Looking for loot in Leintwardine

1390944_10151790377237762_45851969_oOn Saturday 19th of archaeology I joined Peter Reavill (Finds Liason Officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire) and the Leintwardine History Society for a community project in the centre of Leintwardine that aimed to learn more about the varied history of this parish. The village of Leintwardine (Herefordshire) is a built upon the site of a Roman fort controling the crossing of the River Teme/Clun. Alot is known about the Roman history of the village but little is known about what happened after the Romans left. Therefore, the aim of the day was to try and find out as much about the history of the village from the artefactual assemblages as we could.

On friday afternoon I spent several hours creating a map of the village hat was nearly as big as I was, to mark locations of finds as they came in. Members of the Leintwardine Historical Society had delivered nearly 300 flyers around homes in the village asking them to collect any objects they could find on the surface in their gardens (as much of Leintwardine is a scheduled monument we didn’t want anyone digging holes without permission). We had a steady flow of people bringing things in throughout the day, including many bits of pottery, glass and metalwork of varying dates. Objects that were identified included mineral water1375340_10151790377492762_2014109046_o bottles made by the company that eventually became Tanners Wine Merchants, several sherds of Roman pottery, including a lovely piece of samian ware, a broken piece from a rotary quern stone that could easily be roman or medieval, and a post medieval marble motar. We even had a small socketed iron 1408047_10151790378177762_1858555565_oimplement brought in that looked like something out of a horro movie which Peter suggested may have been a homemade eel or fish spear. The highlight of the day however, was this fantastic piece of modern art which one occupant of the village had made by sticking all their garden finds to a rather large glass bottle or jar. 1395654_10151790377707762_1399738603_oOn here we identified some medieval pottery, 17th and 18th century slips wares, many pieces of clay pipe, some of which were decorated, and many sherds of victorian or later ceramics. ┬áSome of the more interesting objects were recorded to be added to the Portable Antiquities Scheme database by Peter and myself, but everybody who bought something in was given details on all the objects they brought in, whether we recorded them or not.

This was a great day, and demonstrated how easy some community archaeology projects can be. We didn’t need any specialist equipment and all we needed was someone who had an idea about finds – Peter was perfect for this. I would certainly think about running similar projects abd would recommend the approach to local archaeology and history groups nationwide. I learnt a lot and hopefully so did everyboday else, a fantastic day all around.

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Wanted: An extra 24 hours in a day!

Well, what a couple of months I’ve had. After the Festival of Archaeology finished in July I thought I’d have more time on my hands – how wrong I have been! With volunteer excavations (post to follow soon), watching briefs, Portable Antiquity Scheme training, the Quaker burial ground project (again post will in more detail soon) and volunteer wednesday’s I’ve been so busy I’ve woken up today and realised it’s October and I’m half way through my placement – heck!

I am hoping things will start to settle down a bit now with the onset of autumn and the weather that goes with it, but what a wonderful 6 months I’ve had so far. I’ve been able to meet a variety of people, all of which have a passion for our past, I worked on a real range of projects including excavations, outreach, public events such as walks, talks and the occasional workshop, and working with the wonderful volunteers from Ironbridge, who without them my days would certainly have been a lot duller.

I’m also hoping that the next 6 months will be just as jam packed. We’ve got more talks and workshops planned, hopefully further fieldwork and excavation on a range of sites, and some other interesting projects too. Plus there are all those things I haven’t yet thought of but will no doubt come to fruition once I’ve had time to think.

All I need now is a few more hours in the day so I can finish a PhD thesis as well…no rest for the wicked I suppose…

Stepping back in time with Ironbridge Archaeology

Blists Hill 18 SeptLast Wednesday (18th September 2013) IGMT was holding an event called ‘Mine it, Make it, Move it’ at Blist’s Hill Victorian Town for primary school children. The were 400 children in attendance throughout the day from schools as local as Dawley and as far away as Grantham (Derbyshire). For our part, the archaeology team decided to do a bit of surveying. But with us being at Blist’s Hill we couldn’t just get the kit out of the stores and go from there, no we had to have a Victorian element to our activities. So not only did we have the modern archaeologist (played by yours truely) measuring and plotting find spots from an ultra modern metal detector survey on to a gridBlists Hill 18 Sept 3, we also had Victorian archaeologist, Mr Bapty, helped by his trust assistant Mr Smith, surveying the landscape around usBlists Hill 18 Sept 2. Thanks must also go to Jane and Emily, volunteneers at IGMT for their help on the day as well. It was all alot of fun and I think the children enjoyed it just as much as we did.

August…phew its nearly over…

What a busy month it has been! I’ve hardly had time to eat and sleep let alone keep up to date with the blog. August has always been a busy month archaeology wise over my years in the profession, and this year has not been a disappoinment at all. Since the beginning of the month we’ve run several activities including the day out with the Little Acorns, the second edition of the Ironbridge Archaeology Seminar Series with Dr Ian West’s talk on technology in the country house, which had so many people attend we nearly ran out of chairs. Volunteer Wednesdays have started up again after a short break whilst I was away, so the ongoing task of recording tile moulds has now reached the total of 300, although there is still a VERY long way to go. Finally we finished off the moth with the second Ironbridge Archaeology Workshop on Archiving and Conservation, which was very kindly run by Peter Alexander, freelance heritage consultant and ex-collections manager from Denbighshire County Museum Service.

On top of all that I’ve now started my 10-week work placement with Peter Reavill from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, worked on a watching brief project down in Jackfield and prepared for our volunteer excavation in Madeley which starts next week. After all that I’m absolutely exhausted….but ready and excited to see what next month brings.

Inspiring the next generation

What feels like months, but was actually only a matter of weeks ago, I spent two days working with Year 4 pupils at Dothill primary school in Wellington. This was great fun and started me off down the road of working with the younger generation. Inspiring kids about archaeology is not always easy, a lot of time the work of an archaeologist can seem mundane and boring to a child, who essentially wants to dig a big hole and find lots of stuff. This is not always possible, I very rarely seem to dig a big hole anywhere and find lots of stuff. Furthermore, the safety aspect of allowing children onto archaeological sites can also limit their involvement. Sometimes its the safety of the archaeology which is in question, a colleague once told me how when showing a group of children a beautiful and delicate Roman bone pin, one child asked does it bend and then proceeded to break the pin into two pieces. However just because involving children with archaeology is not always plane sailing it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, after all these are the archaeologists of the future.

Sometimes you just need to think outside the box a little. As part of the Festival of Can You Dig It? - Reconstruct the pot Archaeology we organised an event called ‘Can You Dig It?’ which allowed children of all ages to come and have a go at archaeology in a safe environment. We built a 8m x 2m trench and filled it full of rubber chippings (all very green as they were made from recycled shredded tyres) and then buried a selection of objects including pottery sherds, pieces of slag, keys, bone and even a massive lump of unprocessed clay. Each child was given a toolbox talk and then presented with a hard hat, a high viz vest, a pair of gloves, a bucket, a shovel and a trowel (all kiddy sized) and off they went to excavate our trench. After that they then had the opportunity to see what archaeologists do when they finish digging in the ‘finds processing’ area. Here they could have a go at washing, recording, catagorizing and even reconstructing finds. Although I have to say that I think it was the parents and grandparents that were most interested in reconstructing the broken pot, they were there well after the kids had lost interest! This event was really sucessful with what must have been over 100 people through the doors over the two days.

You don’t have to be restricted to indoor archaeology either. On Tuesday I spent the morning with the Little Acorns showing off what they have found Severn Gorge Countryside Trust family nature group, the Little Acorns. Our aim for the morning was to try and find some archaeology in both Dale Coppice and Lincoln Hill, following the paths known as the Sabbath Walks. Each child had a sheet on which they could record any structures, artefacts or ecofacts that they found along the way. The enthusiasm from the group was brilliant and I think I must have heard the phrase ‘I’ve found something’ so many times I lost count. We found bits of brick, tile, pottery and slag, we found animal bones and glass bottles, and we even found a bovril jar with must have dated as far back a c.1960! It was a great day and such a simple activity to do.

Here at IGMT, we’re just about to launch our new branch of the Young Archaeologists Club. From September we’ll be holding monthly meetings where we’ll be learning all about different periods of YAC taster history from the ancient egyptians to the industrial revolution. We’ll be playing games, making things and generally having fun, all whilst trying to educate and inspire kids between the ages of 8 and 16 all about archaeology. We can’t wait to get started and if any of the activities I’ve been involved with inspire just one child to go on to a career in archaeology or heritage then I can say I’ve done my job well

Festival of Archaeology 2013

So I’m eventually back from holiday after what was and exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable fortnight of the Festival of Archaeology. We had a range of events run throughout the festival including guided walks around Coalbrookdale and Jackfield/Coalport, have a go excavations for kids and the Caughley China recording drop in at Coalport China Museum. We even ran a taster session for the soon to be launched Ironbridge YACs, from which we’ve already got 15 or so names signed up. Below are a selection of photos from the events that took place.

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…..