Monthly Archives: July 2013

Busy as an Archaeological Bee

Wow, what a week! Although with hindsight we may have gone a little overboard, the Festival of Archaeology here at Ironbridge has so far been a huge success. Starting with the Iron Trail last Tuesday, we’ve had a Caughley China recording drop in at Coalport China Museum (Wed 17th), and the mock excavation for kids, Can You Dig It? last Saturday (20th). Unfortunately we did have to cancel the historic cycle ride on Sunday (21st) due to a lack of bookings, but I am hoping that we will rerun that event later in the year. And of course the Ironbridge Archaeology Scavenger Hunt has been available from the Museum of Iron with a prize draw to win a years membership of the Ironbridge Young Archaeologists Club from September.

However, its not all over yet! This afternoon, we’ve got another guided walk around Jackfield and Coalport entitled ‘the ceramics trail’, we’ve got a taster session on Saturday afternoon for our soon to be launched Young Archaeologists Club, and then on Sunday we’re giving everybody another chance to come and take part in Can You Dig It?

Once it’s all over, I suppose I’ll have to start thinking about next year…..

The Iron Trail guided walk

As part of the Festival of Archaeology 2013 Craig Baker from Severn Gorge Countryside Trust guided us around some of the key iron working related sites here in the Gorge. We started on the wonderful Iron Bridge and explored sites along the Wharfage, Coalbrookdale and Lincoln Hill. The weather was beautiful and I hope all that joined us not only learnt something but enjoyed themselves too. Thanks go to Craig for a fantastic start to the festival here in Ironbridge.

The Iron Trail - Iron lampost at the bottom of the Dale (1897)     The Iron Trail - looking at the Alcove on Lincoln Hill

Tomorrow is the big day

Tomorrow is the start of the Festival of Archaeology, with hundreds of events organised up and down the country. This annual event is organised by the Council for British Archaeology and is a great way for anyone interested in archaeology or local history to get involved as there are a huge range of activities including guided walks, workshops, excavation visits and hands on activities for children. Visit http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk/whatson for further details and to see whats on near you.

Here at Ironbridge we’ve got a number of events organised, a list of which can be found on the Community Archaeology Events page. Everyone is welcome to get involved, whether you’ve been digging as an amateur for some time, or you’ve often thought that archaeology looks to be an enjoyable and interesting past time but you never knew how to get involved. There is an event for everyone so make the most of this nice weather and go outdoors to experience the amazing archaeology this country has to offer.

Tile Moulds – An update

Just thought as I haven’t made any posts about our activities on Volunteer Wednesdays for a while, that I’d write a little update. We’re still working away recording the Craven Dunnill tile moulds, and as of this morning I think we’ve now recorded over 220 moulds which is great work. Its a slow process, especiialyy the sketching of some of the more intricate designs. But really great fun! We even think we’ve identified where some of the tiles made from these moulds ended up. One particular design has been found in St Michael’s Church, Conwy. DSCF1187P1020882 We’ve still got quite a long way to go but it really is exciting to see so many different designs that until now we didn’t know anything about.

We have a week off the tile moulds next week. As part of the Festival of Archaeology we’re running a drop in session with the Caughley China Society. So if you fancy coming down to Coalport China Museum next wednesday, pop in and have a go at recording some of the Caughley shards held in the museum collections. Everyone is welcome.

Going dotty at Dothill

Yesterday I spent the day with a group of Year 4 pupils from Dothill Primary School in Wellington. I’d been asked to go in and spend a day with the group, teaching them about archaeology and even giving them some practical experience. Luckily I wasn’t on my own, one of the Ironbridge Archaeology Volunteers, came along with me to help with the day. We started off with a presentation of what archaeology is and what our role as archaeologists is all about. It was great to see so many of the kinds interested, and both answering and asking questions. My favourite question of the day was from a little boy who asked ‘what qualifications do you need to become an archaeologist?’ I would say he might one day be challenging me for my job! They were obviously prepared with questions as we were also asked things like, why we became archaeologists, what was our most interesting and expensive find, what sites did we work on, and even why we were called archaeologists? That one stumped me!

Following on from this we did a timeline activity with them where they had to match different sites and artfacts with the different periods of history from the Palaeolithic right up to modern day. I was amazed just how many of them recognised sites like Stonehenge, Hampton Court Palace, and Ludlow Castle, there was even one girl who recognised the Mold Gold Cape, which was completely unexpected. They might not have been able to identify them all, and struggled with some to match them to their date, but on the whole it was great to see such a good understanding of history and archaeology at such a young age.

 After that it was time for the class to become members of the Ironbridge Archaeology UNIT. Everybody doned their high viz Ironbridge Archaeology jackets, and settled down to some work. There were four work stations and we did a 15 minute round robin so everyone got a chance to have a go at the activities. The first station was the all important finds washing. As we all know when finds come out of the ground they tend to be a bit dirty, so here the kids learnt how to wash finds, and they did such a good job I had to make them all dirty again so we had enough to clean for everybody. From there the kids went on to finds recording. I had put together a variety of artefacts from which they could choose to record and draw. Then they had to have a go at catagorizing different artefacts depending on their function. Finally everybody had a go at trying to reconstuct a pot. Only one mini-group managed to get it finished in the alloted time, and the end result was beautiful, although I’d guess it was more masking tape than pot by the end of it.

The final activity of the day was to get the group to think about the informative side of archaeology and heritage and so I set them off on the task of creating a heritage trail of their school playground. Working in pairs, they had to think about where they wanted the trail to go, who the intended audience was, did they want it to be educational or entertaining and how they wanted to present it. There were such a range of ideas with some wanting to use PowerPoint, others using Publisher, and some making a comic book style trail. We had themed trails too, one pair decided to do a pirate themed trail and another decided on a ghostly theme. I can’t wait to see the finished articles.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day and I hope the kids did too. I’m just about recovered, ready to do it all again on Thursday. I can’t wait!

The most important piece of equipment you’ll need is your pencil

On Saturday morning IGMT hosted the first of a series of educational workshops related to the field and profession of archaeology. This first workshop, ran by me, focused on the skills and techniques associated with archaeological illustration and drawing. The drawn record is an extremely important aspect of any archaeological project, and this workshop was put together to introduce the participants to drawing both site plans and sections, and the artefacts that they might find.

We started the day with artefact illustration, and after a short intorduction to the topic we started to have a go at drawing some artefacts including what looked to be an iron hedging bill, and a variety of ceramic vessels. The aim of the exercise was to create an accurate scale record of these artefacts, thinking about shape, size and texture, and not to produce a beautiful oil painting. This is probably the most important thing to remember about archaeological illustration, and sometimes the hardest to grasp. Any drawing, whether is be on site, or of an object, is a technical drawing, not a picture. As such it quite often means that if you’re not very good at art, you may well be good at archaeological drawing – lucky for me as I struggle to draw stickmen!!

Having drawn all our artefacts we moved our attention to site drawing, specifically how to draw both plans and section drawings to record the statigraphy and features on archaeological sites. This mean that we had to move outside, thankfully the sun was out so for once we got to draw in the dry – it always seems that when I have to do planning or section drawing on site, I have to do so in the pouring rain.

I really enjoyed running this workshop, and I hope that those who came along to it not only learnt something but enjoyed doing so. Going by the comments on the evaluation forms I think they did.

The next workshop is planned for the end of August and will focus on both archiving and conservation with archaeological collections. If you’re interested in coming alongbook you’re place with me via the contact page.