Fresh ABOVE the Trench

Our trenches in the outworks include a lot of extant masonry, and it has been one of the goals of this season to get a better handle on the different phases of construction by looking at architectural choices, stone type, mortar, and the like. In our effort to do that, we really needed an eye in the sky to help us see the alignments, and more noticeably the lack thereof, of the visible masonry.

The cutest lil drone.

Today we had a special treat, as friends of the project David and Annie brought their drone to the site. We had special permission from the Castle team to fly the drone over the outworks, but in general drones are not allowed over the Castle or the Site of Special Scientific Interest (due to biodiversity) that abuts the Castle. Do NOT bring your drone to the Castle, please and thank you.

A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) whose use can be recreational, commercial, or military. Over the last few decades, we’ve seen an increase in the use of aerial photography via drone in archaeology. Forward-thinking archaeological teams have been using imagery taken at height to search for, record, and monitor archaeological sites for nearly a century. Aerial archaeology in the UK can be traced back to RAF intelligence-gathering and the enduring legacy of O.G.S. Crawford, who pioneered aerial archaeology methodologies starting with the Stonehenge landscape and founded the journal Antiquity. We last had aerial photography taken all the way back in 2013, and here’s an image of us (Constance, Lauren, and Graeme are somewhere in there) caught by the camera nearly a decade ago:

Drone technology has certainly streamlined since then. Getting the photo above was a very involved process, requiring specialised computer equipment to translate the signal onto a teeny, tiny monitor that the supervisors crowded around. This time around? A small four-rotor box (a “quadcopter”), a controller that looked like it came from a video game console, and an iPad. It was a mind-blowingly simple set-up, but years of aviation, video, and wireless technological innovation were needed to bring us to this moment.

Here is a sneak peek of some of the images we captured today:

Trench 5b from above.
Trench 5d with the postern gate in the bottom left corner.
CAUGHT!

This Week in Photos

Spending more and more time holed up in the windmill, databasing and doing other environmental odd’s and ends, I’ve come to appreciate the re-introduction to the trenches and interesting finds that Friday Trench Tours provide. In order to stay apprised of the going-on’s (and to appease my archaeological cravings), I’ve taken to accosting my fellow supervisors for updates and explanations of new features, intriguing finds, and general archaeological musings, on a semi-regular basis. Since most of you readers don’t have that option, I thought you might appreciate a taste of what Friday (and the preceeding week) offers our volunteers and staff. On that note, I present our first ever “This Week in Photos”:

ENVIRONMENTAL (an oft-neglected aspect of BRP archaeology, and never a part of trench tours)

WE’VE FINISHED TRENCH 7 ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESSING!!!

Some of the specimens in the Trench 7 flotation residue.

This is very exciting for me, since I’ve been working towards this goal since last season. Thanks to all those people who helped me with the endless flotting, sorting, and discarding of the BC08 Chapel Samples.

Lally and Jani sorting the last Trench 7 sample.

We’ve also been working our way through BC12 and BC11 samples in order to free up sample buckets for use in the trenches. The greedy people keep wanting to do important environmental archaeology, filling up my freshly washed sample buckets faster than I can flot them.Alex, Jess, and Trench 1 kindly filled a wheel barrel FULL of sample bags for me this week.

Lauren and Anne flotting a very clay-ey sample.

The flot tank at work.

Flotting of BC12 T3 (400) and (401) and BC12 T1 (206) and (207) all revealed somewhat unusual samples… stones, bone, and shell galore. Looks like cobbled paths and post-hole fill are the trending contexts this week. It will be interesting to see what the sorts reveal.

Flot and environmental samples drying in the sun.

TRENCH 3

Greetings from Steph and Maria, the Trench 3 Assistant Supervisors! Despite the loss of our supervisor and beloved leader this week (Jo, we miss you!), we have tried to plough ahead as usual, and have certainly been rewarded with some interesting developments.

Media (“T”) filming progress in T3.

In the South of the trench, we’ve exposed more of our strange ‘doughnut’ stone and the packing stones around it, as well as excavating and sampling a pit nearby.

1387: “Doughnut stone”

The ‘doughnut’ stone may be a drain associated with the nearby metalworking structure. The relationship of the nearby pit and surrounding shell deposit with the structure is as yet unknown, but they may also be related. Shell is indeed a raw material used in some metalworking processes (e.g. cupullation)

Jessica G. and Victoria planning the SE corner of T3.

Danielle and Harry planning the SW quadrant of the SE corner of T3.

After cleaning, photographing and planning the southern half of the trench, we turned our attention to the north which has received less attention so far this season.

What we have affectionately termed the T3 “Sexy Section”.

Originally believed to be earlier in date, lines in section are now suggesting that this higher end may actually still be later than the south, so we started off with a big clean to expose the contexts hidden by the recent heavy rain!

Cleaning in the NW Corner of T3.

Kelly excavating in the NW corner of T3. The appearance of unusual clay and shell deposits suggest a possible floor.

Considering the few contexts visible in the Northern part of Trench 3 at the end of last season, this week has proved surprisingly fruitful! An interesting burning(?) feature apparently associated with a strange triangular spread of rocks and pebbles has already appeared…

Left-centre – Linear scatter of large pebbles; Bottom right corner – Strange triangular spread of rocks and pebbles.

.as has what appears to be a linear of bluish grey soil containing a pebble scatter.

Contexts were proving particularly hard to distinguish in the NW corner, so we have started digging by quadrant in this area.

Tyler excavating the east quadrant of the NW corner.

This involves splitting the area into four quadrants and digging two of the four down. This will expose 4 sections which will hopefully provide greater clarity and aid us in our interpretation as we excavate this complex area down. 

TRENCH 1:

T1 students trying to look busy.

Over in Trench 1, the main effort has been on finding the return of the timber building and the robbed out stone building. After pulling back the tarp in the old trench to reveal where the walls were heading, we popped two sondages into the area of the trench we have been working in. One sondage was placed in the SE corner, revealing a cut cut by another cut.

Sondage in SE corner of T1, and patches of boulder clay coming through.

The other sondage was placed in a possible pit in the NE area.

Sondage in NE corner of T1.

Judging by what we could see in the old part of the trench, the timber and the stone building both cut the pit. We are still in the process of excavating the pit, so we don’t yet know whether our theory holds. We’ll let you know the results soon!

T1 Supervisor Alex tidying the NE corner for a photograph.

Stay classy bloggers 😉  — Jessica

FINDS

Finds Assistant Supervisor Jeff and Supervisor Kirstie caught on camera in the AsSup’s office.

Finds update to follow later this week…