SETTING UP FOR THE THIRD BASING HOUSE FIELD SEASON

Reblogged from Day of Archaeology 2015: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/third-basing-house-season/ Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen. To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent […]

Reblogged from Day of Archaeology 2015: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/third-basing-house-season/

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog: https://hampshirearchaeology.wordpress.com/

Nicole Beale


I’ve driven down to the University of Southampton to help pack the van full of equipment. This is because we’re off to run the Basing House excavation field season on Monday. Very excited! Its chucking in down with rain so we’ve been trying to get all of the kit packed up quickly so that we can dry off.  The dig is run by the University of Southampton, the University of York and Hampshire Cultural Trust.

You can read more about this year’s field season on our blog: http://basinghouseproject.org/

Dom, Chris and the Green Shed

NICOLE BEALE


Filed under: Day of Archaeology 2015 Tagged: Basing House, community archaeology, Day of Archaeology 2015, digging, Early Medieval, equipment, excavation, Hampshire Cultural TrustBronze Age, hampshire-cultural-trust, Iron Age, medieval, Old Basing, Post Medieval, Public Archaeology, rain, roman, Romano-British, season, shed, Southampton, survey, SurveyArchaeology, University of Southampton

RESEARCHING THE HUMAN REMAINS AT HAMPSHIRE CULTURAL TRUST

Reblogged from the Day of Archaeology 2015: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/researching-the-human-remains-at-hampshire-cultural-trust/ Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen. To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their […]

Reblogged from the Day of Archaeology 2015: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/researching-the-human-remains-at-hampshire-cultural-trust/

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog: https://hampshirearchaeology.wordpress.com/

Nicole Beale

Cynthia is working with Garrard to select samples for dating, to find out more about the human remains from the Danebury environs. Today they are working on the bones from an Iron Age cemetery, Suddern Farm. The work is part of a project with Oxford University, University of Glasgow and University of Leicester, and is ongoing.

Garrard and Cynthia look at the remains from the Danebury environs

Garrard points out that there is a visible healed fracture on the radius of the left wrist of the individual that they are looking at.

Garrard points out the healed fracture

Garrard is working on an individual from Weyhill Fair that was found under the foundations of a building. There had been very little information about the individual because the remains were under a floor and did not have any other means of dating associated with them.

The work area at Chilcomb HQ

Hampshire Field Club funded the radio-carbon dating and Garrard is assessing the materials which will make up part of the report covering this research.

Garrard

Cynthia

Nicole Beale


Filed under: Day of Archaeology 2015 Tagged: 2015Hampshire Cultural TrustAnglo-Saxon, bones, Bronze Age, Curation, Danebury, Early Medieval, excavation, finds, Hampshire, hampshire-cultural-trust, Human Remains, Iron Age, medieval, Museum Archaeology, Neolithic, osteology, Post Medieval, Prehistory, roman, Romano-British, Science, ScienceArchaeology, Skeleton, weyhill farm

WHERE ART MEETS ARCHAEOLOGY: FINDING ARTEFACTS FOR AN ART EXHIBITION OF EXCAVATIONS AT CALLEVA ATREBATUM

Reblogged from the Day of Archaeology 2015: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/where-art-meets-archaeology-finding-artefacts-for-an-art-exhibition-of-excavations-at-calleva-atrebatum/ Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen. To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their […]

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog: https://hampshirearchaeology.wordpress.com/

Nicole Beale

Sarah is a volunteer at Hampshire Cultural Trust and has been working with Lesley (who is not in today so we couldn’t get a snap of her!) to prepare a display on some of the material from 1970s and 1980s excavations at Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester).

Sarah – A Trust volunteer

The pieces will be on display at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke, another Trust managed museum, from the 15th to the 29th August and will accompany a special exhibition ‘Silchester: Life on the Dig’ which is made up of works by Silchester’s Artist in Residence for 2014, Jenny Halstead.

The exhibition will be on display in numerous other locations in the south, but the Silchester objects that Sarah has been selecting will be exclusive to the Willis Museum.

Sarah and Lesley need to choose a representative sample of objects, but also to identify objects that are appropriate for display, because they have an interesting feature, are not too fragile, and in the case of some of the tiny coins, large enough to see!

They picked out a selection of coins, there is also a glass bead that will be included in the display.

Coins! Lots of coins!

I don’t know what I love more, the coins, or the envelopes that the coins are stored in

Lovely coins

The glass bead

Sarah is holding a whetstone that is a fragment of sandstone, originally used as a roof tile, and then reused as a whetstone to sharpen chisels.

Sarah is holding the whetstone

The whetstone

The Samian bowl is very attractive and caught the eye of both of them when they were selecting items. It has all sorts of animals, including a deer, a goat, a hare, a boar, a bird, a dolphin, around the outside of it, and Sarah and Lesley thought that it would be fun to find out a bit more about the decoration. The bowl was made in Lezoux in the 2nd century AD.

The Samian bowl

A boar and a hunting dog?

A hare

The pair also found some nice details on some of the tiles in the stores, including one that has a clear dog print on it.

Some of the tiles and brickwork from Silchester

Naughty dog

Finally, just before re-packaging the items to be sent over to the Willis Museum, Sarah needs to type and print labels that will go on display alongside the objects. This task can be quite time consuming as it is nice to be able to provide a little contextual information for each object, and so some research must be done for some of the less common artefacts.

The objects will be on display at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke: http://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/willis-museum

Nicole Beale


Filed under: Day of Archaeology 2015 Tagged: artefacts, Curation, Day of Archaeology 2015, excavation, finds, Hampshire, Hampshire Cultural TrustArchives, hampshire-cultural-trust, Iron Age, museum, Museum Archaeology, pot, roman, Romano-BritishArchive, Samian, Silchester, tiles, University of Southampton

TAKING THE IRON AGE TO THE ROMANS: RESEARCHING IRON AGE FINDS FOR AN OPEN DAY AT ROCKBOURNE ROMAN VILLA

Reblogged from the Day of Archaeology 2015: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/taking-the-iron-age-to-the-romans-researching-iron-age-finds-for-an-open-day-at-rockbourne-roman-villa/  Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen. To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their […]

Today I’m working at Hampshire Cultural Trust with Dave Allen. I’m lucky because my visit times with the regular weekly volunteer day at the Archaeology Stores, managed by the Curator of Archaeology, David Allen.

To find out more about the work of David and the team, visit their excellent blog, which has a new post every Monday.

Hampshire Archaeology blog: https://hampshirearchaeology.wordpress.com/

Nicole Beale

Two of the Trust’s volunteers, Peter and Jane, have spent the morning working through a collection of artefacts from a late Iron Age site near to Rockbourne.


Peter and Jane checking objects against the archive inventory

The site was excavated in the mid-1970s as part of a British Gas pipeline being installed, and our intrepid volunteers have been doing some detective work to try to make connections between the objects from the stores here at Chilcomb and the paper archive which was published some time ago.

Objects need to be located and then checked. This is also a great opportunity to re-pack some of the more fragile objects.

Rockbourne Roman Villa is run by the Trust and this weekend will be hosting a family fun day. The event organisers want to celebrate the area’s Iron Age connections, and so the team at Chilcomb have been set to task to find objects to showcase on the day.

In the first few boxes, they had already found some great objects to be taken up to Rockbourne for visitors to see.

Lots to work through!

In one of the boxes, Jane unpacks a huge tankard. It’s much larger than we had all expected and lots of jokes about the serious business of beer-drinking in the Iron Age ensue.

Jane finds an Iron Age tankard

The huge tankard

Unpacking the tankard

Next, they unpack fragments of a kiln lip. On the underside there are clear finger-marks, left from where the clay had been quickly shaped.

The kiln rim

The pair spend some time focussing on the profile of a Late Iron Age large pot that is in several parts, and manage to piece it back together. It will provide a great prop for showing younger visitors how archaeologists can infer pot shapes from diagnostic sherds.

Hang on a minute, I think there’s a good profile here…

Does this go here?

Now we’ve got it!

Tucked into one of the boxes is a nice example of a spindle whorl and also a small box which contains a bronze pin, probably from a brooch.

The brooch pin (you can just see the spindle whorl under Jane’s right hand)

A big pot!

Still plenty left to unpack and check

Peter and Jane

We’ll create labels for all of these objects and then transport them up to Rockbourne in time for the event on Sunday. Do come along if you’re in the area.

More about the event: http://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/event/festival-british-archaeology-experience-iron-age

Nicole Beale


Filed under: Day of Archaeology 2015 Tagged: archives, Day of Archaeology, Day of Archaeology 2015, education, excavation, family, finds, Hampshire, hampshire-cultural-trust, Iron Age, lyndhurst, museum, Museum Archaeology, Open Day, rockbourne, Rockbourne Roman Villa, roman, Romano-BritishArchive, sorting, stores, villa, workshop

Insula dell’Ara Coeli

Laser scan showing different floors of the insula
Laser scan showing different floors of the insula

The 2nd c. AD Insula dell’Ara Coeli, which stands five floors high at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, is the only surviving extant example of a Roman apartment building in Rome, although such structures must have once dominated the cityscape. Yet the insula has never been studied in full: a small-scale excavation and some basic consolidation work were carried out in the 1960s, but much of the building remains uninvestigated. This state of affairs prevents any serious conservation projects from being undertaken, and the site remains open to the elements and inaccessible to the public.

This summer we recorded the building in order to produce an accessible virtual record of the remains. Laser scanning technique was used for this purpose; it took place over six days and incorporated 205 individual scans.

The work was undertaken in collaboration with the Sovraintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali. The scan data allows for an insight into the formation of the building and the layout of the rooms in relation to one another. Importantly the scan data is able to identify features that are hard to access and view on site and will be used for future analysis.

Currently the model and an animation of a ‘fly through’ the building are being produced by James Miles (Archaeovision). These will provide baseline data on the scope and state of the monument that will then be used to plan future works. A small scale excavation is planned for the next season, prior to building’s conservation. It is hoped that ultimately sufficient funds will be raised to turn the structure into a museum.

‘In the castle called Seresberi’. Old Sarum and a New Survey of the Inner and Outer Baileys

Old Sarum in Wiltshire has always proved an emotive archaeological site. The substantial ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort and the medieval motte dominate the skyline on the A345 running north from Salisbury, and has been portrayed by scholars and … Continue reading

John Constable's watercolour of Old Sarum, showing the scale of the outer ramparts and the Norman motte (source: Wikicommons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Constable_-_Old_Sarum_-_WGA5198.jpg)

John Constable’s watercolour of Old Sarum, showing the scale of the outer ramparts and the Norman motte (source: Wikicommons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Constable_-_Old_Sarum_-_WGA5198.jpg)

Old Sarum in Wiltshire has always proved an emotive archaeological site. The substantial ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort and the medieval motte dominate the skyline on the A345 running north from Salisbury, and has been portrayed by scholars and artists including Stukeley and John Constable. The palimpsest of settlement at the site and in its environs encompasses the Iron Age and Romano-British periods, possible Anglo-Saxon settlement, and the medieval founding of a castle, cathedral and settlement. The site formed part of the rotten borough of Old Sarum, and its strategic position was utilised during the Second World War. The Inner and then Outer Bailey formed the focus of excavations in the first part and middle of the 20th century, first by Hawly , Hope and Montgomerie in the years preceeding the First World War, then by Rahtz in the 1940s and 1950s.

The work of Hawley and Hope commenced with excavation of the Inner Bailey in the earlier seasons. Excavation then extended to the Outer Bailey, with the 1914 season focusing on the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace. The excavation report indicates the presence of structural remains beyond those currently visible at the site, with a number of the lesser structures having been backfilled. The later work by Rahtz focused on the ramparts of the Outer Bailey and the tunnel running through the northern section of the ramparts. The body of work left from the excavations provides ample evidence of the nature and depth of the archaeological deposits for both the Inner and Outer Baileys, although the focal point of the work was always trained on the more substantial or higher status structures and buildings of the site. Much of the urban plan of the Inner Bailey, including the Palace, the Keep and Postern Tower was revealed, although some scintillating glimpses of structures from earlier periods, including a possible Roman building some 5m below the modern ground surface, were also gained. In the Outer Bailey the excavations revealed considerable structures for the cathedral and Bishop’s Palace, but much of the area in the other three quadrants of the Outer Bailey remain a mystery. On the basis of the known archaeological evidence for the site it was decided that application of topographic and geophysical survey techniques would assist in mapping the buried remains across the remainder of the Outer Bailey, and the unexcavated parts of the Inner Bailey.

To that end staff at the University of Southampton drew up a three year project overview, and were granted permission from English Heritage, to carry out a new survey at the site and in its environs as part of student fieldwork for second and third year modules in archaeological survey and geophysical survey. Results of the survey would form the basis for students to compile their own reports for assessment on the modules.

Geophysical survey in the Outer Bailey with the spire of Salisbury Cathedral visible in the background

Geophysical survey in the Outer Bailey with the spire of Salisbury Cathedral visible in the background

The work of the staff and students this year centred on the area within the ramparts of the hillfort, some 6.5 hectares in size, with topographic survey and earth resistance and magnetometry being conducted in the Outer Bailey, and GPR survey across the Inner Bailey to target areas left unexcavated by Hawley and Hope. Survey was supervised by the author, Timothy Sly, Dominic Barker, Penny Copeland and Scott Chaussee.

Magnetometer survey in the Outer Bailey with the bridge to the Inner Bailey in the background

Magnetometer survey in the Outer Bailey with the bridge to the Inner Bailey in the background

Earth resistance survey in the Outer Bailey

Earth resistance survey in the Outer Bailey

In spite of the mixed success using magnetometry at some sites in Hampshire and Wiltshire, the nature and depth of deposits at Old Sarum meant that the flint core and stone buildings of the Outer Bailey contrast well to the surrounding sediment. In addition the response to the earth resistance survey was also clear. The preliminary results for the Outer Bailey indicate extensive structures across the entire area, with buildings spread out along the curtain wall, particularly in the south-east sector of the site, and the pattern of urban areas visible in the south-west sector.

Detail of the results of the magnetometry from the Outer Bailey

Detail of the results of the magnetometry from the Outer Bailey

Many of the structures from the Hawley and Hope and Rahtz excavations are also present, and new buildings are added to the plan of the north-west sector of the site, including a possible sub-circular structure.

The GPR survey in 2014 focused on the area of the Inner Bailey, utilising a 200MHz antenna, and on targetted areas in the Outer Bailey using a 500MHz antenna. In principle the use of the lower frequency antenna within the Inner Bailey should assist in locating some of the deeply buried structures below the level of medieval buildings mentioned in the literature. Potentially comparison of these results at 5-6m depth should allow a picture of the Iron Age and Roman deposits for the area to be compared with the results from the Outer Bailey.

GPR survey of the Inner Bailey. Many of the excavated structures give a clear indication of the potential depth of some of the deposits, up to c.5m in places. The 200MHz antenna should allow structures to be located down to these depths

GPR survey of the Inner Bailey. Many of the excavated structures give a clear indication of the potential depth of some of the deposits, up to c.5m in places. The 200MHz antenna should allow structures to be located down to these depths

In addition to the high resolution survey work, an Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) profile was run across the site, through the western entrance to the hillfort, skirting the northern side of the motte ditch, and ending close to the ramparts on the north-eastern side of the site. The profile is designed to assess the depth of archaeological sediments across the site, and their relationship to the underlying gravels and chalk.

ERT survey in a profile running across the site

ERT survey in a profile running across the site

There is much work to do for the interpretation of the results, but the correlation between the 20th century excavations and the latest results is telling. The results are allowing the team to expand on the excavation plans, showing the presence and nature of the new structures in all areas of the site, including ranges of buildings on the southern edge of the area of the Cathedral, and a substantial building standing alone in the south-eastern sector of the Outer Bailey. The plan for the next few seasons will be to complete work in the Outer Bailey, and to conduct survey in the environs of Old Sarum. The relationship between the defended site and the Roman road and settlement to the south of the ramparts will provide a focus for research.


Interim Report 2013 – Finds

This Interim Report will soon be available as a PDF on the Hampshire County Council website for Basing House. The authors are: David Allen Gareth Beale Nicole Beale Chris Elmer Jude Jones Kristian Strutt Clare Allen Daniel Jones There are three posts that make up this report. The post below describes the excavation and recording […]

This Interim Report will soon be available as a PDF on the Hampshire County Council website for Basing House.

The authors are:

David Allen
Gareth Beale
Nicole Beale
Chris Elmer
Jude Jones
Kristian Strutt
Clare Allen
Daniel Jones

There are three posts that make up this report. The post below describes the excavation and recording methodology and outlines the research question for the dig for 2013. Two further posts describe the finds and also the geophysical survey that was started in Spring 2013 and which continued through the Summer of 2013. 

Part 2 – Finds

– By Jude Jones

In terms of finds this year’s excavations have revealed a variety of material, much of which was discovered in the partial infill of the AAS box trenches and was therefore residual. However once the old spoil had been removed the excavation of the baulks between the 1960’s boxes allowed a more rigorous investigation of their stratified contents which has helped to confirm the conclusions drawn by Combley, Notman and Pike in their 1964 report.

Prehistoric material found below the Roman levels was mainly represented by Iron Age ceramics. The majority of sherds were remarkably homogeneous, being fragments of  small to medium sized domestic and cooking vessels whose fabric was heavily tempered with roughly ground flint inclusions, identified by Bryony Lalor as similar to Late Pre-Roman Iron Age pottery found recently at Silchester. Several sherds retained internal cooking residue and external sooting. A few lithics were recovered, mainly flint flakes and worked cores. These largely derived from the 1960s spoil which has naturally decontextualised them.  However there were also two recognisable flint scrapers, one of which was plainly retouched.

The Roman finds were chiefly from ceramic vessels and the assemblage included the ceramic building materials already discussed. The domestic ware which emerged from the baulks was remarkably wide ranging in period and included fragments of Samian or terra rubra, black-burnished ware, some Alice Holt sherds, some Oxfordware and a number of fineware beaker sherds decorated with rouletting, encompassing a period from the early 2nd – 4th centuries AD. The earlier Samian pieces were heavily abraded, the later coarse and fineware sherds less so, the whole assemblage suggesting a great deal of continuity of occupation over the Roman period, especially if the earlier sherds were contained in an external working layer covering the burnt flint metalled surface laid down over the pre-Roman levels.  A few fragments of glass were also recovered amongst which was a sliver of window glass and two sherds of blue vessel glass. A yellow ring-shaped glass bead was also found but although this emerged from one of the baulk areas it was found in a bucket of spoil and so cannot be securely dated as Roman.

The baulks however yielded four bronze Roman coins. Two were very small (possibly minimi) and were remarkably fragile, the larger of the two, however, bearing the profile of a head facing right wearing a crested helmet. It remains unidentified presently. The other two coins have been identified by Christina Triantafillou of the University of Southampton. The earlier emerged from the flint-filled post-hole mentioned above and was a coin of Probus (AD 276-282) minted at Lugdunum, Gaul. Its obverse shows the emperor’s cuirassed bust facing right wearing a radiate diadem. On the reverse is the figure of Providentia standing to the left, holding a globe and cornucopia. The second is a larger coin of Gratian (AD 367-375) minted at Arles, Gaul with the inscription DN GRATIANUS AVGG AVG and the emperor’s draped and cuirassed bust facing right and wearing a pearl diadem (Roman Imperial Coinage, Arles 15 Type xiib). On the reverse is the figure of the emperor standing facing with his head to the left, holding a labarum (a military standard which incorporates the symbol of the Chi-Ro) in his right hand and resting his left hand on a shield. This is accompanied by the inscription GLORIA NOVI SAECULI. (RIC 46 AE Antoninianus). Both coins are in good condition.

Notably there appear as yet to be no medieval material whatsoever and finds from the early modern period mainly consist of large quantities of fragmentary demolition brick and stone work and some decorated fragments from high status terracotta architectural mouldings, presumably once adhering to the Old House buildings. Owing to the nature of the already excavated site it is not clear exactly how and when this material was originally deposited but it has been found intermixed with a number of fragile metal objects, many of which appear to be artefact or building fittings, such as a set of heavy-duty iron staples possibly serving as door hinges for a service or agricultural building. A barbless iron arrow-head was amongst these finds which may have come from a cross-bow bolt or possibly from a hunting arrow.  From the Civil War period seven musket balls were found. All were of lead except for one fashioned from lighter metal. This and another were of a smaller gauge, possibly made for pistols and all were round and undamaged, having either been dropped intact or fired as missiles which missed their targets.

Later ceramic material found in the spoil and the baulks consisted of sherds of 19th and 20th century glazed wares which included fragments of 19th century creamware, blue and white transfer decorated vessels and sherds from a number of 20th century glazed crockery items. The most recent ceramic material found in the spoil consisted of a fragmented straight-sided sugar or flour kitchen jar of blue and white striped Cornish ware and the modern replica 17th century decorated and inscribed slipware mug already discussed. Both vessels lay amongst picnic and other debris from the immediate past at the top of the infilling spoil. Much was briefly retained, processed and recorded as a teaching aid for the Southampton archaeology students who discovered this material. The temporary curation of such items was a demonstration of how the recent presence of tourists, visitors and re-enactment groups such as the Sealed Knot , all of whom had left this detritus, formed part of the long and continuing archaeology of the site.

The most complete and easily analysed assemblage is the Roman material which suggests considerable and lengthy occupation and the undoubted existence of a developed Roman domestic building in the area. The emergence of so much homogeneous LPRIA flint-tempered pottery also argues for some continuity of occupation by an Iron Age community prior to Roman or Romano-British development of the site. The conclusions to be drawn from the more securely dated baulk finds therefore can be said to back up the 1960s AAS archaeological findings.

Read the previous post of this Interim Report:

– Introduction and Recording Methodology

Read the next post of this Interim Report:

– Geophysical Survey


Filed under: Excavation Plans, Finds, Interim Report 2013, Jude Jones, Recording Methodology, Summer Excavation Tagged: Alice Holt pieces, architectural mouldings, Arles, arrow-head, baulk, beaker sherds, black-burnished ware, blue vessel glass, building fittings, ceramics, Chi-Ro, Christina Triantafillou, civil war, coinage, coins, Cornish ware, creamware, cross-bow bolt, door hinges, English Civil War Society, finds, fineware, flint flakes, flint scrapers, flint-tempered pottery, Gaul, glass, glass bead, glazed wares, Gratian, hunting arrow, iron, Iron Age, Late Pre-Roman, lithics, Lugdunum, medieval, minimi, missiles, musket balls, occupation, Oxfordware, picnic, pistols, Probus, roman, Samian, Sealed Knot, Silchester, slipware mug, spoil, staples, terra rubra, terracotta, vessels, window glass

Last Year’s Finds and their Finders – Jude Jones

Jude Jones, our Finds Specialist, has written this fantastic post about the finds of 2013 and their finders.  Thanks Jude! Last Year’s Finds and their Finders On first viewing the Bothy,  I said to Gareth and Nicole Beale, our University of Southampton site directors, that one of the things a finds co-ordinator gets really excited […]

Jude Jones, our Finds Specialist, has written this fantastic post about the finds of 2013 and their finders. 

Thanks Jude!

Last Year’s Finds and their Finders

On first viewing the Bothy,  I said to Gareth and Nicole Beale, our University of Southampton site directors, that one of the things a finds co-ordinator gets really excited about is a good finds hut. We’re supremely blessed at Basing House with the Bothy which is, in effect, a small cottage with its own back garden. Inside it’s equipped with electricity, running water, kettles and not one but two fridges! This is fantastic compared with the usual leaky finds tent set in the middle of a field with no water sources to be found for miles. Here at Basing we can wash, clean and dry finds prior to their analysis and the Bothy allows us to set up spot-lighting, cameras, microscopes, laptops and all the other paraphernalia of a proper lab so that we can even do a little post-excavation work on them before the season ends – luxury!

Dave Allen showing a freshly dug Roman tesserae, shortly on its way to Jude and her team at the Finds Hut.

Finds drying in the sunshine after gentle washing by Jude and her team.

Last year was the Southampton contingent’s first encounter with the site and our archaeology students worked side by side, not only with members of staff from our department, Dr Yvonne Marshall, Christina Triantafillou and  Penny Copeland but also with several members of the Basing House Archaeological and Historical Society whose previous experience both at Basing House and elsewhere proved invaluable. For many of the first year students who had not excavated before, the first week was rather back-breaking as they were digging through the infilled spoil of a series of 1963-4 box trenches in order to review the archaeology and get a better idea of the Roman and Iron Age occupation the 1960s seasons had found.

Jude looking at a Roman coin with Lizzie.

Finds from the spoil were accordingly either residual or evidence of much more recent activity. We started to get quite excited when a few sherds of what seemed to be a 17th century slip-ware mug appeared amongst the Carling Black Label cans and Fanta bottles but the freshness of the sherds, their lack of abrasion and a sober assessment by Dave Allen, our third director and the Hampshire Museum Services Keeper of Archaeology, that the mug was not what it seemed soon dispelled any illusions. The Sealed Knot – the well-known Civil War re-enactment society – had been frequent visitors to Basing House in the past and their passion for recreating all things 17th century was likely to be the cause of this mug’s appearance amidst the rest of the 20th century litter.

Upon cleaning it was apparent that this ‘slipware mug’ was not what we have originally hoped!

A latter day Royalist or Parliamentarian had broken their mug and thrown it into the insufficiently filled-in hole left after the 1960s diggers had packed up and gone home. This was confirmed soon after when the rest of the mug surfaced and a potter’s mark was discovered on its base.  Alan Turton, Dave’s colleague, Civil War expert and the retired director of Basing House was visiting at the time.  ‘Ah,’ he said to Dave, on being shown it, ‘Spike made that!’ Their friend Spike, a member of the Sealed Knot and a professional potter, specialised in selling replicas of 17th century slipware vessels and this was undoubtedly one of them.

Spike’s stamp can be seen in the very centre of this image.

Nearly all of the finds drying in this tray are modern replicas of artefacts. In this context, there was a modern blue and white china teapot mixed up with a ‘Victorian’ pipe and some ‘Roman’ tile.

Carling Black Label can from the 1980s. Even very modern finds can tell us about the history of a site!

Oddly enough, this story helped to bring home to us the reality of the past. Just as many archaeologists get a thrill when they dig up something which no one has handled for centuries, so it evoked the continuing archaeology of the site. Three centuries and more after the Civil War sieges which had laid waste John Paulet’s magnificent great house the battles were still being remembered and restaged and those involved were likewise leaving behind the unwanted rubbish which signalled their presence and their passing. Memory is continually being reiterated and kept alive in this way through these small discarded fragments.

In spite of their great diagnostic, classificatory and historical use, initially finds can sometimes appear to be of somewhat subsidiary importance when a dig is in progress. Not unnaturally, excavators get caught up in the constant streams of analysis which trenches produce when exciting features appear. At this point, finds, especially things like pottery and coins, are used primarily as dating indicators. This changes as soon as they get back to the finds hut. Here even the simple act of cleaning a find can suddenly awaken an intense interest in deciphering the puzzle of what it is and how it fits into the site’s archaeology.

Ed and Alina clean finds under Jude’s supervision.

Miriam, cleaning and marking a tile sherd.

In 2013 we were fortunate to have contingents of students and volunteers, all of whom were happy to be inducted into the mysteries of finds processing and recording and were later introduced to some of the post-excavation techniques which we were able to apply as a result of the Bothy’s facilities.

Gareth working with students to laser scan the corbels in the Bothy (Finds Hut).

Nicole and Gareth set up the equipment necessary to carry out Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) – a photographic process which allows a near microscopic and all-round directional analysis of the surfaces of finds. At this point an object’s minutest details, its use-wear, construction, tools marks etc instantly become visible from all sides. We used it to study the surfaces of the five Roman coins we found towards the end of the dig and as a result several students were enthralled by its possibilities. One of them, Vicky Man, may even use it as a central research tool for her undergraduate dissertation. Phoebe has written about the RTI of one of the coins here: http://basinghouseproject.org/2013/08/05/day-10-coin-phoebe/

Jude carefully cleaning one of the Roman coins, ready for RTI recording.

RTI of one of the Roman coins. Can you read it?

We were also lucky enough to be given a post-excavation conservation workshop by Claire Woodhead of Hampshire Museum Services Conservation Laboratory. This continued the story of what happens to finds once they are subjected to the more complex scientific analyses which reveal their significance. Claire’s accounts of the various proceedings which are applied to the many different categories of finds were crucially instrumental in completing our overview and experience of the finds process from A-Z.

Lastly, a small boast and a profound vote of thanks to Alice Millard: we very nearly managed to put the entire collection of finds on to a database by the end of the dig!

Vicky and Alice RTIing a coin.

Alice, a dab hand with laptop and finds bag, soldiered womanfully on in our last week and entered practically all the objects, washed, dried, studied, labelled, bagged, described and categorised – no mean feat and a task which is usually left to the weeks after a season has finished. My heartfelt thanks also go to all the students and volunteers who assisted me in undertaking all of the above activities and helped to make the Bothy such a cheerful place – even when invaded by swarms of thirsty diggers requiring tea and coffee and demanding to know who had eaten all the biscuits!

– Jude Jones

For more detailed info on the finds themselves see the Interim Report 2013, which will be online here very soon.


Filed under: Archaeology of Archaeology, Finds, Interim Report 2013, Jude Jones, Summer Excavation Tagged: 1960s, Alan Turton, biscuits, Bothy, box trenches, coin, conservation, English Civil War Society, finds, Iron Age, mug, parliamentarian, paulet, roman, royalist, rti, rubbish, Sealed Knot, sieges, slip-ware, spoil, tool marks, use-wear

Last Year’s Finds and their Finders – Jude Jones

Jude Jones, our Finds Specialist, has written this fantastic post about the finds of 2013 and their finders.  Thanks Jude! Last Year’s Finds and their Finders On first viewing the Bothy,  I said to Gareth and Nicole Beale, our University of Southampton site directors, that one of the things a finds co-ordinator gets really excited […]

Jude Jones, our Finds Specialist, has written this fantastic post about the finds of 2013 and their finders. 

Thanks Jude!

Last Year’s Finds and their Finders

On first viewing the Bothy,  I said to Gareth and Nicole Beale, our University of Southampton site directors, that one of the things a finds co-ordinator gets really excited about is a good finds hut. We’re supremely blessed at Basing House with the Bothy which is, in effect, a small cottage with its own back garden. Inside it’s equipped with electricity, running water, kettles and not one but two fridges! This is fantastic compared with the usual leaky finds tent set in the middle of a field with no water sources to be found for miles. Here at Basing we can wash, clean and dry finds prior to their analysis and the Bothy allows us to set up spot-lighting, cameras, microscopes, laptops and all the other paraphernalia of a proper lab so that we can even do a little post-excavation work on them before the season ends – luxury!

Dave Allen showing a freshly dug Roman tesserae, shortly on its way to Jude and her team at the Finds Hut.

Finds drying in the sunshine after gentle washing by Jude and her team.

Last year was the Southampton contingent’s first encounter with the site and our archaeology students worked side by side, not only with members of staff from our department, Dr Yvonne Marshall, Christina Triantafillou and  Penny Copeland but also with several members of the Basing House Archaeological and Historical Society whose previous experience both at Basing House and elsewhere proved invaluable. For many of the first year students who had not excavated before, the first week was rather back-breaking as they were digging through the infilled spoil of a series of 1963-4 box trenches in order to review the archaeology and get a better idea of the Roman and Iron Age occupation the 1960s seasons had found.

Jude looking at a Roman coin with Lizzie.

Finds from the spoil were accordingly either residual or evidence of much more recent activity. We started to get quite excited when a few sherds of what seemed to be a 17th century slip-ware mug appeared amongst the Carling Black Label cans and Fanta bottles but the freshness of the sherds, their lack of abrasion and a sober assessment by Dave Allen, our third director and the Hampshire Museum Services Keeper of Archaeology, that the mug was not what it seemed soon dispelled any illusions. The Sealed Knot – the well-known Civil War re-enactment society – had been frequent visitors to Basing House in the past and their passion for recreating all things 17th century was likely to be the cause of this mug’s appearance amidst the rest of the 20th century litter.

Upon cleaning it was apparent that this ‘slipware mug’ was not what we have originally hoped!

A latter day Royalist or Parliamentarian had broken their mug and thrown it into the insufficiently filled-in hole left after the 1960s diggers had packed up and gone home. This was confirmed soon after when the rest of the mug surfaced and a potter’s mark was discovered on its base.  Alan Turton, Dave’s colleague, Civil War expert and the retired director of Basing House was visiting at the time.  ‘Ah,’ he said to Dave, on being shown it, ‘Spike made that!’ Their friend Spike, a member of the Sealed Knot and a professional potter, specialised in selling replicas of 17th century slipware vessels and this was undoubtedly one of them.

Spike’s stamp can be seen in the very centre of this image.

Nearly all of the finds drying in this tray are modern replicas of artefacts. In this context, there was a modern blue and white china teapot mixed up with a ‘Victorian’ pipe and some ‘Roman’ tile.

Carling Black Label can from the 1980s. Even very modern finds can tell us about the history of a site!

Oddly enough, this story helped to bring home to us the reality of the past. Just as many archaeologists get a thrill when they dig up something which no one has handled for centuries, so it evoked the continuing archaeology of the site. Three centuries and more after the Civil War sieges which had laid waste John Paulet’s magnificent great house the battles were still being remembered and restaged and those involved were likewise leaving behind the unwanted rubbish which signalled their presence and their passing. Memory is continually being reiterated and kept alive in this way through these small discarded fragments.

In spite of their great diagnostic, classificatory and historical use, initially finds can sometimes appear to be of somewhat subsidiary importance when a dig is in progress. Not unnaturally, excavators get caught up in the constant streams of analysis which trenches produce when exciting features appear. At this point, finds, especially things like pottery and coins, are used primarily as dating indicators. This changes as soon as they get back to the finds hut. Here even the simple act of cleaning a find can suddenly awaken an intense interest in deciphering the puzzle of what it is and how it fits into the site’s archaeology.

Ed and Alina clean finds under Jude’s supervision.

Miriam, cleaning and marking a tile sherd.

In 2013 we were fortunate to have contingents of students and volunteers, all of whom were happy to be inducted into the mysteries of finds processing and recording and were later introduced to some of the post-excavation techniques which we were able to apply as a result of the Bothy’s facilities.

Gareth working with students to laser scan the corbels in the Bothy (Finds Hut).

Nicole and Gareth set up the equipment necessary to carry out Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) – a photographic process which allows a near microscopic and all-round directional analysis of the surfaces of finds. At this point an object’s minutest details, its use-wear, construction, tools marks etc instantly become visible from all sides. We used it to study the surfaces of the five Roman coins we found towards the end of the dig and as a result several students were enthralled by its possibilities. One of them, Vicky Man, may even use it as a central research tool for her undergraduate dissertation. Phoebe has written about the RTI of one of the coins here: http://basinghouseproject.org/2013/08/05/day-10-coin-phoebe/

Jude carefully cleaning one of the Roman coins, ready for RTI recording.

RTI of one of the Roman coins. Can you read it?

We were also lucky enough to be given a post-excavation conservation workshop by Claire Woodhead of Hampshire Museum Services Conservation Laboratory. This continued the story of what happens to finds once they are subjected to the more complex scientific analyses which reveal their significance. Claire’s accounts of the various proceedings which are applied to the many different categories of finds were crucially instrumental in completing our overview and experience of the finds process from A-Z.

Lastly, a small boast and a profound vote of thanks to Alice Millard: we very nearly managed to put the entire collection of finds on to a database by the end of the dig!

Vicky and Alice RTIing a coin.

Alice, a dab hand with laptop and finds bag, soldiered womanfully on in our last week and entered practically all the objects, washed, dried, studied, labelled, bagged, described and categorised – no mean feat and a task which is usually left to the weeks after a season has finished. My heartfelt thanks also go to all the students and volunteers who assisted me in undertaking all of the above activities and helped to make the Bothy such a cheerful place – even when invaded by swarms of thirsty diggers requiring tea and coffee and demanding to know who had eaten all the biscuits!

– Jude Jones

For more detailed info on the finds themselves see the Interim Report 2013, which will be online here very soon.


Filed under: Archaeology of Archaeology, Finds, Interim Report 2013, Jude Jones, Summer Excavation Tagged: 1960s, Alan Turton, biscuits, Bothy, box trenches, coin, conservation, English Civil War Society, finds, Iron Age, mug, parliamentarian, paulet, roman, royalist, rti, rubbish, Sealed Knot, sieges, slip-ware, spoil, tool marks, use-wear

The Battle for the Mediterranean: Digitally Recording an Underwater Roman Battlefield

Several kilometers off the Sicilian coast, in over 100 meters of water lies an underwater battlefield that stands testament to one Age replacing another. Using the latest technology and scientific methods from Archaeology, Engineering, and the National Oceanographic Centre at the University of Southampton, these ancient warships are being reverse engineered in order to understand one history’s most critical junctures: the slow decline of the Hellenistic Period and the start of the Roman Period.

The 3rd century BC saw the Hellenistic powers exhaust each other. The great seapower of Carthage should have reaped the benefits, but it was unexpectedly challenged by an upstart city-state from central Italy. While the close of the 4th century saw a Mediterranean in the midst of an arms race and teaming with navies, at the close of the third century only one naval power remained on the ascent and poised to extend its sphere of influence. So secure was this upstart in its new power that the city called the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum: Our Sea. This city was, of course, Rome and its rise was built on seapower and secured through maritime trade. While the end of the Hellenistic Period is traditionally listed as the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, the seeds of Rome’s rise were sown in the mid-3rd century BC. If complexity of Rome’s drive toward Empire can be reduced to the events of a single day, then 10 March 241 BC has as strong a claim as any other. It was on this day that Rome won the Battle of the Egadi Islands, which could very well be named the Battle for the Mediterranean, as the victor took control of the Central Mediterranean for a generation and was by default the most powerful navy in the Sea.

Discovered by Dr Sebastiano Tusa (Soprintendenza del Mare) and Dr Jeff Royal (Director, RPM Nautical Foundation) in 2005, the site of the Battle of the Egadi Islands is just beginning to reveal its secrets. The battle was a turning point in the long and fraught First Punic War. The Roman navy managed to surprise Carthage’s main fleet as it attempted to resupply their general Hamilcar Barca (Hannibal’s father), winning a crushing victory. Two more Punic Wars followed, but the results would be the same and in the end Carthage was destroyed. Dr Tusa and Dr Royal’s article on the battle site is currently available for free from the Journal of Roman Archaeology.

PhD student Peter Campbell (University of Southampton) is using the artifacts from this pivotal battle to reverse engineering the Roman and Punic warships in collaboration with the Soprintendenza del Mare and RPM Nautical Foundation. The most impressive artifacts from the battle are eleven bronze waterline warship rams. Among the rarest of artifacts from Antiquity, only four waterline rams had ever been discovered prior to 2005. The process of this research goes from seafloor through recasting of scale replicas for impact testing. This research is funded by the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI), Honor Frost Foundation, Explorers Club,  Historical Metallurgy Society, and in partnership with Aicon and Breuckmann GbmH, who provided the 3D scanner as an academic loan grant.

The first step is high resolution 3D scanning of the rams. This summer eight rams were scanned using a Breuckmann SmartSCAN structured light scanner. Breuckmann scanners offer models accurate to several microns, which allows for a detailed recording of the rams, their inscriptions, and battle damage. The digital models are incredibly accurate and are currently being scaled to 1/4 their original size for 3D printing.

Metal analysis is a key component of reverse engineering the Egadi rams. Professor Ian Croudace from the National Oceanographic Centre has sampled eight rams for a battery of testing. Rams will be tested for elemental composition, lead isotope analysis to attempt to determine metal origin, and a series of tests related to the casting method. This data will be used to create a bronze mix (nearly) identical to the originals for the reverse engineered rams.

This summer’s fieldwork also included scanning key sections of the Isola Tiberina Monument with Professor William Murray (University of South Florida). Built on an island in the middle of Rome, the monument is a critical piece for understanding Roman warships in the 3/2nd century BC. Professor Murray has found the dimensions of the monument match those of larger warships from this period, likely similar to those the Egadi warship fought- and lost- against. The 3D scanning conducted will help to reveal how the bow of the vessel fit into the now missing ram. Professor Murray’s book on these large warships can be found here.

This summer’s fieldwork will culminate in the reverse engineering of exact scale replicas of the Egadi rams. The rams will be produced at the bronze foundry at the Winchester School of Art. The new rams will be used for impact testing to gather quantitive data on how rams behaved while striking ships’ hulls as well as ram-to-ram impacts. Results will be presented as part of Peter’s PhD thesis and published in an upcoming volume by Dr Tusa and Dr Royal exploring this critical battle for the Mediterranean.