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Showing posts from May, 2018

A Guide to Archaeological Illustration

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As the 2018 season of Dig Berkeley draws to a close, we are taking a look at some of the techniques in archaeology that don't often get the spotlight, but are important in the understanding and recording of our finds. One such technique is archaeological illustration. There is evidence that archaeological illustration has been utilised since the medieval period, with archaeological artefacts and sites being recorded through drawing such as a 14th century interpretation of Stonehenge, below. Archaeological illustrations became especially common in Europe during the Renaissance; topographical illustrations featuring interesting parts of the landscape were commonly created, including earthworks or mounds of archaeological interest. Many of these early illustrations were inaccurate, sometimes drawn based on verbal descriptions or brief observations, and were often not recognised as specifically archaeological features. One of the first measured and planned illustrations of archaeologic

Spotlight on Post-Excavation: Where Do All The Finds Go?

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As the final week of the annual Dig Berkeley project draws to a close, it is high time we turned our attention away from the trench and to the post-excavation team. Stationed at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology back in Bristol, these students have been working tirelessly over the last couple of weeks carefully looking after the finds sent back to them from Berkeley this year. Student post-excavation supervisors Bethany Holland and Dan Brown explain that the work they and their team are doing in post-ex is vital to the Dig Berkeley project as it widens our understanding of what we are actually looking at and digging up in Trench 8. He says that despite the lack of mud, the post-ex team work just as hard as those in the trench and are faced with new challenges everyday. Washed animal bone finds. Each day the post-ex team have been faced with new finds to wash, analyse, and catalogue, fresh from Trench 8. Armed with buckets of water and a selection of toothbrushes

Third Years' Final Dig: Memories of Dig Berkeley

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For third years, the dig is no longer a compulsory part of their degree. Those who have returned to the dig this year do so because of their love for the project, and the great memories associated with it. As we begin the third week of excavation, we asked third year students to reflect on their time at the Dig Berkeley project, and share some of these memories. Having been involved in the project over the last three years, they had a lot to share, from favourite memories to most challenging tasks. Left to right: Dan, Hattie and Max  Public Engagement Officer Hattie says her best memory of the project was getting to bond with people over hard work; coincidentally she said that she found this most challenging but at the same time it strengthened friendships. Hattie says Berkeley is a great site to work at because of its many layers of occupation, meaning there is always something new and exciting-or, as Hattie put it, "old and exciting"-to be found. Managing the pr

Slag: Not Just Waste

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Slag is one of the most common finds we have on site at Dig Berkeley, alongside animal bones and pottery. Slag is the waste material that is made during metal production and is usually found in the form of shiny irregular black lumps, as shown below. Natural metals occur as ore and have many impurities, such as oxides and silica (sand compound), as well as additional metals that are mixed in. During smelting, these impurities separate from the main compound to produce slag. Slag can look a lot like glass, and as a result in ancient times people used to melt it down to make jewellery. In the South West, slag was most frequently formed from the production of copper ore, most notably from North Devon and Cornwall. Bristol was a key pioneer in the copper smelting industry around the late 17 th century, second only to London, as it had easy access to copper ore, which guaranteed its success. Later, during the 18 th and 19 th centuries, copper smelting spread outwards

Who Is Your Archaeological Hero?

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As we progress into our second week of digging, we put a question to some of our hard working students: whose work, discoveries and achievements inspired you to get into archaeology, or fueled your interest in the subject? In other words: who is your archaeological hero?  Max picked our very own Mark Horton as his archaeological hero because he brings a level of humour and charisma to archaeology which he believes all archaeologists should aspire to.                                                  Dijwar's hero is Farouk Ismail who is a lecturer in Syria. Farouk has a vast amount of knowledge on Syrian archaeology and he runs an organisation to protect Syrian archaeological sites called "Sopartu". Mark looks up to Mick Aston from Time Team because he was so passionate about archaeology. They both share the idea that archaeology concerns everyone and access to it should be made public. After a shared holiday to Egypt, Tilley and Rosey were

The Next Generation of Archaeologists

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Yesterday saw the beginning of our second week of digging, and the arrival of a group of local primary school children. Dig director Professor Mark Horton gave the children the full tour of Berkeley Castle, which is currently dressed up for the filming of not one but two major television and film projects. Following their tour of the castle, the children were given a tour of our trench in Nelme's Paddock, and an explanation of what we have found over the years, and what these finds and features can tell us about the history of Berkeley Castle. Then came the real fun: the chance to be an archaeologist for the day! The children were introduced to some important archaeological techniques; excavation and finds washing. Bristol students constructed their own site for the children to dig in, filled with some fun finds including pottery, bones, iron artefacts and a necklace. The visiting students were happy to get stuck in and get their hands dirty to find something special. After the

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A Typical Norman Town

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Today we begin our second week of digging! As we get down to a possible Norman phase at the west end of Trench 8, we are hoping to discover additional remains of a Norman building, and evidence of the Norman town of Berkeley. But just what does a Norman town look like? Existing towns were often levelled to make room for the central focus of a typical Norman town - the castle, which was commonly placed beside a river such as at Nottingham or Chester. Settlements tended to build up around the castle in a curving, semi-circular style that mimicked the castle defenses. These buildings were enclosed within the castle's walls and had gatehouses to the north and south, controlling traffic through the town. Originally, the surrounding walls consisted of earthen banks and ditches, but would later have been constructed of stone.  In several town plans such as in Swansea, the castle entrance is aligned to the two main streets in each town, which run parallel to each other, and one of whi

Springs, Pubs and a Mystery Feature...

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As the week draws to a close, our students are working hard in the trench, and today have been focused on a mystery feature. Round and surrounded by pitched stones, this feature appears to have a drain leading out of it. The feature is in the lower right corner of the trench, cutting through the end of a wall that is most-likely Norman in date, which runs perpendicular to High Street. The wall is thought to be the gable end of a building that would have fronted on to High Street. The mystery feature. Currently, we are unsure of what the circular stone feature is, but there are several theories floating around the trench. The drain indicates that this may be some kind of spring, well or water feature. This area of Berkeley is home to multiple natural springs, which in previous years have opened and sent rivets of water pouring down the trench in our absence. These springs may be the reason so many pubs and inn's have been recorded along the High Street. Known pubs on this st

Berkeley Castle Exhibition: Our latest ambitious project

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This week, students from Bristol University have been holding a new exhibition in Berkeley Castle. On Wednesday, James Stone and Daniel Brown, second year students, gave informed insight into the cornucopia of outstanding finds contained in the exhibition from over our 14 years of excavation at Berkeley.   The exhibition consists of a chronology of material culture and archaeological artefacts, ranging from the Roman period to the post-medieval period. Notably, the Roman bone die, the Anglo-Saxon 'gnome' and the 15th century arrow head. We are unsure of the date of the bone die, other than the fact that it is Roman in origin. Dice have had an integral part of gaming for centuries, even back in the Roman period. The ancient Romans had a game played with dice called Tesserae . Tesserae was played with three dice and the best score was three sixes. Bad scores were called “dogs” and the high scores were called “Venus” after the goddess of love. We are also unsure of t

GNSS and its Uses at Berkeley

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The second and third days of Dig Berkeley saw our technician Nick Hannon starting to teach our students how to use our new GNSS machine, with the intention of producing a topographical survey to the north of Trench 8 in the Paddock field. GNSS stands for Global Navigation Satellite System, and it uses a collection of navigational systems to produce accurate 3-D positioning. Technician Nick Hannon with the GNSS machine. GNSS was first developed in the 20th century to help military navigation, and is still used for navigation today by aircraft, ships, airplanes and even spacecraft! GNSS receivers use a variety of satellite systems, including the American GPS, the European Galileo and the Russian GLONASS, which allows for a high accuracy 15mm of the pole base, the end point of which is inserted into the ground to mark the position point that needs recording. The light and portable size of the GNSS equipment makes it ideal for archaeological fieldwork and this is the first ti

Animal Bones Galore!

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We're only in day two of the excavation, and we have already discovered a large amount of animal bones! These bones were found during the cleaning of the stone trackway at the eastern end of the trench, in the primary fill which has been partially excavated. The trackway has been identified as sub-Roman and pre-Saxon, and although there has been no direct evidence of Romans found in association with the trackway, there may well be some residual Roman artefacts in the upper layers. This implies that they would have been kept or eaten by people living in Berkeley during the 5th and 6th centuries. The bones found today (15/05/2018). The bones themselves are large and robust, suggesting that they probably came from an animal such as a cow. They are in good condition and have not been crushed by the stones. Second year student Fran with the bones found today (15/05/2018). Compared to the animal bones discovered in this area of the trench last year, the new bones are much

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Back at Berkeley: 14th Time Lucky

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We’re back to begin our 14th year at Berkeley! Before the digging can start, health and safety duties will be performed, the steps leading in to the trench need to be cleared, areas not ready to be excavated will be cordoned off and the trench will be thoroughly weeded; probably not as exciting as you might expect but absolutely necessary nonetheless.  Returning students can’t wait to get stuck in. Second year student Phoebe says that she finds the excavation process very satisfying and is ready to do meaningful work, in addition to further developing her skills with larger tools such as mattocks. Julia, also second year, is eager to get to grips with the hands-on aspect of excavation and get muddy, and is also looking forward to the camaraderie.  As we start this years’ excavations, the bottom of the trench nearest Berkeley High Street has been dated as Medieval, probably c. 13th to 14th century. At this end the focus will be on the two buildings, one of which has been identi