Practical Archaeological Excavation Techniques, day two

October 17th, 2008
post #130   history / prehistory »

An account of my second day on the Archaeological Excavation Techniques course run by Liverpool University Continuing Education in conjunction with National Museums Liverpool.

Monday 13th October 2008. Weather - Morning overcast, cold. sunnier in the afternoon, wind speed increased.

My second day on site and a week since the site was re-opened. The site has changed considerably as trenches have been re-opened and excavation has continued.

We were given a brief tour of the trenches re-opened with details of their content. Two Mediæval ditches running through two trenches and off to the North are noticeable by darker patches and rounded stones. I the intervening week a metal detectorist was called in and a number of metal finds including coins and an item of jewellery were uncovered.

The context of Trench XVIA that I worked on a week ago - 2892 - has now been worked down to a new context of grey sand, known as 2897.

Today we began working towards the Northern end of XVIA near the barrow ramp at the entrance to the site from the road. Our task was to carefully work through the sand to identify new contexts and finds.

I found two sherds of Mediæval pot, one with a (rare for period?) iridescent purple glaze. Most examples of Mediæval pot we find are grey on one side and earthy red-brown on the other. The finds were recorded as per the guidance we had on day one and in the recording guidebook.

While working today lots of small stones were uncovered and left in place for them to be recorded on the site plans. Thick clay deposits were also noted, and these were excavated around, as were orange-coloured areas of soil. Leaving these features prominent allows for their recording and gives a little insight into their meaning as the removal of the grey sand continues.

After lunch and some consultation with the supervisor, it was decided that the site needed to be recorded before features of the context (such as rocks) could be removed. We continued to remove the grey sand to see if more stones were revealed in between those that were apparent. I replaced my trowel with a smaller leaf one so as to work carefully around the stones, using the trowel to transfer spoil to a shovel then to a bucket.

As the day progressed the Easterly wind picked up a little, making some recording tasks troublesome. The supervisor made a number of sketches of the site features, mainly in plan, as an aide memoire for thinking about their use in the overall understanding of the site.

Careful trowel excavation continued until near the day’s close, at which point distance and trench markers were placed and a number of film and digital photographs were taken by the supervisor. Small stones casting shadows from the low sun made for good recording conditions for these kind of features, whereas the differences in colour and areas of clay may be less discernible, but will be recorded on the site plan in due course.

Our final task was to cover up some of the exposed trenches that may be vulnerable to the weather that had been forecast for the next few days with geotextile cloth. The very next day was probably going to be too wet to work, and leaving the trenches currently under investigation open might harm the exposed surfaces and require more remedial work in following days to make them easily readable and recordable.

The next time I am on site I hope to be carrying out some site plan drawing.

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