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June 2007

Friday 29 June

Posted by Chris Owen on 29 June 2007

Contributed by ANNA

Only having come to Llanmaes for a week, today is my final day – and the week ends as it began, with everyone rained off site. But we had fair weather through the middle of the week, and good progress was made in the trenches. A mixture of pre-Roman and Roman finds in Trench 1 suggests that the site was occupied over a long period, intersecting features indicating that the (potential) settlement was built and re-built over the same spot. There are many post-holes in Trench 1, making an Iron Age settlement likely, although its shape (round or rectangular) has not yet been determined.

I have spent the week working on a large post-hole which, unexpectedly, developed into a second post-hole, almost certainly of different date. As the fill continued further and further back below the top soil, it felt at times as though I would be chasing this feature endlessly across the trench – but it was a nice change to be taken by surprise by a feature, and exciting to realise that the two intersecting post-holes might tell us something about different periods of occupation on the site.

A week is not really long enough to spend on as rich a site as Llanmaes, where new possibilities seem to emerge every day. As well as the potential Iron Age settlement, there is also possible evidence of a furnace, a hearth and a Roman building: plenty for everyone to mull over whilst skulking in the cabins and barns, keeping an eye on the rain.

Thursday 28 June

Posted by Chris Owen on 28 June 2007

Contributed by EMILY

Hello Archaeology fans!

Llanmaes has given us an unexpectedly sunny day today, with our courageous team of archaeologists only getting rained on once, and the grand total of wet socks at a paltry 4 from the wet sieving brigade.

Today I have been working in a strip of trench one, and have consequently seen very little of the rest of the goings on in the site.

I can however assure you that trench one has seen enough excitement for the whole of Llanmaes with a host of interesting finds coming to light. Among these finds came a shard of what appears to be Roman glass, which Nick has speculated may have originated from a window pane, leading to a somewhat enthusiastic, and yet to be proved ‘We have a house here’. More on that another day perhaps.

Another exiting find was found by the intrepid archaeologist Andy, who braved the adversity of forgetting his glasses to bring us a beautiful bucket handle. In order to quell the pre-history/Roman debate this find created, pacifists among us have suggested that we are dealing with pre-historic peoples coexisting happily with Romans in a somewhat utopic society. Our current ‘special person’ on site, Ian, added that within this society they may have been consuming donkeys, based on a rather large bone found in the lower right hand side of the trench. This with many other things in this blog entry, is yet to be established as a fact.

For my part, myself and Rob have been uncovering some interesting features in the lower right corner of the trench. Rubble fill may prove to be a surface or a dump of some description, whilst finds from the area have included a Roman coin, Iron nails and a number of animal bones. Tomorrow we hope to expand outwards from the feature that may be a surface in hopes of discovering its true purpose, but for now we are left to speculate on a number of features throughout the trench and site.

Wednesday 27 June

Posted by Chris Owen on 27 June 2007
Abi
Abi writing today's blog
Trench 2
Trench 2, Wed 27 June
Trench 1
Strange hearth feature in Trench 1

Contributed by ABI

Well it’s been quite a break since the last blog so here is a round up recent events. People in Trench 1 are excavating features, for instance I excavated a (potential!) post hole yesterday. In Trench 2 there has been found a shoe (i.e. a lot of nails in the shape of a shoe). In Trench 3 the quest to discover the ditch is still going on (as far as I know). But today my mission has been on wet sieving. It is so we can analyse the environmental remains of the previous excavations such as the midden of last year.

It is a very wet and cold job but thankfully the weather has held out today. The tanks are currently being cleaned out by eager volunteers who, I expect, would wish to remain nameless. The work looks very disgusting as it leaves you with gloves of mud! A couple people have been doing bone washing as per normal. Bone washers from now on face the weather like the rest of us as the gazebo broke! They do have a radio though so they can’t moan that badly, no matter how bored they may be! There is a fly in this blue cabin with me and it is landing on all the cups, I think I’ll bring my own in tomorrow and keep it in my bag!

Thursday 21 June

Posted by Chris Owen on 21 June 2007
Laura & Ian
Laura & Ian finds washing (very seriously)

Contributed by IAN

The clearing of topsoil has again being the order of the day in trench 1 (big trench) and progress has been made with the completion of this first but necessary phase of work in sight. We should be ready to move on in trench 1 by tomorrow morning break. There has also been an increase in the amount of prehistoric pottery being unearthed but is likely to be from the water wash from an earlier site that is located up hill from the current site. In trench 2 (L-Shaped trench) a ½ metre section is being excavated to help show the relationship of the different layers of archaeology to help determine how the rest of the trench should be excavated. Work also began today on clearing the topsoil of trench 3 (small trench) and a roman coin was found in the un-stratified material. Bone washing and wet sieving has again continued with steady progress. The weather has held out until the last half hour.

A short introduction

Posted by Chris Owen on 21 June 2007

A team of archaeologists from the National Museum and students from Cardiff University will be investigating an archaeological site at Llanmaes in the Vale of Glamorgan over the next four weeks. Over the past four years excavations have concentrated on a large Prehistoric midden (or rubbish dump) which may have been the focus of ritual feasting activity in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. This year the team are investigating a different part of the site where geophysics has revealed a large enclosure which may be of Prehistoric date. We hope to find out if it was in use at the same time as the midden. Different members of the team (and hopefully some visitors too) will be contributing their thoughts during the excavation.

Wednesday 20 June

Posted by Chris Owen on 20 June 2007
Trench 1
Trench 1, Wednesday 20th June
Trench 2
Trench 2, Wednesday 20th June

Contributed by CAROLINE

Bone washing, wet sieving and the clearing of topsoil continued today. The clearing of topsoil is a time consuming but necessary task but will be finished by tomorrow lunch time most probably. Again the majority of finds (pottery and a few coins) are of a Roman date… Rain was predicted but thankfully none came!

Tuesday 19th June

Posted by Chris Owen on 19 June 2007
Matt, Mandy & Lisa
Matt, Many & Lisa sieving enviro samples

Contributed by CAROLINE

Trowelling of the topsoil continued today. We are removing the topsoil to reveal the natural geology (clay or limestone bedrock) in order to reveal features cut into the rock such as post holes and pits. Wet sieving is also being carried out on site, this is a very wet and messy job. Wet sieving is of large bags of soil from the midden and features of last year, there is quite a back log to get through- trowellers are too fast for their own good! Wet sieving allows us to find any particularly small finds that were missed during trowelling to be found and also to separate environmental evidence such as carbonised grain which floats to the top and is sent away for analysis. The tens of thousands of bone fragments are also being washed on site, these are also to be analysed by a specialist who will help us to determine what animals were being consumed on site and in what quantity. The bone specialist can also tell us in some instances how the animals were butchered if any cut marks can be seen. We had rain again today but this time we weren’t so lucky as it didn’t rain during break and so we couldn’t hide in the site hut. The same problems were faced as yesterday but digging was affected as the rain was more constant even if a little lighter.

Monday 18th June

Posted by Chris Owen on 18 June 2007

Contributed by CAROLINE

Today the Cardiff University archaeology students arrived on site and this was the first full day. The majority of the day was spent clearing up the edges of the trench using spades, shovels and mattocks. A back breaking day was had by all; this is always the most physically hardest day on site. Progress was good and towards the end of the day all three trenches had cleaned straight edges and so the cleaning off of the last remaining topsoil was begun in trenches 1 and 2. Removing the topsoil in Trench 1 revealed the natural limestone bedrock and yellow clay in most areas. Several features were found cutting into this natural geology, including rubble filled ditches and a possible ring gully (these are often associated with Prehistoric roundhouses). However, the finds have mainly been of Roman date, this includes several Roman coins of the late 4th Century. We are still, however, hoping to uncover Prehistoric activity, particularly as this is what geophysics had suggested in some areas. Geophysics involves analysing the ground using equipment which can detect anomalies in the earth’s geology. Equipment includes magnetometers which record magnetic susceptibility of the soil (this machine is good at detecting burning activity as the soil becomes more magnetic following heating). The ground is also probed by a machine which measures resitivity. This involves passing an electric current into the ground and detecting the resistance faced. Low resistance features are ditches (they retain water), whereas high resistance features such as stone walls obstruct the electric current.

Anyway, back to the point- geophysics was carried out on the site to help predict what we would find before we dig the site. This helps us decide where to locate the trenches. Geophysics suggested we would find an enclosure ditch surrounding several areas of activity, including burnt areas and various ditches and other anomalous features. We are hoping to find later prehistoric activity that was possibly at some point contemporaneous with the feasting site found in the nearby field on the farm. Previous digs here involved the digging of a midden (a giant Prehistoric rubbish dump) Many amazing artefacts were found including bracelets, cauldron fragments, a chisel, spearhead and tens of thousands of animal bones. Only time will tell if this site is contemporary, but at present Roman finds dominate the evidence.

Today there was torrential rain but luckily this coincided with our lunch hour and so did not affect work too much other than the ground was a lot harder to dig following the down pour with the soil being clayey and trowel edges becoming clogged.

Collecting the contemporary

Posted by Chris Owen on 14 June 2007

Well, I've taken the plunge, after years of resisting and cynically refusing to believe the hype regarding blogs. Read by millions? Scarcely believe. Change the world? In your dreams. Truth be known, I've just been appointed Curator of Contemporary Life at the National History Museum here at St Fagans, Cardiff, and my job application advocated that all curators should take advantage of new technologies. For example, I stated cockily, they should keep blogs so that the public could have "access" (spot the museum buzz-words) to aspects which will explain the collections.

So when this opportunity came along, I thought that I would show the way, although now that I'm actually writing this, I feel quite scared.

So, contemporary collecting - what exactly is that? Well, I've decided to split the job in two.

The first part will be to work with curators from other fields to fill the gaps in the collections since 1950. We are quite strong on artefacts and oral histories from rural, Welsh speaking, agricultural backgrounds before 1950, but less so on urban, non-Welsh, industrial evidence after 1950, although the building of the Rhyd-y-car cottages, Gwalia Stores and Oakdale Workmen's Institute has begun to rectify that.

We will have to be very selective while filling these gaps - the storerooms are bursting at the seams. So the idea is to pick and choose certain items e.g. a super 8 camera, and to weave histories and exhibitions around them.

The second part is more problematic. What to collect? We can't collect everything that is produced by this wasteful society of ours, so we have decided to deal with communities, projects, initiatives and themes. This will narrow down the criteria quite nicely, but will also let us focus on certain objects or stories which will encapsulate the age.

For example, every six months, a different community will curate objects to be displayed in our Community Dresser. The first group was Penyrenglyn Youth group, who displayed objects such as a Nintendo Gameboy, a signed football and a comfort blanket. The next group will be Johnstown History Group.

Another method might be Digital Story telling, which involves capturing pictures on your mobile phone and producing a little film with the result. I'm off to a workshop and conference on this in Aberystwyth next week. I'll let you know how it went.

My first big exhibition (hopefully), will be about Welsh Pop Music. I hope to include objects such as instruments, stage props and fanzines, show videos, play sound recordings, and hold rap and recording workshops.

Watch this space...

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