2005 Dig Diary Week 1

Day 1

Inside the museumInside the museum'Cleaning' the site'Cleaning' the siteThe Practical Archaeology Course for 2005 got under way on Monday 5th of September. 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.

Day 2

Excavation beginsExcavation beginsOn-site recordingOn-site recordingAfter yesterday’s hard work cleaning the site, participants 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 any 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.

Day 3

Learning archaeological recordingLearning archaeological recordingdentifying microscopic plant remainsdentifying microscopic plant remainsArchaeological 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 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.

Day 4

On-site planningOn-site planningWhilst 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.
Pounding the ore!Pounding the ore!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.
Jake removes the 'bloom'Jake removes the 'bloom'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. For Jake this was smelt number 97 and in his words it went “quite well”. The pictures show that when the bloom had been removed from the kiln it was sawn in half to show how much iron was inside.
The finished 'bloom'The finished 'bloom'The iron shows up as a silvery colour. It was never Jake’s intention to work this piece of iron. However, if it was re-heated and beaten several times it would have produced a small bar of iron that could have been forged into an object or a tool, such as a blade.

Day 5

Using the GPS survey equipmentUsing the GPS survey equipmentWessex 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
Listen week one's Archaeocast to see what the participants really thought! (14 mins: mp3, 12.7Mb)