Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by The Churches Conservation Trust to carry out an archaeological investigation involving a variety of techniques and to provide opportunities for training in archaeological survey techniques to local communities, societies, students and schoolchildren.
Part of the project was to carry out Reflectance Transformation Imaging RTI of several features in the churchyard with the assistance of the public. Two features were selected for RTI, a wall carving and an 18th-century grave stone.
The grave stone was chosen because it presented a challenge for the technique. The 18th-century gravestone had become colonised by lichens. This had made the surface inscription hard to read in normal light. It was also chosen to demonstrate the non-invasive nature of the technique. Some lichens are protected species and to remove these ancient organisms in order to gain access to any surface detail is not allowed.
The amount of lichen obscured the inscription on the gravestone as the first image demonstrates (above left). The first image was produced in default render mode in the RTI viewer. Here, very little detail can be seen. The second image (above right) shows the results of subsequent processing in diffuse gain mode. This enabled the inscription to be read without harming the sensitive lichens growing over the surface. The image also shows decorative roundels around the border of the stone, and, for the curious, the inscription reads:
HEARE LYETH THE
BODY OF MARGARET LAE [LAB?]
OF THIS PARISH WHO WAS
BURIED THE 5 DAY OF JANUARY
ANNO DOMINI 1728 AGED 34?
In Youthful Years Through Pain and (grief)?
Hear I Retreat and Find Relief
Waiting in Hopes Out Of This Dust
To Rise and Reign Among The Just
The wall carving consisted of a rounded pediment above the south door (now blocked). Surface impressions were suspected as well as a wall sun-dial hole. The first image (below left) shows the evidence of the sun-dial hole to the right and a centre roundel. There is no sign of other features present at this stage. The second image (below right) is processed through diffuse gain mode. Here can be clearly seen, the radiating sun-dial line marks and a much clearer view of the quadrant decoration of the centre roundel. What also surprised all on site was the presence of a second and third roundel. The second roundel is visible to the left of the image. It is very faint but, RTI allowed a fresh insight as to the design of the pediment. A third slightly smaller roundel, although difficult to see, is just visible above the centre roundel, its lower arc cutting through the top edge of the centre roundel.