August training weekend at All Saints, North Street.

IMG_5383Getting away from work and family commitments for a week’s digging can prove very tricky for a lot of people. Thankfully, our training weekends are proving to be an increasingly popular alternative for archaeology enthusiasts with busy lives. The second weekend dig of the 2014 season saw the team digging in some glorious sunshine and making some intriguing discoveries.

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Work begins in ‘That End’

Stepping back into the ‘That End’ hot seat for the weekend, Arran set his new team straight to work on a number of features. Darren and Gregers troweled over a large area to clarify some difficult edges. In doing so, the pair uncovered a small dump of mixed material. Proving to be another deposit relating to the area’s busy early 19th century life as a working yard space, the context produced some great finds. In fact, it took Gregers all of five minutes to uncover this rather lovely coin!

Gregers' coin, fresh out of the ground.

Gregers’ coin, fresh out of the ground.

Being highly corroded, a precise date will remain uncertain until it is cleaned by our conservators. However, judging by its size and appearance, a Roman date seems the most likely. Regardless, Gregers was off to a great start and suitably happy with his work!

Gregers shows off his find.

Gregers shows off his find.

With their dump fully recorded and excavated, Gregers and Darren cleaned up a small patch of darker soil. This deposit proved to be the backfill of a post hole, one of an increasing number of structural features in the area.

A post hole emerges...

A post hole emerges…

The post hole proved to be relatively shallow, seemingly effected by later clearance events. Nonetheless, when all the contemporary structural elements are viewed together, we may be able to build a clearer picture of what kind of transient structures were in use here at the beginning of the 19th century.

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Dave and Tracey took on the tricky task of working in ‘contrary corner’. They began their week by continuing work on a pit backfill that was started in week 9.

The trench basking in the afternoon sun.

The trench basking in the afternoon sun. Contrary Corner occupies the northern end of the trench, overlooked by 14th century cottages.

The pit backfill contained pottery ranging in date from Roman to 19th century, appearing to represent disposal of domestic waste. Whether this waste would have come from the nearby rectory or All Saints Cottages is hard to say, although some high status ceramics were certainly present.

Dave and Tracey begin excavating their pit backfill.

Dave and Tracey begin excavating their pit backfill.

The pit truncated a number of earlier features, including a cobble surface and perhaps most importantly, an infant burial. As we know that the site began receiving burials only after 1823 and that the pit pre-dates the 1860s construction of the Church Hall, we can quite tightly date this feature.

Dave and Tracey's pit after excavation.

Dave and Tracey’s pit after excavation.

With the pit fully recorded, Dave and Tracey turned their attention to the opposite end of ‘contrary corner’ and discovered, recorded and excavated a second refuse pit. Finally, it seems that this difficult end of the trench is beginning to yield clear features with a little less resistance!

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Tracey cleaning her pit backfill, a lighter circle of soil can be seen to the right of her trowel.

Sally and Amanda began their weekend in an area where no clear edges were appearing. A diligent troweling session was needed to define the extents of a dump of clayey material. This pre-dates the early 19th century phase of burials, most likely being deposited in the first decade of the 1800s.

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Gus runs Sally and Amanda through the finer points of planning.

With their context fully excavated, Sally and Amanda resumed their hunt for new edges and cleaned up a number of deposits. This process gave us a much clearer view of the sequence at this (well, that) end of the trench and will put us in good stead for next week!

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Sally and Amanda, mid-trowelathon…

Toby’s team were also faced with some tricky trowelling. Niamh, John, Lottie, Diane, Harvey and David rotated through a number of tasks over the weekend. One of the bigger jobs was the removal of a dump deposit at the north-west edge of the trench.IMG_5388This process revealed the backfill of a post hole which was cleaned and photographed. It also exposed a possible grave backfill, although this will be investigated next week.

Troweling next to the rectory wall.

Troweling next to the rectory wall.

Interestingly, the 18th century rectory wall still has no visible construction cut. This means that the deposits that lie next to the wall are still later in date. This area was cleaned up to try and clarify this situation, revealing a very mixed deposit that was rich in mortar. It is possible that this deposit is the result of fairly intensive grave digging.

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Toby’s team continue work on a grave backfill.

As Toby’s team grew increasingly confident with their troweling, they picked up the excavation of one of our partially dug grave backfills. Working at a suitably steady pace, the team were able to clarify the edges of an increasingly complex, inter-cutting sequence.

Under the gaze of Planty the Plant, the ‘This End’ team learned that archaeology isn’t all underground, as they began to record the walls of the old church hall. Meticulous measurements led to some very handsome elevation drawings that reveal the walls to be something of a palimpsest, with numerous alterations.

Recording begins on the upstanding building remains.

Recording begins on the upstanding building remains.

Under the shade of the Finds Tree, some fascinating artefacts were cleaned up, including an unusual sherd of Roman colour coat pottery in the form of a mortarium.

Roman ceramics.

Roman ceramics.

Washing finds from a context rich in animal bone, the team enjoyed an impromptu faunal remains session and were able to re-construct parts of several cows.

We have the technology, we can re-build moo. Ahem...

We have the technology, we can re-build moo.
Ahem…

A particularly interesting find was a bone from the barbed tale of a ray. It seems that some exotic items were on the 19th century menu…

Seafood was clearly popular at All Saints.

Seafood was clearly popular at All Saints.

One of the weekend’s best finds was a fragment of medieval stained glass. Now barely even translucent, it is intriguing to wonder which window this once occupied!

Medieval window glass.

Medieval window glass.

The weekend closed with a guided tour of the site and a summary of the latest findings. There is a lot to fit in to two days, but this proved to be a vintage training weekend, with new deposits being discovered and excavated and new ideas being brought up regarding the early 19th century use of the site. Gregers’ coin was an obvious highlight amidst some great finds, with a high occurrence of unusual and high status ceramics. On Sunday, we were also joined by a VIP guest and Archaeology Live! legend – Harry!

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Harry dropped by on the off chance someone had some spare ham.

Many thanks to the weekend team for a fascinating and fun two day dig! Great work by all and good to see a mix of new and familiar faces.

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The August weekend team

Toby's end of week wrap-up.

Toby’s end of week wrap-up.

With only three weeks to go, there is a lot of archaeology still to play with! The increasingly autumnal weather may attempt to play a part, but on the strength of this season so far, I think we’ll have a stellar end to the summer dig!

Onwards and downwards!

-Arran

Ominous skies over All Saints Cottages.

Ominous skies over All Saints Cottages.

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 9.

 

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One of the great pleasures of being part of Archaeology Live! is meeting people from all walks of life, from all over the world. Over the last fourteen years, our Archaeology Live! excavations have proved to be a melting pot of new friendships, professional contacts and more than a few budding romances. That said, it’s always great to see the return of a few familiar faces. With Archaeology Live! stalwarts Tom, Megan and Chas returning to placement duties, week nine got off to a flying start.

Chas, Tom and Megan. Part of the Archaeology Live! furniture.

Chas, Tom and Megan. It wouldn’t be Arch Live! without them.

With the new arrivals inducted, suited and booted, trowels were brandished and work began.

With ‘This End’ becoming increasingly populated by early 19th century burials, Toby’s team cleaned up the central area of the trench.

Cleaning up 'This End'

Cleaning up ‘This End’

Looking to clear up a number of somewhat fuzzy edges and hopefully expose a few new ones, the new additions quickly got their troweling eye in. Theo and Callum took over work on a large rectangular cut feature that has up to press seemed a tad wide to be a grave. 

Theo and Callum taking on some tough stratigraphy.

Theo and Callum taking on some tough stratigraphy.

As the week progressed, it became apparent that something rather complex was going on. The wide cut feature was in fact several intercutting graves, later interrupted by a shallow charnel pit. The difficulty in tying down the sequence lay in the intensive focus of activity on a very small piece of ground. As each feature cut into its predecessor, much of the earlier deposits were removed, leaving only thin slithers of surviving backfills. 

Callum in full troweling swing.

Callum in full troweling swing.

This discovery effectively turned a single context into a multitude of separate events, each requiring an individual record. Joined at the end of the week by Hugo, Callum began to record and excavate the sequence of graves and pits. While work on these features will continue over the next couple of weeks, the work done by Callum, Theo and Hugo has made a confusing mass of disturbed edges into a complex, but understandable stratigraphic sequence.

Records! Records! Records!

Records! Records! Records!

Beth and Donald joined us for their third year running this week and faced quite a new challenge. Last year on Hungate, the pair recorded and excavated an early 20th century concrete yard surface, during which Beth managed to break a mattock shaft in two! This season’s work would prove far more delicate.

Beth and Donald beginning their week.

Beth and Donald beginning their week.

In the section of a later burial, the grave of an infant had been discovered earlier in the season. Now the feature was free to investigate, Beth and Donald delicately troweled the area to locate the full extents of the burial.

As has been the general policy all season, no burials are currently scheduled to be removed during this excavation. The team have however looked to locate the positions and depths of surviving human remains to ensure they are protected from any intrusion from future development work.

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Beth and Donald employing their most delicate troweling techniques.

As the grave backfill was gently peeled away, the outline of a collapsed coffin became visible, including a very degraded name plate. This discovery is important as it tells us that this was a sanctioned burial and adds a sombre human touch to the feature. These remains, partially revealed by Donald and Beth, will last have been seen by their grieving relatives almost two centuries ago.

With respect for the individuals interred along Church Lane, we will not be posting any images of their remains. While public access to our discoveries is perhaps our main aim, features like these are best dealt with quietly and respectfully. 

Janice working on a C19th burial.

Janice working on a C19th burial.

Janice enjoyed a similarly challenging week, as she worked to ascertain the position and depth of the individual interred in her grave cut. This was tricky work, made harder by the confined space, but Janice’s patient excavation paid off as she revealed the upper and lower extremes of the skeleton. This allowed us to begin detailed records of the burial, again allowing us to ensure that this individual can continue to rest in peace. 

As the grave was cut through almost a metre of earlier stratigraphy, a great variety of finds were present in the backfill. A particular highlight was the shiny, slightly comical lid fragment from a post-medieval pot.

Janice's unusual pot sherd.

Janice’s unusual pot sherd.

In Gary’s area, the ‘That End’ team looked to make similar progress. Joined this week by Archaeology Live’s favourite Southern Belle, Lorraine, Beth recorded and excavated the fill of a small refuse pit. 

Beth and Lorraine's refuse pit.

Beth and Lorraine’s refuse pit.

Making a formidable team, it wasn’t long before Beth and Lorraine made some great finds. Highlights included a worked bone object with a carved internal thread. 

Beth's worked bone object.

Beth’s worked bone object.

It is possible that this could be the decorative end of an umbrella or similar item. It was certainly designed to screw on to something.

The excavation of this pit proved that a possible structural feature visible in the section of ‘Biagio’s bone pit’  (see earlier blog entries…) to be almost entirely truncated by later activity. That slight disappointment didn’t stop Beth and Lorraine from enjoying their work, however, as the finds continued to flow.

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Live long and prosper.

With the pit recorded, the intrepid pair revealed, recorded and excavated a small post hole, forcing Beth to break out field archaeology’s most devastating tool: The Teaspoon.

'There is no spoon'

‘There is no spoon’

One of a number of emerging structural features, this post hole adds to a growing body of evidence that this yard was a busy working space in the first two decades of the 19th century. 

Sandra and Bella began their week of excavation with us by investigating a feature that cut into a cobble surface/footing recorded by Gina and Geoff early in the season. Like Callum and Theo’s feature, this proved to be a difficult task. After a good deal of investigative troweling, Sandra and Bella discovered that they were actually dealing with two features, a shallow pit cut and an infant burial. 

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Sandra and Bella’s area under investigation.

Complex relationships like these throw up a lot of records and Sandra and Bella worked hard to clean, photograph and plan each layer and cut edge. The discoveries made in this area depict an unusual dichotomy. Clearly, this area of 19th century yard space was home to countless pits, tips and post holes, but it was also being used, seemingly concurrently, for burials. As the ceramics from each context in this area are analysed by specialists, it will be fascinating to see if we can tighten the dating sequence and confirm whether or not the yard remained in active use while it was receiving burials.

Recording in 'that end'

Recording in ‘that end’

Bella and Sandra ended their week by recording and excavating a small dump of clayey material. This in turn revealed yet another stakehole! 

Sandra and Bella lifting a clay dump.

Sandra and Bella lifting a clay dump.

A busy week in ‘That End’ has added to an increasing cross-site division. It is certain that refuse pits, structural features and industrial features are increasingly common as you move further from the 18th century rectory building. Clearly, the rector liked to keep such smelly nuisances away from his dwelling. It is interesting to note that the residents of All Saints Cottages couldn’t afford to be so choosy. It’s fascinating to think that these beautiful medieval buildings have only been held in such high regard in relatively recent times; they must have seemed quite old hat in the 1820s.

Hindsight can be a wonderful thing.

All Saints Cottages border the northern end of the trench.

All Saints Cottages border the northern end of the trench.

The rectory is depicted in an early 19th century engraving and seems to have been quite a grand residence, even if a little artistic licence seems to have been taken – the footings we have uncovered are a tad smaller than you would expect for such a large building.

The north-east wall of the rectory with cesspit annex to the top of shot.

The north-east wall of the rectory with cesspit annex to the top of shot.

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The rectory – note the annex to the right.

The Tree of Finds enjoyed a wonderful moment as the last of the ‘horn pit’ finds were finally washed. Representing the by-products of the tanning industry, the 15 tubs of cattle skull and horn core proved quite a task to clean! 

No more horn core!! :)

No more horn core!! 🙂

Finds washing revealed a number of treasures that had yet to be noted. A seemingly innocuous pot sherd was washed by Beth and was found to contain antler stamped decoration.

Beth under the Finds Tree.

Beth under the Finds Tree.

This is proving a tough sherd to date, with opinion remaining thoroughly divided. It’s fabric and decoration are crude and a Roman or Anglo-Saxon date wouldn’t be beyond the realms of the imagination. However, it is equally plausible to be a locally made post-medieval ware. We await specialist opinion…

Suggestions welcome...

Suggestions welcome…

While washing what appeared to be a clump of dirt, Bella spotted this small, well-made copper alloy object. A decorative fitting of some sort, we eagerly await our small finds specialist’s opinion on this one.

Bella's copper object.

Bella’s copper object.

Another amusing discovery was a large dog’s paw print in a medieval roof tile. You can almost picture the tiler’s annoyance at his unruly dog!

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Woof

Often difficult to distinguish between some Roman equivalents, we have nonetheless been noting an increase in Viking finds as we creep into earlier deposits. It bodes well for what lies beneath us!

 

 

Viking ceramics.

Viking ceramics.

Week 9 has seen our picture of early 19th century activity along Church Lane come into ever sharper focus. We can see unpleasant activities being pushed away from the rectory at the south end of the yard and kept close to All Saints Cottages to the north; we can also see working life continuing in the yard while it was being incorporated into the church’s burial ground. The refuse pits we excavate are giving us new insights into past diets and lifestyles and, as we expose elements of the individuals buried along Church Lane, we are able to meet the 19th century parishioners of All Saints face to face.

None of this would be possible without the funding, hard work and boundless enthusiasm of our wonderful team of budding archaeologists. It is people like this that give archaeology such a bright future, thank you to all the week 9 team for another exciting week on North Street! 

The week 9 gang.

The week 9 gang.

So, now we head in to the closing stages of the summer session. Only three weeks and one weekend to go! It’s been immense fun so far and a genuine privilege to work with such a passionate and diverse group of individuals. Here’s to a big finale!

Onwards and downwards!

 

– Arran

 

PS. In closing, I’ll leave you with this. 

Odd things happen on excavations sometimes. Our placement Becky was off sick for a day and it was decided she needed a replacement. Enter Becky MkII…

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Finding some ‘green graze’

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Keeping on top of those finds.

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A spot of recording.

A dinner date with Planty.

A dinner date with Planty.

Some light troweling.

Some light troweling.

Becky MkI.

Becky MkI. Thankfully, alive and well.

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 8.

 

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All Saints in the sunshine.

At its core, archaeology is all about stories; capturing glimpses of bygone times in the material left behind by the people who lived through them. To hear these echoes we have to follow through a long process, beginning with research and excavation. Archives are trawled through, aerial photographs are pondered and historic maps are searched for hints of former land use. With a good knowledge of a site’s background, we call in the ground troops.

Over the last two months, the Archaeology Live! summer team have been working to read the story of our little corner of land by All Saints Church, beginning as archaeologists always do – at the end. 

From the recent demolition of the old church hall, we have uncovered an unbroken sequence of activity dating back to the beginning of the 19th century. Photographs have been taken, plan drawings measured and detailed context cards have been filled in. We have worked out exactly what cuts into what, which dump overlies which surface and recovered finds to provide a date for each of these events. This combined effort is what forms the core of our story. 

We always remind our trainees that individual finds, while exciting, are only part of the bigger picture and that archaeology is certainly not a treasure hunt. That said, it is always nice when these things appear and every now and then a week comes around where you can’t move for amazing artefacts!

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The monday of week 8 marked the beginning of just such a week. There was a palpable buzz around the trench as the team began to arrive; the sun was shining, the trench was looking smart and we had everything to play for. 

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In ‘This End’, Toby’s new arrivals and continuing trainees began work on a number of features. Returning trainee Reinhilde once again made the trip from Belgium to join us, this time with her nephew Gerwin in tow. The pair drew the difficult task of finding good edges in an area heavily disturbed by Victorian rabbit burrows. Happily, with some of ‘Toby’s trowelling top tips©’ they were able to identify a cut feature that could be another early 19th century grave. 

Gerwin and Reinhilde trowelling over new deposits.

Gerwin and Reinhilde trowelling over new deposits.

After recording their new context, Gerwin and Reinhilde began to excavate and it wasn’t long before they were rewarded with some amazing finds. A strong contender for the image on next season’s T-shirt was Gerwin’s sherd of a mid-16th century Bartmann jug. Also referred to as Bellarmine jugs, these stoneware vessels were produced in Germany throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Almost ubiquitous in their decoration is the image of a bearded  man. 

Gerwin's sherd of a Bellarmine jug.

Gerwin’s sherd of a Bellarmine jug.

A popular image in European folklore from the 14th century, the ‘wild man’ appears on many artefacts, although Gerwin’s pot is more likely a representation of cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621). Opposing the rise of protestantism in Germany and the Low Countries, the use of his image on these vessels could well have been a form of ridicule from European protestants – especially when his staunch anti-alcohol stance is considered. 

A quick google search provides numerous images of complete examples.

A quick google search provides numerous images of complete examples.

This is a fantastic find and would have been a colourful addition to any household.

Reinhilde wasn’t left behind however and among a number of good finds, she discovered a large sherd of a flat bottomed Samian ware bowl. 1st-2nd century in date, this is a piece of high-status Roman tableware more familiar to olives than pottage! Found in such good condition, it is hard to fathom that this object is almost two thousand years old!

Reinhilde displays her freshly unearthed samian bowl sherd.

Reinhilde displays her freshly unearthed samian bowl sherd. 

New trainees Vicky and India also had a busy week in Toby’s area. Alongside working on several dumps and a grave backfill, the pair worked together to record and excavate the backfill of a truncated brick chamber located between the rectory and Church Lane. 

Vicky and India working on their brick chamber.

Vicky and India working on their brick chamber.

The backfill yielded some interesting artefacts including our second possible corset clasp of the season. Good to know the resident rector was an appreciator of ladies’ fashion! India found another fashionable object within a lump of metallic corrosion – a small, decorative copper button. 

India's delicate copper button.

India’s delicate copper button.

As the base of the feature was exposed, it appeared increasingly likely to represent a small cesspit. Not an obvious place for items of clothing to end up, although it is fun to imagine a slightly ill individual ripping off clothing for an urgent trip to the loo… 

The rough, brick-built cesspit.

The rough, brick-built cesspit.

Later in the week, India’s fashion collection was added to by a glazed ceramic button. Another smart item of clothing found close to the rectory.

India and her ceramic button.

India and her ceramic button.

Archaeology Live! regular Kirsten Hald, alongside longstanding placement Dave ‘the dig’ Dearlove, achieved legend status this week after ten straight years of digging with us! Toby presented the pair with commemorative T-shirts to celebrate. Here’s to the next decade!

True Archaeology Live! legends, Kirsten and Dave.

True Archaeology Live! legends, Kirsten and Dave.

Continuing to work with Kaye, another Archaeology Live! regular, Kirsten recorded and excavated a dump of cinder within a small annex of the rectory. This backfill contained a good deal of late 18th to early 19th century pottery, including a fragment of a chamber pot. Fittingly, as things often do on Archaeology Live!, it turned out to be a cesspit. 

Kirsten and Kaye's cobble-based cesspit is visible in the right of this shot.

Kirsten and Kaye’s cobble-based cesspit is visible in the right of this shot.

Lined with brick and complete with a well-mettled cobble floor, this cesspit was better built than Vicky and India’s example and provides an earthy insight into life in an early modern rectory. Kirsten and Kaye also exposed a small, truncated section of the rectory’s brick floor. 

The rectory's north wall. A tale of two cesspits.

The rectory’s north wall. A tale of two cesspits.

In keeping with the week’s theme of great small finds, Kaye was lucky enough to discover a particularly beautiful artefact – a fragment of a glass ring. We’ll need a specialist to give us a date for this one, although Toby, Arran and Gary are all in agreement that it looks distinctly Roman. If this is the case, this will go down as one of the year’s most significant individual artefacts. 

Kaye's rather splendid Roman (?) ring.

Kaye’s rather splendid Roman (?) ring.

Being a glass object found in damp conditions, this object will be kept moist to arrest any possible drying out and subsequent decay.

Over at ‘That End’, Gary’s team also enjoyed an eventful and finds-rich week.

Continuing work on a 19th century grave cut, Rosie and Alan began their second week with the intention of cleaning up and recording the partially excavated feature with a view to it being picked up later in the season when access is easier and safer. This clean-up produced a number of wonderful finds, including a sherd of a sizeable splash glazed pot. Dating to the 12th-13th century, this would have been a substantial vessel!

Alan's thumbprint decorated medieval pot rimsherd.

Alan’s thumbprint decorated medieval pot rimsherd.

However, the real star of the show was unearthed moments later. Alan spotted what appeared to be a very precisely curved fragment of bone. As it was revealed in its entirety, it proved to be a beautifully crafted antler spindle whorl. Used throughout the Viking and medieval periods, such objects were part of daily crafting life.

Alan looking deservedly happy with his latest find.

Alan looking deservedly happy with his latest find.

While a date between the 10th and 12th century is as accurate as we can confidently say before specialist analysis, the circular incised decoration looks very similar to numerous Viking antler objects discovered on nearby Hungate. What can’t be doubted is the wonderful craftsmanship of this object, which would have been a valued possession and was almost certainly lost rather than discarded. 

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You know it’s a good finds day when…

Later in the week, Rosie and Alan investigated a small, sub-rectangular refuse pit. The finds proved to be the usual ‘That End’ pick n mix of Roman to post-medieval pottery, animal bone and ceramic building material. Rosie unearthed a large tile fragment, charred on one side and scored on the other. This could represent a fragment of flue tile from a Roman hypocaust (early under-floor heating!) and when this is considered alongside the many fragments of Roman tablewares and amphora found nearby, we have increasing evidence for consumption of luxury goods early in the first millennium. 

Rosie's Roman tile fragment.

Rosie’s Roman tile fragment.

As excavation of the feature continued, the plot thickened. Alan and Rosie began to expose a layer of well-laid stonework. The assemblage of limestone blocks appears to be a substantial post-pad, designed to take the weight of a large structural timber. As the surrounding sequence is tightened up, it may be possible that this is the first definitive evidence that the neighbouring row of medieval buildings, All Saints Cottages, may once have extended further over our site.

Alan uncovering new stonework.

Alan uncovering new stonework.

To provide a visual aid, the reconstructed early 20th century hermitage at the rear of the church features a large timber upright being supported, in this case, by a concrete post-pad.

The hermitage at the rear of the church (currently a finds storage area).

The hermitage at the rear of the church (currently a finds storage area).

Elsewhere in Gary’s area, Sarah, Hannah and Beth recorded and excavated a rough yard surface. This revealed a complex, intercutting sequence of early 19th century pits. 

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Beth and Hannah hunting edges.

The yard deposit contained some more great finds, including the year’s second copper alloy lace tag (fashion being something of a theme this week).

Sarah and her lace tag.

Sarah and her lace tag.

Beth unearthed a rather lovely copper alloy clasp/buckle. Again, appearing medieval in date, this find should clean up beautifully.

 

 

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Another wonderful personal possession.

A structural feature, exposed earlier in the season in the section of Biagio’s ‘bone pit’, proved to be less substantial than may have been expected. Only around 100mm in width, it now seems this feature has been almost entirely truncated by later pits.

A structural feature is visible in the pit section.

A structural feature is visible in the pit section.

With a number of new pits identified, Gary’s team recorded the two latest examples and began to investigate them.

Planning.

Planning pit fills.

Joining us on a two day taster, Emily worked with Beth on one of our pits. She was delighted to find the handle of an 18th century tin-glazed earthenware jug. 

Emily's decorative jug handle.

Emily’s decorative jug handle.

The same deposit turned up another good find for Beth, as she unearthed a corroded copper alloy coin. Cleaned up by our conservators, this should provide a good date for the pit.

Beth and her coin.

Beth and her coin.

The new edges and pits unearthed by Gary’s team reveal an increasingly busy and well-used yard space that continues to contrast sharply with the sequence at Toby’s side of the trench. These will continue to be investigated next week, perhaps we will find more evidence of the tanning industry.

Sarah exposing a sub-circular pit.

Sarah exposing a sub-circular pit.

Beneath the Tree of Finds, Arran’s merry band of finds processors continued the mammoth task of cleaning the finds from the now infamous ‘horn pit.’

Just SOME of the bone from context 1152.

Just SOME of the bone from context 1152.

Thankfully, a few earlier artefacts were found among the mass of early 19th century cattle crania and horn core. These included a fragment of medieval pottery complete with the perfectly preserved fingerprints of the potter. The ridges of each fingerprint are clearly visible in the fabric of the pot.

Medieval fingerprints in vivid detail.

Medieval fingerprints in vivid detail.

One fragment of cattle skull provided evidence of a rather unhealthy cow, as the skull was peppered with holes. These represent damage caused by tumours and would have made for a rather unhappy beast.

Evidence of poorly cows.

Evidence of poorly cows.

Washing what appeared to be a fragment of cattle rib, Kirsten spotted some unusual markings in the bone.

Kirsten marks her decade of service with another top find!

Kirsten marks her decade of service with another top find!

Closer inspection revealed the object was not bone after all. Instead, it was a thin panel of decorated antler, incised with circular markings. Possibly the exterior of a Viking composite comb, this find proved that finds washing can be exciting at the most unlikely times!

Decorated Viking antler.

Decorated Viking antler.

An unexpected pleasure was a site visit from Lewis Gell, the former owner of the boxing club, under which we are currently digging. Lewis had many good stories of his time in the building and will be providing us with some photos of the boxing club in its former glory. We’ll post a more detailed blog post on the club’s recent history in the coming weeks.

Gary and former boxing club owner Lewis.

Gary and former boxing club owner Lewis.

And so ended a thrilling week of archaeology on North Street. We normally have a stand-out find from the week, but week 8 left us with a whole collection!

Recording a 19th century pit cut.

Recording a 19th century pit cut.

Importantly, these artefacts add depth to our site story. From evidence of 18th century fashion favoured by the occupants of the rectory to tantalising clues of what Roman, Viking and medieval archaeology lies in store below us; our understanding of what people were using, consuming and doing along Church Lane has grown considerably. Personal possessions like Alan’s spindle whorl and Kaye’s glass ring, bring us that bit closer to the people that lived and worked here.

The week 8 team.

The week 8 team.

Thanks as ever must go out to our ever changing team of trainees and placements for their continuing work on site. The quality of recording has been tip top and new excavation skills have been put to practice with an expert eye. Congratulations must also go to our placements Gus and Craig, who have now begun working with us as professional archaeologists on one of our commercial excavations! The experience gathered by our placements can prove a great stepping stone into professional archaeology.

Next week, we will work to read an earlier chapter of the trench’s story and welcome back some familiar faces from the glory days of Hungate. It should be good fun and maybe, just maybe we’ll have another bonanza week of finds!

Until then, onwards and downwards!

 

-Arran 

 

 

 

 

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 7.

Finds work under the bell tower.

Finds work under the bell tower.

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

Ellen & Biagio, trowellers extraordinaire.

Ellen & Biagio, trowellers extraordinaire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben and Daniel working on a 19th century inhumation.

Ben and Daniel working on a 19th century inhumation.

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

Daniel and his first ever coin.

Daniel and his first ever coin.

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

Kirsten and Kaye hard at work.

Kirsten and Kaye hard at work.

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

Decorated stoneware.

Decorated stoneware from Kirsten’s feature.

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

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The Tree of Finds? Maybe…

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

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

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

Kirsten's coin.

Kirsten’s coin.

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

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

Planfest 2014!

Planfest 2014!

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

Annie working on her rectangular feature.

Annie working on her rectangular feature.

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

Green elephant or medieval jug?

Green elephant or medieval jug?

…and a post-medieval copper alloy lace tag.

Annie showing off her lace tag.

Annie showing off her lace tag.

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

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

Recording robber cuts over the rectory.

Recording robber cuts over the rectory.

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

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The trench increasingly resembling a moonscape.

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

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

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

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

'Dig me like one of your french girls'

‘Dig me like one of your french girls’

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

Ellen shows off her latest find.

Ellen shows off her latest find.

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

Sue and Gill peeling away a layer of rubble.

Sue and Gill cleaning up a layer of rubble.

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

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Sue and a fragment of fancy medieval pottery.

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

Gill's copper brooch.

Gill’s copper brooch.

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

Gill's scorched pot sherd.

Gill’s scorched pot sherd.

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

Alan working on the 'horn pit'.

Alan working on the ‘horn pit’.

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

Rosie cheerfully sieving the backfill of the horn pit.

Rosie cheerfully sieving the backfill of the horn pit.

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

Rosie and Alan investigating a new feature.

Rosie and Alan investigating a new feature.

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

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

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

Carmen exposing new features.

Carmen exposing new features.

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

Carmen with a sherd of medieval pottery.

Carmen with a sherd of medieval pottery.

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

The fingerprints of a medieval potter.

The fingerprints of a medieval potter.

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

It rained a bit...

It rained a bit…

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

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

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

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

The pottery from context 1116.

The pottery from context 1116.

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

Child fingerprints in a medieval tile.

Child fingerprints in a medieval tile.

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

Viking Torksey ware, complete with thumbprints.

Viking Torksey ware, complete with thumbprints.

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

Fleur de lys decorated pipe bowls.

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

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

Biagio and his mountain of finds.

Biagio and his mountain of finds.

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

Horn, horn, horn...

Horn, horn, horn…

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

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

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

The week 7 team.

The week 7 team.

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

Planty!!! Nooooooooo!

Planty!!! Nooooooooo!

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

 

– Arran

 

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

Take it easy guys...

Take it easy guys…

Archaeology Live! Summer 2014. Week 6.

Despite it still feeling like we’ve only just got started on North Street, the growing pile of artefact boxes begs to differ. We’ve had five entertaining and eventful weeks of archaeology so far and it still feels like we’ve only just scratched the surface (no pun intended, honest.)

This week saw the site make real progress, as our trainees continued to tease apart the complex layers of archaeology. New contexts that were beginning to appear last week have become increasingly typified by cut features such as pits, post holes and so on, as opposed to the proliferation of tips, dumps and surfaces that we have encountered throughout the summer.

IMG_4916

A sunny start to week 6.

Team This End began their week by giving their area a thorough, robust trowelling. Numerous surfaces and levelling deposits were recorded last week and the last pockets of these were now lifted. This gave an increasingly clear view of the earlier archaeology.

 

IMG_4923

Helen exposing a burnt deposit.

Helen continued to work on a spread of burnt material that her dad had begun to investigate last week. Initially a tad ephemeral, this deposit began to resolve itself as it was more fully exposed. We had been fairly confident that this would be a relatively late burning event that overlaid 18th century deposits; the reality however has proved to be somewhat different.

It is now apparent that this context is cut by numerous features that date to the early 19th century. This pushes the date of the burning back in the sequence. It is possible that it could even be contemporary with the main use period of the nearby 18th century rectory.

Pete and his grindstone.

Pete and his grindstone.

Close by, as more 19th century yard deposits were excavated, some great finds were appearing. Pete was very happy to find a well-worn grindstone, an object that could be mounted on an axle, rotated and used to sharpen blades.

IMG_4983

A closer look at Pete’s grindstone.

Such objects have been in use as long as metalworking has been practiced so dating will require a specialist eye, although we have found similar examples in York within 10th century and 12th-13th century deposits. With this in mind, it is possible that this object was made and used in the Viking or medieval period before ending up in a Victorian dump deposit.

Celia and Helen hard at work.

Celia and Helen hard at work.

As these 19th century layers were removed, Celia and Helen exposed yet another wall relating to the 18th century rectory that occupied the site until the 1850s. The structural sequence of this building is becoming more complex as we reveal more of its footings. Understanding and dating this phase of activity will be something we’ll be looking at in detail next week.

 

Nicola's mysterious copper alloy object.

Nicola’s mysterious copper alloy object.

Archaeology Live! regular Nicola was clearly on good form this year as she found a number of great artefacts! These included decorative Victorian glass, decorated Samian ware and an unusual copper alloy object.

 

Sarah with her now mortar-free rabbit warren.

Sarah with her now mortar-free rabbit warren.

Sarah had been investigating a mortar rich deposit that had been extensively disturbed by animal burrowing at the end of last week. This week, she finally cleared up what had been happening.

Amazingly, it seems an industrious 19th century individual took exception to the rabbits burrowing in his/her yard and blocked up the rabbit hole with mortar. It was ironic that we made this discovery on Beatrix Potter’s birthday! Poor Peter Rabbit…

 

EDGES!!!

With the mid-19th century deposits lifted, the team stood back and admired a series of new features. These included a number of rectangular cut features, around six feet in length, that follow the alignment of the church. As we know the area was briefly consecrated to receive burials between the 1820s and the 1850s, it now seems almost certain that these will be inhumations.

Planning newly unearthed features.

Planning newly unearthed features.

With so many new edges appearing, Toby’s team assigned context numbers to each new feature and began work on creating a composite plan. The plans for individual contexts can be taken from this master plan as and when they are investigated. The planning was done en masse before the baking sun was allowed to dry out the newly exposed layers and mask the more subtle edges.

IMG_4998

PLANFEST 2014

While there are currently no plans to remove any articulated human remains, it is important that we know the location and depth of each potential burial. This will allow us to protect them from any future disturbance and to understand this phase of activity.

To this end, the team began to carefully excavate the backfills of several of the possible burials. Any human remains that we discover will be recorded before being left covered and protected.

Toby's team begin to investigate a number of possible burials.

Toby’s team begin to investigate a number of possible burials.

As these features were cut through earlier archaeology, some interesting finds have been appearing. Celia discovered a rather splendid medieval jug handle, possibly 15th-16th century in date.

A medieval jug handle.

A medieval jug handle.

Bill also made an interesting discovery with this bangle shaped copper alloy object.

Bill's copper alloy object.

Bill’s copper alloy object.

Work on these contexts will carry on into next week. It is important to be thorough and careful with such features. The backfills are being 100% sieved and staff or placements with experience of excavating burials are present at all times to offer advice and supervise the work.

Helen following a tricky edge.

Helen following a tricky edge.

Over in Arran’s area, the That End team continued work on several cut features that were identified the previous week, some of which proving to be quite unpredictable!

IMG_4955

Kevin and Dave continue work on an ever expanding bone rich deposit.

This was a busy week for tasters, with numerous people joining us for one or two days on site. This meant that some larger features have now been worked on by quite a number of people! The small bone-rich deposit begun the previous week by Tom and Gill was continued by Kevin, Julie, Sharon, Susanne and Emma over the course of the week. The backfill was absolutely packed with cattle skull fragments and each time we thought we’d found the end of the feature, more bone appeared!

Julie and Sharon getting in the bovine spirit... (A 'horny' joke would just have been lazy)

Julie and Sharon getting in the bovine spirit… (A ‘horny’ joke would just have been lazy)

Now four times larger than we had expected, the pit finally revealed it’s edge on Friday, with the bone abruptly ceasing to occur. Again, as the feature cuts earlier deposits, it contained a great range of finds, including a beautiful sherd of Roman black burnished ware. The cross hatched decoration is still remarkably visible after almost two millennia!

Black burnished ware with it's diamond pattern decoration still clearly visible.

Black burnished ware with it’s diamond pattern decoration still clearly visible.

Our first ‘pie crust’ rim from a Torskey ware Viking pot was also discovered from this context. Being able to put your thumb in a thousand year old thumbprint never wears thin!

Susanne's sherd of Torksey ware.

Susanne’s sherd of Torksey ware.

As the deposit contained several sherds of transfer ware, it must date to no earlier than the late 18th century. It is very interesting how regimented the finds from this pit have proved to be, as such features often contain a huge range of material. Domestic refuse was almost entirely absent, with the vast majority of finds being fragments of cattle skull and horn core.

Each of these skull fragments were from the top half of the skull, with no mandibles, maxilla, etc. being unearthed. It seems that this pit represents the exclusive disposal of the by-products of horn working. The site’s proximity to Tanner Row suggests a link with the tanning industry, could a relationship have existed between the tanners, butchers and horn-workers in the area?

Another interesting and slightly grisly discovery was also made, as many of the skull fragments featured a small puncture wound – possible evidence of 19th century slaughter techniques.

Cattle skull with a puncture wound.

Cattle skull with a puncture wound.

While the edges of this ‘cow mashing pit’ (as it has been informally dubbed) have been discovered, there is still plenty of backfill to excavate. Next week will see us add even more bone to the eleven tubs that have already been recovered!

 

Biagio's bone pit.

Biagio’s bone pit.

Returning for his second year, Biagio took over work on the pit started by Anne in week 5. Also full of animal bone, this pit differed from the horn pit as it contained bone from various parts of various animals and appears more likely to represent disposal of general butchery waste.

 

Biagio's worked flint.

Biagio’s worked flint.

 

The pit backfill contained two particularly noteworthy finds, including a fragment of worked flint. Heavily struck on one side, this object doesn’t appear to be a pre-historic tool or offcut. Instead, it seems more likely to be a 19th century object used to strike a flame. We look forward to hearing the specialist opinion on this one!

After filling three tubs with fragmented animal bone, Biagio was overjoyed to find something a little different. This time, he spotted a large fragment from a Roman amphora – a large vessel used to transport luxury goods such as oils and wines. We are finding more and more evidence of high status Roman material as the weeks pass.

Biagio, clearly chuffed with his amphora fragment.

Biagio, clearly chuffed with his amphora fragment.

In ‘contrary corner’ at the northern end of the trench. Gideon and Jess’ pit from week 5 continued to be worked on by Gary, Erica, Paul and Michelle who all joined us on one day taster courses. The edges we had worked so hard to find last week continued to make good sense and the pit appeared to be close to completion by Friday. This will be finished up next week, bar any contrary surprises of course!

 

Ellen and Beverly working on their possible inhumation.

Ellen and Beverly working on their possible inhumation.

Beverly and Ellen, who proved quite the team last year on Hungate, reunited to continue work on the rectangular feature begun last week by Katie and Beverly. Very possibly another early 19th century burial, this feature yielded a number of great finds.

The ceramic assemblage has been of particular interest. Alongside several sherds of samian ware, local reproductions of a lower quality were also found. Clearly, fake designer goods have been around for a while…

 

Samian ware and a local 'knock-off'

Samian ware and a local ‘knock-off’

The base of a small, globular medieval drinking vessel proved that there is more to the medieval assemblage than storage jars, jugs and cooking pots.

 

A beautiful medieval vessel base.

A beautiful medieval vessel base.

A sherd of medieval roof tile was discovered complete with the footprint of a large dog! This tile could very well have spent several centuries on the roof of All Saints before ending up in the backfill of Ellen and Beverly’s feature.

 

Fido's signature on a medieval roof tile.

Fido’s signature on a medieval roof tile.

There isn’t enough room in this blog to list all of Ellen’s week 6 finds (she had a bumper week!), although the highlight was certainly this small copper alloy brooch.

 

Ellen's medieval brooch.

Ellen’s medieval(?) brooch.

Similar to medieval examples found on Hungate, this object is in excellent condition and should look great when the conservation team have it cleaned.

 

A closer look.

A closer look.

Finds from sieving a single bucket full of Beverly and Ellen’s backfill deposit highlight the multi-phasic quality of York’s archaeology. This particular bucket load contained examples of medieval, Viking and Roman pottery, including an unusual colour coat mortarium rim – giving a date range of 2,000 years!

 

Pottery from sieving.

Pottery from sieving.

At present, this feature has been excavated to a depth of roughly 0.60m and is still descending. Work will continue next week and we’ll hopefully be able to confirm whether or not we are dealing with burials. The feature, like many on site, has been heavily disturbed by rabbit burrowing, although luckily this particular burrow passes above any human remains that may be present.

Ellen looking rather annoyed at Flopsy the Victorian bunny's handiwork.

Ellen looking rather annoyed at Flopsy the Victorian bunny’s handiwork.

Week 7 will be a key week this season, as we will hopefully be able to confirm the presence of inhumations. If Beverly and Ellen’s feature is representative, these graves could all be rather deep. This would mean that we will safely be able to reduce the ground level of the whole trench substantially, working around but not disturbing any in-situ burials.

 

Possible graves under excavation.

Possible graves under excavation.

Beneath the Finds Tree, Gary has been dealing with the mass of finds from the substantial trample deposits that we recently completed work on. The finds teams have worked tirelessly to clean, sort and bag the mountain of artefacts, spotting some gems along the way.

 

Sorting finds. This assemblage came from a single deposit!

Sorting finds. This assemblage came from a single deposit!

A ceramic pipe bowl with masonic decoration.

A ceramic pipe bowl with masonic decoration.

Week 6 has seen the nature of the archaeology on site shift focus from horizontal layers to cut features. As these are excavated, the site will look increasingly like an archaeological moonscape! The sections of these features give us a glimpse into earlier deposits and these sneak previews have already revealed hints of buried structures, substantial refuse pits and possible burials.

Deep features can make for tricky digging!

Deep features can make for tricky digging!

We are now bang on halfway through the summer session. We have recorded and excavated just shy of 200 archaeological contexts and moved almost 35 tons of soil – ENTIRELY by trowel! Week on week, our trainees have got their heads round some genuinely tricky archaeology and consistently impressed us with the professional standards of their work. It’s also been a hell of a lot of fun!

Without the funding of our ever-growing crowd of trainees, this excavation (and its 13 predecessors!) would not be possible. As ever, huge thanks must go out to all of our trainees and placements for supporting Archaeology Live!

Next week, Arran and Gary will tag in/out and switch roles – with Gary looking after That End and Arran taking over the mystical realm of the Tree of Finds. The archaeology is looking really promising as we edge towards the post-medieval period, and yet more sunshine has been forecast! Can’t wait to get started!

Onwards and downwards!

 

-Arran

The week 6 team.

The week 6 team.

 

PS. Week 6 also saw the beginnings of a beautiful new friendship between our placement Dave and a local pug. The two enjoyed a bit of quality time on the edge of the trench. Bless ’em…

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Pug Life.