Web address

Click on http://manor-lodge.dept.shef.ac.uk for more information about the dig, including images, history, and fieldwork findings.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Day 13: Wednesday the 29th of June

Archaeobotany special!

Today Michael Wallace was on site to set up for the archaeobotanical field school next week. The blogger caught up with him whilst he wrestled with his equipment:

Michael, what are you setting up here?

It's called a water separation or flotation machine.

And what exactly is the function of the machine?

Basically, it separates out things that float from things that sink. What this allows you to do is to clean the sample by removing the silt, and collect floating material and heavy residue for analysis.

And what sort of things are you hoping to find when you process these samples?

When you dry sieve on site, you lose almost all of the archaeobotanical material. With the flotation machine we can find things such as charred crops and seeds, as well as non-archeobotanical material like small bones, that may not have been found during excavation. The most common type of charred material found is residue from cooking or the processing of cereals and other crops. So, for instance, the by-product of processing wheat (chaff) may be burned (for instance as tinder) and then found in our sample. So we may be able to infer things about dietary habits or crop processing from the flotation samples. Similarly, finding charred weeds can help to build up a picture of the environment of the area and context we are excavating. Sometimes, if there is a destructive fire such as a barn burning down, we may have a wider range of charred material, as more things are burnt.

What difficulties do you face when doing the flotation?

As you've seen, setting up the machine is always a bit of a challenge, but once you've got a system the operation is easy. The main difficulty then is establishing a sampling method. In an ideal world obviously everything would be sieved but its not practical. The best practice is a combination of targeted sampling and systematic sampling. So anything that, for instance, contains large amounts of charred material, such as a fireplace, would be sampled, but you would also do some systematic samples in case a context that looks less promising contains interesting material.

And you'll be doing some work with archaeobotany students next week, is that right?

Yes, I'll be doing a combination of practical field schools and lectures, teaching the theory and practice of flotation, how to select samples, and how to identify samples in the lab.

Excellent, we look forward to it!

As part of our archaeobotanical special, we also have:

Water separation: a pictorial tutorial!

Firstly, a three-way splitter was added to the mains water supply, so that finds processing and equipment cleaning can take place without disconnecting the hosepipe from the machine
The hose is run through the trees to an elavated area (so that the water will drain downhill) ...
... and is attached to the machine.
Michael improvised a funnal and wide hose system ...
... to further encourage the water to flow away from the flat areas.
The next step was to turn the water on and test the pressure:

... for the pressure to be sufficient to clean the sample it should jump around one metre in the air.
With the water pressure tested, the barrel was filled with water.
The water comes through holes in these pipes, which are submerged, to clean the sample.
When the barrel is full, the water flows over the top...

... and into the two fine seives stacked on top of one another:

Niagra Falls, ON, Canada
A mesh was then added, which would allow the silt to pass through, but catch the heavy residue.
The sample is then added.
The archaeologists then run their hands through the sample to ensure that it is all cleaned ...
... and the water drains off and runs away down the hose, leaving the floating material in the two seives.
The mesh was then gathered ...
... drained ...
... tipped onto a sheet ...
... and left to dry in the sun.
The floating residue in the seive is then rinsed to remove any remaining silt ...
... tapped out onto a paper towel ...
... rolled up ...
... and hung up to dry in parcels!

Also today, an incredible find from the site:

Find of the day: cake
Special thanks to Dr. Hannah Russ for that one.

Object biographies have also begun for third year students - Matt and Callum spent the day in the library researching the lead ingot found in week one.

And finally, we close this archaeobotanical special with an archaeobotanical top trump:

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Day 12: Tuesday the 28th of June

Day 12: bumper finds special!

Carved stone in trench 19

Worked shell - perhaps a decorative inset for a cutlery handle (we know that outworkers were working here making bone handles for the cutlery industry)

A stone mullion, used as a divider in a window frame
An excellent example of a knurr ball from the game knurr and spell (see last year's blog entry for the game's rules, and a demonstration of how to play)

Find of the day: a used musket ball from trench 20

Today also bore witness to innovation in finds processing techniques:

This bottle had been soaking for days in a vain attempt
to remove the dirt from inside ...
... until Jenny ingeniously lashed a cotton bud to a skewer, and cleaning was successfully completed!

... and a revolution in archaeological-finds-based modern art:

Jenny's collage - on loan from the Guggenheim
Meanwhile, progress in Alvaro's trench 20 was significant but ... messy.

Tom was knee deep in clay ...

... and was considering that the simplest option may be to stay the night.

Brian was reducing the section between the two excavated areas
Christian was reducing slightly further up the trench

Whilst the sheer volume of excavated spoil was allowing Alvaro to realise his true calling in life ...

... as architectural director of the world's first spoil dune.
Also, in the basement, Lily was taking charge of the electronic recording of finds:

We also have the second round of our interviews with the new students:

Introducing ...

Catherine is a 1st year on the BA in Classical and Historical Archaeology at Sheffield.
Why did you chose manor lodge?

I wanted to do something in Sheffield, and this one seemed interesting.

What is your ultimate archaeological ambition?

To make a groundbreaking discovery that changes the way people think about archaeology and the world. I don't think it's a big ask.

No seems reasonable. And if you could dig anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

Somewhere more exotic!

Is that a euphemism for somewhere with better weather?

Nat is in his second year of the BA in Archaeology at Sheffield. 
Why have you ended up at the lodge this year?

I came last year and really enjoyed it. I figured I would know the site already, and I need more experience, as I'm considering doing the MA at Sheffield.

A fine choice. Do you have an archaeological role model?

Vere Gordon Childe, definitely. He's basically the father of archaeology. The breadth of his work is incredible.

What is your top archaeological ambition?

To dig up a neanderthal! And to dig in Ithaca, the birthplace of Odysseus. I loved the Odyssey, so that would be really cool. 
Laura is a second year archaeology student at Sheffield.
Why did you chose manor lodge?

I was going to do it last year, but in the end I was only able to visit, and do a tour of the turret house. I really liked it so I wanted to come back and do the excavation.

Do you have an archaeological role model?

Paul Petit. He got me interested in anthropology and human evolution, which led to me switching from classical to archaeological science.

What's been your best archaeological experience?

When I was young, I was helping my grandparents to re-do the garden. We were digging it up, and I found a time capsule, buried around the time of the second world war. It had teddy bear and a photograph inside, and it turned out to be a distant relative of my grandma. I still have the teddy!

Alex is a 1st year BSc archaeology student in Sheffield.
Alex, you're sitting slightly away from the pack. Dangerous that, makes it easier for a predatory interviewer to pick you off. Can I ask why you chose manor lodge?

It's perfect because the timing fits with the other dig I also wanted to do in Binchester in July.

In an ideal world, where would you excavate?

Probably somewhere in the Mediterranean. I'm interested in excavating a neolithic or palaeolithic site.

If you could find anything at manor lodge, what would it be?

Probably a human skeleton. It's a bit morbid, but it might be exciting.

Kate is a first year at Sheffield
Kate, what are you studying at Sheffield?

[pauses] Alex, what are we studying? 

Alex: BSc Archaeology!

That's it!

Excellent. And why manor lodge?

Because of the suggestion of a hunting lodge. I'm interested in bones, so I was keen on the prospect of finding lots here.

Do you have an archaeological role model?

Paul petit. Because he teaches about evolution, which I'm really interested in, and has good delivery when he lectures. Also he does a good walk!

I'll ask him to show me. Where in the world would you most like to excavate?

Somewhere in East Africa, like Ethiopia, to help investigate the origins of man.

Lauren is a 1st year on the BA in Archaeology
Lauren, any particular reason why you've chosen manor lodge?

No, it was one of the two options and I preferred it.

If you could find anything at manor lodge, what would it be?

Something I haven't already found!

Excellent answer. Good luck! If you could dig anywhere on the planet, where would it be?

France or Spain, because I speak the languages!

Thanks once again to everyone for putting up with my disorganised interview technique ... any stragglers and newcomers will be interviewed when possible!

And finally ...

Today's collectible top trump is: Vicky Crewe, assistant site director:

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Day 11: Monday the 27th of June

This week we welcome a new tranche of students. A warm manor lodge welcome to all!

Introducing ...

Today we have a round of quick fire introductory interviews with half of the newcomers:
Serina is a 1st year Archaeology student at Sheffield.
Why manor lodge? 

This was my first dig, so I wanted to do some local archaeology, before going more global.

Where would your ideal archaeological excavation take place? 

Somewhere in Crete, Myceene, or the near East. I'm interested in the origins of society and agriculture, and trade between the Indus valley and the near East, so I'd love to dig somewhere there.

Brian is a masters student on Sheffield's European Historical Archaeology course, who previously graduated from Lycoming College in Pennsylvania with a double major in Anthropology and Near Eastern Archaeology.
You must be working on your masters dissertation at the moment, what are you focusing on?

The relationship between economic and political organisation in viking age Denmark. That's how I summarise it anyway!

Sounds cool. I don't reckon you'll be finding a lot of viking archaeology at the lodge though ...

That's okay, I'm doing it for the practical experience.

What's your best archaeological story?

When I was digging in Gezer in Israel, we were trying to remove the backfill from a previous excavation so that the features could be exposed for tourists. It was a five week excavation, and we finally thought we had made it to the end of the backfill by week three. That was until we found a coca-cola bottle cap in the trench in week four ... the previous archaeologists had put it in before they started backfilling - it was their way of letting us know where they'd got to!

Melissa is studying an MSc in Skeletal and Dental Bioarchaeology at UCL. She studied an MSc in Osteology, Paleopathology, and Funerary Archaeology spilt between Sheffield and Bradford in 2001, and also works for the police's crime scene investigation unit. 
What brought you to manor lodge? 

I'd never had the opportunity to work on a dig before, and UCL were advertising this one. I was in Sheffield for my BA, and my husband is from Sheffield, so I wanted to do this one. I've had some experience of excavation through the police, but I wanted to learn the practicalities of archaeological excavation, so that I can be called in as an expert by the police!

What has been your most interesting experience in archaeology?

Breaking down on the way to Stonehenge with Mike Parker-Pearson and a crate of beers. We couldn't drive on so we just drank the crate. I don't seem to recall if we ever made it to Stonehenge ... !

Gabrielle is in her first year on the Classical and Historical Archaeology at Sheffield.
Gabrielle, I gather you're from Barnsley. Did this influence your decision to come to manor lodge this year?

Not exactly. But I wanted to do some local archaeology, something around Sheffield. I didn't know what was up here so it was really exciting when I saw the site.

Have you acquired any good archaeological stories in your first year?

Well, my group has managed to get lost on the way to every single field class we've had so far, through a combination of ... ending up in the middle of nowhere, not knowing how far we had to walk up steep hills ... always late.

What's your dream archaeological excavation?

The pyramids they found in Egypt recently.

Rachael has just finished her second year on Sheffield's Archaeology degree.
Why manor lodge?

In the module I did before Christmas we were looking at the later medieval period, so the Tudor elements of the manor site will tie in with that.

What's the funniest thing you've ever found on a dig?

Digging in the peak district we found a bottle of special brew from 1963. Maybe the archaeologists from the previous excavation drank it then threw it into the backfill!

Thanks all.

Stay tuned for more introductions tomorrow!

In other news:

The sun turned sadistic today, causing gargantuan amounts of depression in all except for Jon and Matt, who, it was remarked, made the trench sound like the inside of a pinball machine.

And finally ...

By way of introduction, and to facilitate the adaptation process for the new students, the blog is proud to announce its new range of archaeology top trumps, featuring the celebrity archaeologists of manor lodge:

Today: Charlie Hay

Collect them all, and do battle with your friends!