Student Research: Recording Church Graffiti

Vicky Man is currently an undergraduate Archaeology student. She dug at Basing House in 2013, and is now coming into her third year at the University of Southampton. Vicky has been working on her major project since the beginning of the summer and spent the field season this year with us at Basing House collecting […]

Vicky Man is currently an undergraduate Archaeology student. She dug at Basing House in 2013, and is now coming into her third year at the University of Southampton. Vicky has been working on her major project since the beginning of the summer and spent the field season this year with us at Basing House collecting data for her research and working with staff and volunteers to think about how to tackle her fascinating topic.

Vicky has written a blog post introducing her research. The Basing House team have been recording small finds from the 2014 season using the technique that Vicky outlines below. Last year, in fact we used RTI to help with the interpretation of the Roman coins that we found (see this great blog post by Phoebe).  This year, we are using the technique to record a selection of objects, and we are hoping the technique will answer specific questions. Look out for future blog posts on these findings.

We will also write a blog post soon describing this technique to you. Because RTI uses open source software it is a low cost option for recording similar artefacts, with the only expense being a digital SLR camera. In the meantime, you can check the Re-Reading the British Memorial Project. This is a project directed by Gareth and me; we train special interest community groups to use RTI to record church memorials and so much of the guidance for the technique is available through the project website.

We can’t wait to see some of the results. Rest assured, we will be asking Vicky to write a follow-up blog post on her findings later in the year!

Thank-you to Vicky for this excellent blog post!

Recording Church Graffiti

by Vicky Man

Introduction

It was always going to be a daunting process, finding a suitable dissertation topic for my third and final undergraduate year. The fact that my time at university had flown past was astonishing enough, let alone the fact that I had to find something of interest to do a dissertation on! It was lucky then, a couple of things caught my attention, during my time at Basing House 2013.

First, it was an introduction to RTI (which will be talked about more), a digital form of recording used in archaeology, that I didn’t even know existed prior to this dig! Second, it was a visit to St Mary’s Church (incidentally down the road from the Basing House site) on a rainy day.

I knew I wanted to use RTI, so it naturally led me to use St Mary’s Church as a case study. But what would I be recording? After a couple of visits to the church, it was apparent that graffiti was scattered all over the church interior. Therefore, I decided to investigate the use of RTI on church graffiti present there.

What is RTI? And graffiti…?

RTI stands for ‘Reflectance Transformation Imaging’, a computational photographic technique that records the surface, holds the potential to uncover details that is hard to see by the naked eye. In order to form the final RTI image, a series of images are used. The photos are taken from a fixed point. What differs in each photo is where the light source is directed from; in this case, a camera flash is used. This form of RTI is called Highlight RTI. The flash is systematically moved around the object to form an imaginary ‘dome’ shape. As a result, each photo will vary in highlights and shadows that will show in the final photo.

Graffiti is often described negatively nowadays; however, what sets graffiti found today apart from graffiti found in the past, is not only the artistic style, but also the meaning behind them. There is of course similarity perhaps in the human need to be remembered, therefore we inscribe ourselves in pieces such as literature in hope that we will be remember once we are long gone. However, what makes graffiti interesting in a church setting is because of the time and effort it must have taken to inscribe onto the hard walls.

The set-up for a Highlight RTI. Vicky is holding the lightsource, which is triggered remotely in time with the camera. The reflective sphere captures each light highlight so that the software can patch together all of the photographs in an interactive file.

Example Graffiti

A tiny snapshot of some of the graffiti from St. Mary’s Church.

The Process!

Before getting to the actual recording, I practiced the technique by recording a few artefacts (thanks to the lovely Jude for providing a few artefacts to record!). There were a few technical hitches, getting used to the equipment, but I got there in the end, successfully recording all the material I needed for my dissertation.

Nicole and Vicky recording in St. Mary’s Church. Photo by Juliette Bijoux.

Vicky working on recording some of the harder to get to graffiti in St. Mary’s Church.

Final words…

How can we tell it is even graffiti and not damage? When was it made? What is the meaning behind this symbol? These are just the few questions that arise. RTI is a great technique to use as part of my investigation into graffiti at the church. Now what’s left is answering why.

A massive thank-you to Nicole, Gareth, Yvonne, Jude, Chris, Peter, Phoebe and Rev. Alec Battey for kindly supporting me in my dissertation work.

 Vicky Man

 


Filed under: 2014 Excavation, Conservation, Data Processing, Finds, History, Images, Student Reporter, Student Research Post, Vicky Man Tagged: aerial photographs, apotropaic, artefacts, camera, church, computational photography, esoteric, graffiti, image, interpretation, marks, memorials, Old Basing, OuRTI, petroglyphs, re-reading the british memorial, reading, recording, reflectance transformation imaging, rti, st. mary's church, symbol, walls

The 2014 Basingstoke Common Survey

Will Heard, who is about to embark on the Archaeological Computing Masters programme at the University of Southampton, has written a blog post summarising his time with us at Basing House this season. Will was working closely with Dom Barker, who headed up the survey of Basingstoke Common. Will is an important member of our […]

Will Heard, who is about to embark on the Archaeological Computing Masters programme at the University of Southampton, has written a blog post summarising his time with us at Basing House this season. Will was working closely with Dom Barker, who headed up the survey of Basingstoke Common.

Will is an important member of our team and we are really appreciative of his volunteering to take part in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Thanks for this post, Will!

The 2014 Basingstoke Common Survey

Alongside the excavation at Basing House during the summer of 2014, a geophysical survey was carried out on the large area of land to the south known as the Basingstoke Common. Previous archaeological investigation on the Common has been quite piecemeal, and our survey aimed to compliment the excellent geophysical survey from 2013, carried out by Clare Allen, who was also associated with the Basing House Project.

The common with Basingstoke in the background. Basing House is amongst the trees in the right of the picture.

The Common rises above the Old and New Houses to the south and is locally suspected to be the site of one or two of the four Parliamentarian siege camps that Oliver Cromwell set up during the siege of Basing House in 1644. Thus, the 2014 survey examined a gentle ridge rising above Basing House to the south. The land appears, with only cursory examination, to be well suited to such a camp.

The land slopes gently towards Basing House, which was quite desirable with the weapons of the day, whose projectiles dropped significantly over large distances. The ridge would also have protected a possible siege camp, accommodating hundreds or thousands of men, from retaliation from the Royalists in Basing House. In terms of wider connections, the land is directly next to the modern A30, which existed as the main London to Exeter road during the 17th century. Supplies and reinforcements could easily have travelled to a camp along this road.

Dom using a highly accurate GPS device to set out our grids, so we did not wander astray.

Our survey used a gradiometer to measure minute differences in magnetic readings around the Common. Small variances in magnetic readings, when visualised on a computer, can reveal the presence of sub-surface features, like ditches, mounds or areas of debris. The survey systematically examined a large area of around eighty thousand square metres. The results are promising, revealing angular and round features, areas of intense activity and much more.

After a desk-based assessment of documents, maps and other sources, the interpretation of the results can begin properly. After that, we will truly be able to say whether or not we believe we have detected a Civil War camp, or if not, what we believe we have instead.

Elliot using the magnetometer.

The survey was a success, with only a few mishaps thanks to metallic phones and belts affecting the magnetic readings. Thanks go to everybody that helped with the survey come rain or shine, whether using the magnetometer, moving guide lines, giving encouragement or providing makeshift non-metallic headgear in the driving British rain.

Special thanks to Dom who led the survey and Elliot, Peter, Tilly, Lucy, Roy and all the other conscripts. Depending on the interpretation of the results, more geophysics may be carried out on the Common next year, so keep an eye on the blog as time goes on!


Filed under: 2014 Excavation, Geophysical Survey, Magnetometry Survey, Student Reporter, Student Research Post, Will Heard Tagged: 1644, A30, basingstoke, basingstoke common, camp, common, ditches, dom barker, Geophysical, geophysical survey, guide lines, magnetometry, Parlimentarians, postgraduate, Royalists, siege, siege camp, siege of Basing House, sub-surface features, supplies, survey

The 2014 Small Finds go for Conservation

Last week, we dropped off the 2014 season small finds to the Hampshire County Council Museums Service headquarters to be conserved by their excellent team of conservators. The staff at Museums HQ were fantastic, taking time out of their busy morning schedules to show some of the students the conservation laboratories and the archaeology collection […]

Last week, we dropped off the 2014 season small finds to the Hampshire County Council Museums Service headquarters to be conserved by their excellent team of conservators. The staff at Museums HQ were fantastic, taking time out of their busy morning schedules to show some of the students the conservation laboratories and the archaeology collection stores.

Tilly was so inspired by her visit to Museums HQ that she has written a blog post describing the trip.

Thank-you to Tilly for this post, and thank-you also to Amanda Sutherland and Claire Woodhead of the Conservation team and David Allen, the Keeper of Archaeology, for finding time to show us their places of work.

The 2014 Small Finds go for Conservation

It was a day like any other in the fun van, when all of a sudden our fabulous (the most correct/appropriate use of the word, if ever I saw one) leader, Nicole, after saving the life of a dear friend (a.k.a. my glasses) announced a minor detour to the wondrous, secret Headquarters of Hampshire County Council Museum Service, at Chilcomb House. The secretive HQ, disguised as a farm, held the secrets not only of conservation and archaeology stores, but also lovely people like Claire Woodhead and Dave Allen. The fun van gang (Darkaeology, Firedog, Fidgeter, Spoiler and Vicks) first encountered Claire Woodhead, a member of the conservation team, to whom we delivered our gifts of glass, metal and various other small finds (thanks Will, for ruining the surprise!). Claire was kind enough to satisfy our curiosity by showing us around her majestic conservation labs, where she carefully cleans and conserves the finds which we discover. If you have ever wondered what happens after the fun, mucky digging, then here is the place to be.

Tilly, Vicky, Nicole and Will handing over the small finds to Conservator, Claire Woodhead.

Claire showed us around her abode, with the rather classic fume cupboard (looking slightly cooler than the ones you never ended up using in Chemistry!), drying racks and various other cool things! She explained to us the transformation of conservation over the last few decades. Conservation methods have dramatically changed over time, from cleaning the living day lights out of the archaeology to now attempting to preserve the artefact by doing as little as possible to the object so as to preserve its significance. An example of this was an enamel mug from WWI, the exterior of which was clean and conserved, yet the interior had very little done to it at all in order to preserve the residues within (good call; Fosters has a new advert!). The conservation labs, not going to lie, were like a happy, comforting haven for all our lovely finds. However, despite looking like finds heaven, it is more like a finds limbo (a fab one at that), before being transferred into the archaeology stores.

Dave Allen, Keeper of Archaeology (a hell of a title/job, we know!), wearing a rather fantastic jumper, kindly showed us round one of the archaeology stores, where our beloved treasures would soon call home. It was like a fun toy store, but with less pogo sticks, but perhaps more exclamations like ‘OMG what is in this box?’. It certainly all looks like a lot of hard work, and we honestly couldn’t be more thankful or grateful of the amazing work that both Claire and Dave have done and are doing.

David Allen giving us a tour of the Archaeology Collections.

We did not peruse the entirety of the collections as, lets face it we would have been there for years, and although they would have been incredible and fun, I fear Claire and Dave might kick us out! The weapons and costumes stores were amongst those which we did not feast our eager eyes on (much to the disappointment of all, particularly young Will, whose dreams of Tudor dresses and bayonets will remain in his head, unspoiled). But needless to say, Chilcomb house is more than a Tardis, far far more. It is a gem riddled with more gems.

Live long and prosper. Let your finds live well. Thank you.

 


Filed under: 2014 Excavation, Conservation, Finds, Student Reporter, Student Trips Tagged: archaeology, archives, basingstoke, claire woodhead, collections, conservation, conservator, david allen, finds, hampshire museums service, keeper of archaeology, museum, small finds, storage, xray

Volunteers and Basingstoke Archaeology Society at Basing House

Max Jones spent a morning earlier this week interviewing some of the volunteers at the trench who are members of the Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society (BAHS). BAHS are essential collaborators at the Basing House Project. The volunteers who come to dig at Basing House with us often share important fieldwork skills with the undergraduate […]

Max Jones spent a morning earlier this week interviewing some of the volunteers at the trench who are members of the Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society (BAHS). BAHS are essential collaborators at the Basing House Project. The volunteers who come to dig at Basing House with us often share important fieldwork skills with the undergraduate students and are an essential part of the team.

You can find out more about the BAHS via their website: www.bahsoc.org.uk/

A big thank-you to Max on this insightful blog post!

BAHS and Digging at Basing House

Written by Max Jones

Throughout the three weeks of our dig at Basing House there has been no shortage of enthusiastic volunteers from the Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society (BAHS for short) that have joined in with every aspect of what has been a fruitful dig, both archaeologically and socially. The BAHS is, and has been, an integral part of all things archaeology in Basingstoke for years. With a potent blend of both experience and youthful gusto which is second to none, the members of the society have served to be a great influence upon the undergraduates from the University of Southampton. This impact is shown no better than in the dig of 2014 where a handful of volunteers have made their way to Basing House day in day out to guide us undergrads in the realms of digging archaeology. Additionally they have served to shed light upon important aspects and features of the site in a much wider context than just the trench that we have been excavating these past weeks, an ability that can only be championed by those select few who have lived and breathed archaeology for more years than I have been alive!

Over the past three weeks every undergraduate has had the pleasure of engaging with members of the society and this blog will explore a select few BAHS members. Members who have enlightened us about what it means to be a BAHS member at Basing House in 2014. Firstly Ian Waite, not only does he sport a fierce handlebar moustache, he also has been a member of BAHS for as long as he can remember. He spoke of his younger more freshly cut self being inspired by Time Team to become an archaeologist! The sentiments and actions of Tony Robinson spurred Ian to seek out Dave Allen, who is the Keeper of Archaeology for Hampshire Museums Service, and Alan Turton, the then Curator of Basing House, and the rest is history. 2014 is the first year that Ian has ever dug on the new house area of Basing House, with his previous digs being in and around the citadel. With this new experience Ian voiced his enjoyment at being part of such a social and welcoming dig, a sentiment that was a common theme throughout all interviews with volunteers and members of the BAHS society. Ian was very clear that being part of this society has allowed him to ‘get his hands’ on lots of new untouched stuff, no better an example is in the untouched areas of the new house – the areas which Lord Bolton didn’t even touch!

Another member of BAHS without whom this dig would not have been what it has been this year is Jim Oram. Jim laughs in the face of top soil and relishes a chance to use his personal spade to dig precisely cut squares of soil at a pace Usain Bolt would have trouble beating! He spoke of how he joined the BAHS because of his interest in the historical side of things mostly, joining some 20 years ago motivated by the ruins of old churches mostly. During conversations with Jim he has voiced his love of the group of people on the dig this year and states that the working environment has a great amount of relaxation that is not intimidating nor is it unprofessional – the perfect blend!

While on my way to write up the blog I ran into Penny, a volunteer from around the area, who voiced her praise of the social aspects of this year’s dig. She stated that unlike most digs that being a volunteer at BH14 has been both welcoming and fruitful. In particular she was very pleased by the way both Gareth and Nicole went about taking her personally around the trench every day she was here, giving every volunteer the feeling that they, along with every undergrad on site, were accepted on the same level as all those at the dig. On that note, Alan Turton stated that both Gareth and Nicole were the best supervisors he has come in contact with.

Finally, I caught up with Miriam Andrews who was a member of BAHS and now is a 2nd year student at the University of Southampton. She spoke of how BAHS has helped her build up a substantial wealth of archaeological experience that she was able to use when applying for university last year. Miriam was part of the BH13 team that dug last summer and has thoroughly enjoyed her time here as a student of archaeology this year. BAHS has allowed her to focus within the discipline and is an example of the influences and importance of the BAHS upon digs in and around Basingstoke. Long may their involvement continue!


Filed under: 2014 Excavation, BAHS, Partners, Student Reporter Tagged: BAHS, volunteers

Replicas and Archaeology

Emma has written about an exciting discovery that she made in week two. Thank-you to Emma for telling us all about her find. – Replicas and Archaeology Written by Emma Forber During the second week of the excavations the archaeologists also got to experience the Basing House tunnel. Halfway down the tunnel I spotted a […]

Emma has written about an exciting discovery that she made in week two.

Thank-you to Emma for telling us all about her find.

Replicas and Archaeology

Written by Emma Forber

During the second week of the excavations the archaeologists also got to experience the Basing House tunnel. Halfway down the tunnel I spotted a round object and picked it up. Once I observed it, it was revealed to be representing an Elizabethan coin. However after discussion with Jude Jones and Alan Turton, it was decided to be a replica that must have been dropped down the tunnel.

Photo by Emma showing the front of the coin.

Photo by Emma showing the back of the coin.

In deciding it was a replica, we went to compare the coin with those that are sold in the visitor centre at Basing House (as shown in the photograph [photographed by Chris Elmer] and there are a few differences.

Photo by Chris Elmer of the coin available to buy in the Visitor Centre compared to the coin found on site by Emma.

The modern replicas being sold in the visitor centre are larger than the one discovered in the tunnel and the shape of the queen is slightly different therefore it is concluded that the discovered in the tunnel may be an earlier replica.


Filed under: 2014 Excavation, Finds, Student Reporter Tagged: coin, elizabeth, replica

Week Two Finds

Tilly has written a fabulous blog post about some of the finds that have been coming up across the trench. With thanks to our Finds Specialist, Jude Jones, who advised Tilly on her topic. Thanks Tilly, this is mar-vel-lous brillo pads fantastic! – Week Two Finds By Tilly Morton Photographs by Emma Forber After expertly […]

Tilly has written a fabulous blog post about some of the finds that have been coming up across the trench. With thanks to our Finds Specialist, Jude Jones, who advised Tilly on her topic.

Thanks Tilly, this is mar-vel-lous brillo pads fantastic!

Week Two Finds

By Tilly Morton
Photographs by Emma Forber

After expertly de-turfing and cleaning part of the New House walls a few finds were discovered, the majority of which, not denying was brick. There came a point when you saw a piece of brick or tile and almost hit it with a mattock (clearly out of love), however what was absolutely brilliant was the discovery of what I like to think of as ‘teasing’ bricks which were vitrified in a fire, presumably during the demolition; where the fire had occurred it had caused a glazed appearance on the brick.

When we (our lovely Rebecca and Richie) finally discovered a glazed piece of tile excitement mounted, I mean, it was an actual glazed tile! They not only looked fab, glazed in green, but also gave us an indication of the kind of rooms we were excavating. After the discovery of the awesome glazed tiles in context 62 (what a fantastic context!) we came to the conclusion that the rooms towards the west of the trench were more extravagant rooms such as guest rooms, whilst those to the east with the culvert was in fact an area such as a kitchen.

We were now basically finding finds left, right and centre (mainly in context 62), even a piece of suspected iron age pottery, fabulously showing finger marks, inclusions and evidence of the method in which it was made, found in the west of the trench. Various pieces of pottery were examined by our finds specialist, Jude Jones (A.K.A. mega babe, despite not being related to Indiana Jones), and she kindly explained the concepts of pottery to a wee amateur like me. During the Tudor period not all pottery was particularly elaborate, some pieces were colourful but mainly functional, with slip glazes wherein a mere slabbering on of a glaze was used or a good old heavy dipping.

After discovering salt glazed pottery pieces Yvonne Marshall (resident style queen) enlightened me on their pyrotechnic awesomeness. Salt glazes are created via placing the designated product (clay fandango) in an open kiln, and the salts are added in as the temperatures reach a high, the sodium then reacts with silica in the clay creating a simply fabulous glaze.

Another interesting finds hoard was some musket balls which showed the succession of the life of a musket ball. The first stage is prior to usage, wherein it still had the sprue on the top of the musket ball, and then it progressed to be completely rounded, without the sprue so that it could be shot. However, sometimes they were used with the sprue in explosive devices like grenades. Then after it was shot it could ricochet, in which case it would have marks on the ball, but if it made contact with something heftier it would turn into a marvelous splatter. We found all stages of this phenomenon.

Stages of Finds

Gather round folks, here is the tale of the finds. First things first, our marvelous archaeologists find something which is obviously too fabulous for words, but let’s say for arguments sake a fragment of masonry. They put the find in their finds tray with the corresponding context number [photograph 1], and it is processed by a finds lover (in this case Jude). Then the finds are washed [photograph 2] before being categorised with the find number and the site code, written neatly and ‘discretely’ on the find [photograph 3].

Photograph 1

Photograph 2

more washing!

Photograph 3

They are then placed in a finds bag which fits the find(s) snugly and the site code, context, type of find, bag number, and the number of finds that are in the bag. In addition to this a brief description is given and then the main details are copied on a label and placed in the bag, just in case an over-enthusiastic mad person empties it out and accidentally discards the bag. Yes, people get that excited over finds, especially Basing House finds.

That’s right people you are jealous of our finds. Init.


Filed under: 2014 Excavation, Finds, Student Reporter Tagged: bones, find numbers, finds, masonry, musket balls, site code, sprue, washing

Week One at the Basing House Excavation

This year, alongside staff from the Universities of Southampton and York and volunteers from Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society, we have a fantastic group of undergraduate students from the University of Southampton learning all about archaeological fieldwork. The students are a mixture of first and second years, and are studying degrees in Archaeology or Archaeology […]

This year, alongside staff from the Universities of Southampton and York and volunteers from Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society, we have a fantastic group of undergraduate students from the University of Southampton learning all about archaeological fieldwork. The students are a mixture of first and second years, and are studying degrees in Archaeology or Archaeology with History.

We asked two of the team to put together a blog post summarising the first week on site.

Here is the article that Miriam and Rebecca wrote.

Thanks to both!

Basing House Excavation 2014: Week One

The first week of the excavation for the 2014 season has been completed, revealing an array of interesting finds and leaving us excited for the weeks to come.

By the second day all de-turfing was finished exposing a rough idea to the shape of the new house as masonry emerged.

The trench on day two, after super speedy de-turfing.

The third day consisted of removing the topsoil off of the context below as well as starting the clean-up of some of the walls in the south-east wing of the trench. The major discovery of the day was the emergence of a drainage culvert leading eastwards out of the trench to a nearby brick lined pit. This has allowed early suggestions as to purpose of the uncovered rooms; it may have been used for menial tasks that would have required easy access to disposal facilities.

Dom troweling out the in-fill from the drain.

Looking from west to east along the drain.

The trimming back of the overgrowth that was adjacent to the bank also revealed the external wall of the new house which the landowner, Lord Bolton, had previously excavated in the late nineteenth century.

There has been a wide range of finds during this first week, we spoke to our finds specialist Jude Jones, who had this to say:

“We have uncovered a lot of roof tiles during the first week of excavation, the quantity tells us all sorts of things. The nature of the tile, such as the difference of inclusions indicates that there were at least three separate tiles suppliers.

The large size of the roof tiles suggests that the walls of the house must have been very solidly built in order to support a heavy roof, this also helps us to understand how many stories the building may have had. All the ceramic building material finds are diagnostic of the part of the new house we are investigating.

The masonry, particularly the window mouldings and fittings are particularly exciting, as from this we can see the transitional stages of the gothic/medieval styles into the Renaissance. Although some of the window mouldings found have a foliate style, which points towards medieval times, the leaf that was used was an Acanthus and this is more redolent of the classical influences of the Renaissance”.

Jude shows some of the masonry that has come out of the top layer of soil just inches under the turf.

During the third and fourth day’s further removal of the topsoil using mattocks (similar tools to pick axes) and trowels uncovered compact rubble consisting flint and ceramic building material across a majority of the site. Whether this context is coherent throughout the trench, is a question we are still yet to answer. Yvonne Marshall of the University of Southampton commented on the perplexing nature of these contexts:

“The first thing that struck me was how coherent the archaeology was, it’s ideal for first year excavations because there are really strong, clear features. However, the stratigraphy isn’t as straightforward as it first looks: is the compact surface seen in the trench the same throughout? Is the house one singular context, or a whole series of different time periods and constructions?”

Walls, walls, everywhere!

Toward the end of the week the task of planning our first single context began, this included recording the outline of walls and any obvious ditches and banks within the trench. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Chris Elmer runs special activities to entice visitors to this otherwise unappreciated treasure. This has been a great opportunity for students to get involved in public engagement, whilst giving children the chance to experience real archaeological practices. Richard who took part in the first education day at Basing House enlightened as with his experience:

“The public engagement aspect of the project, for example the dig pits, gives a different perspective to archaeology, as I found it was an effective way to convey information to all ages. It’s mostly aimed to kids but parents have also been finding it very interesting and highly enjoyable.”

Other comments about the excavation so far:

“It’s been a lot easier than last year. The soil is softer and we’re not re-excavating box trenches so it’s been much more pleasant to work with. I’m quite torn because last year it enabled us to learn a lot about differentiating soil, whereas this year the focus is more about focusing on the walls and actual archaeology.”

– Jamie, second year Archaeology student at the University of Southampton.

“Excellent! I’m more of a Roman and prehistoric man but I am thoroughly enjoying this.”

– Jim, of Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society.

And a final closing statement from one of the students, Tilly:

“it’s been super brillo pads!”

Day two in the trench. You can just see the walls coming up.

Busy digging!

Cleaning the walls on Saturday in preparation for planning.

Elliot planning the southern end of the trench.

Rebecca, Tilly, Dan, Emma and Alex planning the central eastern side of the trench on Saturday.

We’ve been giving lots of tours of the trench. Nicole shows the the trench location on a print out of the geophysical results from last year’s survey.

Tilly: unable to resist a photobomb.

Another photobomb. But also a great view of the trench mid-week.

There is nothing more wonderful than a long line of archaeologists, deep in concentration.

There are lots more photos in our Flickr group: Basing House CAT Flickr Group


Filed under: 2014 Excavation, Student Reporter Tagged: 2014, 2014-week-1, Bolton, brick, cistern, culvert, deturfing, drain, latrine, topsoil, tudor, wall

A ‘17th Century’ Slipware Mug – by Jamie Ingram

Jamie Ingram dug at Basing House in Summer 2013, as part of a team of undergraduate students. This winter, Jamie wrote an essay inspired by an object found at Basing House. Jamie wrote this essay as part of a module that he was taking entitled: The Social Lives of Objects. Delivered by Dr. Yvonne Marshall, […]

Jamie Ingram dug at Basing House in Summer 2013, as part of a team of undergraduate students. This winter, Jamie wrote an essay inspired by an object found at Basing House. Jamie wrote this essay as part of a module that he was taking entitled: The Social Lives of Objects. Delivered by Dr. Yvonne Marshall, who is also part of the Basing House team, this module aims to look initially at how objects operate in ethnographic and contemporary worlds, then to use this knowledge to better understand how archaeologists might go about interpreting the role of objects in past societies. We think that Jamie’s essay is an excellent example of how this can be achieved. Jamie has very kindly shared his essay with us. 

Big thanks to Jamie!

A ’17th Century’ Slipware Mug

– by Jamie Ingram

In this essay I will analyse a piece of slipware pottery that was excavated during the summer 2013 University of Southampton dig at Basing House. It became obvious at the outset that this object had a strong agency and with further handling and study the mug turned out to have a complex story to tell anyone who had the time to pay attention to it. This story this mug can tell is one of ownership, loss and discovery but also a deeper story of the world it stands for. The mug stands at the centre of an ontological reality and it is through this reality that the object can be examined in both its ability to influence those about it via the primary agency that it carries and as a lens to the past. At times through this essay I refer to the mug as a 17th century slipware mug but as will become obvious this is not the entire truth about this object and it contains much more meaning and many other truths exist within the reality of this object.

The 17th century mug of interest in this essay is the fragmented remains of a slipware mug that was excavated in late July 2013 at Basing House, a site in Northern Hampshire. The mug is made from a red brown clay and decorated with a pattern created using slip, a watered down clay, that has been coloured to provide cream decoration this has then been glazed inside and out (figure 1) with only the base of the mug remaining undecorated and unglazed.

Figure 1 – Replica Slipware Mug – A Fragment of the Pot During Excavation ( Jamie Ingram, 2013)

Due to the broken nature of the object it is difficult to state the overall dimensions though I can say that the base would have been approximately 70mm in diameter. The handle, found intact but separated from the rest of the pot was 60mm high with a depth from the pot body of 40mm (Figure 2).

Figure 2 – The Pot Handle During Excavation (Jamie Ingram, 2013)

The site under excavation had been used as a gun platform during the English civil war and had been previously excavated during the 1960s by the Aldermasten archaeological society. The location has subsequently not been backfilled and had become intensely overgrown by the time the new excavation started. As the clearing of the plant matter and de-turfing took place it became evident that a number of the baulks left by the previous excavation had slumped and it was during the clearance of this slump and partial backfill that the fragments of the pot were revealed. As the fragments started to appear there was a general buzz of excitement about the excavation as it appeared that we were starting to uncover a potentially important piece of material from the site that had been missed by the previous dig.

This excitement continued to grow as more and more fragments were uncovered and the level of decoration became more apparent. The evidence of burning in the soil close to the object also suggested that there had been localized fire in the vicinity that matched with the charring on the sherds. Once the sherds had been cleaned properly and examined it became evident however that the slipware mug was in fact of modern construction (Figure 3 and 4), and bore the mark of a potter, Steve Millingham who make modern pottery objects based on those from the 17th century for re-enactors from the Sealed Knot organization. Mr Millingham was able to inform the excavation that the vessel was probably a mug made in the 1980s or 1990s and most likely bore the motto “Pity the por”(personal communication 04/12/13).

Figure 3 – Mug Base Showing Potter’s Mark (Basing House Project, 2013).

Figure 4 – Complete Mug Showing the Extent of Breakage and Fire Damage (David Allen, Hampshire County Council Museums Service, 2013)

Within the ontological confines created by the mug it became easy to relate to both the re-enactors and the original soldiers who would have been at this site. The mug had never been made with the intent to deceive but rather was a part of the epistemological construct created by the Sealed Knot in their attempt to interpret the world of the Civil War in the light of the modern consumerist world that they operate within. This world view generates a story of conflict between political ideals based on the interpretation of the beliefs that the king did or did not rule with the blessing of god, where the two sides come to war because the king will not give power to the parliament. I would contest however that this vessel gives us a lens to not only view the epistemological construct of the re-enactors but a chance to view at least in part the two antagonistic ontological states that existed in England at the time of the civil war in much the same way as the material of the modern hunting shrines of the Guatemalan highlands can provide a lens to the ancient realities of the predecessors of the modern Maya descendants (Brown and Emery 2008. P300-337).

The world of the re-enactor who owned and used this mug would when on site have, most likely, been one informed by the Sealed Knots interpretation of the siege of Basing House, based on the written history of the events, and the extant remains at the site. The use of objects purchased as ‘replicas’ to aid this demonstration of life and death at a civil war era siege is intended to allow both participants and observers to grasp a better understanding of the epistemological depiction of the world that is being created, it is impossible for the re-enactment to be anything other than a mapping over of knowledge of a past world onto the modern as to do otherwise would be a near impossible act.

It is clear from the way in which the excavation team reacted to the recovery of the vessel sherds that it held a level of primary agency that we were completely unready for. The ability of the object to create a level of excitement and enthusiasm with so many people, staff and student alike was truly incredible and can only be linked to the ability of this object to directly influence the world around it and the people inhabiting that world. As the object revealed more of its true self however the world around it changed from one of excitement about finding so much of a seventeenth century object to the intrigue of how a modern vessel in the style of its earlier counterparts had managed to come to rest in such an evocative location and why it had been made. In this way the slipware mug came to represent its unknown owner and the potter in much the same way as the broken green bottle in Janet Hoskins work came to represent the Maria Rihi (Hoskins, J. 1998 p161-163). It also though came to represent an unknown and possibly non-existent slipware mug that could have been present at the siege of Basing House and as such able to give us a level of access to the world of the English Civil War.

The object would however have exerted a strong primary agency on the re-enactor giving them access to a past, when equipped with the objects the re-enactor ceases to be the modern person that they are on weekday and becomes a soldier in the new model army, serving parliament and fighting against the injustices meted out by the king and his supporters. This primary agency is akin to the level of agency that can be attributed to objects from an animist culture, and whilst the re-enactor and the team of staff and students involved in the recovery of the object from the Basing House site to not live in a world where animism is widely expressed as a common practice it is never the less possible for objects to have such a strong level of agency when we are paying attention to them and allow them to influence our perception of the world.

In addition to the agency that this mug has on the modern world it also possesses a powerful property in that it allows, as a dualistic object to appear to sit within two distinct time frames, granting the archaeologist access to a temporal distance that is not always open to us. It stands for a time when two realities were in direct conflict and I would contest that this time represented by the epistemological construct of the sealed knot is in fact a result of the direct conflict of these two ontologies. On the one hand we have a world which holds at its heart the absolute truth that the king rules as a result of god and that he is in fact an aspect of god present on earth. On the other side we have a world that exists under the benefaction of god where all men and women are created equal and that the king like any other man is equal in the eyes of god and therefor fallible. This particular 17th century slipware mug being in material a creation of the twentieth century holds within it the properties of a theorised mug created during the 17th century. This knowledge held within the mug is what allows us to gain access to the ontological existence of the past and through it we can start to examine the nature of those worlds, the motto ‘pity the por’ would suggest that it was intended to instil or further a belief in Christian charity and that its owner was sympathetic to the ideals that the poor and needy during a period of general hostility and war. The physical presence of such an item on a battlefield tells of the duration of the siege, a marching army would most likely be using metal or wooden drinking vessels, objects that are resilient to damage of easy to replace at minimal cost, this slipware mug is going to be a more expensive item and by the nature of its material open to potential breakage during transport or battle. It tells the story of a soldier, stationed on a hillside or in the fortified house for the duration of the siege, a man with some means but who wishes to demonstrate in everyday life wishes to demonstrate an understanding of piety and generosity despite the horrors of civil war that he witnesses. The usual epistemological view of the 17th century is further reinforced by articles such as Diane Purkiss work on witchcraft in the English civil war where she describes it in terms of fantasy, and discusses people looking for people and events to blame for the horror (Purkiss 1997 p.103-132). This treatment of witchcraft and the hunting for it as a combined fantasy of a great many people directly undermines the ontological existence of the 17th century where god is seen as the arbiter of all things good and the evil all things evil and the witch is the embodiment of the devil and his demons on earth. It is therefore completely reasonable for godly people to accept that the witch exists and must be destroyed to counter the horrors they are facing at the time.

As I have already discussed this object was not created to deceive and even though at first it did this it was quickly forgiven as it obtained new meaning as the product of a living potter and therefor its story from creation to loss and destruction to archaeological recovery could be told in a complete form. Very few objects can claim such a complete biography within a single human generation and even fewer can express the level of agency that this mug can clearly do. The very nature of the mug and the world in inhabits makes it a special object to hold within the museum service collection and the ability of it to grant access to so many stories could make it a valuable tool for opening the way for many more people to understand the worlds of the past and particularly the civil war as it raged around Basing House.

In conclusion the 17th century slipware mug in question is a deeply complex object with primary agency in both the modern world and the world of the re-enactors. This agency is enacted in different ways in these two closely liked worlds but is always present and allows access to the past through its existence. What makes this mug unusual is its ability to deceive without trying, the ability of it to appear to occupy both the modern world and the world of the English Civil War. This ability is a function of the world the mug occupies, being distinct from the world that we are used to living in it functions as a mental bridge between the 21st and the 17th century. This ability to create a unique ontological space makes it a valuable, confusing and sometimes infuriating object that can if treated with appropriate respect open the eyes of anyone who works with it.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Nicole Beale, co-director of the Basing House excavation 2013 and David Allen from Hampshire Museums Service for their assistance in providing access to the communications with the potter who produced the vessel and images of it in sherd state following its cleaning and return to the museum service store.

References

Brown, Linda A. and Emery Kitty F. (2008) Negotiations with the Animate Forest: Huting Shrines in the Guatamalan Highlands.  Journal of Archaeological Method Theory. Vol 15 P. 300-337

Hoskins, Janet. (1998) Green bottles and green death. Biographical objects: How things tell the stories of peoples lives P. 161-181. Routledge, New York.

Perkis, Diane. (1997) Desire and its deformities: Fantasies of witchcraft in the English Civil War. The journal of medieval and early modern studies (1997) P103-132

Personal communication 04/12/13 email conversation with Beale, Nicole regarding the origins and manufacture of the slipware mug.


Filed under: Excavation Plans, Finds, History, Jamie Ingram, Student Reporter, Student Research Post Tagged: 1600s, 17th century, Christianity, civil war, clay, decoration, Diane Purkiss, epistemology, find, fragments, glaze, God, Guatemala, Janet Hoskins, Maria Rihi, Mayan, mug, object, pity the por, potter, potter's stamp, pottery, reenactors, replica, Sealed Knot, siege, slip, Slipware, tudor, vessel, witchcraft, world view, yvonne marshall

Basing House Open Days – Beyond the Brick Wall

As part of our time at Basing House, we were keen to work with the Hampshire County Council team to keep visitors informed of our dig, and to tell people all about the history of Basing House in an engaging way. The dig was also a training excavation; a compulsory part of an Archaeology or […]

As part of our time at Basing House, we were keen to work with the Hampshire County Council team to keep visitors informed of our dig, and to tell people all about the history of Basing House in an engaging way. The dig was also a training excavation; a compulsory part of an Archaeology or Archaeology & History student’s undergraduate degree. Basing House is a site that is open to the public six days a week over the summer season, and so we saw that there was a great opportunity for students to meet visitors to the site and to have an opportunity to experience talking about archaeology to a variety of people.

We had an extensive and very ambitious Outreach Programme planned for our three weeks. We managed to do almost everything that we had planned, but there’s still lots more that we would like to do!

Festival of British Archaeology Open Days

Over the three weeks that we were on site, we ran six Open Days.  These were part of the Festival of British Archaeology, and as such were open to any member of the public visiting the site who had an interest in Archaeology.  As part of their time at Basing House, each undergraduate student took part in designing and facilitating activities for the Open Day.

The photo below shows the trench surrounded by visitors on one of our Open Days. We were also lucky to have a visit on this day from Alan Turton, the previous Curator of Basing House, whose help and advice throughout the excavation season was invaluable.  Alan made time to visit us numerous times during the excavation, and even took time out to give a tour of the Basing Grange farm complex for our student teams.

Visitors to the trench.

Students and volunteers manning the stalls for visitors.

Young visitors to Basing House Open Day trying out some of the student-led activities.

Young visitors to the Open Day stall proudly show off their artwork, based on the Civil War Siege of Basing House.

Visitor Centre Mini Exhibition

Students were also encouraged to give tours of the trench, and to create materials for a mini-exhibition which was on display in the Visitor Centre on site. In the photo below, Sam and Corinne are working on the first part of the Visitor Centre Mini Exhibition.

Sam and Corinne working on the mini exhibition content.

Bones Identification Day

Ellie and Richard gave up a whole day of working on their research to visit us and host a Bones Identification Workshop at one of our Open Days.

A part of the Bones Identification Workshop that Ellie and Richard ran. Our Bones Experts even set recreated the bones layout of an Iron Age horse burial!

Student Reporter

Each day, we had a new student reporter assigned to recording the day’s activities. The Student Reporter was the official Press Photographer for the day, and some excellent photographs were taken of finds as they came out of the ground. Here’s a photo of Lizzie’s hand holding the Roman coin that she has just found in the flint feature that she was excavating.

Lizzie holding the fourth Roman coin found during the dig.

Having a Student Reporter on site meant that we were able to quickly share information about the day’s findings as they happened. We uploaded photos to Flickr and shared them on our Facebook page. Then the following day, the Student Reporter put together a short blog post, summarising the previous day’s findings. Some students chose to focus on particular themes, and so some interesting topics were discussed on the blog.

An example of a Student Reporter blog post.

An example of a Student Reporter blog post.

Artist-in-Residence and Art Workshops

Peter Driver, our Artist-in-Residence, worked with students and volunteers over the three weeks on site, to produce monoprints and screenprints inspired by the archaeology. Here are Eddie and Phoebe etching on plates, just before they make monoprints with Peter.

Phoebe and Eddie working on their monoprints with Peter, the Basing House Artist-in-Residence.

Peter also produced a series of zines, here he is cutting and folding the final edition. The zines were a great way to compile together the masses of activity and conversations occurring on site each day.

Peter, cutting and folding the last edition of the Basing House Summer Dig Zine.

Peter's Basing House Zines

Peter’s Basing House Zines

Artists’ Open Day Workshops

Part way through the excavation season, Jeff and Mike, Winchester School of Art artists came to spend two days with us on site. Mike ran screenprinting drop-in sessions, coinciding with the Open Days. Here’s one of my favourite photos from the entire season; Milo Jones working on his screenprint with Mike.

Mike, an artist from Winchester School of Art, working with Milo Jones a visitor to the site, to produce a screenprint, inspired by the history and archaeology of Basing House.

Visitor and team member screenprints drying in the sunshine.

The impressive portable screenprint frames, made by Jeff.

Students, volunteers and also visitors to the site also made monoprints. Here is my own attempt:

A student-produced monoprint, based on the 1960s trench drawing of the excavation. With an imprint from a tyre that had just been excavated from the topsoil of the trench.

Post Excavation Exhibition

The next phase of the Basing House Outreach Programme is to put together a travelling exhibition. The exhibition will visit different venues in Hampshire and will be a reflection on the Basing House Spring 2013 Geophysics Survey Season and the Basing House Summer 2013 Excavation Season. We’re hoping to work with members of the survey and excavation team, both students, artists and volunteers, as well as making connections with new team members, from the University of Southampton, Hampshire Museums Service, Winchester School of Art, and the areas around Basing House.

We’ve already got lots of material to work into the exhibition, including: the monoprints, screenprints, zines, photos (taken by a different student each day), the computational outputs, finds, drawings, sketches, and the more traditional archaeological data. Then there are the student’s journalistic reports, the trench diaries, interviews with volunteers, and the blog posts. So plenty of material to begin with!

We’d love to have more volunteers to get involved in this next stage of the Outreach, so if you’d like to get involved, drop us an email: nicole.beale@soton.ac.uk

Beyond the Brick Wall – Basing House Open Days

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Chris Elmer has written an article for the forthcoming issue of our in-house Humanities Graduate School Newsletter, about the Open Days that we ran during the excavation season at Basing House. We’ve shared his thoughts here.

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Basing House is noted for the profusion of walls and boundaries, whether ditches, earth banks, walled gardens, gateways and even the temporary hazard tape surrounding the recent excavations jointly led by Hampshire Museums and the University of Southampton.

Although the work was primarily set up as a training dig for first year undergraduates, there was a desire to reach out beyond the boundaries of the hazard tape and the other boundaries to include public visitors to the site.

Basing House is open to the public six days a week and it was decided that we would encourage the student diggers to work with visitors, explaining the site but also going one step further and creating active experiences for family visitors.

The resources normally used by the Basing House Education team were made available to us and over the three weeks of excavation we provided two days each week which were advertised as special open days for family visits.

Students created a range of interactive games and activities from piecing broken pots together to an archaeological take on snakes and ladders (called buckets and barrows). Over 160 visitors took part in the activities which were advertised by the site and the feedback from surveys undertaken by site staff were overwhelmingly positive. Viewing an excavation from beyond the hazard tape provides a very passive encounter with the past, but combining this with student enthusiasm and an invitation to make and take, play a game or guess the animal skull transforms the experience to one that is both fun and memorable.

Chris Elmer


Filed under: Archaeologist Portraits, Artist in Residence, Digital Methods, Events, Festival of British Archaeology, Images, Media Coverage, Open Days, Student Reporter, Summer Excavation, Winchester School of Art Tagged: chris-elmer, education, open days, public, visitors