Wessex Archaeology’s Survey Officer, Doug Murphy, came out to the site to show how modern GPS survey is used in the field by archaeologists. Course participants were given a chance to use the equipment to survey the archaeological features that they and the others had dug.
Martin Green led a second, longer tour of the surrounding landscape, allowing people to gain a greater understanding of the archaeological heritage of the area.
The afternoon pottery lecture was highly informative. Matt Lievers from Wessex Archaeology brought along a selection of prehistoric and later pottery. Everyone benefitted from the chance to see and handle a wide range of pottery while they listened to Matt.
Congratultions to all of the participants on week one of the course.
As excavation continues on site, our knowledge about who built it, how and when, is growing. Several of the post holes that have been excavated revealed post-pipes. These occur where, in the past, a wooden post has been removed from a post hole and the resulting void has filled up with soil. The picture on the left demonstrates this: the dark vertical band is the ‘ghost’ of the post that once stood within the posthole, the lighter soil to either side of the dark patch is the original chalk packing that would have been used to keep the wooden post in place.
Chalk, however, is not the only type of prehistoric post packing to have been used on this site. This picture shows a postpit which was uncovered on site today. You can clearly see the large flint nodules which were used in the same way as the chalk, but probably to support a much larger wooden post. Hopefully further excavation will reveal more about the type of structures or buildings these posts would have formed part of.
The most exciting discoveries of the day have been several sherds of pottery. Those shown in the picture above are the first pieces of decorated pot uncovered this season. They show the two bands of decoration around what would have been a small bowl. The style of pottery appears at first glance to be what is known as ‘All Cannings Cross’ which dates to the Early Iron Age. This confirms our belief that this site was created during the Early to Middle Iron Age (700-100 BC). Slowly but surely we are beginning to piece together the history of the site. Below is another example of a post-pipe visible within a post hole.
Whilst the on-site recording continued apace, there were other activities on offer. Several people spent the morning learning about and processing pottery and other archaeological finds. Some of the finds were those uncovered on-site this week and others were a range of finds from different archaeological sites. This activity allowed participants to see and handle a wider range of artefacts.
Participants also took part in some real experimental archaeology, courtesy of archaeo-metallurgist Jake Keene. The aim was to take several kilos of iron ore and charcoal to produce a ‘bloom’ of iron. In order to do this participants pounded up lumps of iron ore and weighed out kilos of charcoal for the furnace. Then they took it in turns to pump the bellows, in order to maintain a constant temperature of 1,500 degrees centigrade.
Experiments like this improve our understanding of the complex processes of prehistoric metal working and make it easy to understand why ancient metal workers might be seen to be performing acts of magic.
The kiln is still burning, so log on again tomorrow to see if the experiment worked!
Archaeological recording was the main task of the day. Once they had excavated their features, course participants began the task of recording what they had dug.
This involved learning new skills such as technical drawing, planning, surveying and filling in context sheets. These are all methods used by archaeologists to gain and record as much information as possible. Since any excavation is in fact a form of destruction, it is essential that one form of evidence - the soil/objects in the ground, is replaced by another - the written and illustrated record left for future generations to study.
In the afternoon Chris Stevens, an environmental archaeologist from Wessex Archaeology, led a workshop about geoarchaeological techniques. This included explanations as to how archaeologists are able to recreate entire landscapes and environments from the soil samples they take during excavation.
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The Practical Archaeology Course for 2005 got under way on Monday. After a warm welcome, participants were escorted around the site by Dr Martin Green, the local expert archaeologist. They were shown the sites of previous excavations and given an introduction to the archaeology of Cranborne Chase. The fascinating tour ended at the museum, where everyone had the opportunity to see the many finds from the excavations.
After lunch the real hard work got underway! Participants began the exciting task of ‘cleaning’ the area to be excavated. This meant using hoes, trowels and brooms to literally clean the chalk. As they did so they got their first glimpse of the archaeological deposits that they will soon be excavating. So far they have uncovered a large number of postholes, several of which are almost certainly from buildings.
Log on again tomorrow to track their progress and discover the site as they do!
After yesterday’s hard work cleaning the site, participants today got their chance to do some real excavation. For most people this meant digging their first posthole. They learnt all about the archaeological techniques of half sectioning. This entails digging out one half of an archaeological feature so that you are left with a section or slice through the middle of it, showing all the different layers of soil. Kevin was the first person to discover not one but two artefacts - sherds of Iron Age pottery. Animal bone and worked flint have also been found.
Some people even got so far as to begin to draw and record their postholes. As if all this wasn’t enough excitement for one day, participants also had an afternoon workshop on ‘Animal bone in archaeology’ led by Stephanie Knight from Wessex Archaeology.