass. The glass was immediately placed into a finds bag with a small amount of water, before being placed in a cool, dark container. This will slow down the decay that can terribly affect ancient glass.

With the trench being situated immediately adjacent to the church, it is perfectly possible that this glass was once set within one of All Saints’ world famous windows. If only finds could speak…

Juliet and her star find.

Juliet and her star find.

As well as having a busy week in the trench, the week’s new starters also enjoyed our signature specialist sessions.

Pottery. More fun than you might think...

Pottery. More fun than you might think…

Anyone familiar with Time Team will know how impressive it is when a beautiful 3D graphic is produced after an archaeologist unearths a tiny pot sherd. Happily, you don’t need a PhD to be able to learn a lot from even the smallest ceramic find. After an hour with Arran and our reference collection, the team were well on their way to happily telling their Gritty Wares from their Grey Wares!

For the first two seasons at All Saints, a reference collection of small finds (objects of individual significance) was used to teach trainees to recognise different artefacts and material types. By 2016, the finds we had recovered from our own little trench had become a far more exciting collection! As a result, this session has now also become a chance to admire our own assemblage!

Getting to grips with stratigraphy.

Getting to grips with stratigraphy.

Stratigraphy and the dreaded Harris Matrix were the concern of our final specialist session of the week. Placing hundreds of individual contexts into an accurate stratigraphic sequence has been the bane of many a student of archaeology, however, our irreverent take on the subject has always  had great success; there are just a few more unicorns than usual…

All told, week three turned out to be a real gem, with plenty of finds too!

The week three team

The week three team

 

Katie explaining some of our more interesting artefacts.

Katie explaining some of our more interesting artefacts.

After seven days straight on site, there was no rest yet for Arran and Katie as July 16th marked the beginning of the UK Festival of Archaeology.  To celebrate, a well attended open day was held at All Saints, giving local people a chance to see the site and to see our most exciting finds so far.

Week 4

The fourth week of the dig began amidst a flurry of sunshine, small finds and Samian.

Gill adds another find to her growing collection!

Gill adds another find to her growing collection!

Returnee Gill was quick off the mark with the discovery of a cute copper alloy object while Jenni unearthed a lovely rim sherd from a Samian ware vessel.

This was the beginning of a flurry of nice finds, with sudden bursts of celebration echoing around the trench. Jenni led the charge by spying a fragment of a medieval coin within the backfill of her feature.

Week four was off to a flying start!

Jenni and her coin.

Jenni and her coin.

This was Jenni’s third and final week on-site and she was joined by new starter Andrew to excavate another of our 19th century inhumations. While the sunshine was welcome, the high contrast made photography something of a challenge!

Bloody shadows!

‘Bloody shadows!’

Josh and Laura continued work on the burial they started back in week three, lifting the remains of the coffin and recording the cut.

Laura and Josh

Laura and Josh

With one burial now fully dealt with, the time appeared to have finally come to further investigate the Rectory walls. As a context can only be excavated once all related later features have been taken away, this moment had been a long time coming, but when Josh and Laura discovered an as-yet unknown burial, the walls received a stay of execution.

Josh and his haul of small finds.

Josh and his haul of small finds.

While, Josh and Laura weren’t able to begin dismantling the walls of the Rectory just yet, the newly discovered inhumation yielded some really interesting finds.

Josh struck first, finding not only a copper alloy button, but also a coin! The object was highly corroded, but its size and thickness would suggest that it is Roman in date and must have been on quite the journey to end up in a 19th century grave.

The ‘mobility’ of finds is an interesting thing to consider. The landscape along the River Ouse has changed dramatically since the 9th and 6th Legions paraded the streets of Eboracum and Roman ground level may now be situated several metres below even the deepest features that we have excavated so far.

Laura and her pipe bowl.

Laura and a rather interesting pipe bowl.

If Josh’s coin was misplaced during the Roman period, the deposit that it fell into must have been repeatedly disturbed by people digging pits, foundations and myriad other intrusive features. Each time the coin was moved, it was inadvertently re-deposited at contemporary ground level and, crucially, wasn’t noticed and recovered by the person who was disturbing the ground. Over the centuries, as the coin grew worn and ever more corroded, the chances of it ever seeing the light of day again would have grown ever more remote. Until Josh came along, of course!

This worn little object has clearly had quite the adventure on its way to becoming part of the archaeological record!

Not one to be left behind, Laura also recovered an interesting and rather convenient small find complete with the date of its manufacture – 1828.

Mason York 1828

‘Mason York 1828’

The find was a clay pipe bowl; not an uncommon discovery, but a rather fine example. In this case, the moulded decoration includes the crest of the City of York and a maker’s mark that allows us to know exactly who manufactured this pipe. The 1828 date corresponds with the lifetime of the graveyard, perhaps the pipe was used by a parishioner or even a grave digger. We’ve done a little research into this particular kind of pipe in a previous season and found that it comes with an intriguing story (have a read here!).

Elsewhere in the trench, other burials were also proving to be quite fruitful, although their inaccessibility was requiring the team to squeeze into some tight spaces!

Sue and Gill investigating one of our deeper graves.

Sue and Gill investigating one of our deeper graves.

In the centre of the trench, Sue and Gill returned to the burial they began work on back in the weekend excavation. While one edge of the cut remained thoroughly elusive, they were able to discern the whole outline of the coffin and to begin exposing the remains of its occupant. Over the course of the week, the industrious pair were even able to reveal enough of the skeleton to determine that she was female.

Aching arms, but still smiling!

Aching arms, but still smiling!

Reaching into this grave without putting any weight on delicate remains proved to be quite the workout for Sue and Gill, but they were able to make really good progress regardless!

Elsewhere in the trench, new starters Joanna and Lizzie picked up work on another tricky burial. While the individual wasn’t interred at a great depth, parts of the body were found to have slumped into an underlying void – there was almost certainly another individual buried below.

Joanna and Lizzie

Joanna and Lizzie

Cleaning up human remains is never an easy task, especially when bones aren’t necessarily found where they should be(!), but Joanna and Lizzie did a great job and veteran Arch Live! placement Paul was on hand to help create a detailed record.

Paul, Lizzie and Joanna completing their records.

Paul, Lizzie and Joanna completing their records.

Week four was a busy week for taster days! A small army made up of Hannah, Mark, Diane, Andrew, Ceri, Max, Chris and Julia joined us to work on our Church Lane trench and a sequence of features that pre-date the graveyard.

Chris and Julia in the ever-deepening Church Lane slot.

Chris and Julia in the ever-deepening Church Lane slot.

The Church Lane slot continued to be very fruitful, earning its nickname of ‘The Treasure Pit!’

A huge range of pottery was unearthed, with Roman ceramics occurring in notable quantity!

Hannah and her coin.

Hannah and her coin.

It wasn’t just pottery either, as Hannah marked her first ever excavation experience with the discovery of a beautifully preserved 4th century Roman coin! As first days go, this was a good one!

A closer look...

A closer look at Hannahs Roman coin.

Back in the trench, the tasters recorded and excavated more deposits below the floor levels of our 18th century workshops.

Diane and Andrew learning to read AOD heights.

Diane and Andrew learning to read AOD heights.

While the good weather didn’t hold all week, the team remained in good cheer!

Wet Wet Wet

Wet Wet Wet!

Finds Mountain certainly wasn’t neglected during week 4, as the team cleaned, sorted and bagged hundreds of our latest finds.

Wash Wash Wash

Wash Wash Wash!

Before we knew it, Friday was upon us and the fourth week of the dig was almost over. With one third of the dig already behind us, time was really flying, but we had already learned a huge amount more about the site.

Dig Dig Dig!

Dig Dig Dig!

At the end of play, tools were gathered together, buckets were stacked, records were filed and bags were packed. As the team gathered in the pub, we looked back on another fantastic week of people powered archaeology – and there were still eight weeks left to go! What surprises were left in store for us? Watch this space for updates!

Onwards and downwards!

-Arran

The week 4 team.

The week 4 team.

PS. It’s always nice to get a bit of recognition for your work, especially when it comes from eminent archaeologists like Francis Pryor!

Site Diary: Summer Week 12

The final week of the 2016 season dawned with blue skies, bright sunshine and warm temperatures- the last gasps of summer. It made us appreciate quite how beautiful the church would have been in its medieval peak, with a crown of green glazed roof tiles, it would have practically glowed. The season’s end clearly got us all rather whimsical, but what everyone actually wants to hear about is the archaeology- so let’s get to it!

A good start to the day, in our beautiful site cabin

We had a mixture of newbies and regulars on site this week but it also marked the return of the other half of our favourite Italian Dynamic Duo- Elisa! Doing what she does best, she sprang straight into action recording an infant burial before moving onto some pre-graveyard deposits, picking apart the stratigraphy of a few features that have been visible, but not free to excavate for nearly three years! Elisa’s rubble and tile filled 18th century pit soon bore finds fruit with a lovely medieval vessel rim and handle fragment followed quickly by another fragment from the same vessel.  We allowed ourselves to hope that the rest would appear, but archaeology rarely does what you want it to!

Elisa proving once again how capable she is at paperwork

Elisa’s unusual medieval pottery fragments fit together perfectly!

Federica, our other skilled Italian archaeologist, continued working this week on exposing the coffin stain for her adult burial- and boy was this a tall fellow! Every time someone checked on her the coffin had crept further and further until about six foot of coffin had been exposed. As the skeleton was carefully exposed, the skull suggested that we were looking at an adult  male who died relatively young.

He just kept growing! Federica excavating the coffin of a young adult male

Federica also recovered a rather phenomenal piece of colour coat Roman pottery, complete with lettering! It was quite an unusual sherd, so we asked around our archaeology contacts and a helpful individual offered an example of another recently discovered Roman cup. It doesn’t take an expert to spot the similarity and this is incredibly helpful as it helps us visualise how the whole of Federica’s cup would have looked.

Federica’s pottery shard (above) and an example from another site (below)

Nene Valley, or colour-coat wares, were made in numerous sites, with a large production centre in the Nene Valley in Cambridgeshire. There is some similarity with this pottery type and wares from the Lower Rhineland. The production of this pottery was based in Durobrivae, a fortified garrison town now known as Water Newton, but there were also kilns in the surrounding area. The wares began to appear in the mid 2nd century but remained prolific for much of the Roman occupation of Britain.

By the Rectory, Lynne, in her second week with us, has been joined by Rose and Poppy as she continues to expose the construction cut that she and Sophia identified last week. The three made quick work of cleaning and recording the construction cut and soon began to excavate the backfill so that we can finally ‘unlock’ the rectory walls and remove them (a context is only free to dig when all related features that post-date it have been dealt with).

Lynne, Poppy & Rose busy excavating their rectory wall construction backfill

The three made a good team and exposed the footings of the rectory in record time with Lynne and her keen eyes spying a coin in the backfill which makes this the third week in a row where a Roman coin has been recovered. She was naturally delighted with her find!

Lynne’s fantastic find!

Katie and Emma this week returned to their gradually deepening quest into the medieval period and it was getting more awkward and tighter by the moment- most people wouldn’t want to spend this much time down a hole with their sister (believe me, I have two of them) but Katie and Emma did a wonderful job navigating the tricky working conditions while exposing more medieval levelling layers.

Katie and Emma getting ever deeper…

Clive and Alistair, towards the center of the site, were busy unpicking a complex sequence of medieval dumps. These are important features to attempt to piece together a picture of the use and occupation along the street running down the side of All Saints Church.

Clive and Alistair defining a pit they have come across

With a sequence of complex deposits comes much paperwork, so Clive and Alistair also have to keep up to date their pile of paperwork, as you can see getting a good use out of planning frame.

Alistair and Clive planning their medieval dumps

Also this week we were visited for a day by Maree and Debra from Australia, that is dedication to archaeology! They worked on a robber cut that was started by Zachary earlier in the week.

Maree and Debra experiencing the joys of digging in British summer!

Taking advantage of some rainy weather we also got a chance to catch up on some finds bagging, this gave us a chance to bag up properly one of the star finds of the 2015 season. This delightful late-20th/early-21st century artefact was recovered from present day topsoil and has been affectionately called ‘Creepy Baby’.

Creepy Baby attempting to get out of his/her bag!

Week 12 was a fantastic week that saw us really starting to get into the Medieval deposits, allowing us to create a story for how people used the site before it became a graveyard. Thanks to our fantastic team this week for helping us to see out the end of this year’s excavations. Now to start planning what we will do through winter and what will come in Archaeology Live! next year. Hope to see you there!

-Becky

Week 12 team shot

 

2017 Site Diary: Weeks 1 & 2

The ancient streets of York can be a bustling melee of tourists and locals, battling for space beneath the jettied floors of listing medieval buildings. As with many such cities, however, there are many hidden snickleways down which one can briefly escape the clamour of modern life. Tucked between the imposing church of All Saints, North Street and its neighbouring row of 14th century cottages, the well worn paving of Church Lane is one such place to find quiet and sanctuary in the heart of the city. That was, of course, until the archaeologists arrived…

Church Lane hiding in the shade of All Saints, North Street. Image courtesy of David Dodwell

In 2014, the Archaeology Live! training excavation broke ground away from the familiar surrounds of the Hungate development for the first time in almost a decade. While the Hungate project had been a whirlwind tour covering two millennia of York’s past, the time had come for a change and the All Saints, North Street excavation proved to be an excellent successor. Three years, hundreds of archaeological contexts and thousands of finds later, the team returned to the trench for one last hurrah before once again moving to pastures new.

Here is the tale of our final adventure at All Saints, North Street and it all began with… weeding. LOTS of weeding.

Trench of the Triffids.

Abandoned for nine months, the newly verdant trench had taken on a life of its own, leaving site manager Arran the unenviable task of clearing away the greenery. Predictably, this task was carried out on the hottest day of the year but several gallons of mud, sweat and tears later, the site was back to its sparkling self and the stage was set.

Week One

The 2017 season marked a big step forward for YAT archaeologist Katie, as it marked her first season as an Archaeology Live! supervisor. This was a well deserved benchmark for Katie, who had dug at All Saints successively as a trainee, a placement and, finally, professional staff.

With rain forecast, Arran and Katie flew the new team through the rigours of the site induction and got straight to work!

Katherine, Molly, Calum and Adrienne set to work.

Katherine, Molly, Calum and Adrienne set to work on a pair of burials.

Grave Concerns

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, York was faced with a rapidly growing population, a development that placed extra strain on the city’s already burgeoning churchyards. Churches like All Saints and St Crux, Shambles were forced to acquire additional land in which to inter their deceased parishioners and much of the current excavation area was consecrated in 1826. By 1854, all of York’s churchyards were closed by order. Reports of wells being tainted by liquids draining from burial grounds were rife and reform was badly needed. Despite this relatively brief lifespan, the burial ground has proved to be densely occupied.

Discussions with the church over the close season had brought about a change to our approach to the site’s 19th century burials. Three years of excavation had brought about a good understanding of the site’s deposit model and over seventy separate burials had been identified and recorded. In 2015 and 2016, the team had been requested to carefully lift shallow lying infant and juvenile burials for re-interment within the ossuary of the church, while deeper lying adult burials had been recorded, re-covered and left in-situ.  This new knowledge of the depth and location of the burials proved that the proposed re-development of the site would effectively destroy all of the site’s inhumations. In response, permission was granted by the church authorities to exhume the remains of all individuals buried on-site with a view for them to be temporarily housed within the church. Prior to any future construction work taking place, the remains will then be re-buried in the same site, but at a greater depth. This considered solution will allow for the site to enter a new chapter of occupation, whilst also respecting the remains of the individuals who chose to be buried there and protecting them from any damage.

This process will also allow for the remains to be studied archaeologically, revealing tell-tale signs of age, gender, illness and lifestyle. With scant historic records regarding the burial ground surviving, it was down to our trainees to learn as much as possible about the lives of the parishioners of All Saints, North Street.

Steve, Catriona, Andy and Stephen excavating a pair of neighbouring graves.

With the further investigation of the burial ground being a primary goal of the 2017 season, the whole team set to work on four of the site’s burials. Each of these individuals had been at least partially exposed in previous seasons, before being re-covered beneath a cushion of sieved earth and a protective wooden board. The first task at hand was to remove our own 21st century backfill material and to fully clean the delicate remains below. With a mix of experienced and brand new trainees, Arran and Katie were delighted by the team’s suitably patient and considered trowel work.

Working with human remains demands a high level of care and respect and each inhumation will come with its own unique challenges. From a young person in their early teens to a very elderly female, the four burials under investigation in week one allowed the team to get a good grasp of the varied ways that skeletal remains can tell us their stories.

The well preserved remains of a timber coffin.

Cleaning the well preserved remains of a timber coffin.

A defining character of practically all of the burials at All Saints has been the ubiquity of timber coffins, the majority coming complete with decorative metal panels. All four burials from week one featured clear evidence of these coffins, with remains of timber surviving remarkably well after around 160 years in the ground.

Molly and a freshly unearthed button.

Alongside the fascinating insights into burial practice, the backfills of the graves were also yielding some interesting discoveries. As a grave is usually backfilled with the earth that was upcast from its excavation, this material will contain evidence of what was happening in years prior to the cutting of the grave.

The provenance of individual objects recovered from these backfilling deposits can therefore be quite varied. For example, a 19th century individual digging a grave may accidentally drop something a contemporary object such as a coin. It is, however, equally possible that the digging of the hole may unearth much older artefacts within spoil that is briefly piled beside the grave and ultimately used to cover the coffin.

Fittingly, week one saw some very interesting objects discovered within grave backfills.

Keen-eyed Molly spotted a lovely little button that had been skilfully crafted from a piece of animal bone. It is even possible that the object could have been manufactured in one of the workshops known to have occupied the site in the decades prior to its consecration!

 

Stephen and a rather lovely architectural fragment.

In the centre of the trench, Stephen and Andy’s grave yielded a beautifully worked piece of medieval masonry that may once have adorned part of the church.

As everyone knows, there is far more to archaeology than just digging, and the team’s week was broken up with training in other important aspects of the discipline. Alongside seminars on pottery, small finds, stratigraphy and conservation, the team also processed finds and learned survey techniques. With unpredictable weather, the team were grateful to have the church as an impromptu site hut and teaching space!

Transferring benchmarks with a dumpy level.

Catriona and Katherine transferring benchmarks with a dumpy level.

Katie walking Steve and Catriona through the compilation of detailed context cards.

Katie walking Steve and Catriona through the compilation of detailed context cards.

After the long wait for the digging season to start, week one seemed to fly by in a blur! By the end of the week, one individual had already been lifted and the coffins within the other three graves were being recorded.

Thanks to the hard work and professional attitude of the week one team, the 2017 season got off to a flying start!

The week one team.

The week one team.

Week Two

In the second week of the summer excavation, we were joined by a mix of new starters and a few familiar faces. Alongside the new intake of trainees, Arran and Katie were joined by Archaeology Live! legend Dave (The Dig), who became the first placement to join the 2017 team.

A busy trench!

A busy trench!

Work continued on the four burials from week one and as the grave cuts grew ever deeper, the team were forced to employ increasingly unusual digging positions to reach the delicate remains within.

It's all a bit of a reach for Calum and Molly.

It’s all a bit of a reach for Calum and Molly.

While Calum and Molly carefully exposed an adult individual within a well-preserved coffin, returnee Jan and new starter Tony recovered the remains of a newly empty coffin and began to clean up the grave cut for recording. In doing so, they became the first archaeologists of the season to ask what would become a frequently asked question – is another individual buried within this grave plot?

Jan and Tony squeezing into a tight spot while investigating a grave cut.

Jan and Tony squeezing into a tight spot while investigating a grave cut.

Many of the burials at All Saints have been laid to rest in communal plots, with coffins buried one on top of the other. In some cases, it seems multiple individuals were interred at once, while in other cases graves seem to have been intermittently re-opened. The graves with multiple occupants may represent family plots or efficient use of the site’s limited space.

With their skeleton and coffin lifted, Jan and Tony would now have to carefully clean the base of the grave cut to ascertain whether anyone else was interred below. In this case, the pair were met with firm, intact stratigraphy at the base as opposed to looser, more mixed grave backfill – this was a single grave.

Molly lending a hand to Jenni and Sam on a complicated burial sequence.

Molly lending a hand to Jenni and Sam on a complicated burial sequence.

Elsewhere in the trench, 2016 veterans Sam and Jenni were dealing with a particularly tricky burial. This was at the very least a double inhumation and when the coffin of the underlying grave had eventually decayed and collapsed, the individual had slumped downwards into the earlier cut.

As a result of this, the skeleton was laid in a very unusual position with the right arm and the right side of the torso suspended awkwardly up to 200mm above the rest of the body. Furthermore, the remains of the lower individual were situated directly beneath those of the one above; Jenni and Sam would have to clean the skeleton with great care to avoid any confusion over which bones belonged to which person.

Calum, Jenni and Sam hard at work on a double inhumation.

Calum, Jenni and Sam hard at work on a double inhumation.

With the help of Calum and Molly, Sam and Jenni were able to expose the entirety of the skeleton and were well underway with the recording by the end of the week – a very impressive achievement! The burial was clearly of an adult individual, but damage to the skeleton during the collapse of the coffins made it very difficult to define its sex.

Sam beginning a detailed skeleton plan.

Sam beginning a detailed skeleton plan.

At the northern end of the trench, Steve and Catriona also managed to fully expose a skeleton, revealing some fascinating information about person’s health. The skeleton was clearly male and unusually robust, with exaggerated muscle attachments  suggesting that the person would have been highly active. With these skeletal abnormalities and railways, sawmills and flour mills close by, the man was clearly employed in a physical job.

Catriona cleaning a skeleton.

Steve planning a skeleton.

Steve planning a skeleton.

In spite of this active lifestyle, however, evidence from the teeth and pelvis would suggest that the person was only around 45 at the time of death – a sobering reminder of the low life expectancy of the time.

No cause of death was apparent, but the joints were extremely worn and there were many issues with the teeth. Clearly, this individual would have lived with a great deal of pain.

 

Steve and Catriona’s burial was in such a good state of preservation that the pair carried out a photogrammetric survey as well as creating a traditional plan drawing. Watch this space for the results when they’re processed!

Conservator Charlotte leading a tour of YATs conservation lab.

Conservator Charlotte leading a tour of YAT’s conservation lab.

The week two team kept up to the excellent standard of work set by the previous team and dealt admirably with some challenging conditions. Many questions were answered and the week ended on a real high when Molly was offered her first ever professional contract by Cotswold Archaeology! Over her three weeks as an Archaeology Live! trainee, Molly has learned a lot and we wish her the best in her career!

Good luck Molly!

Good luck Molly!

Week two succeeded in bringing us closer to the lives of the people we are studying at All Saints, reminding us of the unimaginable difficulties that people would have faced and none of this would be possible without the hard work of our trainees.

The week two team.

The week two team.

So, there we were. Two weeks down and it was like we’d never left. After three years, the chance to interact more directly with the human remains had proved to be highly evocative. Archaeology’s unique ability to recover intricate details of peoples’ lives can be astonishing. After just two weeks, the careful work of our team was already revealing the incredible amount of hard work that made up the lives of some of All Saints’ 19th century parishioners. We were able to learn more about the health worries that would have weighed on their minds, even down to the particulars of aches and pains. While the excavation of a burial ground obviously tells us mainly about how peoples’ lives ended, the remains can also tell us how they lived.

Over the coming weeks, there would be no slowing down. Watch this space for further updates!

In the meantime, onwards and downwards!

-Arran

 

 

Site Diary: Summer Week 10

Week 10 saw some wonderful late summer sunshine that lasted for the entire week, it felt like July rather than the start of September! To go with this lovely weather we had a good bunch of continuing, new and returning trainees eager to get into the trench on Monday. Oh – we also had some fabulous finds and archaeology too!

Ashley, Jacob and Becky leveling a burial as week 10 gets off to a beautiful start!

Ashley, Jacob and Becky leveling a burial as week 10 gets off to a beautiful start!

Continuing work on their burial were Ashley and Jacob, who at the start of the week finished off the recording of a C19th juvenile burial. With records squared away they carefully lifted all of the remains by Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were spent cleaning up the grave cut and collecting any stray coffin fragments so they could be put safely with the rest of the remains ready for reburial in the church. Then it was a case of recording the grave cut which they completed by the end of the week.

Ashley and Jacob working on their burial.

Ashley and Jacob working on their burial.

The pair over the past two weeks have done a great job of very carefully and considerately working with this burial and their records are to our usual high standards. During one of our finds washing sessions pottery enthusiast Ashley found a ceramic which has proved to be something of an enigma due to its peculiar shape – it looks a bit like a loom weight but certainly made us scratch our heads!

Ashley with her strangely shaped pottery sherd.

Ashley with her strangely shaped pottery sherd.

A closer look.

A closer look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also working on burials this week was new starter Dan, although his skeleton proved to be a bit tricky to expose! The back fill for this grave was much deeper than anticipated, so whilst the upper half was revealed after a couple of days, it wasn’t until the end of the week that Dan finally managed to uncover the legs.

Dan reaching into his ever-deepening grave!

Dan reaching into his ever-deepening grave!

As Dan will be with us through until week 11 he will be able to get his recording completed next week before moving onto his next task.

Mother-daughter taster team Cheryl and Lydia spent their day working on a graveyard soil for which they finished the records off, and then began to excavate. Their deposit is called a graveyard soil because it was deposited whilst the graveyard was in use. As so many graves were dug over the space of 28 years it is inevitable that we will find several layers of dark spreads of soil that spill across the site. Cheryl and Lydia’s soil was one of several spreads that have been recorded and dug, and as these deposits are almost the exact same fill as the graves themselves it makes it very hard to distinguish individual burials!

In the foreground Lydia and Cheryl work on their deposit underneath beautiful September sunshine!

In the foreground Lydia and Cheryl work on their deposit underneath beautiful September sunshine!

Working nearby on another complicated burial was new starter Jenny and continuing trainee Victoria. They were tasked with exposing a small infant that had collapsed into an underlying burial. This involved a lot of careful and fiddly work with plastic clay modelling tools but the girls managed fine and did a great job of exposing and cleaning the burial up ready for recording.

Victoria and Jenny carefully exposing their infant burial.

Victoria and Jenny carefully exposing their infant burial.

By the end of the week the girls had fully recorded the burial and lifted it safely out of the way ready for reburial in the church. the girls even had time to start looking for the person below which the infant burial had partially collapsed into.

Placement Katie helping Victoria and Jenny put drawn records together in the September sun.

Placement Katie helping Victoria and Jenny put drawn records together in the September sun.

Our other week 10 pair working on burials was continuing trainee Alice who was now in her penultimate week of 4, and returnee Theo. The pair continued exposing a well-preserved coffin in Contrary Corner that is part of the last burial plot in this particular area.

Theo and Alice photographing their coffin in Contrary Corner.

Theo and Alice photographing their coffin in Contrary Corner.

Over the course of the week the pair managed to fully record the coffin before looking for their skeleton, which they had exposed and started to record by the end of the week. Whilst excavating the back fill, Alice came across a rather lovely little button, that appears to be made of oyster shell – she was rightly very pleased with it!

Cute as a button!

Cute as a button!

A closer look.

A closer look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of our other star finds of the week came out of our earlier deposits that dated to before the site became a graveyard. Returnees Gilbert and Joanne paired up to work on a sequence of dumps, the first of which dated from the turn of the 19th century. Out of this top deposit Jo found a lovely ceramic marble, giving her a great start to her two weeks with us! Not to be left behind, Gilbert came across that find which archaeologists dream about – a coin, and a Roman one no less!

Jo showing off her ceramic marble.

Jo showing off her ceramic marble.

Gilbert strikes a pose with his Roman coin.

Gilbert strikes a pose with his Roman coin.

A closer look in the right light shows of the distinctively Roman figure on one side of the coin.

A closer look in the right light shows of the distinctively Constantinian figure on one side of the coin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the C19th dump was excavated the pair revealed another deposit this time dating to the 18th century when workshops occupied the site. We have found all sorts from other deposits related to this phase of activity and Jo and Gilbert’s deposit was no exception. Continuing his lucky streak Gilbert recovered a worked bone object and managed to strike another fabulous pose for his second “victory shot” of the week.

Another star find from Gilbert; a worked bone object.

Another star find from Gilbert; a worked bone object.

A closer look.

A closer look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilbert’s find is one of several worked bone artefacts recovered from deposits relating to the 18th century workshops, indicating there may be some kind of bone working industry or trading going on down Church lane in the 1700s. This is not by any means certain and more information will be discovered as we delve deeper into the pre-burial horizon. Jo and Gilbert did a lovely job of getting through some of the sequence of these deposits in week 10.

Our other week 10 tasters were tasked with exploring the pre-burial horizon and over each of their one or two day courses Martin, Geri and father-daughter team Simon and Coco excavated and recorded several different dump and refuse deposits. Martin was with us for two days and managed to record one surface before excavating it to reveal another one which pre-dates the workshops, and wrote a very thoughtful blog about his two days with us.

Martin sets to work with his trowel after recording an 18th century deposit.

Martin sets to work with his trowel after recording an 18th century deposit.

Coco and Simon, although only with us for the day, also got in a bit of excavating and finds processing. The pair managed to get some lovely finds from their deposit, particularly some nice pieces of roman and medieval pottery.

Coco with a lovely piece of roman Samian ware.

Coco with a lovely piece of roman Samian ware.

Simon shows off his freshly unearthed piece of medieval splash glazed pottery.

Simon shows off his freshly unearthed piece of medieval splash glazed pottery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However one day taster Geri had the find of the week, which she spotted during a finds washing session; a fragment of worked antler from a Viking composite comb.

Geri was thrilled with her fragment of antler from a Viking comb!

Geri was thrilled with her fragment of antler from a Viking comb!

A closer look at the detail.

A closer look at the detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working in even older deposits were new starters Mark and Moyra. They continued work in the same area as Rick and Alastair from week 9, excavating some of our  medieval deposits. Their first task was to record a clay layer with cobbles starting to peek upwards from it.

Mark working on the plan of his medieval clay layer.

Mark working on the plan of his medieval clay layer.

Whether the cobbles formed part of a surface or were just a dumping layer was still unclear by the end of the week, although more may become clear about the type of deposit the cobbles belong to in the last two weeks of the summer season. Despite some of these unanswered questions, Mark and Moyra’s patient trowelling was rewarded with some rather lovely finds. Moyra’s keen eyes spotted a lovely little piece from a glass vessel and Mark spotted some tiny fragments of prehistoric pottery, a huge challenge given it usually looks like lumps of mud or clay because of its poor quality!

Moyra and Mark show off their glass and prehistoric pottery fragments.

Moyra and Mark show off their glass and prehistoric pottery fragments.

Our other new starter, Rosie, was working in another older area of the site, quite far beneath the footprint of the Old Rectory where a series of medieval pits and dumps have been recorded and excavated. Rosie continued working in the ever deepening sequence, to the point where it was quite hard to spot her!

Right at the far end of the trench, Rosie is just visible as she delves deeper into the medieval sequence.

Right at the far end of the trench, Rosie is just visible as she delves deeper into the medieval sequence.

Over the course of her week’s training, Rosie photographed, recorded and excavated several medieval pits and shifted a lot of dirt. As has been the case with all of the features in this sequence so far, we are looking at leveling deposits, rubbish pits and dumping from likely domestic use in the medieval period. The depth these deposits extend to is quite impressive, and we could easily have another half metre or more of medieval deposits before we move definitively out of this time period. At the moment the finds indicate Rosie was working in 12th or 13th century medieval layers; whoever takes over next week has her high standards to work to, and hopefully they might begin to reach even earlier deposits!

Rosie's area looked fantastic and stretched to quite a depth by the end of her week.

Rosie’s area looked fantastic and stretched to quite a depth by the end of her week.

Week 10 really was a stellar week for finds and trainees! It was a thoroughly enjoyable to be a part of and I’d like to point out that ALL of our trainees produced their records themselves to a professional standard. They should all be very proud of their work both excavating and recording.

Our trainees took a well earned break from the rather warm weather to do a spot of finds washing under the Tree of Finds.

Our trainees took a well earned break from the rather warm weather to do a spot of finds washing under the Tree of Finds.

The week 10 team.

The week 10 team.

Thanks to all of the trainees for yet another wonderful week of archaeology!

-Katie

P.S: Although there was still two weeks of the summer season to go, week 10 was my last week as a placement on Archaeology Live! and I was so sad to see the back of it. After 5 seasons as both a trainee and placement learning all of this from scratch I’d been hired by none other than YAT itself. So whilst I was staying with the company for the foreseeable future (I’m still working for them now so I can’t be a complete disaster!) my experiences as a total beginner to seasoned placement on Arch Live were the reason I wanted to get to where I am now. Whilst a lot of my enthusiasm was for the archaeological process itself, the people, that is trainees, placements and staff, that I’ve met are what cemented archaeology as a no-brainer to me. So a big thanks from me goes to all the people I’ve met through archaeology as well as the Arch Live staff for teaching me everything I know!

Site Diary: Summer Week 9.

Week 9 followed the general trend of the summer 2016 season at All Saints, with a range of features from the earlier medieval period through to the 19th century being uncovered, recorded and excavated by our fantastic trainees. Week 9 also saw, at long last, the taming of ‘Contrary Corner’, our mind boggling area of the trench that over the past three seasons has made little or no sense!

As Monday arrived, an excited group of new trainees came to join our few continuing over from the previous weeks. In a change from the past few Mondays, it decided to tip it down first thing, so sanctuary was sought underneath the Tree of Finds and a spot of finds washing was done. Fortunately, our (damp) spirits were lifted when we found evidence of pesky medieval animals running amok…

A medieval tile complete with paw print from a pesky pet!

A medieval tile complete with paw print from a pesky pet!

Thankfully by lunchtime the rain had cleared and the ground was draining, so we paired people up, jumped into the trench and set people to work on their features. Only a few of week 9 trainees were working on burials whilst the others all worked in the pre-burial or earlier horizons.

Continuing from where Leah and Charlotte had finished the previous week, two of our new starters spent their first day cleaning up a coffin for a photo and were introduced to the rest of the planning process. Jacob and Ashley did a lovely job of this and put some detailed records together for us.

Becky taking measurements for Ashley to draw her 1:20 plan from.

Becky taking measurements for Ashley to draw her 1:20 plan from.

With the coffin planned, Jacob and Ashley were able to start looking for the individual within. As they carefully picked away at the fill lots of beautiful decorative plating was revealed, and any that was loose was safely bagged up. By the end of their first week of two they were just beginning to come down onto the skull. Hopefully in week 10 they’ll make equally swift and careful progress, watch this space!

Jacob does a great job carefully cleaning up some of the lovely decorative coffin plate from his burial as placement Katie gets some close up shots.

Jacob does a great job carefully cleaning up some of the lovely decorative coffin plate from his burial as placement Katie gets some close up shots.

Now, as mentioned in the Week 8 Site Diary our continuing trainees, Alice and Libby, had been working on a mortar filled pit with a beautiful piece of medieval green glazed pot laying very close to the top of the fill. It’s been staring at Arch Live staff Arran and Becky for 2 years now so they were pretty excited that we were finally going to be able to lift it! With the recording of the back fill finished, Alice and Libby finally excavated the sherd and it really is a lovely example of decorated medieval pottery.

A closer look.

A closer look.

The finds tray from Alice and Libby's C18th pit, look at all that medieval pottery!

The finds tray from Alice and Libby’s C18th pit, look at all that medieval pottery!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the girls continued work in their 18th century pit they found lots more redeposited medieval pottery of varying ages and types. The girls recovered earlier splash and brighter green glazes as well as later brown and lead glazed wares. Libby in particular had a grand end to her two weeks with us, as she found a corroded cluster of copper alloy objects that could possibly have been a piece of jewellery. Once the pit was emptied and the cut recorded the girls identified (hopefully) the last remaining burial plot in Contrary Corner. As they began to reveal a coffin on Friday, Libby ended her last day on a high note, finding a lovely antler offcut that could relate to Viking crafting – antler was used frequently by the Vikings for combs, spindle whorls and more. Alice will be with us for another two weeks so stay tuned to hear about her progress in Contrary Corner!

Libby with her possibly Viking antler offcut.

Libby with her possibly Viking antler offcut.

Libby and Alice were very pleased when they found the final burial plot in Contrary Corner.

Libby and Alice were very pleased when they found the final burial plot in Contrary Corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the revelation of the coffin and burial plot it seems that at long last the sequence of Contrary Corner has become clear – a welcome relief after all of the head scratching it has caused over the previous two seasons!

Another team working on burials were 2-day tasters Susan, Lucy and Kate. They had a very successful couple of days on site as they managed to carefully reveal the outline of a burial and start excavating the back fill.

Susan, Lucy and Kate excavating a grave back fill under the watchful eye of placement Eleanor.

Susan, Lucy and Kate excavating a grave back fill under the watchful eye of placement Eleanor.

Working close by was returning trainee Joan, who spent her week picking apart more of the C19th burial sequence. One of the larger grave plots that had contained some infant burials that have been lifted in previous weeks was excavated by Joan to its full extent. When she had it cleaned up to a good standard it was time to get her photo, however this was easier said than done…

Joan adopts a precarious position to ensure she gets a top-notch photo of her grave cut!

Joan adopts a precarious position to ensure she gets a top-notch photo of her grave cut!

However Joan managed spendidly with her precarious stance and managed to put some fab records together, it’s been lovely to have her back on site!

All of our other week 9 trainees were working on pre-burial features. Close by Joan one pair of new starters, local lad Andy and returnee Iain spent their week cleaning, recording and excavating two large spreads that both predated the graveyard.

Andy and Iain cleaning up their first pre-burial deposit.

Andy and Iain cleaning up their first pre-burial deposit.

Their first couple of days were spent on an early 19th/late 18th century deposit covering a large area, which the burials had been cut into. First they cleaned the area and then recorded it, which was quite challenging as the plans ended up spreading over 3 or 4 sheets! Iain and Andy were more than up to the task though, and with the plans squared away they began excavating that spread until they came down onto another dumping layer. This context is at least 18th century in date but could be as early as the 17th century. Despite the area being disturbed by burials, it should hopefully give us insight into the pre-burial landscape over a slightly larger surface area rather than with thin spits of land between graves as has been the case in the rest of the graveyard area.

Iain getting a good photo of his and Andy's dump feature.

Iain getting a good photo of his and Andy’s dump feature.

Continuing trainee Rick and new starter Alistair were working right in the medieval horizon on several more – you guessed it – dumping layers! The medieval deposits we have found at this site all seem to be dumping and refuse deposits, and Rick and Alistair added to our understanding of the order of events that created these deposits.

Rick and Alistair excavating one of their medieval dumping deposits.

Rick and Alistair excavating one of their medieval dumping deposits.

The dumping layers seemed to be domestic refuse – a mixture of animal bone, pottery, brick and tile and so on, however as is standard at All Saints, redeposited material from earlier periods was also present. One such find was a lovely piece of fine Roman pottery with a hand painted design on it.

Rick was really happy with his beautiful Roman pottery sherd!

Rick was really happy with his beautiful Roman pottery sherd!

Towards the end of the week after previous dumps had been recorded and lifted by the pair, Alistair excavated a silt and clay layer to expose the edge of some kind of stone surface or structure. Its precise function is unclear at the moment, and so gaining a better understanding will be a task for some of the trainees in week 10.

A closer look.

A closer look.

Alistair revealing the edge of a stone feature or surface.

Alistair revealing the edge of a stone feature or surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working in the slightly more recent pre-burial phase were new starters Cadan and Lori. Over the course of their week they managed to pick apart, record and excavate several surfaces and deposits from the 18th century.

Their first job was to clean up a sequence of late 18th century surfaces and deposits. With the cleaning of the first deposit Lori and Cadan revealed a tile feature that could have been a surface or footing , and so they set to getting it recorded. Once they had done that they removed the tiles and cleaned the mortar spread they had been laying above. With that deposit recorded equally speedily they also got the chance to excavate the mortar on Friday and begin to reveal the next sequence in the deposit. The pair picked up the recording process very quickly and like all of our trainees, produced really detailed drawings and other records.

Placement Katie was all smiles with how fast Cadan and Lori picked up planning!

Placement Katie was all smiles with how fast Cadan and Lori picked up planning!

Cadan also had a really lovely little find from one of the first deposits that overlaid the tiles. Whilst we mostly get fired clay tobacco pipe stems, its not that often we get complete pipe bowls, although this summer we have found 2 or 3 so far. Cadan added a wonderful little pipe from the 1700s to our collection, and obviously he was pretty happy about it!

Cadan was pleased with this charming little pipe bowl from the 1700s!

Cadan was pleased with this charming little pipe bowl from the 1700s!

1-day tasters Emelia and Susie also spent some time on similar features to Lori and Cadan – a C18th mortar deposit overlying a tile feature or surface. They spent their day on site excavating the mortar to reveal the tiles which were laid fairly flat on the ground. The parallels between their feature, Lori and Cadan’s sequence and some others on the site provide interesting insight into what the post-medieval horizon off Church Lane might have looked like across the centre of our trench. Its highly unlikely Emelia and Susie’s features are part of the same surfaces as Lori and Cadan’s but the repeated deposition of material is certainly a site wide occurrence.

Emelia and Susie lifting their 18th century mortar surface to reveal a tile feature.

Emelia and Susie lifting their 18th century mortar surface to reveal a tile feature.

All told week 9 was another wonderful one at All Saint’s with some lovely finds and archaeological sequences that are really starting to make sense appearing! Our trainees do 100% of the archaeology on site, and fund 100% of the project so we literally cannot do it without them and they all make it so enjoyable for staff and placements. Thanks again to the week 9 team!

The week 9 team.

The week 9 team.

– Katie

P.S: on the morning of the conservation tour when the trench was much quieter than usual site staff Arran and Becky took advantage of the calm to make some serious headway on our “Master Matrix” – the massive flow chart that shows the order in which all of our features occurred at All Saints. As we near the end of the 3rd season here, the matrix is looking very impressive (and it’s huge)…

Behold, our Master Matrix - We LOVE stratigraphy!

Behold, our Master Matrix – We LOVE stratigraphy!

Site Diary: Summer Week 8

With only 4 weeks left of the 2016 summer season of Archaeology Live! it was full steam ahead at All Saints. Our Week 8 trainees made great progress on a number of burials and medieval to post-medieval deposits. They also had a stellar week for finds during several of our washing and bagging sessions, and we have now officially found gold*!

*Leaf

Yes, that’s right, on one of our finds bagging sessions a keen-eyed trainee noticed something different about a fragment of pot. Despite the sherd looking like so many other pieces we’ve found at All Saints, this sherd, upon closer inspection, had glinting little pieces of gold leaf on it!

A pottery sherd with gold leaf - fancy!

A pottery sherd with gold leaf – fancy!

However the streak of good luck didn’t stop there, as our other finds processing (washing and bagging) sessions revealed even more stellar finds. These included 2 different styles of Nene Valley cups – a type of Roman pottery, as well as a medieval flagon, a couple of possible brooches, a piece of pottery with residue still stuck on the inside, and a possible medieval quern stone! One of our Roman wares even came with a horse’s bottom on it! It would have originally formed part of a hunting scene, which was a common motif on several types of Roman pottery vessels.

A horse bottom occupies part of the hunting scene on this Roman Nene Valley cup.

A horse bottom occupies part of the hunting scene on this Roman Nene Valley cup.

 

Daniel looking very pleased with his copper alloy object - possibly a brooch.

Daniel looking very pleased with his copper alloy object – possibly a brooch.

A close up of Victoria's pottery sherd complete with residue!

A close up of  Victoria’s pottery sherd complete with residue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finds processing consists of either washing trays of finds after a context has been completely dug, or sorting finds into categories of animal bone, pottery, glass, shell, human bone etc. and bagging them up accordingly.  We generally have one bagging or washing session each day so that trainees become familiar with the process, they become better at recognising the type of finds they could come across whilst digging, and it means we stay on top of our ever mounting pile! Both processes also involve looking out for finds that may be a little different – such as copper alloy objects, worked bone and so on as these get bagged separately as small finds. They are all labelled very tidily as they then go straight to our finds department for analysis. Having regular washing and bagging sessions also allows trainees to be even more involved with the whole on-site archaeological process.

Jagoda was also pleased with her copper alloy object - it could be a brooch, coin or some kind of fitting!

Jagoda was pleased with her copper alloy object – it could be a brooch, coin or some kind of fitting!

 

A possible medieval quern stone.

A possible medieval quern stone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Away from finds processing, progress in the trench was also very good in week 8. We had a number of people working on a range of burials and a couple of other teams working on our earlier medieval and post-medieval features.

Continuing trainees Leah and Charlotte finished off recording their large adult burial and covered it over with a deep layer of sieved soil before moving onto another nearby burial plot. As they started cleaning the trample layer off the top of the backfill the girls came across a posthole/small pit. They quickly got to work on recording it, digging it and doing the same for the cut. They made a great team, and managed to recover a nice range of pottery and a rather curious iron hook from their feature.

Leah, placement Katie, and Charlotte proving that recording can be fun!

Leah, placement Katie, and Charlotte proving that recording can be fun!

Leah with her iron hook, and Charlotte with some of the pottery from their feature.

Leah with her iron hook, and Charlotte with some of the pottery from their feature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leah revealing the edge of her coffin.

Leah revealing the edge of her coffin.

With that feature excavated they continued with their grave backfill and by the end of the week had began to reveal a well preserved coffin from the 19th century burial phase.

Also working on the C19th burials were new starters Victoria and Jagoda. As well as their lovely finds from the processing sessions, they spent the start of their week carefully recording and lifting an infant burial. Once the remains had been put safely away they recovered the remaining pieces of coffin. All of the coffin is collected and kept with the remains for reburial within the church. After this infant was lifted Victoria and Jagoda carried on excavation in the much larger plot – this appears to be another family grave and so there will be an adult burial further down, although there may be more burials above.

Victoria and Jagoda gathering the remains of a coffin.

Victoria and Jagoda gathering the remains of a coffin.

Nearby new starters Libby and Alice were also working on a burial, however this one was at a much lower depth and so cleaning and recording were quite challenging. The girls were more than up to the task! With that inhumation recorded they re-covered the individual, who did not needed to be lifted due to the depth at which they were buried. They moved down into ‘Contrary Corner’ where they began work on a mortar filled pit with a piece of very nice medieval pottery laying just on top of this deposit. This particular piece of pottery has been looking at us for 2 whole seasons now but we have not been able to pick up as a number of later features have had to be dealt with first – hopefully next week Alice and Libby will get to lift it!

Alice, on the left, takes measurements for Libby to plot with our placement Ellen.

Alice,  (left), takes measurements for Libby to plot with our placement Ellen.

Alice and Libby trowelling their mortar-filled pit. Can you spot the green glazed medieval pot?

Alice and Libby trowelling their mortar-filled pit. Can you spot the green glazed medieval pot?

 

 

 

 

 

 

New starters Daisy and Kate were another pair working on the C19th burial horizon. Near to where Leah and Charlotte were working against the Old Rectory walls,  Kate and Daisy cleaned up and recorded a pair of infant grave cuts that had been lifted in week 7.

Daisy and Kate adding final touches to their levels and plans of their grave cuts.

Daisy and Kate adding final touches to their levels and plans of their grave cuts.

Kate, in the foreground, and Daisy cleaning back an earlier graveyard soil layer near the Old Rectory walls.

Kate, in the foreground, and Daisy cleaning back an earlier graveyard soil layer near the Old Rectory walls.

After squaring away those records they started cleaning up a soil deposit that appears to predate the infant burials in this particular area, as the graves are cut through it. It’s likely that it is another graveyard soil deposit; a spread of material that is the result of graves being repeatedly opened.

The rest of this week’s trainees were all working on deposits pre-dating the beginning of the burial ground, including our tasters. Victoria and Linda, from Leeds and Australia respectively, came from near and far to work on an 18th century surface. As they peeled away a compacted mortar surface, a soft burnt sand layer emerged. Perhaps this relates to activities going on in the post-medieval workshops on Church Lane?

Our other week 8 tasters, Daniel and Tony, worked on a series of medieval dumping layers, as well as Daniel finding that rather nice copper alloy brooch in finds washing. They managed to clean, record and excavate a trampled layer of refuse as well and gained a clearer idea about the sequence of deposition in this area.

Victoria and Linda working on their 18th century deposits.

Victoria and Linda working on their 18th century deposits.

Daniel and Tony cleaning up a sequence of medieval dumps.

Daniel and Tony cleaning up a sequence of medieval dumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Victoria and Linda, James and Ellie were also working in the post-medieval workshop horizon. They were excavating a bedding material for a hornworkers shop floor, and as this peeled away yet another mortar surface was revealed. James and Ellie managed to get this deposit fully recorded and started excavating again by the end of the week.

Ellie and James revealing their mortar layer.

Ellie and James revealing their mortar layer.

Digging even further back in time were other new starters Rick and Jack, who continued work on a medieval dump sequence started by Colin and Sam in week 7. Over the course of the week they got through an impressive 4 individual dumping events, thoroughly recording each one. What they also discovered through their levelling was that each dumping layer sloped down and away from the church, which gives us an idea of what the medieval horizon around All Saints may have looked like, perhaps with the church standing taller than everything around it. If you remember from previous site diaries, we have also found a large amount of bright green glazed medieval roof tiles that paint a picture of a very impressive green-roofed medieval All Saints that would have stood out  in a very dramatic fashion. Credit goes to Rick and Jack for making so much headway through the medieval ground level and shifting a lot of earth, as well as putting some quality records together!

Jack and Rick excavating one of their 4 medieval dumping layers.

Jack and Rick excavating one of their 4 medieval dumping layers.

Week 8 was impressive all round, for excavation, recording quality and of course those star finds, and it’s all down to the trainees’ hard work. Thanks must also go to the placements for making everything at the dig run smoothly as we wouldn’t be able to do it without them either.

The week 8 team.

The week 8 team.

That’s all for now, week 9 to follow soon…

Katie

P.S. It’s not all hard work for the staff and placements, as when we finish on site for the day we and the trainees will often head to a pub, for a walk that ends up in a pub, or for food in a pub/bar – you get the idea. On Wednesdays Arran, Toby and co. play football, so sometimes if the weather is good Becky and the placements take any trainees who want to come along for 2-4-1 cocktails in a nice little bar. Wednesday of week 8 just happened to be my birthday so some of us got a little carried away with that offer…

Wednesday evening...

Wednesday evening…

...Thursday morning.

…Thursday morning.

 

Site Diary: Summer Week 7

Officially past the halfway point and hurtling towards the end of the summer, Monday of Week 7 was as hectic as expected! While the previous week had been largely sunny, rain clouds loomed ominously for much of this week, though luckily we escaped the worst of it and the team soldiered  on admirably. Having said goodbye to some of our longer term trainees and placements the previous week we were happy to greet some new additions to the team.

There may be trouble ahead... A dark cloud just missed the site.

There may be trouble ahead… A dark cloud just missed the site.

Put straight to work on our longest running burials, Charlotte (an undergraduate student from Leicester university) found herself dealing with one of the tallest individuals we’ve come across so far,  appearing to be over six feet in height! The height, robust build and a decidedly masculine skull made Charlotte pretty confident that we were dealing with an adult male. Her careful work guaranteed that both the skeleton and the beautifully decorated coffin remains were left intact, which was no easy task as the rest of the skeleton was very poorly preserved. We’ll be watching this one for a future career in archaeology!

A six+ foot skeleton is no difficulty for our trainee Charlotte.

A six+ foot skeleton is no difficulty for our trainee Charlotte.

And now from one of the largest burials on site, to one of the smallest. Intrepid trainee Janet had gradually been picking apart a sequence of burials throughout  her time with us, and every time we thought we’d found the latest in the series another would appear!

Towards the end of week 6, Janet made a real breakthrough with the discovery of a tiny infant burial in a very well preserved coffin. Armed with her trusty clay modelling tools Janet did an excellent job of exposing the coffin first, and then, very slowly, revealing the burial itself. The reason for the confused stratigraphy was now clear: two neighbouring grave plots had clearly become fully occupied, forcing this infant individual to be squeezed into the gap between. This act of repeatedly reopening graves and then straying outside of the defined grave plot had led to a multitude of overlapping cuts that had to be placed in the correct order by Janet. She did a fine job!

It has been a step-by-step process to untangle the sequence of burials that led to this tiny one on the top.

It has been a step-by-step process to untangle the sequence of burials that led to this tiny one on the top.

Janet has carried on her work away from site, researching the history of All Saints and the surrounding area- watch this space for a report from her on some of the discoveries she made (it may include a few sordid details!).

It was Janet's last week and we would miss her enthusiasm in week 8.

It was Janet’s last week and we would miss her enthusiasm in week 8.

Two of our youngest trainees , Steffi and Hope, joined us this week and enthusiastically took to work on a pair of infant burials. The pair were very quick to pick up the rigours of single context recording, especially planning and levelling – leaving us older people shamefully putting our phones away while they calculated everything in their heads. That maths GCSE seems like it was a long time ago…

By the end of the week Hope and Steffi had successfully excavated, recorded, and begun to lift their burials- rather impressive for two sixteen year olds on their first trip away from home. Hopefully we’ve inspired these two to continue to pursue history- though maths seems a pretty good bet too!

Imogen was visibly joyous at how quickly Hope and Steffi took to planning!

Arch Live! placement Imogen was visibly joyous at how quickly Hope and Steffi took to planning!

Our second set of youngsters, Corinne and Kat, had an equally successful week. They were rather prolific in the small finds stakes and it seemed every other moment we were getting called over to inspect some new find. The two were carrying with work on a burial sequence from the previous few weeks and took to it like ducks to water (aided by the shiny things they kept finding I expect).

Sometimes you get into interesting digging positions in the name of archaeology!

Sometimes you get into interesting digging positions in the name of archaeology!

 

Corinne and her (possibly Roman) silver coin.

Corinne and her (possibly Roman) silver coin.

On Tuesday Corinne found the holy grail of archaeological finds (apart from the actual Holy Grail, obviously)- A COIN! Spotted during sieving, the purple-ish hue of the corrosion suggests that Corinne had found a silver coin that appears to be Roman in date – a wonderful find all round.

Kat got in on the action next with a lovely bone button, possibly from the burial itself, and Corinne’s discovery of a matching one within minutes cemented these girls as the treasure finders of the week.

The buttons were particularly lovely as they added a more personal side to the story of the burial, as did four coffin studs from a decorative plate on the lid that had collapsed onto the skeleton’s sternum.

 

 

Corinne and Kat and their matching bone buttons.

Corinne and Kat and their matching bone buttons.

By the end of the week the Corinne and Kat team had successfully uncovered, recorded and lifted their burial, recovered some amazing finds, and had time to prove that another burial was laying in wait underneath. We wish we had the energy of these youngsters!

Imogen, Linda and Chris hard at work recording.

Imogen, Linda and Chris hard at work recording.

Week 7 was Christine’s second week with us and she continued to bring her cheery Australian disposition to everything- even Contrary Corner! Working with Linda, a regular returnee, Christine spent the week troweling  diligently in the north-east corner of the site to uncover the remainder of a burial that was started last week. Completing this burial was another important step towards freeing up the archaeology between the graves for excavation, so congratulations to Chris and Linda for getting us there with their unwavering enthusiasm and continuously growing pottery collection- washing their finds should be great fun in the future!

Chris with her Masonic pipe bowl.

Chris with her Masonic pipe bowl.

As a bonus Chris also found a whole clay pipe bowl, complete with Masonic symbols- a wonderful find to finish off her time with us.

Linda showing off just some of the pottery from their feature.

Linda showing off just some of the pottery from their feature.

Archaeology Live! Placement Jess continued to guide two week trainee Colin through the trials and tribulations of the archaeological process. They were joined by Sam, a new trainee, on exposing some of the earliest deposits on site. The pair spent the week carefully picking apart a sequence of dumps and levelling deposits that pre-date the  graveyard, giving us tantalising hints about the area before it became consecrated ground in 1826. The two made a formidable team in investigating medieval archaeology, quickly identifying a medieval post hole and several overlapping dump deposits. In fact, the only thing slowing these two down was the sun making the photos rather difficult to take. Sunshine also meant certain red-haired site supervisors took to clinging to the side of the church to save their pale, quickly turning red, skin…

Sam works on getting the photo of a medieval post hole perfect.

Sam (right) works on getting the photography of a medieval post hole perfect. (Note site supervisor Arran hiding in the shade…)

Colin also made the rather remarkable discovery of a copper object within a medieval layer, one of the first small finds from a confirmed medieval deposit. Despite poor preservation, Colin did a wonderful job in delicately excavating the object, probably some kind of decorative fitting originating from the 14th-16th century.

Colin and his mysterious copper alloy object.

Colin and his mysterious copper alloy object.

As Colin and Sam made progress delving into medieval layers in one area of site they had competition from some of our tasters as to who was the furthest back in time. Sam and Jonah, two two-day tasters, were excavating a medieval dump in our sondage, within the remains of All Saints’ long demolished Rectory and made excellent progress in sifting through a fair amount of rather sticky clay. It was hard work but they managed to get through the layer to uncover a clear edge for a medieval pit. An earlier evaluation trench in this area showed that if we get down far enough we’ll encounter intercutting medieval pits – could Sam and Jonah’s find be the first indication of this? This little corner of the rectory is looking increasingly exciting and the pottery is also looking increasingly ancient. The dark brown-green of later medieval pottery has made way for the bright green and splashed variety- hints we are in early medieval deposits? It will be exciting to see what the pit has in store for us.

Sam and Jonah have been working to expose the dark grey edge of a medieval pit.

Sam and Jonah have been working to expose the dark grey edge of a medieval pit.

Sam and James, a mother and son team have done what some of us have been waiting two years to do- lifting the cobble yard surface that has been visible since early 2014! “Locked in” for two years due to surrounding later archaeology- namely that pesky horn core pit that became a sequence of burials. The pair updated the record of the cobbles as the full extent of the feature has has only recently been revealed. They then carefully lifted the surface to reveal… another surface! The plot thickens.

Mother and son team Sam and James work on removing a cobble surface.

Mother and son team Sam and James work on removing a cobble surface.

This is where Georgia and Roy, a father and daughter pair, join the story. They have perhaps been the most enthusiastic tasters of the summer and the two worked on exposing and recording the rough tile surface that appeared beneath Sam and James’ cobble surface. We hope to see more of these two in the future.

Georgia and Roy have removed their tile surface and started cleaning - what a smile!

Georgia and Roy have removed their tile surface and started cleaning – what a smile!

At the end of the week we were joined by Leanne and Tracy, two lovely ladies, who were working on the last remnants of a 19th century trample layer dating to the construction of the church hall in 1860. The aim was to locate the last unidentified burial plots on-site. They managed to do this and more as they quickly found a veritable hoard of finds, ranging from pottery, to ironwork, to bone and back again from all periods.

Tracy and Leanne with finds galore!

Tracy and Leanne with finds galore!

We do more than dig and record at Archaeology Live! – we wash and sort our finds as well! This week when sorting and bagging under the watchful eye of placements we found a rather unique animal bone. Unlike many of our best bone finds, it hasn’t been worked, but it still has a story to tell. The bone in question is a sheep/goat metapodial, a bone that is in the hands/feet of humans, but in the lower legs of four-legged animals as they effectively walk on tiptoes. The point of interest is the rather lumpy area in the centre of the bone, a distorted area where bone has regrown following a break or infection. The fact that the bone has healed indicates that this animal was lucky enough to have a caring owner!

A sheep or goat metapodial with evidence of a healed break/bone infection.

A sheep or goat metapodial with evidence of a healed break/bone infection.

Urban excavations throw up a lot of finds, and while keeping on top of Finds Mountain can be a challenge, it’s always nice to come across a previously un-noticed gem!

Placement Katie laying finds out to dry in the sun - these are only from the past week of washing!

Placement Katie laying finds out to dry in the sun – these are only from the past week of washing!

The week 7 trainees also enjoyed our specialist sessions on pottery, conservation, small finds, and stratigraphy. Undoubtedly some of the finds from this week will make it into future small finds talks- especially the coin and copper object!

Arran takes our trainees through the finer points of stratigraphy under the stratigra-TREE.

Arran takes our trainees through the finer points of stratigraphy under the stratigra-TREE.

The Thursday Wander(™) took a tour of the Roman fortress this week as we followed the outline of the walls and finished at the centre of the fortress, York Minster (before we went to the pub, of course). The wander is always a must as our venerable leader Toby shows us how archaeology is still visible in a modern urban landscape, from tilting buildings due to the earth rampart of the fortress sinking, to the Minster being built in the same place as the most important buildings in Roman York.

The centre of the Roman fortress.

The centre of the Roman fortress.

Of course this is only if you can keep up with Toby’s impressive walking speed. It’s a known fact he walks faster then he runs.

By the end of the week, through a flurry of recording at the end to finish up the many, many features that we’d excavated, we had an exhausted but pleased team. This week has especially shown the broad appeal of archaeology- from 16 year olds barely done with their GCSE’s to retired folks that are following a passion they’ve had all their lives. And all the recording was in tip top shape per-normal!

The Friday afternoon round up.

The Friday afternoon round up!

Thanks to all our trainees and placements who made this a fabulous week! As we stumble, somewhat sunburnt and frazzled into the latter half of the summer we’re grateful for such amazing and enthusiastic people.

-Becky

P.S. Maintaining attention for the group photo was a bit more difficult this week, possibly due to passing cyclists almost taking Toby out as he tried to get a good picture. This was actually the best one – that probably says a lot about the others!

The week 7 team.

The week 7 team.

Site Diary: Summer Week 6

Week 6 marked the halfway point of Summer 2016 at All Saints, and it didn’t disappoint! Work continued on a number of burials of varying ages and sizes from the 19th century as well as several post-medieval and medieval deposits. We were able to answer some questions about the area within the footprint of the Old Rectory too. Whilst some trainees continued from the previous week we had several new starters joining us on Monday for another week of discovery.

Week 6 saw some mixed weather and a lot of recording and digging!

Week 6 saw some mixed weather and a lot of recording and digging!

Headway was made with a number of burials this week by our 1 – 2 day tasters and our week-long trainees. New starter Leah joined continuing trainee Anna to carry on exposing the coffin remains within the burial of a juvenile. Once they had found the extent of the coffin, which had survived as a dark stain with some wood fragments and metal fittings, they were able to record it. It was then time for the girls to continue with some careful digging downwards to locate the skull before exposing the rest of the remains.

Locating the skull first is a useful way to begin as it is easy to work your way down the skeleton without disturbing the more delicate areas such as the hands and feet. The coffin recording and cleaning of the remains took most of Anna and Leah’s time up, but it was worth it for the end result and they had uncovered half of the skeleton by the end of the week.

Leah (right) and Anna (centre) record their inhumation with placement Katie.

Leah (right) and Anna (centre) record their inhumation with placement Katie.

Nearby, continuing trainee Katie started lifting the infant burial recorded by her and Jess the week prior and, once the remains were safely stored for reburial in the church, she was able to clean up and record the small grave cut.

Katie delicately cleaning up an infant-sized grave cut.

Katie delicately cleaning up an infant-sized grave cut.

With the records for that particular individual squared away, Katie set about finding more of the coffin in the much deeper adult grave she had originally been working on in week 5. On Tuesday we were joined by two-day taster Charlie who began working across from Katie on cleaning up another infant burial for recording. It was a bit cramped for the girls but they managed very well!

Charlie (right) works on an infant burial whilst Katie (left) works on a deeper adult burial. Anna and Leah are in the background working on their juvenile burial.

Charlie (right) works on an infant burial whilst Katie (left) works on a deeper adult burial. Anna and Leah are in the background working on their juvenile burial.

Charlie managed to clean and record her infant over the course of her two days so it was ready to be lifted. On Thursday 1 day tasters Ann and Jan worked on that and another nearby infant burial, beginning to lift one and exposing more of the other.

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Ann and Jan working n their two infant burials.

Ann and Jan working n their two infant burials.

On Friday we were joined by another pair of 1 day tasters, Ann and Libby, who were set to work on the same cluster of burials. In the afternoon Becky managed to take them through the recording process – not bad for a day’s work!

Site staff Becky explaining the recording process to day tasters Ann and Libby.

Site staff Becky explaining the recording process to 1 day tasters Ann and Libby.

Also working on burials in week 6 was continuing trainee Janet who, alongside new starter Sam, was tasked with trying to understand an incredibly complex sequence of intercutting burials of varying ages near the centre of the trench. The reason for this complexity is the use and re-use of two neighbouring grave plots for interments being followed by additional burials being squeezed into the gap between the two plots – making the individual burial events very hard to pick apart.

When burials are stacked on top of each other within family plots, the deterioration and collapse of the lower coffin(s) causes the later burials above to sink into the newly formed voids. Add intercutting graves from overlapping burial plots as well as all the pre-burial activities in the area and it can become very difficult to see separate graves until you start digging them. By the end of the week Janet and Sam’s patient work had given us a much better understanding of the burial sequence here and we identified the next grave, that of an infant, ready to record and dig. In week 7 Janet will be able to continue work on this grave by finishing her recording and starting to look for the coffin.

In the foreground to the right, Becky, Sam and Janet try and figure out their burial sequence.

In the foreground to the right, Becky, Sam and Janet try and figure out their burial sequence.

Meanwhile Sam moved onto a nearby cobbled area that had survived from the post-medieval period between two graves, and spent the end of the week putting some detailed records together. These tiny spurs of archaeology are the only insight we have into pre-burial activities in the graveyard area of All Saints, so it is extremely important to treat them with great care.

Sam recording a post-medieval cobble surface that survived between two C19th graves.

Sam recording a post-medieval cobble surface that survived between two C19th graves.

On Friday of week 5 Tom and Alec came across a previously unidentified infant burial whilst excavating a graveyard soil, and so on Monday of week 6 an important job was to get the burial recorded so it could be lifted out of harms way. It was up to new starters Hasel and Lesley to plan the back fill and remains.

It was a highly truncated grave and space was at a premium, so Lesley moved onto another feature and Hasel spent the rest of the week lifting the skeleton and looking for the edges of the cut, which were far from clear! In the Week 2 Site Diary site supervisor Arran discussed possible explanations for why there seems to be a large quantity of inter-cutting infant burial plots located in this particular area in line with the church tower. This grave adds further to the evidence for somewhat less careful burial of younger individuals in this area of the graveyard.

Placement Matt take Lesley and Hasel through the recording process for their truncated infant burial.

Placement Matt take Lesley and Hasel through the recording process for their truncated infant burial.

The remainder of Lesley’s week was spent exploring the most ancient deposits that we have reached so far. A sondage (a “trench within a trench”) within the footprint of the Old Rectory has given us the chance to investigate the nature of deposits beyond the 19th century graveyard. So far we have been finding securely dateable C14th pits and dumps which has led us to wonder if we are inside a building that pre-dates the Rectory, or in an outside space such as a yard or garden. The other question we would like to answer is if the space was for industrial or domestic (or both!) use.

In week 2, trainees Alison and Helen found 14th century silting and a compacted layer that could have been a surface. On the July Weekend Dig Beverley excavated a C14th silty ashy layer, in week 3 David and Kathryn dealt with a medieval midden layer and in week 4 tasters Caroline, Lisa, Lyn, Ann and Pat worked on another series of dumps containing animal bone and hearth clearance material. Week 5 saw Penny and Oli excavate a large pit of butchered animal bone, again from the 14th century. Now, Lesley has added to the record of this area with the excavation of a deposit containing a lot of fish bones; it was yet another medieval refuse pit.

Lesley and Matt excavating a rather deep medieval rubbish pit.

Lesley and Matt excavating a rather deep medieval rubbish pit.

So Lesley’s pit is another piece of evidence that helps answer our questions, this area is very likely to have been an outside space at this point as you wouldn’t expect to find this kind of waste inside a domestic dwelling. The waste could be from domestic or industrial activities related to the preparation of food – hence the butchery, fish bone and hearth waste. Hopefully as the season goes on we will be able to learn more about the activities that produced this waste.

Working in medieval deposits elsewhere on site were new starters Colin and Annemarie, who spent their week taking up several dumping layers that are some of the oldest on site. Each layer was cleaned, photographed, planned, levelled, described and then excavated. By the end of their week they had made it through several distinct layers and had them all recorded and ready to be added to the site matrix. That’s pretty fast work!

Colin and Annemarie excavating one of a sequence of medieval dump deposits.

Colin and Annemarie excavating one of a sequence of medieval dump deposits.

Working in the more recent pre-burial horizon were other new starters Bill from the UK and Christine, who joined us all the way from Australia! In many places on the site there are little spurs of land between graves, like the cobbled surface Sam was working on, that give us a bit of a keyhole look at the post-medieval activities on the site. Several of these spurs survive, albeit precariously, in “Contrary Corner,” and so it was here that Bill and Chris started to record and excavate in week 6. Like Colin and Annemarie they made their way through several different deposits meaning they got to learn and practice their recording skills quite frequently! We were expecting these deposits to be 18th century in date, although the pottery suggests some of the lower deposits were possibly medieval. Bill and Christine turned out to be a crack team at recording and they made really good progress on these very fragile spurs of ground.

Bill and Chris working hard in Contrary Corner.

Bill and Chris working hard in Contrary Corner.

Throughout the week the trainees received all of the usual specialist sessions on pottery, conservation, small finds and stratigraphy as well as numerous finds washing/bagging sessions. One finds washing session proved particularly fruitful for Colin who came across this rather nice socketed worked bone object, it could be post-medieval in date:

Colin looking rightly pleased with his worked bone object.

Colin looking rightly pleased with his worked bone object.

Another finds washing session revealed a chicken print in a medieval roof tile. You can just imagine the frustration of the potter checking on his drying tiles and finding out a stray chicken has ran all over them!

Evidence of medieval chickens running amok!

Evidence of medieval chickens running amok!

Well that’s all there is to report on for this week, it was a great chance to answer some long-held questions about the medieval period at All Saints – although there is still much more to be learned. We also made progress on understanding the more complex burial sequences on the site as well as getting some of the more fragile remains lifted safely out of the way. Friday of week 6 also marked the halfway point of the summer season at All Saints, and it was amazing how fast it had gone so far, but they do say time flies when you’re having fun – so far we’ve had a ball and hope the trainees have too!

Thank you of course, to the trainees for making Archaeology Live! happen and making it so much fun, and thank you readers for reading!

Katie

 

P.S: We knew this was going to be a good week as Becky kicked off Monday by getting a high-five from a resting bee…

Strange things happen when you spend 6+ weeks in the sun...

Strange things happen when you spend 6+ weeks in the sun…

Site Diary: Summer Week 4

Week 4 of the 2016 excavations at All Saints North Street saw a lot of finds, excellent progress on our 19th century burials and the occasional bout of heat-induced delirium – Summer had finally arrived! With another fully booked week and nine new starters, the team were anticipating another hectic but enjoyable week. They weren’t wrong on either count! This week, York Archaeological Trust’s Katie Smith tells the tale.

Cloudless skies over All Saints.

Cloudless skies over All Saints.

On Monday, our freshly inducted week 4 trainees were able to jump straight in the trench thanks to the excellent sunny weather! The new team set to work on our C19th burials, with (inadvertently) rhyming new starters Anna and Hannah taking over the area Jenni and Annie had been working on in week 3 – a grave cut with the double burial of suspected siblings. As had been suspected, this burial did indeed overlay an earlier infant/juvenile grave. However before they managed to find the outline of a small coffin, Hannah found a lovely medieval jug handle re-deposited within the grave backfill.

Hannah proudly displaying her first ever medieval find.

Hannah proudly displaying her first ever medieval find.

Not to be left out, Hannah’s digging partner Anna managed to get herself a rather nice find later in the week. Despite the grave backfill proving to be rather compacted and mixed, Anna’s keen eyes spotted a tiny coin! The size and shape of it makes it likely that it is a minim, the Roman equivalent of small change.

Anna and her tiny Roman minim.

Anna and her tiny Roman minim.

A thick layer of corrosion means that no further comment can be made about the coin’s date until it is seen by our conservation team, however, it is always wonderful to discover objects that were misplaced by the citizens of Eboracum and to wonder quite how the coin ended up in a 19th century grave backfill.

Grace, Anna and Hannah adding levels to single context plans.

Grace, Anna and Hannah adding levels to single context plans.

By the end of the week the girls had managed to find and record a previously unidentified coffin and still had time to start to reveal the skeleton of a juvenile. In addition, Hannah and Anna also assisted with the recording of burials being worked on right next to them by Grace and Catherine.

Hannah and Anna carefully revealing the outline of a small timber coffin.

Hannah and Anna carefully revealing the outline of a small timber coffin.

Grace spent most of her week with us working on a very small, fragile infant burial. As usual the first thing to be identified, recorded and then dug was the grave backfill. Then, very carefully and patiently, Grace found the coffin which was fully recorded before she began looking for the remains themselves. Because of the size of this person Grace really had to take her time as infant remains are much more fragile than juveniles and adults, this is a difficult task, but she did a great job.

Painstaking excavation of a tiny infant skeleton.

Painstaking excavation of a tiny infant skeleton.

Catherine joined us all the way from New York and picked up where week 3 taster student Robert had previously been working, looking for a deeper burial. The search for this individual, however,  had to be put on hold after an unexpected and somewhat gruesome discovery – the jumbled and incomplete remains of a newborn child.

While carefully troweling through grave backfill, Catherine found evidence that a 19th century grave digger had accidentally disturbed an infant burial when reopening an existing grave to inter another individual.

Despite the site’s proliferation of infant burials in this area, this is the first example of a human grave from the 1826-1854 phases of burials being almost completely destroyed by the insertion of a later grave. Although this was almost certainly accidental it was still a sobering find.

The fact that the remains had been gathered together and reburied suggests that the person who dug the grave had noticed their mistake and attempted to show a degree of respect to the infant. Despite this, much of the skeleton was never found.

With assistance from Grace, Catherine made a complete record of the infant before lifting the fragile remains out of harm’s way.

Grace and Catherine excavating with Arch Live! placement Ellen.

Grace (left) and Catherine (right) excavating with Arch Live! placement Ellen.

At the other end of the trench in ‘Contrary Corner’ (where the archaeology tends to be a little difficult), Molly and Meg began their second week on-site with the difficult task of reaching down into an ever-deepening grave cut in very hot weather to find the skeleton within their coffin.

Meg, Molly and Arch Live! placement Katie in Contrary Corner.

Meg, Molly and Arch Live! placement Katie in Contrary Corner.

Whilst parts of the skull had been revealed in the previous week, Molly and Meg had to go down quite a bit further to find the rest of their skeleton. This is a trend that occurs in the majority of inhumations and happens because the skull generally sits higher than the rest of the body when laid flat. While the rib cage settles and flattens during decomposition, a well-preserved adult skull remains intact.

Molly reaching into a deep grave cut.

Molly reaching into a deep grave cut.

With space at a premium, the girls worked out a good system of one person digging while the other was sieving; swapping places until they eventually found the torso. Despite challenges from the weather and the awkwardness of their deep grave cut, Molly and Meg were more than up to the task.

Molly, Meg and Katie completing their records.

Molly, Meg and Katie completing their records.

After finishing this burial and re-covering it with lots of sieved soil to protect it, Meg and Molly moved onto a different area of the site.

Molly measuring a stone footing.

Molly measuring a stone footing.

By the end of the week they had also excavated and recorded a posthole, a patch of graveyard soil and a post-medieval stone footing! That’s a lot of in some sweltering heat, but that didn’t seem too much of a problem for Molly and Meg, except for the occasional moment of sun-induced delirium…

Archaeology is a serious business...

Archaeology is a serious business…

Elsewhere on site, Frankie and Kaylan and new starters Phil and Naomi were working on burials for the week. Naomi and Phil started looking for a grave but they soon discovered they had not one, but two juvenile burials within one grave cut. The second burial was discovered while the grave cut was being widened in order to find the full outline of the coffin stain from the first burial.

Frankie, Kaylan, Phil and Naomi hard at work in neighbouring grave plots.

(From foreground) Frankie, Kaylan, Phil and Naomi hard at work in neighbouring grave plots.

Naomi and Phil recorded both coffins and then proceeded to look for the remains of one of the juveniles. Whilst they did not fully uncover this burial by the end of the week, given the fact they found two burials where we only expected one, they made fantastic progress on the recording and understanding of this burial sequence.

Recording a 19th century coffin.

Recording a 19th century coffin.

Frankie and Kaylan were paired up and tasked with finding the remaining burials in the middle of the trench, an area that has been serving as our main route on and off the site. Heavy footfall has made the ground particularly compacted in this part of the trench and, as if trowelling that wasn’t hard enough, the mixed up soil from constant past activity of grave after grave being dug makes it very difficult to spot grave outlines. On top of all this, the baking heat drying out the archaeology and turning everything the same shade of grey meant one thing; it was time to bring out the watering can!

Frankie adding a little colour to a very dry trench.

Frankie adding a little colour to a very dry trench.

Sure enough, the trick worked and Frankie and Kaylan followed a faint edge to reveal the clear outline of a burial, destroying one of site supervisor Arran’s pet theories in the process.

Kaylan defining the head end of a 19th century grave cut.

Kaylan defining the head end of a 19th century grave cut.

Up to this point, no burials had been found in the central area of the trench, leading to the suspicion that this strip of land had once been used as a routeway into the burial ground. Frankie and Kaylan’s discovery revealed that burials were indeed present in the area, leaving only a much reduced area seeming burial-free.

Kaylan and Frankie adding levels to their coffin plan.

Kaylan and Frankie adding levels to their coffin plan.

Working nearby on another burial was the crack team of Matt and Christine. They made impressive progress over their week and had finished recording their burial by the Tuesday, and lifted the skeleton on Wednesday.

Arch. Live! placement Taralea guides Matt and Christine through the recording process.

Arch. Live! placement Taralea guides Matt and Christine through the recording process.

Finishing all of the excavation and recording before the week’s end on that particular burial, they even had time to clean up a brick footing for a gravestone. They certainly made a determined duo! This week marked Matt’s final week as an Archaeology Live! trainee. Following a week spent brushing up on his recording skills, he was all set to begin his first ever placement the following week.

Christine and Matt meticulously excavating an infant burial.

Christine and Matt meticulously excavating an infant burial.

One of the main features of this quiet little site nestled in the shade of All Saints Church is its role as a burial ground for the parishioners between 1826 and 1854. The records for the burials from this time period have unfortunately not survived, and so the only information we have is the detailed archive that our trainees have been producing during their time on Archaeology Live! Although we will never know much fine detail about individual lives, we are remembering those buried here through the creation of these records and helping to protect their remains from damage. Our trainees do 100% of the recording on Archaeology Live! and needless to say, regardless of prior experience or artistic talent, our trainees consistently produce professional quality records. We’re very proud of them and the work they do!

Archaeologists in their element.

Archaeologists in their element.

Even trainees who only spend a couple of days with us get the chance to contribute to the site archive, and this week we had 5 tasters joining us. Caroline, Lisa and Lyn joined us at the start of the week and made good headway on the medieval deposits within the old Rectory walls that David and Kathryn had been working on in week 3. They excavated and recorded another dump deposit from this sequence, meaning they’d been able to have a go at trowelling, sieving, cleaning, photography, a 1:20 drawn plan, levels and a context card. Furthermore they were shown how archaeologists date features by pottery type, and so it turned out their deposit might be as early as the 13th Century in date!

A busy taster day in the medieval period.

A busy taster day in the medieval period.

Later in the week, tasters Ann and Pat continued to work on the same area and found another layer of dumping material, this time with a concentration of animal bone and clearance from a hearth. “But surely one dump deposit is the same as them all,” you may ask; however we have been able to see changes within each successive layer. Every pit, post hole, dump, grave or layer (etc. etc.) is indication of a newly discovered event in history and therefore needs to be recorded as a unique context. By week 4, our trainees had already identified nearly 750 of these historic events, adding to a detailed timeline of the changing ways the site has been used.

Ann and Pat descending further back in time.

Ann and Pat descending further back in time.

The way in which we differentiate one layer from another, particularly with something as mixed up as a dumping layer, is not just the colour of the soil but the compaction, composition, inclusions and the finds. Ann, Pat and Clare’s dumping had hearth debris in it, whereas the overlying dump deposit only had occasional flecks of charcoal – not the same as the waste from cleaning out a hearth. So there you have it, two different types of dumping from two different events.

Work continuing in our medieval sondage.

Work continuing in our medieval sondage (left).

If the complexity of the deposition in this little sondage continues as we go further down (and therefore further back in time), we ‘ll gain a detailed insight into the site’s medieval development. As the rest of the site is so densely populated with burials from the 19th Century, this area offers our only uninterrupted look into the pre-1826 landscape at North Street. Our week 4 tasters, despite only being here for a couple of days each at most, have helped us understand the beginning (archaeologically speaking) of a potentially extensive sequence of dumping relating to the medieval occupation of this site.

Sorting and bagging finds prior to specialist analysis.

Sorting and bagging finds prior to specialist analysis.

Over the course of the week the trainees also enjoyed our specialist sessions on pottery, conservation, small finds and stratigraphy, and when it got a bit too hot in the trench, refuge was sought  either finds washing under the welcome shade of the Tree of Finds (the ‘Stratigratree’ on Fridays) or bagging dry finds in the cool of the church.

Escaping the heat beneath the tree of finds.

Escaping the heat beneath the tree of finds.

As with any of our washing and bagging sessions, occasionally something more unique will crop up. This week we found a bit of 18th Century transfer ware with this adorable little teapot on it.

Tea, anyone?

Tea, anyone?

Despite the immense heat and shifting lots of earth, the trainees managed to keep smiles on their faces all week long, so a big thanks to all of them for not letting that rare British summer beat them!

The week 4 team.

The week 4 team.

Hopefully there will be more site diaries coming soon so until then, thanks for reading!

-Katie

P.S Week 4 brought lovely weather but also a new site mascot as Planty hadn’t survived winter very well. We now have a fluffy little sparrow fledgling zooming around the site looking for crumbs and crisps, and he wasn’t really bothered how close he had to go to us in order to get his lunch. Sometimes if we didn’t put crumbs down soon enough, he’d just help himself…

Of course, we had to name him Captain Jack.

Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow

 

 

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