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Showing posts from 2015

Severn Valley Ware at Berkeley

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Archaeologists really get excited about pottery, and here at Berkeley we've recently become excited about a piece of Severn Valley Ware that was found last week. This particular type of pottery was produced at kiln sites all along the valley of the river Severn, including at kilns located close to Berkeley. This particular sherd is a little unusual as it's the foot ring of a vessel fashioned to be re-used as a pot lid. Severn Valley Ware was produced and distributed in Britain from the second to the fourth centuries A.D, and we found ours in a context underneath a Saxon building. However, the re-use of this vessel as a pot lid means that its life span has been extended and it may well have continued in use into the Anglo-Saxon period. It's a distinctive type of ware which is orange or red-brown, produced along the middle Severn Valley, and distributed across Western Britain. It's usually fine textured, burnished, wheel thrown, and the thicker examples might have grey co…

A Summary of Berkeley 2015 Excavation

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The 2015 dig was seen off with the usual tradition of donuts for everybody who’s worked so hard over the past two weeks, which definitely went down well! There was still much work to do however, as the students were set to work clearing down to the natural geology adjacent to the ditches across the east end of Trench 8. This was to clear the area before it is back-filled by checking there are no more artefacts or archaeological features. As a gift to future archaeologists, a time capsule is being placed in the deepest ankle-breaker ditch, allowing the Berkeley Castle Project’s legacy live on!




A last sweep of the metal detector over the whole site has also brought up some interesting discoveries. These included three Roman coins in fair condition and an Anglo-Saxon (8th / 9th century) strap-end which was almost a 'blank' having come out of a mould but not yet been cut or drilled. This has been a very exciting discovery which could potentially indicate production of such items …

Winding Down at the End of the Dig

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As we come to the end of the dig, work has begun to shift into the realm of logistics and tying up loose ends. The list of jobs to complete appears endless: shifting spoil heaps, numbering drawings, taking levels, checking context sheets, photographing sections, and metal-detecting the whole trench, to name a few! A special mention should be made of the deconstruction of a vital team-member: the car-port. It should be especially noted for its provision of shelter against sun and rain during the last two weeks of weather extremes!

2015 has been a strong year for the Berkeley Castle Project. The ditches have been completely emptied, leading to the discovery of a large quantity of scrap lead waste in a deposit believed to be a backfilled bank. Overall, there has been a surprisingly minimal amount of finds. This could be due to more of a focus on the top end of the trench, which has been troweled back almost to natural.

As far as dating is concerned, there is a strong level of confidence…

The Full Fulbright Experience

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20 Things that Happen on Your First Dig - From a non-archaeologist

1. You are super excited for your first dig and firmly believe you are the new Indiana Jones.
2. You will find yourself with cuts and blisters all over your hands and not notice until much, much later. (We should have worn our gloves like they told us to.)
3. DIRT - it is everywhere
4. Even on the cloudiest, rainiest days you still manage to get just as sunburned as any other day.
5. You quickly learn that you will not become Indiana Jones overnight and that this is incredibly hard work.
6. There comes a point when you question why you are sweeping dirt from the earth.
7. Every mineral becomes a question of "Is this a rock OR IS IT A NEW DISCOVERY??!?"
8 . And no matter how hopeful you are, it is usually just a rock.
9. But there is still hope that you will magically find something that the other experienced diggers have not been able to find in 20 years.
10. When you do finally find something, you are the on…

A Day in the Life of a Site Director

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Here at the Berkeley Dig a few of us were wondering what exactly it is that our site director Stuart Prior does all day. He's always rushing about the site doing job after job and rarely gets a chance for a break or lunch, so what occupies his time? To find out I decided to be his shadow one Friday, and record what he got up to, whilst picking his brains on what it all meant and what else he did when I was not there. By the time I got home, I could confidently say that he was a very busy man, and I had also gained detailed knowledge of what being a site director involved.

Stuart's day began at six o'clock in the morning, when he woke up and the first thing he thought of was the Berkeley Dig. He did some research on the arrow head we had found the day before to check its date. He sometimes gets up even earlier to do research. By seven thirty he had taken his dog for a walk and left the house to ride for an hour on his motorcycle to get to site for eight thirty.

Over the ne…

Sian Thomas: Archaeology and Excavation

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Sian Thomas, site supervisor, gave a quick summary of the archaeology at the Berkeley excavations and some information about the goings on at the dig. The biggest job at the moment is clearing out the ditch, possibly from the Anarchy Period, for final photos and this is requiring lots of hard work from the team here.The final recording of the ditches is also taking place.



We have had lots of visitors down to site today and it has been very busy. Paul Driscoll, the South Gloucestershire County archaeologist, was given a tour around the site with Stuart Prior. We are looking forward to a visit from the Agincourt Society later on today because on of the flag bearer from the battle is being buried near Berkeley and the 600th anniversary of the battle occurring later on this year.

20 Questions Series

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Our engagement team has interviewed the Site Supervisors, Emily Glass and Sian Thomas, Co-Directors, Stuart Prior and Mark Horton, and Site Field Technician Phil Rowe. Each member of the team was asked the same 20 questions and here are their answers.

1) What’s your favourite colour? Phil – Blue Stuart - Green
2) If you were a number what would you be? Phil - 3 Stuart – 13 or 23
3) What’s your favourite animal? Phil - Tiger Stuart - Wolf
4) What’s your favourite sandwich filling? Phil – Beef and horseradish Stuart – Coronation chicken
5) Which superhero would make the best archaeologist? Phil – Batman Stuart – Superman because of his x-ray vision
6) What would your theme song be? Phil – Always look on the bright side of life Stuart – Spacelord by monster magnet
7) Cheese or chocolate? Phil - Cheese Stuart - Chocolate
8) Favourite takeaway? Phil - Indian Stuart - Indian
9) Famous person you’d like to meet dead or alive? Phil – Douglas Hague Stuart – William the Conqueror or Boudicca
10) If you …

Five Female Archaeologists that we should be talking about

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Chatting to a group of friends over a drink after a long day spent at the Berkeley excavations, the conversation turned, as it so often does when talking to final year students, to the future and what the heck we would find ourselves doing in the years to come. For many it was obvious, my medic friend would most probably be working in a hospital, the engineer of the group had already scored herself a training contract and the politics grad next to me was already excited for her masters degree. Then it was my turn. “What about you, Sarah? What are you going to do with ‘Archaeology’?” I ignored the scornful undertones, unfortunately used to my degree being undervalued by my unknowing peers, and accustomed to their unawareness of how awesome archaeology can be. “I dunno”, I replied. “I might carry on digging for a bit.” Cue raised eyebrows and incredulous looks. “What like the first FEMALE Indiana Jones?” Oh wow.

This post, far from being a rant about the potential undervaluing of arts …

Video catch up

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Here are some of our videos from the first two weeks on site: Prof. Mark Horton covers 2,000 years of history in one trench; Dr. Nick Corcos recaps on his experiences of archaeology; and some fun bits and pieces!




Interview with Carly Hilts

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Wednesday was an exciting day for the social media team as we got the chance to have a conversation with Current Archaeology’s assistant editor Carly Hilts.

For those of you who have not been lucky enough to meet her, let me assure you, Carly is pretty darn cool. With a degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, she’s worked on Time Team, Horrible Histories and even helped develop an Egyptian themed computer game. But while such an impressive career might initially seem intimidating, we all thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Carly after lunch, and were reassured, if not a little star-struck, by her openness and generosity.

Site supervisors Stuart Prior and Mark Horton gave Carly a tour of the trench and of the castle and Carly provided only positive feedback about the site! Apparently our paddock trench looked “tremendous” and she compared the rich time span visible in the archaeological record there to a “3D text book”. Indeed, with finds unearthed ranging from Anglo-Saxon buildings to …

Pit Perfect

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We mentioned last week that we discovered a new pit at the top end of our trench and we can now report more because of the collective genius of Site Supervisors Sian and Emily. The story unfolded when students were doing some routine trowelling and discovered a change in soil colour, very unlike the typically reddish-pink clay expected at Berkeley. This soil was a dark grey-brown. Memories were cast back a couple of years to when another pit, situated above this, was excavated. It was thought that this change in soil may be the very bottom fill of the pit that had been excavated a couple of years prior.  Mark, Emily, and Sian pondering the pit Emily and Sian, being the meticulous people that they are, decided to confirm their theory. Their investigation involved double-checking the records and plans that have been carefully stored for eleven seasons. They quickly came to the conclusion that this was not feasible and that this was in fact the fill of a new pit, not previously seen.
La…

Midway through the season

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The second week of Berkeley is drawing to a close and we have accomplished a lot in a short period of time!
Our sections are nice and clean and thanks to all the hard work of our undergrads they are ready for photography. Site Supervisor Emily and her crew were hard at work this morning taking photos of all of the ditches so we can finish the recording of these features. Our students are continuing to empty the slot that was discovered at the back of the trench last week and our new pit is being cleaned ready for recording.
In more exciting news, we have made a couple of discoveries! In our Tudor tavern corner of the trench we have discovered a lead powder cap and a musket ball. A powder cap is a nifty device that would have served two purposes. Firstly, it would have capped a vessel containing gunpowder and secondly it would have been a way of measuring the perfect amount of gunpowder required for one shot.
Left: musket ball, Right: lead gunpowder cap
One of our Site Supervisor, Emi…

Exciting visitors and great finds

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Today has been hectic for us here at Berkeley Castle!


Trays of artefacts and information posters were distributed to the ‘Town Museum Curators’. If you happen to find yourselves in Berkeley over the next two weeks, don’t feel strange about peering into the windows of the houses down the High Street and make sure to keep an eye out on the shop windows on Market Street. An array of artefacts including building materials, glass, shells, clay pipes and animal bones are now proudly on display!



An update for the day from the trenches: the ditches are being cleaned, drawn, planned and photographed. Excavation continues in order to gain a better understanding of the relationships between the ditches. Truncated postholes and pits (referred to as ‘truncated’ because they have had their tops skimmed off by later activity) are also being planned and photographed. The Anglo-Saxon building is being drawn in the hope that the stones will soon be able to be lifted and we can continue excavating, hop…

Town Museum project map

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It’s officially here! The engagement team is proud to present the Town Museum Project for our 11th season at Berkeley. We have turned the town of Berkeley into a pop up museum for two weeks. Twenty trays have been placed around the High Street, Salter Street, and Market Place showcasing some of the amazing artefacts that we have found in our eleven seasons.