Events Blog


Pan Community Archaeology Project 2007 - Day 4

Day four was another scorcher and it turned out to be a very exciting day. This morning we had six new volunteers and a couple of familiar faces on site to help uncover Pan’s past.

We continued digging into the site, starting some new excavation areas, and continuing others begun previously. Today we saw some fantastic finds! First our volunteers found fragments of a “Keiller’s” marmalade jar. Then a 1oz Bovril jar emerged from the mud. It’s tiny compared to the 8oz jar found earlier in the week! Next we had our star find of the dig so far – an American Milk of Magnesia bottle… which still had the remains of the Milk of Magnesia inside it! Don’t panic, we’ve washed it out now as it was long past its sell by date – which amazingly was printed on the side of the bottle. If you’d like to find out how old the bottle was please come to our exhibition tomorrow, 1pm – 3pm at the Isobel centre, next to Downside school.

Finally, just before we concluded the morning session, two old- hands from yesterday’s dig found an intact preserve jar with lid still attached. Amazing!

After a short break, and wondering how we could possibly top the morning’s session, we began our afternoon dig on a second site 5m to the west of our previous area. Unfortunately we quickly realised that this area was full of modern debris, and not part of the Victorian dump. Whilst this sounds disappointing, it helped us to understand the boundaries of the Victorian bottle dump that we have been investigating. We’d like to thank our young volunteers and the adults from the Medina Centre for helping us to establish this.

Back on the old site we were joined by local history enthusiast Dean, who was able to tell us more about several of the bottles that we had found. We found out that the Mew Langton bottle stoppers found on site were from the local brewery, and Dean found amongst our treasure the bottle neck into which they fit. He also identified our oldest bottles and gave us some intact bottles from his collection to display at the Isobel Centre.

To end the days digging we turned up some interesting finds, including an ornamental ceramic pig. We believe this may have come from a pig farm that we know once existed in Pan.

Hope to see you all at the exhibition tomorrow afternoon and if you’re lucky we may reveal the age of the Milk of Magnesia bottle in tomorrow’s blog post!

Pan Community Archaeology Project 2007 - Day 5

Today was the last day of the Pan Neighbourhood Partnership / Wessex Archaeology summer holiday excavation on land behind Garden Way. It was another hot day and we only had a few hours left to further develop our insight into the history of Pan before the end of the dig. We were joined this morning by familiar faces keen to get straight back into it… so off they went.

Almost immediately some great finds were revealed, including a tiny French perfume bottle, two intact medicine bottles and a tin whistle. We also recovered fragments of poison bottles with the warning ‘not to be taken’ printed on the side. Don’t worry folks, there’s no poison left. The top find of the day was an even smaller Bovril jar than the one found yesterday! That makes three ranging in size from 8oz to just 1/2oz.

Meanwhile, up in the Isobel centre, the finds from the week were being sorted and made ready for this afternoon’s exhibition.

The most interesting finds were displayed with information labels. At the end of the exhibition these will be donated to Downside School. Our other finds were sorted into boxes of metal, glass, ceramic and bone. During the course of the dig a few items have been found that have had us scratching our heads. These have been displayed on an ‘oddities and miscellaneous’ table and hopefully visitors to the centre can suggest what they are.

As for that mystery date for the Milk of Magnesia bottle, those of you who came to the exhibition will already know that its sell-by date was ‘August 21st 1906.’ AMAZING STUFF!!

We’d like to thank all of our volunteers for their help and enthusiasm this week. We’d also like to thank the staff of Pan Neighbourhood Partnership for inviting us and supporting us throughout the dig.

We’ve had an excellent week and hope to return in the future, but for now we have a ferry to catch so this is goodbye from Gemma, Paul and Anne, your Wessex Archaeology team.

Pan Community Archaeology Project 2007 - Day 3

Day three on site dawned bright and sunny. After drying all the gloves that got wet yesterday, we prepared to meet our next group of volunteers.

We were joined on site this morning by eight children from Barton Primary School who came with their two helpers. We began again by digging holes into the site to find artefacts to tell us about how people lived in the past. All of our diggers were keen, with one needing a second tray to hold all of her finds! Exciting discoveries of the morning include a ceramic doll’s head, marbles, glass bottles and some rabbit bones.

After a short break we pressed on with the second activity of the morning, which was washing our finds. This helps us to see any patterns and decorations on the items, and tells us more about them. Some of the children left their finds to dry in the sun and continued to dig until the end of the session, and some chose to continue washing.

After lunch we had a second group of volunteers, including an aspiring archaeologist, eager to discover the past of Pan. They dug deeper than we had before on the site and found a host of interesting items including an HP sauce bottle, a butter dish that the girls pieced together like jigsaw, two more pig jaws, pieces of ceramic ornaments and a plastic pig’s trotter! One of the ornaments looks to be a woman in a bonnet with a young girl, and it goes nicely alongside the ceramic Santa Claus found this morning! We also found bulbs, buttons and a handful of colourful beads.

This afternoon’s team, after light refreshments, had a go at both washing and marking the finds with good results. Then, despite the heat, they jumped straight back in to excavation and literally had to be dragged away by their grandparents after the session had ended. It’s excellent to see so much enthusiasm on site and I’m sure we’ll be recommending them for jobs in the future!

Special mention today goes to John Martin, one of the Pan Neighbourhood Partnership Community Wardens, who fell this morning whilst cleaning litter from the playing fields and sprained his thigh. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back to full health soon.

Pan Community Archaeology Project 2007 - Day 1

Wessex Archaeology has been commissioned by Pan Neighbourhood Partnership to run a summer holiday archaeological dig on a small area of land behind Garden Way, Pan on the Isle of Wight.

The site was chosen on the advice of Cheryl Snudden from Pan Neighbourhood partnership, because people can remember finding nineteenth century objects including bottles there in the past. Over the next five days, children from Pan and further afield have volunteered to come and dig on the site and to wash and label any finds that they discover. The aim of this project is to teach children about archaeology, and to help them understand more about the history of where they live.

The project started on Monday afternoon with eight volunteers. We began digging on the south of the 14m by 11m site and spread out in a line to start excavating. Armed with trowels, kneeling mats and finds trays we began to dig. Within a short time our volunteers had found bits of different coloured glass, pottery, china and animal bone. We even found some complete glass bottles and one young lad found the handle of a polished bone toothbrush with the words ‘The Economic’ stamped onto it!

After a short break we changed activities and had a go at washing some of the things we’d discovered. We began to see the details and decoration on them. Then they dried in the sun while we finished the afternoon admiring the results of our hard work.

Tomorrow we hope to continue excavating the site, and especially the large animal jaw bone that was discovered by two of our volunteers towards the end of the day. Watch this space!

Pan Community Archaeology Project 2007 - Day 2

Our day on site began dry and bright with new volunteers eager to uncover the history of Pan. We started the morning session with more digging on a new strip of land to the west of yesterday’s dig area.

Our diggers found a number of exciting and interesting objects including complete glass bottles and marbles, as well as coloured glass, ceramics and rusted metal. One of our excavators found a number of pig bones, probably from the same animal and another found an intact ‘Daddy’s Favourite Sauce’ bottle! Our other star find of the morning was a complete bone toothbrush with the makers name and ‘Newport’ stamped onto the handle, telling us it was made right here on the island!

After a break we moved onto washing the finds and left them in the sun to dry for the afternoon session.

During lunch break some of yesterday afternoon’s volunteers came to the site eager to dig and spent a productive hour finding even more artefacts than they did yesterday.

In the afternoon rain threatened but it didn’t dissuade our volunteers from getting stuck in. We had some new faces digging, including adults from the Medina centre, and some old hands from yesterday and from the morning session. Among the things they found were: a Bovril jar, parts of a horse’s bridle, a ceramic doll’s head (still with blue eyes painted on), a coin, several decorated metal buttons, glass beads and parts of a ceramic figurine.

Two young ladies from yesterday’s dig session returned to complete their excavation of the jaw bone mentioned in yesterday’s blog. It turned out to be the upper jaw bone of a pig, which had a white ceramic jar-lid buried underneath. Exciting stuff!

Halfway through the afternoon’s session we felt the first smattering of rain. Despite this our volunteers pressed on with excavation and finds washing. We also began a new activity, marking the finds with their site code and context numbers so that in the future they can be related back to this specific site.

The rain worsened as the session finished, but to the credit of all our excavators everyone left with a smile.

NEWS FLASH – A selection of finds from this week’s excavation will be on display in the Isobel centre, next to Downside school, on Friday from 13.00 hours. Everyone is welcome to come and view the display.

Archaeology on the Isle of Wight: the Pan Archaeology Project

Saturday 23rd September was bright and sunny - the perfect sort of day for the start of the second year of the Pan Archaeology project.

Eleven enthusiastic volunteers arrived at the Isobel Centre, Pan, Newport at 11.00am all ready to join staff from Wessex Archaeology searching the fields nearby for clues about Pan’s past. We were looking for bits of pottery, flint and bone which might tell us more about the people who lived here long ago. And we do mean long ago! There were people at Great Pan some 500,000 years ago!

The star find of the day’s field-walking was a flint blade which was probably made by one of these earliest inhabitants of the Isle of Wight.

The project continues on Saturdays until November 18th, so if you would like to be part of it, please contact Steve D’Giacoma on 01983 814 260

Practical Archaeology Course 2006: Day Fifteen - Last day!

It was the last day on site for the Southampton University students and in fact the last day of the three week training excavation and the weather marked this important occasion by absolutely hammering it down with rain for much of the day. Undeterred, the students braved the precipitation and carried on excavating and recording. Fortunately the chalk drains fairly well and the site remained relatively dry, and it is amazing how well 6H pencils work on Permatrace even when it’s very wet.

We were joined on site today by Tom Goskar and Doug Murphy, both from Wessex Archaeology. Tom is our Multimedia Developer and came out to record a Podcast, interviewing various team members as well as Martin Green.

Doug is our Survey Officer and he carried on mapping the site and training two of the students in GPS. We are hoping that all the various post-holes that have been mapped will finally make some sort of coherent structural pattern. There are so many on site (over 150) that they could be joined together in a plan to make roundhouses or rectangular houses as well! Hopefully the post-excavation work will be able to provide some further light on the number, shape and type of structures present.

We took a slightly early lunch in light of the rather inclement conditions and the rain got even heavier. All of the students donned their waterproof trousers and jackets and umbrellas and joined Martin for the long tour of the rich archaeological landscape around Down Farm.

Just as they began the walk the clouds parted and the sun started to shine, which made for a much more pleasant ramble across the countryside, as well as a more auspicious ending to the training excavation.

We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the excavations at Down Farm this year. All of the 35 students who have taken part, as well as all the Wessex and non-Wessex specialists who have given tutorials and workshops, have contributed to making this project a success. We hope that all the students have learnt valuable field skills and have gained confidence and enthusiasm to continue in archaeological excavations. Finally our special thanks to Martin Green without whom this project would not be possible.

Practical Archaeology Course 2006: Day Fourteen

It was a beautiful sunny day at Down Farm today – typical then that Thursday is the day the students spend the morning in the site hut learning about finds processing! Talla Hopper from Wessex Archaeology came out to train all the students in finds identification, processing and marking. We have found so many artefacts from the site in the last week that the students were kept busy washing and marking flint, bone and pottery until lunchtime. Alex and Sophie had already learnt about finds processing in their first week and so they carried on recording their features on site. One of the students from the excavation two years ago (Margaret) came to visit the site with her friend (also Margaret) to see work had progressed since then. They both came bearing the most delicious cakes - carrot and orange and chocolate and banana - which considerably improved morale!

The sun continued to shine in the afternoon and the students came back on site to carry on excavating and recording their various post-holes, pits and quarry hollows. Fortunately we were not visited by Hurricane Graham as this would probably have made conditions on this rather exposed site rather difficult!

Tomorrow is the last training day for 2006 and all of the students involved have achieved so much. Over the last three weeks they have excavated and recorded a total of 65 post-holes, 13 quarry hollows, seven pits, three tree-throws and two interventions through the enclosure ditch – quite a feat!!

Practical Archaeology Course 2006: Day Thirteen

When we arrived at Down Farm this morning, we thought the weather men had got it wrong. It was overcast and drizzly when it was meant to be a lovely sunny day. However, by the time we all got on to site, the clouds had abated and the sun slowly made an appearance. This helped morale immensely until the wind started to get up and by the end of the day we were all rather windswept and interesting (or rather had rather red faces and haystack hair). Excavating almost on the top of the hill means that we are always quite exposed and I think most of the team were wondering why Late Bronze Age/ Early Iron Age people had decided to settle here and build roundhouses. Perhaps they enjoyed being buffeted by the wind, although I am sure the advantage of wonderful views and being able to see everything going on in the surrounding landscape may have outweighed the negative factor of always being bright red and sporting straw-like hairdos!!

Work continued on the excavation of quarry hollows, ditches, pits and postholes. Alex finished excavating the northern terminus of the enclosure ditch, but sadly found no evidence of placed deposits or other potentially interesting finds, although he did recover a nice flint flake. More pottery and burnt and struck flint came out of the quarry hollows. Two postholes were excavated which had been cut into the quarry hollows. This means that the quarry hollows were earlier than the roundhouses and it may be that they were extracting chalk marl from them to use for building the houses, rather like daub or marl plaster.

The rectangular feature we started excavating yesterday turned out to be another quarry hollow rather than a grave. This also contained a few finds including a sherd of pottery of Late Bronze Age/ Early Iron Age date. Work continued on the finds-rich pit in the roundhouse which is full of pottery, animal bone and struck and burnt flint, and may relate to a feast which took place within the house itself.

The two large post-pits that may be a porch structure into the roundhouse were fully excavated and one of the most interesting finds came from the base of the western post at the end of the day. As Sadie cleaned up the base of this large hole, she unearthed a yellow-bellied newt, who didn’t seem too pleased to be disturbed as he was clearly in the process of hibernating! We showed this rare animal to Martin Green who suggested we re-home him by his pond where he is far less likely to be rudely disturbed again!

Practical Archaeology Course 2006: Day Twelve

It was a beautiful sunny day today at Down Farm - which was fortunate as the whole day was devoted to excavation with no seminars or workshops planned inside. All of the students were in the middle of excavating or recording features that they had started yesterday. Some of the post-holes that were being dug were quite substantial, over 40cm deep and two of them certainly formed parts of structures, possibly a south-facing porch to a roundhouse. Another post-hole contained a rather large fragment of animal bone which was probably placed in the hole after the wooden post had been removed.

Sophie carried on excavating a circular pit which had been started by Rosemary last week and this seems to contain deliberately placed deposits, which may relate to feasting. Sophie uncovered yet more evidence for this, including large fragments of animal bones, some of which seem to be articulated, and big rim sherds of a smashed pot sitting on a platform of chalk. This pit seems to be located within the actual roundhouse itself.

The two post-holes that appear to form part of the porch structure of the roundhouse both contained evidence of post-pipes – which clearly indicate that the wooden posts they contained had rotted in situ, and were not removed. Both of these posts are rather substantial and they were sampled by Martin Green and Sadie. The charcoal they contain will help us to find out what kind of wood was used to construct the house as well as perhaps providing a radiocarbon determination to give us a more precise date about the chronology of this phase of occupation on the site.

Two of the other students (David and Lee) were excavating quarry hollows, and one of these contains some nice finds including pot sherds and burnt bone. Alex continued to work on the full excavation of the northern terminus of the enclosure ditch. This lies adjacent to a pit (excavated in 2004) which contained an articulated cow burial and we are hoping to find some more interesting deposits in the terminal.

We were most privileged to have Martin Green helping us on site all day. He fully excavated a post-hole as well as cleaning up areas between our new site and the old excavation areas, where he found more features for us to excavate - as if we didn’t have enough! One of these was a rectangular feature which is aligned east-west and looks suspiciously like a grave. Excavation has just begun on this feature so watch this space for an update!!

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