Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Holy Shit Find of the Season

This week was rather uneventful. We ate at pubs and had fish and chips a lot. So much so that Saturday night was the first time I had something prepared in the campsite and not in the pub with the exception of BBQ night which is Monday nights.

I was at the Kaims every day except Friday. On Friday I was at the castle doing environmental which meant floating soil samples and sorting the heavy residue from samples that had dried. The information that comes out of this process can be very interesting but actually sorting the material can become rather dull. You sort bones, shell, rocks and whatever other material is in the sample in to piles then bag and weigh each category. Floating is also not all that exciting, you have your hands in a freezing cold float tank rubbing soil and clay between your fingers to break it all up.

Saturday was the exciting day. I was back at the Kaims with more supervisors than students. We had been having a good week for flint finds especially but I hadn’t found anything really noteworthy. I had been cleaning back trench 42 and cleaning and planning trench 55 all week. On Saturday I was back in trench 42 just cleaning back the top soil off the layer of stones. I had done this already for 2 days during the week with nothing to show for it except clean stones on the surface. Saturday was different however, I was just doing what I’d been doing slowly taking scrape by scrape of top soil off when suddenly something shiny and almost honey coloured caught my eye. I took the remaining top soil off with my trowel and exclaimed “Holy Shit”. I picked up the flint tanged arrowhead in shook for a second before showing the guy beside me then calling out for the lithics expert to come over. Krisitan asked from across the trench what it was and was in disbelief when I said it was an arrow head. Neal, the archaeology coordinator for the kaims, couldn’t get across the trench quick enough. There was so much excitement and a rush to take photos on a phone camera to send out straight away. Within an hour the finds department had requested that the artefact go to the castle straight away and so it did. 

Neal returned an hour or so later with fresh hot Scotch pies for us all. Luckily I’m one of these people who don’t give a shit about what goes into food as long as it tastes good. A Scotch pie is a pie made up of all the bits and pieces of meat that aren’t really usable at a butchers, the meat rangers from pink to grey inside and is salted but tastes oh so yummy.

We had an arrowhead come out of trench 42 for a few weeks ago but it wasn’t complete. It is rare for them to come out complete like mine did. It is also a dateable find as unlike Australian lithics the typology drastically changes through time so the size and shape of an artefacts can tell you which period it most likely came from. It’s a funny thing, I came to BRP because of the castle. I came to do historical archaeology at an awesome castle site and had no interest in the prehistoric site. I’ve ended up enjoying the prehistoric site far more than the castle site. The castle is still amazing but I’d rather walk the 15minutes through paddocks and mud down to a wet peat marsh and dig in muck all day. Prehistory seems to have become more interesting. I’d like to learn more about lithics and lithics identification. I can now identify quatz, chert and flint. Before I came I wasn’t that interested at all by lithics. Working this site, finding flint and chert artefacts as well as the stone arrangements has kind of changed my mind.

Sunday was our day off. Neal has gone home for the last week of the season which is sad. The upside however is he had a caravan which is now empty, he gave it to Jackie for the last week which means no more sleeping in a tent. We spent most of the morning packing both our stuff up and dismantling our tents. All I had said I wanted for my day off was a sleep in and a Sunday roast lunch. It seems I wasn’t to have either. I was awake at 7am even though it was still cool. Then when we went to the castle Inn in Bamburgh they had sold out of roast lunches and the other two pubs just did their usual pub meals on a Sunday L I was less than pleased. So it was a pint of Ale (black sheep) and char grilled cajan pork instead. Surprisingly I enjoyed the jacket potato far more than the pork, which is saying something as the pork tastes amazing and is so juicy. Afterwards we went for a walk down to the beach to check the castle out from the beach. 

We’re now going into the last week of the project. A lot of people left today or yesterday which is sad but not as sad as next weekend will be when the project wraps up for the season. I fly home in just under two weeks now which is also sad but at the same time I can’t wait to get home. To get back to work and pay this trip off, I hate being in debt. I’m also really looking forward to driving around again, I seriously miss my car. 

The BRP blog mentioned my arrow head but I wasn't credited. I was disappointed but I shouldn't be surprised they are also lifting photos off my facebook and using them without requesting permission or giving credit. I've now found at least three of my photos on the project blog. 

Here's the link to the arrow head posts: 

Also just for reference the Bradford Kaims is close to some holiday cottages called Hoppen Hall Cottages googleing them brings up the location of where we park but here's the link to the area on google maps.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Another wet week

Monday 9th July:  It was too wet to get into the trenches so I was finds washing then went onto environmental sorting. Graham was wondering very bored, as a result Anne and I ended up chained to a wall. As well as working in the dark for a bit when he turned the lights out on us in the windowless stone room.

Tuesday 10th July: I did finds washing in morning as it was rather wet outside then Neal decided it was dry enough so we headed to the Kaims for rest of day. I started a half section of a possible pit feature.

Wednesday 11th July: It was too wet for any work in any trenches today so I was finds sorting half the day then we watched The Time Team Bamburgh episode.

Thursday 12th July: Finds sorting all day Woo. We did get through a hell of a lot of sorting.

Friday 13th July: Kaims I completed the excavation of my half section and started the section drawing.

Saturday 14th July: I was at the Kaims all day. I cleaned my half section, finished the section drawing and got the half section photographed. I then started cleaning around rocks west of cist stone

 Graham supervising me drawing my section plan which is not as impressive as my plan of T42 but the section itself was rather uninteresting with only one context and it appears to be natural not human made.
 The half section in all it's glory!
 Graham photographing the half section.

Sunday 15th July: Today we visited Vindolanda a roman archaeological site that has been continuously excavated for 40 years. The field school sells out in a matter of minutes when registration opens apparently. The museum was amazing in one day they got 70 leather shoes out of one trench. They have over 4000 shoes and only one actual pair. It is just south of Hadrian's wall and pre-dates it by 40years. We then went to the sister site called the Roman Army Museum which was much the same stuff as the Vindolanda museum that was a bit disappointing. We then walked down the road to a national walking trail up to a section of Hadrians wall that is still standing. In sections it was upto about 8 feet tall though it was probably closer to 5feet for most of the section that remains and there is one turret remains right up the top. 
 In the back of the photo is the raised sections for a raised floor this is a bath house that had a heated floor (fire was made under the raised floor).
 Looking at just a small portion of the site from the experimental archaeology reconstruction of Hadrian's wall
 Hadrian's Wall! You cant see from the photo how high up this is but the ridge is really high, it was a bit of a hike up the side of the hill to get up there.
 Me in front of the wall! We had just been rained on
Jackie in front of the wall.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Coring at the Kaims

Sunday 9th of it was a relatively dry day for the project. I was assigned to geographic coring. Two students went out with the local coring guy; Matt. We started coring in a swamped field. My ankle high leather boots were not upto the task and were full of cold water within the first few minutes just getting to the coring site. We all ended up covered in mud from head to toe. Including in my hair and inside my ears.
 Anne, Matt and I after a morning of coring.
 Anne, Matt and I after a morning of coring.
 Anne and Matt coring in standing water
 This is what we bring up with the core; a sample of the environmental complex
These are my oh so fashionable purple snakeskin wellies (gumboots) from Tescos (a mega grocery/department store). They probably would have been useful at the Kaims but they are cheap and nasty so I didn't trust them to hold up to the walking down into the Kaims.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

BRP take 2

So a fair bit has happened since I last posted a blog entry. For starters I did not leave the UK on the 28th. It took me three days and a lot of running around both in person and over the phone to change my flights to the start of August. Thanks to my parents for paying my car rego and making it possible for me to stay on at BRP for the rest of the season.

I'm going to do a very quick recap of the last two weeks.
Monday June 25th. I cleaned all my clothes and my camping gear at Steve and Jen's place in preparation for flying home on Thursday. At the same time I was trying to find out how much it would cost me to stay on in the county for an extra month. I was also eagerly awaiting a skype interview for a job in sydney.

Tuesday June 26th. I had my skype interview which was a bit different. Basically he said if I wanted to stay on for a month in the UK then I should do whatever is best for me as a job isn't garenteed and the start date would be in the future anyway. So I started really trying to work out if BRP had space for me and if I could afford it. 

Wednesday June 27th. I found out at 2am in the morning that it would only cost $150 in fees to change my flight so I was staying in the country for another month Woo! I went shopping at some outdoors shops in London trying to replace my broken steel caps in preparation for my return up north. I saw Henry V at the Globe theatre, it was awesome I loved every minute of it even though I came out a little deaf from standing right up against the front of the stage, looking up at the actors. See the below photos. That is how close I was!

After I came back to Steve and Jen's place I went to fighter practice with Steve. I was teaching a noob that had been there for three months how to teach his noob friend who had come along for the first time. I learnt a little about playing with pole axes then just watched Steve and another knight smack each other around. A suspended pell is a very odd thing to play with. Fighting in a hall is also very loud. I was feeling the hearing damage the next day after the play and fighter practice.

Thursday 28th of June. Today I collected my hiking boots from a store that was on 50% sale. I had tried on some very nice boots at the first place I went to the day before but I wasn't willing to spend 150pounds on boots I'm going to be walking around in mud in for four weeks and may ditch if I ruin. I wandered around the Covent Garden markets which is a very cool bunch of indoor markets then I went to the Museum of London which I really enjoyed. The most interesting thing I saw was archaeological examples of horse teeth. I had been cleaning and sorting those sorts of teeth at BRP in the first 3 weeks so it was very cool to find out what they are :)

Friday 29th June. Today I did something very unlike me, I walked 3 miles to the local massive shopping complex. I spent 5 hours wandering around the Westfield and the smaller older mall across the road. I spent most of my time at the new very shinny westfields full of designer shops and the Lego Store! I only got lunch and some body butter (from the body shop on half price special). Then spent very little at the pound shop and the 99p shop in the older shopping centre and some dirt cheap well fitted dresses for pub night :) Apprently I had too much for my bag which broke just a few streets from Steve and Jen's place oh well gaff tape fixed it :)

Saturday 30th June. Today Steve, Jen and I went to the British Library Treasures room. Saddly the magna carter is currently off display oh well saw many other really old manuscripts and books. Afterwards we made it through only the Medieval sections of the Victoria and Albert museum. There was sooo much dress porn, so many pretty dresses I'd like to recreate.

Sunday 1st July. I boarded a train back up north, arriving late afternoon. I was greeted with many hugs and welcomes back :)

Monday 2nd July. First day back at the castle and I was finds washing with the noobs. It was nice being back at the castle and the weather wasn't so bad.

Tuesday 3rd July. Today started off rather wet so we went to the castle for more finds washing in the morning then went into the Kaims after morning tea. We continued to dig Trench 42.

Wednesday 4th of July. Today Ben and I started the planning for Trench 42. After Lunch I started the detailed planing around the suspected Cist (the big stone in the middle of the trench). I was using a planing grid made up of 20cm squares in a 1metre square frame. Below is the end result for the day. 

Thursday 5th July. I was a victim of my own success. I was originally asked to do one more square south of the main stone. I did such a good job and so quickly that I was asked to plan the rest of the Trench. That's what I would be doing for two more days. Below is the end of day two.
 Friday 29th June. Today I finished off the main part of the planning and started the leveling. Which means using a dumpy level to measure the level/height in relation to sea level. We ran out of time to complete it. 
Above is sheet 1 of Trench 42. It is 20.30m long and ranges between 2.55m and 220m wide.
 Sheet 2 of Trench 42
 A closer up photo of the plan to show the detail around the main store with context numbers added. The circular objects are all randomly places and randomly shaped stones some of which appear to have been fractured by heat (broken buy being heated in a fire then had water poured over them to rapidly cool them causing them to fracture). The supervisors and the director of the community project all think I could have a career in planning. Apparently I'm talented. I guess I've found what I excel in in archaeology. I have the patients and the eye for detail to plan a trench that everyone else thought would be a nightmare and they only planned on doing a few metres as a representative sample. Along with photographs my plan will be the recording of the Trench as it was before the stones are lifted/excavated. 

Saturday 7th July. Today was my day off. I went for a drive with Jackie into Kelso in Scotland. We saw some very pretty country side and cute little  villages. We had a lovely lunch which included Haggis and Pork belly for me which were both new and very tasty experiences for me. In the centre of the village there is a very old cemetery and the ruins of a very impressive Abbey that was destroyed by Henry VIII. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Team Kaims!

For three days this week I've been at the wetlands site called Bradford Kaims. It's about 3 miles from the castle. It's a very different site. It's farming land that was and in places still is marsh land.

Below you can see me opening my first ever 1x1m test pit. I'm not heavy enough to de-turf it all on my own though. I would jump on the spade up to 10 times before it would go in then the supervisor Graham would come along and push it straight in. 

Here's Jackie hard at work supervising us by ear. He swears he wasn't sleeping.

The next morning my test pit was rather wet with ground water which I had to bucket out all day.

It's a bit damp in there!
 Nearer to the end of the day the bog oak is slowly reappearing. I forgot to take another photo so I don't have one of how much oak I uncovered. I also ran out of time to draw my pit :(

On my third day we opened up a massive 2x20m trench elsewhere at the Kaims. I found some stinging nettles with my forearm. Apparently I react badly to them. Jackie was telling me the swelling should go down in about an hour. Well an hour later it wasn't as red as it was but it was swollen as you can see in the below photo. The area remained itchy and tender for another 2 days. Today finally the last of the blotches seems to have gone away.

It seems my olivers have seen better days. They are still water proof some how but the soles are falling off. On the upside I don't have to worry about cleaning them up to bring them home they will just gone in the bin on sautrday afternoon. 
 This is what the field we're working in looks like. The bushes are thistles which really hurt when they prick you and the purple ish coloured plants everywhere are stinging nettles!

On thursday I was at the castle finds sorting while it bucketed down outside. The kaims staff where all wondering around 'supervising' and mocking the students. All in good fun. It was still raining when we got back to camp so we had a beer, got into dry clothes, covered up with waterproofs and went to the pub for dinner and stayed there until 11pm when it closed. Our mess tent is currently a swap!

Friday, June 15, 2012

7th to 15th June

It has continued to rain most of the time. The mess tent has become a bit swampy and most of my clothes had mud on them. My tent also has mud on it from my feet splashing dirty water when I approach it. In front of my tent is pretty sodden now.

On Thursday I was in Trench 3 cleaning all the loose material from a feature the project refers to as the porch, it’s believed to be an entrance into an anglo saxon building. It was tedious work working around and between large slabs of rock. I found a bunch of bone and fragmented shell. In the afternoon I was learning to use a dumpy level to take the level measurement of the cleaned sections of the trench to put on the site map and context plans. It was drizzling so I wasn’t wearing my glasses which made my eyes water but if I wear my glasses in the rain I can’t see anything through them. We also went on a tour around and inside the castle. There was so many different sets of crockery dinner ware and serving wear all displayed in cabinets in different rooms, I was in heaven. The architecture, furniture and armour/arms collections were also amazing. In the gift shop they sell homemade style fudge which is like a little slice of heaven it tastes so good and is just the right texture. I got orange chocolate and mint chocolate. I also got a beanie which is 100 times warmer than my purple Jayne hat that I got from a market.

On Friday I was in Trench 3 in drizzling rain cleaning an anglo saxon wall feature. Apparently I did a good job on the porch feature so I got to clean the loose material from around the wall sections. I was using a spoon and another thin metal scoop tool to get in between all the rocks. I found a cache of snail shells all stacked up together which was interesting. In the afternoon it got too wet so I was on finds washing inside. There was a cool breeze coming in through the door but it wasn’t light enough inside to do anything with the door closed. We cheated a bit by adding boiling water from the kettles in the tea room to the tubs of water so our hands weren’t freezing. It was still a cold job but not unbearable.

After work we caught a bus into Belford to the pub for pub night and dinner at the Indian restaurant that is in the back of the pub. They seemed rather unprepared for us. There wasn’t really enough seating for all of us. They took our orders twice because they got all confused the first time. The food took a while but was really good. I ordered a dish that came with rice and curry sauce and I added a side dish of mixed veggies. It turns out the curry sauce had veggies through it so I barely touched the side dish and was full to bursting. It seems my international sim does charge me to receive international calls which I didn’t think it did from the useless booklet that came with it. I’m still unimpressed that from the packaging it looked like a UK sim (it said UK sim all over it). I spoke to mum briefly with a lot of background noise then it cut off and I got a message saying I only have £0.15 left. I tried to recharge over the phone and it didn’t work. I called the customer service to make sure it hadn’t charged my card. I’m just going to try and buy a local sim like I wanted when I’m in a town.

It rained all night again. On Saturday there was no chance of going into the trenches so we were all in the windmill on finds duties. I was downstairs for the first context then went upstairs afterwards to do some illustration of finds. It took a few hours for my to do a 1:1 sketch of a decorated bone (from front and back) and a 2:1 sketch from the front with the line details in black ink. I really enjoyed it even though I kept getting frustrated at it not being perfect so I would rub out a section and start again. It was also difficult getting used to a 4H pencil which is lighter and harder than a HB pencil. The supervisor told me I did a really good job so I’m pretty happy with it. I guess I just had the patients to perceiver with it for hours. 

After work we headed to the pub. I had a berry cider at the pub and cheesy chips which seemed like a good idea at the time but I felt rather sick afterwards. A few hours later around 9pm a group of us decided to go for a wonder down to the beach. Once we reached the beach we decided to go for a walk down the beach towards the castle. We walked for about an hour and a half hoping to see a glimpse of the castle but we couldn’t see it. The beach is a lot curvier than we thought. The problem we then faced was it gets dark at 11pm and we had walked a fair way along the beach and the tide was coming in. So we were concerned the tide would catch us against the giant dunes (which are not easy to scale) and we wouldn’t be able to see the path off the beach.

We decided to keep heading towards the castle in hope of finding a path to the main road before it got really dark. None of us had a torch or a phone. We found a path heading off the beach so we climbed the steep path only to emerge onto a golf course. Dave and I climbed up a ridge on the green to see if we could work out where the road is. We could see the castle from the top of the ridge which was really pretty all lit up at night. We could see a road heading through the green so we followed it. It went to a fork so we went left because that’s closer to where the road is. The gravel road ended at a wooden set of stairs. At the top of the stairs was another green. Sigh, I was getting rather concerned at this point. We decided stuff it, and walked across the green towards the direction of the road. We came to the edge of the gold course which was a field of tall grass or barley. We could see a road leading to the main road on the other side of the field so we cut through it. My pants and shoes were soaked by the time we got to the other side and I pricked my hand on something. We did find the road though and made it back into the campsite just after 11pm lights out.
Sunday 10th of June. Today three of us headed into Alnwick (pronounced as anick). The harry potter castle and gardens were £24 to go through which is really expensive. We wondered around the awesome second-hand bookstore which is a converted railway station full of interesting and limited edition books. I loved that the encyclopaedia Britannica was next to the holy bible and the science section was on the other side.
We found a little cafe that was open, not much was being a Sunday in a country town. We had Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding, roast potato, gravy and steamed veggies and a pot of tea. It tasted so good after not having a lot of veggies all week. We explored the little village, looking at the little craft and food stores. They were celebrating the torch relay with a weeklong fair. We went to a little tea shop that had these really cute flower teas where a ball of tea blooms into a colourful flower, it was very cool. When we got back to site we put our clothes in the wash. After three cycles in the dryer the clothes were still damp. My tent was turned into a washing line inside which was interesting.

On Monday 11th I was in trench one for the first time. We cleaned the whole trench in one day. We have still been cleaning the loose layer off the top of the site that had blown in over the winter. Unfortunately it was too sunny to take the photos. The trench needs to be photographed at the beginning of the season after it’s been cleaned and after the end of season for reference. The issue with the sun is though it needs to be shaded by clouds so the higher features don’t make shadows across the trench. After work we went to the pub to watch England vs France in the Euros. The crowd wasn’t as loud or crazy as I expected. The reffing was shit so I understood the little bit of anger. I tried the strawberry and lime cider, it tasted so good and went down to easy and too quick. I avoided getting drunk and just had the one.

On Tuesday 12th I started in Trench one cleaning off all the loose material that had blown in overnight. It was a really windy day so dirt was blowing in my eyes and by the time we finished a section it would be dirty again. We managed to get it clean enough, wetted down and cloud cover so we got the photos. Afterwards though, we lacked the planning squares to plan the site before we start excavating.

I went to trench 3 to do some hammer scale sampling. Hammer scale is the flakes of metal that come off when metal is being smithed. We take samples in 1m squares with 20cm quadrants. The proportions are worked out across the site and mapped. When mapped we should be able to see where walls were because the scale would have hit the wall and bounced back in and outside the walls will be sterile. Under the anvil would also be sterile with the most dense area around it.

I tried to get a sim card in Sea houses (the closest town) but they didn’t know how to top them up or how much the charges are. I tried to recharge my current sim over the phone with my traveller card but they rejected it. There may have been some swearing had when I hung up.

On Wednesday 13th I was on finds. We washed bulk finds during the morning and then sorted finds after lunch. I used dad’s credit card online and managed to finally get credit on my phone and call home. I called just as the state of origin ended, NSW won. Good and bad timing I guess.

Thursday 14th of June was a huge day for Bamburgh village, today the Olympic torch came through the village with three separate runners. We had a stand in the church yard showing off the project and some of our finds. I was there for just over an hour showing finds to the locals. We had a fairly relaxed day up at the castle, I was doing hammer scale sampling again. Then we were sorting out the hammer scale samples to mark out where we couldn’t sample (because there are rocks in the way). In the afternoon we headed down into the festivities that had been going on all day. We had heard the sea rescue helicopter while we were digging but because it was circling over the village green we couldn’t see it over the castle walls.
We watched the celebrity v locals tug of war. The only one that anyone could identify was Lord Frankie Armstrong on the locals side who owns the castle. He was dressed in track pants and a rugby shirt. The locals of course won. We wondered up towards the pub to get a hog roll which is roasted pork, stuffing, crackle and apple sauce in a bread roll. It tasted so good but was so messy. WE ate it on the side of the road waiting for the torch to come. The hype leading up to the torch relay was more exciting than seeing the runner. There were at least 50 police on motor bikes with flashing lights, may were high fiving people as they went by or reving the shit out of their bikes while waiting to move. The streets of the little village were packed full of people waving English flags and some sponsor stuff from Samsung and coke cola. Both companies had huge buses with people dancing and singing and handing promo stuff out. The finally this young teenager came running along with the torch. We decided not to wait to see the two change overs and headed back to the pub only to find no one working in the pub so we had to wait for the torch to come back passed up the other street before we could get served. I got rather excited at spying a bottle of bundy on the shelf behind the bar. Although it was only under half full so three of us easily finished it; the price did seem to slowly climb during the night which I was not happy with. The walk back to camp was amazing. The hills and the sky were gorgeous.   

I had a lot of trouble uploading photos so they are not in place or in order

Cassey and Lilly at Pub night
Dave, Georgia and Jessie. Off for our walk
Skipping stones on the beach
The model trains in Barter Books
A blooming tea in the Tea House
Olympic torch coming into Bamburgh
The bundy rum! I tried the Mount Gay Rum and didn't like it as much
Walking the hills back to camp
Pretty sunset near the camp :)
The castle in the rain from the windmill
Cool rafters in the castle
A wooden model of the castle
A dinner set with the castle on it.
 Looking across to the castle from the golf course on our adventure
 Drying my slightly damp clothes in my tent after 3 cycles in a dryer
 The public entrance to the castle
 Looking up at the land side of the castle
A slightly different angle of the castle