Friday, September 19, 2008

The Heat and the Dirt and the Noise of the Trains over our Heads is Part of the Fun

Found, cleaned, marked, displayed

I was back in the trench today after some time washing pots. I'm afraid Angus had to put some back in the water, the way my family do when I wash up at home. I don't thing I washed any of the important pieces we saw at the Friday update today, but they would have been just bits of pot at that time. They have now been transformed by brilliant reassembly, which Angus describes as a jigsaw puzzle with no picture, and most of the pieces missing.

The first was thought to be a jug with an impractical spout and the base broken off. But inspired by something seen in Greece, it was turned upside down and was revealed as a beehive. The bees travel up through the spot and the 'base' has now become a lid for hooking out the honey.

The next is even better. Archaeologists, everywhere I think, have been finding almost flat pieces of pottery which actually have a curve with a large radius. When they can find enough to put one partially together, there is a rim on the top and also on the bottom instead of a base. A space in the side is perhaps for putting things in and out. Since ours was found in the remains of a charcoal fire, it seems likely that it was an oven. Rumours that the remains of an apple crumble were found inside are greatly exaggerated. If this is a major archaeological advance, as it may well be, will I be credited with first publication of results? Even before the Worcester News has a picture of Paul Harding dressed as a Roman chef cooking in it? The oven picture is taken through a display case, so it has a reflection, but I will try to get a better one.

The next big discovery is the Roman house , only the second ever found in Worcester. We haven't much detail yet, just the line of the walls and supports. It may have been a wooden house, but it is large. You can't see the scale here, but we're not talking two-up two-down terrace here. The oven was inside, marked here with a polythene bag. With the recent weather, everything is in polythene bags, although today was sunny up to sun-screen standard.

But you didn't come here to look at pictures of empty trenches, did you? They are usually busy with volunteers and the archaeologists who show us how to do it, patiently (as least while we are within earshot).

Friday, September 12, 2008

More pictures!

A brief dry interlude

After some time away, I returned to the dig to see it had been expanded into an area nearer the river. The machines have cut most of it to the top of the Roman layer, leaving only the foundations of almshouses from the Victorian period. They will be taken away soon, so that we have an expanse of Roman archaeology to work with.
Hal gave the Friday update (it's every Friday at 11.00 and all are welcome) sketching in the entire history of the site, which has changed since I last heard. That's why we are digging: to gather more evidence, so that our view of Worcester's history becomes fuller and more accurate. That evidence (as measurements, descriptions of soils, pottery, bones and a lovely bracelet, modelled in the picture by Angus) is assessed and reassessed by archaeologists, who can compare it with evidence from other sites, in Worcester and far beyond.

Going backwards, it was
- a place for keeping the dustbin lorries;
- Joseph Wood the builder's sawmill and timber yard (1820-1970 ish);
- agricultural land for around 1400 years before that, perhaps with some defensive role in the Civil War or before
- a Roman industrial site.

Because of the amount of slag, which is a waste product of iron making, we* thought it might be an iron works, but there is no other evidence for this, though there are indications of iron working. There is a road running from the railway to the Butts, not a well-made military road, but an industrial way. We thought a ditch at right angles to this might be a ditch by the side of a later road, which we expect to find, but the road isn't there as far as we can see. In the new section there are several obvious features represented by different coloured earth, one of which Hal thinks is a hearth (the polythene bag in the picture marks the spot, and protects the marker from the torrential rain which struck two hours later).
I've been washing finds, because I'm suffering from a week's walking in the North York Moors, and need to sit down. The finds tray in the picture is my share for this morning. There's some Samian, not the best quality, from Southern Gaul, some Severn Valley ware, maybe from Malvern, other pottery and some bits of bone, which crumbled into splinters mostly. After it's dry, someone will write the context number, which indicates where in the site it was found, on each piece.

*We is used to mean the people who know what they are talking about. Not me as it might suggest.