Friday, May 29, 2015

Midway through the season

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, Emily, has a theory about which period these items belong. The layer above where these artefacts were found was a tavern that had been destroyed during the civil war. The rubble was spread out around and pieces of debris fell in between the cobbles in the layer underneath, which is cobbled. Our finds were discovered sandwiched between these two layers, which Emily thinks means that these artefacts were highly likely to have derived from the civil war.

The location of our amazing finds

Drawings of the features of the trench have continued today, and our more artistically inclined students have been tasked with this job. Check out this photo that amazing Anna drew today!

Anna's drawing

In other news, we had a visit from departmental family and friends. Teachers of archaeology and anthropology alike have come to visit the post-ex and excavation sites. 

 Mhairi Gibson and her family

We've had an amazing two weeks so far, check back next week for more updates!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Exciting visitors and great finds

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!

Artefacts sitting proudly on display next to the bread at Berkeley Bakery! 

Student Catalina putting up the display of artefacts and posters at La Lune Art Studio. Photo credit: Graham and Julie Harris. 

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, hopefully to find Roman remains underneath.

Sam, Wil and Mattie working on their section drawing of the trench

In the Saxo-Norman ditch, a piece of pottery known as ‘Ham Green ware’ was found. This was dramatic because Ham Green ware is medieval, dating to the 12th and 13th Century and so should not be appearing in this Saxon or Norman context. Thankfully though (for our dating and sanity) Emily worked out that it was found in a pit cutting through the Saxo-Norman ditch-fill rather than in the same stratigraphy as the Saxo-Norman material. This means that our ditch dating is still accurate along with our understanding of the site as a whole.

The Ham Green pottery handle with spotted design which momentarily complicated our dating. 

The finding of the Ham Green ware is also interesting generally, and we have found a LOT of the stuff here on site. The name ‘Ham Green ware’ refers to the site of the Kiln, in a field next to Ham Green hospital, rather than the colour of the glaze. Confusingly though, some vessels do have a very rich olive green glaze all over them. Ham Green pottery shards from archaeological contexts at Dundas Wharf in Bristol were dated using tree ring analysis of associated timbers and provide us with a date range of this type of pottery of 1120-1275. Pottery items found of this type include jugs, cooking pots and other vessels, often glazed and decorated with a variety of designs. The handle we found today, for example, has an interesting dotted design. Ham Green is also worth knowing about because it is close to where we are in Bristol – only 3 miles from Ashton Court (on the Somerset side of the Suspension Bridge) and only about 20 miles south from Berkeley Castle.

An example of a complete Ham Green ware jug! Click through for source on Cotswold Archaeology. 

Also joining us on site was Denis Burn, Chair of the Council of Bristol University Council from 2006, representative of the Merchant Ventures and past Master of the Merchant Ventures, along with Carly Hilts from Current Archaeology Magazine – Stay tuned for an interview with Carly, which should be on the blog soon!

Site directors Stuart Prior and Mark Horton giving a tour to Carly Hilt and Denis Burn. 

Town Museum project map

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.
Undergraduate students meet with local businesses to place the Town Museum artefact displays

Due to popular demand we have produced a map with the twenty locations of our trays.

Our 20 trays are located as follows:
  1. 58 High Street
  2. 34 High Street
  3. 13 High Street
  4. 9 High Street
  5. Madelyn hairdressers, 6 High Street
  6. Berkeley Tea Rooms, The Old White Harte
  7. Tomatojack Arts, The Old White Harte
  8. Memorandum, 4 High Street
  9. Jones and Co hairdressers, 3a High Street
  10. La Lune, 1 High Street
  11. Perfect Blend
  12. Opticians, The Old House, Market Place
  13. The Old Shop, Market Place
  14. 7 Market Place
  15. 6 Market Place
  16. J Caldridge, 10 Market Place
  17. Berkeley Bakery, 2 Market Place
  18. Berkeley Flowers, 7 Salter Street
  19. Longfield Hospice Care
  20. 1 Canonbury Street
Local community resident Chris stands proudly by his window display.

Good luck finding and reading all of the displays!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Photography Masterclass

Students were given the opportunity to attend a photography masterclass, given by Berkeley Castle’s volunteer photographers, Graham and Julie Harris. This husband and wife duo broke down the basic principles of photography and gave guidance to anyone looking for inspiration behind the lens.

Graham and Julie are locals, living only a stone’s throw away from the castle and the dig site. Aside from regular work for Berkeley Castle, they photograph for local charitable events and follow their own passions. Both are retired and use photography as a way to keep themselves busy in their later years. An inspiration for anyone planning for their golden years!

“It stops us getting rusty, it’s a great hobby!”
After covering the technical side of camera work, they talked us through what makes a great photograph and how to compose your subject matter.

These are their top tips!
  • Each photograph should tell a story! Looking at a photograph can be like reading a book. Complex, interesting compositions make you consider what’s going on in frame. Putting your subject in center frame doesn’t make for a compelling story!
  • Photographs are emotional! Feelings surrounding the photograph are reflected in the image. Creating an emotional bond with your subject is important as it makes a more interesting final product.
  • Be as unobtrusive as possible! Like a scientist observing their experiment, Graham thinks that the subject should speak for itself. He isn’t a fan of posing, so no selfies for this one!
  • Always consider your audience! Who are you taking the photograph for? What makes them tick! There’s no such thing as a true photograph, it all depends who’s looking at it.
  • Follow your passion! This is paramount, if you’re not interested, the photographs will show it!

Julie and Graham will be dropping by the dig over the next few weeks. We’re excited to see what these photography aficionados come up with!

Thanks so much to Julie and Graham!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bank Holiday Bonanza

A smaller group than usual hopped into the archaeology land-rovers this morning, hyped up on Bank Holiday coffee, and headed towards Berkeley Castle.
Bank Holiday Engagement Team selfie!
2nd year, Beavis, armed with his ranging pole pointer, and 1st year Catalina, led four tours throughout the day to town members and paying visitors to the castle. These tours were a great success, enjoyed by almost 60 people, including a number of finely dressed young princesses and Robin Hoods (the Castle provided costumes for children).
Visitors were invited to visit to join free tours of the large paddock trench.
We spoke to one high street resident:
“I just know the basic school stuff so it’s great to have the opportunity to have a closer look. Because, I mean, we know you work here… but it’s amazing to see what you’re actually doing. Very much enjoyed it! I’m looking forward to when you’ve discovered a little bit more. So hopefully you’ll give us an opportunity to come once again!"
A local shop owner was also delighted with the tour adding: "Very interesting talk by the #DigBerkeley team today! Soooo much history in one trench!!!"

Artefact handling was another popular activity enjoyed by the community. Emily Glass, and student lead, Joe, showed the visitors tiny strap ends, whet stones, a bone gaming token and figurines. One visitor viewing a dagger handle piece was surprised by the “lot of work and a lot of time for such a little item!”.
The public were invited to handle real archaeological artefacts on site, right where they were excavated!
We also finished up our artefact trays for the Town Museum project display. As we write, the team are dropping trays and information sheets door to door to around twenty community participants. More updates on that soon!
Artefacts are hidden under information sheets, ready for final preps before going on display in the community's windows.
Thanks to Berkeley Castle, as ever, for supporting all of our efforts!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

3D image experimentation

Masters student Henry is experimenting with 3D imaging for artefacts, features and tools. What do you want to see? Send us your requests to or any of our social media channels.

Here's one of the 45 images used to create this model:

We're still learning how to use the multitude of software options and this is a great learning experience for our students!

Have a look at these colour versions hosted on autodesk - they look amazing!!!
A miniature version of Berkeley Castle:

Looks like we have made progress!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Get stuck in!

Exciting progress is being made here in Berkeley! The trench cleaning process has finally been wrapped up meaning that the ‘real’ digging can begin. The team did such a good job cleaning that a number of pit and posthole features have been revealed and we are looking forward to seeing what else appears in the next few days of excavation.

The beautiful clean trench with visible features ready to be excavated
The ditches (no longer mini-swimming pools) are now being cleaned out and site-director Emily happily reported that they are in fact in much better condition than she thought. The undergrad archaeologists might be forgiven for thinking otherwise due to the amount of sticky, clay mud clinging to their gloves, boots and knees, but the whole team are happily getting stuck in (literally) to see what they will unearth!

'Glorious' mud sticking to everything
Here in the Public Engagement and Social Media team we also have some exciting things in store! Plans are being put into place for the upcoming Bank Holiday Monday. Artefact handling sessions are being coordinated, where a small collection of artefacts will be available for the public to view and hold. We hope that this will enhance their experience of archaeology, offering an interactive opportunity to understand and see what we are up to and what kind of things we have found here on site and give a hands-on look into the castle’s complex history.

Visitors and local residents will also be invited to join us on a tour of the archaeological trenches on the Bank Holiday Monday. Students will lead the members of the public from the castle gate to Nelmes Paddock trench and inform them of the archaeological process and what we have found. (Let’s hope they remember their wellies!) Tours are also available for ticketed visitors to the castle during the last three Tuesdays of the excavation (at 2pm).

Arguably one of our most exciting (and in our opinion, ground breaking) engagement plans is the TOWN MUSEUM PROJECT. Starting next week, we are turning the town of Berkeley into a temporary Museum exhibition. Willing home owners and businesses are becoming curators for a week or two by displaying a small selection of artefacts in their windows along with information about them for the whole town to see. Now the local community can actively get involved in the archaeology of their town, take pride in their heritage and ‘get personal’ with their past.

2nd year Alice sorting through artefacts
Innovator and project leader, Aisling Tierney explains her inspiration:
Last year we hosted a community engagement event where we asked the community how they felt about our work and what ways they would like us to engage with them. Since so many people are working while we are on site, they can’t always get to the archaeology. I thought, let’s bring the archaeology to them. From that point, the idea just grew into something wonderful and I’m really looking forward to seeing all the displays in place, creating an ambiance of archaeology for the whole town.

For a more detailed preview of Aisling’s public engagement plans, feel free to check out the Public Archaeology blog here.
Otherwise, WATCH THIS SPACE! We have definitely got an exciting week ahead of us here at Berkeley Castle! If you’re free on Monday 25th May, COME ALONG!

Over and out from 3rd year Sarah who was determined to sneak a selfie into this post somewhere!
Our engagement coordinator only slightly rolled her eyes at this last picture...

Clay Pipes and Wet Wipes

Day four of our 2015 season and so far everything has been a resounding success. This morning, we took a picture of progress, cleaning out the trench:

Compared to the first day...

a bit weedy...

This is a genuine testament to the quality of the cleaning work carried out by our dedicated and passionate students - great effort.

Moving on from cleaning mud, to exciting finds: our MA Student, Morgan Jones discovered the part of a 1620's Clay Pipe in the south of the trench. The initials 'RB' were engraved into it - we are still unsure as to exactly what this stands for, but are outreaching to the local, national and international community with ties in the area, who may be able to shed some light onto the meanings. It will also be analysed more excessively at the post-excavation centre at 43 Woodland Road.
Can you help us identify this clay pipe?
We also had the chance to catch up with one of the first year students (BA Archaeology and Anthropology), Charlotte Chan, to get an insight into her first impressions.
First impressions from one of our first years, Charlotte
Engagement team: Is this your first experience of excavating?
Charlotte: Yes, first time hands on with all of the equipment.
Engagement team: So have you had experience on an archaeological site before?
Charlotte: Yes, back in China, in Xian. I have visited the Terracotta Army and the tomb of a Han emperor.
Engagement team: What do you think of the Castle and the grounds?
Charlotte: I think the Castle is great - I did some research before I came for the dig and I found out about the involvement of King Edward II with the castle, and was particularly interested in the scandal regarding his murder. It exceeded my expectations, much different to what I thought I would be doing!
Engagement team: Have you found anything yet?
Charlotte: I found the femur of either a cattle or a horse - it was the biggest piece found on the whole site on the second day. It was about the size of my forearm and was really exciting. I've also found lots of ceramic sherds, and can't wait to dig more over the next week and a half.

We have made a lot of progress in this first few days, and the sun has been shining too. Long may it continue, Berkeley 2015 is going to be the best yet.

Oh and before we forget: the wet wipes have been incredibly useful in cleaning off the Berkeley mud at the end of the day. Hence the blog name. ;-)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Scrattocking and pumping

Today we saw a mattocking masterclass from site supervisor, Emily Glass. She introduced students to "scrattocking", which is scratchy mattocking! Watch the video:

"Scrattocking" (Scratchy mattocking) masterclass by Emily Glass. #digberkeley #archaeology #excavation

A video posted by digberkeley (@digberkeley) on

Along the way, we notate plans and take levels in preparation for troweling, and we are recording the whole trench edge as we go. The east side of the trench, with the deepest excavations, includes three large puddles. Not exactly ideal for archaeology. Our brand new pump isn't working, but it should hopefully be fixed by tomorrow.
Site supervisors Emily & Sian planning pumping of the puddles
On the bright-side, the Anglo-Saxon building foundation walls and floor deposits will be removed. After de-weeding, the trenches will be cleaned to reveal a layer where some finds dating to the Saxon period were found. The site drawings will have to fit the 40m length section (1:20 should do it) and levelling will have to be undertaken for the plan. Emily Young and Morgan Jones are on the case to teach the first years (and others with terrible memory) this technique.

Keep checking back with us for the latest scrattocking updates!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Jenner exhibit

Today marked the last day of the archaeological exhibit in the Jenner Museum featuring some of the items uncovered during the University of Bristol's excavations in the Jenner Garden and Castle grounds. Jack Fuller and Wil Partridge were the student leads researching and then presenting the archaeological finds for visitors. A year later they reflect on the experience of developing the exhibit.
Dr. Jenner's House
"It was a lot of hard work, but really rewarding" explains Jack, motioning to the pile of finds waiting to be catalogued, "it's great to see everything that's been dug up over the years". Along with Roman features, were found some post-Roman skeletons and evidence for Anglo-Saxon occupation of the area. This caused considerable excitement among the team as it contributes to our knowledge about post-Roman occupation and the presence of the Anglo-Saxon Minster. Another particularly exciting object on the display was a twisted copper alloy bracelet dating to around 800AD and an associated polyhedral pin also dating to the Viking times.
Jack holds a delicate pin that is packed carefully away as part of cataloguing
Stuart Prior explained that the Jenner Museum exhibition was important because "for the first time, the local community and visitors were able to see exactly the kind of material culture that we were excavating from the trench". The exhibition also displayed artefacts from medieval phases of the site, including loom weights and floor tiles along with musket balls from the Civil War. Karen, from the Jenner Museum team, told us that she thought the exhibit "definitely added value to the visitor experience", and that kids and families were especially interested in looking at the artefacts: "Honestly, I'm sorry to see the exhibition go!"
Clay pipes are bagged and tagged, ready for storage
The Jenner House and Museum are known for being the home of Dr Edward Jenner, and it was the Jenner Gardens and the Temple of Vaccina in which Dr Jenner famously researched and developed vaccinations against small pox (thank you Daisy the cow for your contributions to science!). Jenner himself, and the other Georgian occupants of the house also left material culture for us to find. Objects found in the Jenner Garden dating to these times included a number of clay pipes, buttons and broken glass snuff bottles (discarded by being tossed over the garden wall). Another exciting find next to the Temple of Vaccinia was the skeleton of a small dog dating to the time of Jenner's occupation and there is a lot of gossip buzzing around the site suggesting that this dog was Dr Jenner's own pet dog (along with rumours that it may have been dissected?!).
Beautiful twisted bracelet
Well done to Jack and Wil for producing such and interesting and well presented exhibition that has proved to be a great success over the past year! We're all looking forward to future displays of all of the BRILLIANT finds that we will uncover in the years to come.
The camera-shy duo hard at work!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bristol takes Berkeley, day one

This Monday saw the return of the University of Bristol's Archaeology and Anthropology Department to their annual dig at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire. We were greeted by glorious weather in the morning (read: rain) and even more glorious traffic! Once at site, everyone got around to unloading all of the equipment from the land rovers.

Image 1: Phil Rowe and student unloading empty boxes. Archaeology.

The first years, however, got a lovely talk and tour courtesy of our site director Dr Stuart Prior and were in the trench in the afternoon. One first year, Catalina, said that they really enjoyed the history of the site and thought that it was great that she was able to excavate on a history-rich piece of land. 

Image 2: Our first years taking the tour of where they will spend two weeks of their life.

After lunch, the sun came out and the struggles with the tent began. We experienced 20mph winds - with forecasts as high as 40mph for tomorrow - and our poor tent struggled to cope. It had to be reassembled in the afternoon. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the tent got knocked over by the wind and we are now tent-less.

Images 3 and 4: The struggles with the tent 2k15.

Notable finds for today include this jawbone of an unidentified animal (we think it's a pig) among other bones found by second year Hannah.

Image 5: Hannah and all the bones that she found.

We have a brand spanking new trench this year that is being worked on by our masters students on the castle grounds - for short we are calling this the 'MA trench'. They are looking for some foundations to prove a conspiracy theory regarding one of the towers of the castle.
Image 6: the MA trench.

Check back later this week for more at Berkeley!