You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Education and entertainment’ category.

We continue our long-running series, ‘Inside the Mind‘ with responses from Neil Holbrook, Chief Executive of Cotswold Archaeology.

Brief Bio

Neil gained a first class degree in archaeology from Newcastle University in 1984 before starting work in professional archaeology. He went straight from University to direct excavations on Hadrian’s Wall for English Heritage for a number of years beforemoving on to Exeter Museum where he worked on Roman finds. He was appointed Archaeological Manager at Cotswold Archaeology in 1991, and is is now head of the salaried staff as Chief Executive, responsible for ensuring that Cotswold Archaeology remains a successful and innovative company delivering high quality work. He sits on a number of Committees, including the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers (formally SCAUM); the Archaeology Committee of the Roman Society and the Publications Committee of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society.  He is also a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology at Reading University.

NHolbrook

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

I became interested in the Romans as a kid, and remember that walking along a stretch of Roman road near Cambridge with my father made quite an impression on me. It was pretty much just the Romans then, although my interests have broadened considerably since. I thought Hadrian’s Wall was incredibly evocative as a child, and still do today.

How did you get started?

I decided to study archaeology at Newcastle University (because it was near Hadrian’s Wall) , but as I wasn’t quite sure what it would be like as a subject. I hedged my bets and opted for a really strange mixed degree in my first year: ancient history; archaeology and chemistry. I was told that no-one had ever done such a combination before (and probably hasn’t since!).  At the end of my first year I was sure that archaeology was what I wanted to do, but I thought I would benefit from learning some more about digging. So I took a year out and went on excavations over the winter in St Albans (really cold), and then Germany and then Israel (really hot). It was great fun. I went back to Newcastle, finished my degree, and then by a couple of lucky breaks quickly ended up running digs on Hadrian’s Wall. After a spell in Exeter I ended up in Cirencester, and for the last 25 years I’ve run Cotswold Archaeology. From very small beginnings we now have a staff of over 180 archaeologists working out of offices in Andover; Cirencester; Exeter and Milton Keynes. I am very proud of what my colleagues have achieved.

Who has most influenced your career?

I owe a lot to a number of people who helped me along when I was young, and indulged some of the arrogance of youth. Charles Daniels fired my interest in archaeology at University with his infectious enthusiasm. Paul Bidwell gave me first big break, and working with him taught me an incredible amount about not only how to excavate, but equally how to interpret the findings. His approach has influenced me ever since. When I came to the Cotswolds I was lucky that Alan McWhirr, who had worked for over 30 years in Cirencester, was so welcoming and encouraged me to collaborate with him on bringing his work to publication.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

It is very hard to pick one – but the recent discovery in Cirencester of a Roman tombstone dedicated to a lady called Bodicacia is a moment I’ll never forget.   I’ve also really enjoyed leading the Roman Rural Settlement Project over the last 10 years – a great opportunity to gather together all that has been found in commercial archaeological investigations since 1990 and ask the simple question: what does this tell us about Roman Britain that we didn’t know before?

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Hadrian’s Wall. It is where my serious interest in the Past begun – and somewhere that I’d like to renew my interest in some day.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

That so many really well conducted archaeological digs on the 1960s, 70s and 80s are unpublished. All the blood, sweat and tears expended on projects that no one now knows next to nothing about. This is particularly true of many major historic towns and cities – places like Bristol and Winchester, for example. The knowledge loss is huge. It is for that reason that I am really pleased to be starting out on a project with Professor Stephen Rippon at Exeter University called Exeter: A Place in Time. This project combines delving back in to unpublished archives of digs done in the 1970s and 80s, along with with the application of cutting edge science. We are hoping that we will be able to use the information gathered to write a new archaeology of Roman and medieval Exeter. I’m excited by the prospect.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

I’d like to raise the standard of field archaeology in the UK. There are some excellent organisations which produce consistently high quality work – but some fall below this standard. Even now too many reports are unpublished within a reasonable period of time. The current system of managing archaeology within the planning process works reasonably well, but it is fragile. To be successful it requires people to not only do the work, but also to stipulate it within local authorities. And the latter are under real pressure at the moment from Government cuts. What I would really like to see is some incentives for investigating organisations to turn out really top quality work rather than just a base minimum standard – and that doesn’t have to mean simply more money – sometimes better value could be obtained by thinking more flexibly and trying new approaches.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

Don’t underestimate how much interest there is local history and archaeology – it is crucial to a sense of community cohesion and shared experience. And we only get one go at it – once it’s gone, it’s gone.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I guess I would be a manager somewhere dull, but with archaeology as my hobby (which it still is now).

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

One of the disadvantages of moving in to management is that you become a desk jockey, so I relish any opportunity at the weekend to get outside – in the garden or a tramp across the Gloucestershire countryside with my wife. I also like cricket and follow Gloucestershire – a sunny day at the Cheltenham cricket festival with a drink in hand is a great thing to look forward to every summer.

As always, we’d like to express our thanks to Neil for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable and willing subject, please contact us.

By Alan S and Sandy Gerrard

In the first part of this series, we briefly examined the pre-excavation activities of a typical archaeology project. We now continue our overview of the different types of archaeological practice, and their predilection to cause damage to the archaeological record, by examining various aspects of excavation technique.

But first, what do we actually mean by the term ‘damage’? The archaeological resource is a limited and dwindling asset. Excavation is always destructive and it is therefore crucial that it is carried out as carefully and efficiently as possible. Any deposits removed during the course of an excavation are destroyed together with the information they held. It is therefore the duty of the archaeologist to ensure that as much accurate information as possible is collected. If an excavation is not recorded correctly, any information from that excavation is lost forever. Therefore it is of prime importance that accurate records are kept of what has been excavated, and where. That includes any and all finds, features and samples, from all contexts. If records are not kept, knowledge is lost, and the damage to the archaeological record is total.

Excavation

This is where the most damage is done! Let’s start by saying yes, all excavation is damaging. However the difference between a good excavation and a bad excavation is simple. A good excavation enhances our knowledge and appreciation of the past whilst a bad one adds nothing or at best very little and at worst may provide fallacious results which might seriously impair and even distort our understanding.

‘Excavation’ undertaken by metal detectorists can be without doubt one of the most damaging activities. Although there may have been some desk-based research prior to hitting the site, there will rarely be a formal methodology to the excavation other than ‘ping’/dig! Some detectorists may advise the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) of any significant (read metallic) finds but often the valuable context of the finds will have been trashed together with associated items (pottery, flints, fibres, animal bone etc) which are often discarded as irrelevant by the detectorist. Recording may comprise at best of a photo (or video) or two of the finds, and a GPS reference which may point to no more than a particular field, or parish. The loss of knowledge in these situations will be immense and of course in the long run means that many of the questions of future generations will go unanswered as a result.

MDHole

An Open Area Excavation can be the most informative and destructive in equal measures. The technique involves stripping away all of the layers in reverse to how they were formed. So off comes the turf and topsoil first and then each layer, feature and structure until nothing but subsoil or bedrock remains. Carried out properly by competent archaeologists this technique can provide more information than any other but the price can be the total destruction of the site being examined. Sometimes structures encountered are left in place but sometimes these too are removed in order to look for information below them.

Avenue Trench

Test pitting, Sampling and Trenching techniques are used by many projects as a way of mitigating the limits of any damage. Using these methods, the extent of excavation is reduced to the bare minimum needed to meet the project’s objectives. Test pits are usually 1m square excavations, whilst trenches can be any length or width and dependent upon the documented project objectives, both may be taken down as far as the ‘natural’ or bedrock level, in separate layers or ‘contexts’ to ensure nothing is missed. Section drawings and photographs are taken of the stratigraphy and any features uncovered. With larger excavations, and particularly in Rescue Archaeology situations, test pits may be extended, or repeated across an area to provide an agreed sampled percentage coverage of the site. In all cases, careful recording of each context is undertaken, and where necessary soil samples may be taken for laboratory analysis of pollen grains, snail shells, bone and insect remains etc. before the pit is backfilled at the end of the excavation. This strategy of course has the huge advantage of allowing some or even most of the archaeology to survive for future ‘better informed’ excavations in the future, but the limited nature of the work means that the results themselves will be incomplete and therefore possibly misleading.

Next time, we’ll finish off by looking at the post excavation activities.

We continue our look at the ‘Neolithic M1‘, which stretches from Holme-next-the-Sea in Norfolk across country to Lyme Regis in Dorset.

Having followed the Peddars Way south from Holme-next-the-Sea down to Knettishall Heath near Thetford, we now pick up the Icknield Way.

PeddarIcknield

..winding with the chalk hills through Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Wiltshire, it runs south-westwards from East Anglia and along the Chilterns to the Downs and Wessex; but the name is mysterious. For centuries it was supposed to be connected with the East Anglian kingdom of the Iceni: Guest confidently translated it as the warpath of the Iceni, and connected it with the names of places along its course, such as Icklingham, Ickleton, and Ickleford.

Excerpt From: Thomas, Edward, 1878-1917. “The Icknield Way.”

Today, the Icknield Way is part of the Greater Ridgeway long-distance path, but the actual extent of the original Icknield Way is open to debate. The acknowledged trail stretches from Knettishall Heath to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, but stretches of the trail south of here are also marked on the O.S. map variously as the Chiltern Way, Ridgeway and Icknield Way. Indeed, there is an Icknield Farm just NW of Goring where the path appears to terminate.

Starting our journey from Knettishall Heath, on the heath itself a kilometre or so to the east is Hut Hill, upon which stands a well-preserved bowl barrow, which stands to a height of about 0.5m and covers a roughly circular area with a maximum diameter of 32m. Further east is a similar barrow in Brickkiln Covert, whilst just a couple of kilmetres to the West, and north of the Little Ouse river stand the Seven Hills tumuli at Rushford. These are oddly named as only 6 barrows remain in this cemetery area.

The trail heads west from here, before dropping south through the ‘King’s Forest’ to West Stow, where a reproduction Anglo Saxon village (and museum) is sited. We visited here in 2014. Another Seven Hills barrow cemetery is located a couple of kilometres west at Rymer though this one has not fared as well as the one at Rushford, with only faint traces of four barrows remaining.

DSC_0081

From West Stow the trail crosses the River Lark and heads southwest, toward Newmarket, and skirting the town to the south. The modern long distance path deviates from a natural line here to follow the modern roads (and bypass the town) but in prehistoric times I have no doubt that a straighter track would have been the preferred route. Throughout this section, there are various early medieval earthworks; Black Ditch, Devil’s Dyke etc, all crossing the trail at approximately right-angles. It’s been suggested that these were territorial markers, demarking portions of the old route. There are very few prehistoric burial sites on this stretch of the trail, though there are several moated houses, many dating back to medieval times.

Continuing southwest, we cross the River Granta at Linton, and a short distance east are the enigmatic Bartlow Hills – an early Roman barrow cemetery quite unlike any other I’ve seen, in that the barrows seem disproportionately tall compared to their circumference. The highest of the hills is 15 metres tall, but these days the site is shrouded by trees and it is easy to miss them.

bartlow-burial-mounds-engraving

From Bartlow, the modern trail heads west toward Royston, departing somewhat from what would have been the original route, and crossing the River Cam at Great Chesterford, just south of Ickleton village and the Roman Road which is now the modern A11 road. We’ll halt at Royston for a while, and pick up the trail in the next installment.

 

 

By Alan S and Sandy Gerrard

“All archaeology is destructive” is a cry often heard from the lesser-spotted metal detectorist trying to defend their hobby. Even Mortimer Wheeler admitted that ‘excavation is merely methodical destruction’.

But how true is this?

Whilst it’s true that some field archaeology can be destructive, it’s surely more accurate to say that all archaeology is instructive. In terms of excavation techniques, it’s certainly true to say that carefully scraping away soil to reveal the hidden mysteries contained below is more rewarding than blindly shovelling earth to grab at hoped for treasures!

So to qualify that, in this short series let’s take a brief look at some of the different types of archaeology practised today and outline what each type involves.

Desk Based Archaeology

The phrase ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’, used by Sir Isaac Newton (but with a much earlier origin), is used to describe the practise of research by referring to, and building upon the work of others. A large part of desk-based archaeology is based upon this principle, and should involve meticulous reference to previous research, excavation reports etc. Much of this can be done using a myriad of resources including: the Archaeological Data Service, Heritage Environment Records, libraries, old maps, National and County Record Offices, museums, satellite and aerial imagery, LIDAR or 3D imaging, and extrapolating information therefrom to identify potential new areas of investigation, or to strengthen or extend existing theories. No new excavation or collection of field data is involved, but future excavation plans may result from any findings.

standing giants

Desk based analysis is often carried out to identify the potential for archaeological remains on the site of a planned development and may be used to inform planning decisions and highlight the need for mitigation. Where planning is granted and the archaeology will be destroyed or severely damaged the planning authorities should insist that a programme of archaeological work be carried out by the developer as a condition of permission being granted. In the most extreme instances where a whole site is earmarked for destruction the resultant excavation records will inevitably be the only tangible remains and this scenario is often euphemistically described as ‘preservation by record’. Desk-based archaeology is often the first stage of many archaeology projects, and of itself is not destructive – although as pointed out to me recently, reputations may rise or fall as a result of new interpretations of old data.

Field Work

The next form of archaeological investigation involves getting out and looking at the site or landscape. This is important and offers an opportunity to establish the accuracy or otherwise of the desk based work and enable a fuller understanding of the resource. Many different techniques are available and the most suitable will depend on the character of the surviving archaeology. Where obvious earthworks survive survey work makes an excellent starting point. The production of a plan showing what is there and how all the different elements fit together allows the archaeologist to better understand what they are looking at.

Where they are few or no earthworks other techniques are needed to explore the past and amongst the better known are Geophysical surveys – the ‘Geofizz’ so beloved of Time Team aficionados. Sometimes a combination of earthwork survey and Geofizz can produce extraordinary results without causing any damage to the archaeology.

A third form of fieldwork which does inevitably erode the archaeological resource and can only be carried out within recently ploughed or cultivated fields is field walking which involves a planned traverse of the site on foot, looking for any artefacts (small finds) that may have been ploughed up to the surface. The Portable Antiquities Scheme was set up to record and interpret small finds, such as those uncovered by metal detectorists, activities such as informal field walking, and other chance finds. But in most cases field walking will be part of a larger project, and any finds will normally be documented as part of that project. Whilst field-walking itself is not necessarily destructive, it can lead to loss of information and ‘context’, if not properly planned and recorded.

fieldwalking

There are many types of Geophysical survey, and indeed, metal detectors are but one tool in the geophysicist’s armoury. Most Geofizz tools work in a similar way, by sending electromagnetic signals into the ground and measuring the responses to build up a picture of any features which may be hidden below. Electro-magnetic resistivity and ground penetrating radar are the most common forms, with sonar being used for underwater archaeology sites. Whilst not destructive in and of itself, Geofizz aids in the project planning process, and is often a precursor to targeted excavation – the topic of the next part of this short series.

We have written in the past about ways to enhance your field trip visits and what equipment to take with you. But what if you don’t want to be lumbered with all that clutter? Could a simple smartphone come to your rescue?

With the plethora of apps available these days, the answer is invariably ‘yes’. But of course, safety must always be a major consideration on any trip, so standard caveats apply: we would always recommend keeping a good paper map (and other ‘survival aids’ as appropriate) to hand when travelling across open country. Despite the government’s best intentions, signal availability in remote areas is not always optimal, so when looking at available apps, offline working must always be a consideration. Battery power is also important. Most smartphones are notorious for ‘poor’ (8–10 hours at best, much shorter if hunting for a signal) battery performance, so a fully-charged back-up battery pack is a must when considering a phone-based trip.

So, with the above in mind, which apps will be useful for your field trip? Here are some of our recommendations, most of which are available for both iOS and Android:

Planning, information and reference

It’s always useful to be able to find out information about prospective sites, and so most preparation will be done at home, prior to departure. But there are always occasions when plans change and more ‘on the spot’ information is needed. Of course, in these situations a signal is usually essential. There are myriad apps that provide information about various heritage sites but in our experience these are usually quite limited in scope: for instance the National Trust, English Heritage  and CADW all have apps, for Gardens, Stately Homes etc. but the content tends to be quite selective or limited in such apps. We have previously reviewed the Heritage app from Little Polar (IOS only), which appears to be going from strength to strength. Another app which has recently come to our notice is TiCL, which whilst not strictly heritage-related looks quite promising (check out the Trails functionality). Sadly Wikihood, an app which displayed Wikipedia items based upon your location, is no longer available.

Maps and Route Tracking

When it comes to mapping and route recording, the options are quite staggering. But to our minds, the king of the hill is Viewranger. Plan trips, calculate distances, and view elevation profiles. Use maps offline – Premium topographic maps (can get expensive for larger areas!!) and free global maps are available. Use ViewRanger to record your track as you go and create a mapped trace of your trip, complete with stats and photos. There’s also an active community with downloadable routes to try out, and support (when I’ve needed it) has always been first-class.

Photography and Video

Most smartphones come with photo software that ís more than adequate, and will do for most shots, including panoramas once you’re at the site.

For more technical (surveying) images, Theodolite or TheodoliteHD (IOS only) are useful. Theodolite is a multi-function augmented reality app that combines a compass, GPS, map, photo/movie camera, rangefinder, and two-axis inclinometer into one indispensable app. Theodolite overlays real time information about position, altitude, bearing, range, and inclination on the iPhone’s live camera image, like an electronic viewfinder. A possible alternative for Android users is ThÈodolite Droid, but I have no personal experience of this app.

For image editing, SnapSeed is quite useful, and comes in both iOS and Android flavours. But image editing is a very personal thing, so you may have your own favourites. Please let us know in the comments if this is the case.

For video, we’d recommend Horizon. There’s nothing more embarrassing than finding that viewers have to tilt their heads to see your carefully framed (portrait) shot, and Horizon takes care of this for you by automatically keeping the shot horizontal regardless of the orientation of the phone itself.

If 360 degree panoramas are your thing, PhotoSphere from Google for iOS and Android is quite useful, and hooks into Google Maps for sharing the resulting views.

And don’t forget to set your device to backup up your photographs automatically to the cloud (once in signal range)!

Finds Recording

For those lucky enough to stumble upon any interesting finds, the Find Plotter app (iOS only?) may be helpful. The developer’s web site appears to be no longer available, but the iPhone app is still available in the Apple Store. Although aimed mainly at detectorists, it could prove useful for the casual fieldworkers among us to record basic details to pass onto the PAS.

For wider data collection, the Edina Field Trip GB app will be a much better option. This allows collection of data by a group using customised forms (designed via the web), can track GPS points, collect photos and fieldnotes. Data is saved to a DropBox account.

Damage Reporting

As we’ve reported previously, there is a serious gap in the market for an app which would allow for discovery of heritage crime to be reported to the appropriate authorities. We’d still be happy to share our ideas for such an app with any budding developers out there, and if anyone is willing to provide funding (CBA, Rescue, University Research Depts?) for such a project, please contact us!

Field Notes

For writing up your trip after the event, again the choice is almost limitless. Select your favourite text editor, and away you go! But in terms of organisation, ease of searching, syncing across devices, inclusion of photos etc, Evernote is pretty hard to beat.

That finishes our brief roundup of possible apps that could be used before, during and after a field trip. Have we missed out anything crucial, or a better alternative to one of our choices? Let us know in the comments.

Once again, the Day of Archaeology is being held next month. This year, it falls on the 24th July.

doa-noyear

If you’ve ever wondered what archaeologists around the world get up to on a ‘normal’ working day, then the Day of Archaeology was designed just for you! All around the world on the designated day, people working, studying or volunteering in archaeology are invited to submit photographs, videos and written blog posts covering the work they’ve been involved in during the day. The various submissions are then added to the Day of Archaeology web site, producing a varied record of the vast range of work being undertaken across the world in all fields of archaeology.

The project was founded by Matt Law and Lorna Richardson in March 2011, and has been held every year since, although the specific date varies from year to year. Run entirely by volunteers, participation in the project is completely free and past entries have encompassed the full gamut of archaeological activities. The whole Day of Archaeology relies on goodwill and a passion for public engagement, and contributions, no matter how large or small are always welcomed. The idea behind the project is to raise public awareness of the archaeological profession and it’s relevance and importance to societies around the globe.

If you are involved in an archaeological project in any capacity – working, studying or volunteering – please consider taking part this year and help make the project a success. It’s simple to register as a participant and contributions can be as long or as short as you want.

If you’re not involved in archaeology, think it’s just about the digging, but are intrigued to know what else goes on during an archaeologist’s ‘typical’ day, why not expand your horizons by keeping an eye on the project web site and Twitter feed? You might just learn something interesting!

Ok, so this one has snuck up on us as it passed under our radar, but this coming weekend 13th June, the Institute of Archaeology are holding their ‘World Festival of Archaeology: Passport to the Past’ event as a precursor to the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of British Archaeology to be held in July (of which more later).

The festival will involve lots of activities taking place in Gordon Square, London and in the Institute of Archaeology building for families and all members of the public, on Saturday 13 June from 12pm-5pm.

Passport_Logoraterizedflat

Tours of the Institute’s world-renowned collections and object handling-sessions will be available while archaeologically-related activities for adults and children alike will also be on offer as well as displays of experimental archaeological techniques.

All activities are drop-in, there is no need to book (but see below re tours) and all are welcome!

Activities in Gordon Square Gardens should include:

  • Sandpit Archaeology: Learn how to excavate and unearth the past
  • From Skin to Leather: See how animal hides are transformed into leather
  • Meat: the Ancestors: see how our ancestors processed meat
  • Make it in Stone: See how to work flint into tools (flint knapping)
  • Conservator for a day: Be a conservator for the day: take part in aspects of conservation
  • Pace Yourself: Learn some basic archaeological surveying techniques
  • Tinder and Steel: Making fire in the Middle Ages
  • Fragmented Frescoes: Create a wall painting and help create a story from the past
  • Lighting up the Past: make a lamp: Make a working Roman/Greek lamp just like they did 2,000 years ago
  • Lets do the Time Warp: Learn an ancient weaving technique
  • Cave creations: Try making paints and see what kind of cave art you can create. Help make an art work for the Institute
  • Connect four stratigraphy: Connect the layers of time and race the other team
  • Meet the Alchemist: Turn your copper into gold
  • Fish mummification: Make your own mummified fish just like the Egyptians did
  • Underwater Archaeology-DSI-Deep Sea Investigation: Dive into the world of ancient shipwrecks
  • Whose Poo: Find out what people in the past had to eat by dissecting their poo

Indoor activities will include:

  • Conservation Laboratory – piecing together the past: See what’s involved in conserving objects for display in museums. Find out what we discover during conservation
  • When Bad Things Happen to Good Books: Come and see how damage and decay affect our books. Learn book mending and basic conservation techniques
  • Egyptian Rituals: Make your own servant to work for you in the Egyptian afterlife. Wax modelling and painting of Shabtis
  • Maya you have a Happy Birthday: Discover the Maya calendar and your birthday secrets
  • Scenes from the Past: Be inspired by archaeologists’ travels. Make your own greetings cards inspired by your archaeological expedition at the Institute
  • Sherds through Time: Create a timeline using Ancient Egyptian material from the Institute’s collections
  • What’s my Stuff: Use the Institute’s X-ray flourescent equipment to find out what your jewellery is made of
  • Petrie Museum: Try making your own pot inspired by the Petrie Museum’s collections
  • Film screening: View archival films from the archaeological record

In addition there will be tours and children’s trails throughout the afternoon – some booking may be required as tour spaces are limited.

For full details, see the Institute’s web page.

Another instalment of our ‘Inside the Mind‘ series brings responses to our now familiar questions from Steve Hartgroves.

Brief Bio

After an initially unsuccessful time at college, followed by a short career with British European Airways (BEA) operating their fledgling computerised reservations system, Steve set off for the almost obligatory ‘trip to India’, which was abandoned before completion due to various conflicts causing a change of plans en route. After a variety of jobs on his return, in 1976 at the age of 27, he discovered archaeology, volunteering for a dig on a Roman villa site in Bradford on Avon, being conducted by Roy Canham of the Wiltshire County Archaeological Service.

Based upon his computer experience with BEA, Roy then employed him to computerise the Wiltshire SMR – a radical idea in 1976 – and he also got involved in all the other routine work of the Archaeological Service. Having decided that this was his vocation Steve applied to Cardiff and studied for a degree in Archaeology (under Professors Richard Atkinson and Mike Jarret). 

After obtaining his degree in Archaeology at Cardiff in 1979-82, Steve had various archaeological jobs,  including excavations at  a glassworks at Nailsea South of Bristol, which had been demolished with explosives. Interesting stratigraphy!

He was appointed Sites and Monuments Officer for Cornwall Archaeological Unit in 1983 and worked with this organisation until his early retirement in 2012. His main claim to fame must be the Cornwall Aerial Survey Project (CASP) which he inaugurated in 1984 with funding from the RCHM, then, following their merger, from EH. The funding continued every year after that and altogether he did 100 flights (which works out at almost four flights a year). This resulted in an important archive of 7,348 B/W prints and 5,711 colour slides and, from 2004, 5,995 digital images – a grand total of  almost 20,000 aerial images of every aspect of the historic landscape of Cornwall and Scilly.

He was also involved in four or five episodes of Time Team, mostly head-down in a trench, not usually a speaking part. His ‘big break’ came when they did the programme about  a multi-period settlement he had photographed as cropmarks at Lellizzick on the Camel estuary near Padstow (“From Constantinople to Cornwall”), but unfortunately he was struck down with laryngitis and after the initial setting of the scene at the start of day one, was completely unable to speak for the rest of the weekend.

SHblues

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

As a teenager, I read a book called Patterns of the Past by Guy Underwood and was impressed with his account of dowsing the energy patterns of prehistoric sites. I also liked Alfred Watkins’ The Old Straight Track. When I lived in Plymouth I would go up to Dartmoor and cut a hazel or willow wand and dowse the stone rows and so on. I decided that I needed to know more about the people that made these sites but it wasn’t until several years later that I was able to follow this up.

How did you get started?

It’s a long story….I had a checkered academic career and after leaving college with little sense of vocation, I passed an aptitude test and was employed by BEA (remember them) operating the online seat reservations computer in West London; this was in the late 60’s, when there were very few commercial computers in use, and ‘my one’ had a console like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and occupied a site the size of several tennis courts. This lasted a few years, then, like many of my generation, I dropped everything and headed off overland to India – I learned more in those 6 months than I had learned in all my time in school. I tried lots of jobs after that – landscape gardener, portrait photographer, builder, astrologer, etc, etc, but none seemed to suit me. Then one day I read in my local paper about an excavation on a Roman bathouse discovered beneath the turf of the playing field of the local school – just a few fields from where I was living in Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire. I went along and volunteered; it was the summer of 1976, every day was hot and sunny and the site was impressively well preserved and full of finds. Chatting during a coffee break with the site director, Roy Canham (Wiltshire’s County Archaeologist) I learned that he was looking for someone with computer experience to help digitise the county Sites and Monuments Record…

Who has most influenced your career?

Roy Canham (see above), my first archaeological employer, my mentor and role model. I worked for Roy on various projects over the next few years; excavating, fieldwalking and surveying. I also infiltrated his aerial survey project, first by offering to develop and print the films from his flights overnight, so that he had the results the following day (the alternative being to send the films off to get developed and printed and returned a week or two later), then I sat in as navigator when no-one else was available, then I finally got my hands on the cameras.

When I realised that an archaeologist could get paid to play with computers, walk over fields picking up interesting stuff, and flying around taking photos I sensed that I had found my vocation at last. With Roy’s encouragement, I signed up to do a degree in Archaeology at Cardiff.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

Undoubtedly the Cornwall Aerial Survey Project, which I inaugurated in 1984 when I got the job as Sites and Monuments Officer with Cornwalll Archaeological Unit in Truro. One hundred flights (from 1984-2010) produced 7,348 B/W prints, 5,711 colour slides and, latterly, 5,995 digital images – a grand total of almost 20,000 aerial images of every aspect of the historic landscape of Cornwall and Scilly.

Possibly more significant in archaeological terms though, and no less exciting, was my work computerising the Cornwall and Scilly Sites and Monuments Record, and overseeing its transformation, via GIS, into the Historic Environment Record, thereby linking the sites database, with a few clicks of the mouse, to historic maps of various dates, modern maps at various scales, ground and air photos, project reports (Grey Literature), digital terrain models, and much much more.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

I would rather not let on because I don’t want to encourage anyone else to go there – I like to be quiet and enjoy it alone. Suffice to say it’s a stone circle.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

I would have liked to work abroad – in the Middle East and Africa, but I struggled, as a humble archaeologist on low pay, just to find the rent and provide for my family.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

The current system seems pretty good and is a huge improvement on how things were when I first started out. However, I’d like to see it properly enforced by people who understand what the point of it all is.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

I don’t think that I would have much to say to them; I don’t think that they have as much influence over events as they seem to think they have. They don’t seem to understand what’s important and what’s trivial. Overpopulation and climate change need to be addressed urgently; compared to these threats archaeology can take a back seat.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I have absolutely no idea – I’d have liked to have been an astronaut.

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

I like gardening and building dry stone walls – that is, Cornish Hedges; I like cycling (I have renovated my father’s racing bike – a Raleigh Record Ace from 1936), and I still take lots of photos.

As always, we’d like to express our thanks to Steve for his participation.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

We continue our, now long-running, ‘Inside the Mind‘ series with a peek into the head of author and historian Craig Weatherhill.

Brief Bio

Craig is an author, historian, novelist, artist, and an authority on the Cornish language. He worked for many years as a planning officer for West Penwith and has undertaken a number of surveys for the Cornwall Archaeology Unit amongst others. He lives near St Just and plays an active part in many activities celebrating the Celtic revival of Cornwall and its people.

Craig

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

When I was “discovering” prehistoric monuments on the West Penwith Moors at the age of eight, and finding that my school couldn’t tell me anything about them.  I was the sort of kid who had to know, so I set out to find out.  I never stopped!

How did you get started?

In 1971, the late Vivien Russell produced a catalogue list of known archaeological sites in the Land’s End peninsula (which is stuffed full of them).  I realised that few of these sites had ever been recorded by means of accurate measured and drawn surveys, so I tasked myself with doing that.  I surveyed over 300 sites, from large to small before professional archaeologists were ever appointed in Cornwall to do that.  And they were paid to do what I was doing for nothing.

Who has most influenced your career?

The late Vivien Russell that I’ve mentioned, and the late Peter (P.A.S.) Pool, both outstanding local archaeologists and historians and who became close friends.  I still feel very sad at losing them both in the 1990s.  Peter was also a champion of conservation in West Cornwall, using his legal training to take on the mighty and win.  Also, the work of Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, who I met for the first time recently.  What a thoroughly nice man he is, too!

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

My survey of all (then) known Late Iron Age courtyard house sites, which are confined to the Land’s End peninsula, with a single example on Scilly.  It had been called for in the 1930s and no one had done it.  This sort of work was a spare-time pursuit, so it took me 4 years.  Sadly, it was never published, but a copy can be found in the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth.  It would now need updating and adding to.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

It sounds rather parochial of me, but it’s the courtyard house settlement of Bosullow Trehyllys, north-east of Chun Castle.  It’s an amazing site, with such an atmosphere of peace which is so hard to find in the modern world.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

Never having been able to make archaeology a professional career.  I couldn’t open doors: no letters after my name, you see.  And I’d upset “English” Heritage.  Several times.  I was the old Penwith Council’s Conservation Officer from 1988-98, in charge of listed buildings and conservation areas, but that wasn’t the same.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

I’d abolish the national quango “English” Heritage which, in Cornwall, has been an ongoing disaster.  It cares only for the “honeypot” sites it manages and for nothing else.  It suspended all new scheduling in West Penwith in 1987, lied about that for years, and has never resumed to this day.  In any case, there’s no call for a financially irresponsible two-tiers of administration in the heritage field.  I would devolve all its responsibilities and funding to existing county and regional heritage agencies, on the grounds that you can’t do better than local knowledge and the deep love and respect for the sites and monuments that results.  I feel exactly the same about the natural environment quango, Natural “England” which, like EH, has caused great damage to local landscapes and habitats in recent years – and to archaeology too.  NE’s activities in West Penwith damaged the scheduled Tregeseal stone circle no less than 13 times in 5 years, with neither of the quangoes appearing to care.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

Exactly the same as I’ve said in my previous answer.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I’ve gloriously retired a year early from freelance architecture, but I never really had an archaeology/heritage career.  So, I do what I’ve always done:  research and write.

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

My favourite relaxations include reading and playing music on a mellotron, that legendary, haunting keyboard instrument from the 60s and 70s, and made famous by bands like the Moody Blues. I finally managed to acquire one 3 years ago after decades of wanting one.  They’re quite rare and difficult to play effectively.  I’ve even played it on three songs recorded by others.  The most rewarding relaxation I have comes from my lifelong love of horses and riding them on the moors and cliffs of West Cornwall.  My current steed, Shogun, is a fabulous guy, a gentle giant who stands at 17.3 hands high and is truly amazing to ride and work with.

We’d like to express our thanks to Craig for being so forthright and passionate with his answers.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

Our next ‘victim’ for our ‘Inside the Mind’ series comes courtesy of David Jacques, Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute and Project Director at Blick Mead, near Stonehenge, which is featured in the May/June 2015 issue of British Archaeology magazine..

Brief Bio

David was educated at Middlesex University and Wolfson College, Cambridge. He has been a 6th Form College teacher, and combined that role with working for the Open University between 2001-2013. Since then he has been a Senior Research fellow for the University of Buckingham.

David Jacquesitmp

David’s field of research explores the use of the Stonehenge landscape in the Mesolithic period (8500BC-4000BC). Since 2005 he has been the Project Director of Blick Mead, a nationally siignificant Mesolithic site, about 2 km from Stonehenge. His team has discovered the oldest settlement in the Stonehenge area, the longest continually used Mesolithic site in the United Kingdom, as well as the communities which built the first monuments at Stonehenge. These discoveries have started to contribute to a new understanding of the initial settlement patterns and practices in the Stonehenge landscape, and to a broader understanding of the sense of place, ritual and memory such hunter-gatherer societies had more generally.

As a Fulbright alumnus, David worked extensively to improve the education system of the Republic of Georgia, setting up and running a charity which stimulated an investment of $12 million into the Georgian education system between 2005-08. In 2011, he was chosen as one of two ‘Outstanding’ British Fulbright Teacher Program alumni of the past 60 years by the US Embassy in London.

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

I can’t remember when I wasn’t fascinated by objects by the past and their stories. I loved ‘Time team’ and the way they were brave enough to show there were lots of different interpretations. Over the years my interests have broadened and deepened and I feel really privileged to have been able to follow my enthusiasms through into a career in such a fascinating area. It has taken a long time, but it is all so worth it.

How did you get started?

Getting involved on a slave plantation site in America when I was on a teaching scholarship supposedly studying varieties of African American English! After I returned to the UK I applied to do an Archaeology Masters at Cambridge directly as a result and then started to get my hands dirty.

Who has most influenced your career?

Ian Hodder, for the way his ultra close engagement and care when thinking about artefacts from the past has helped establish more detailed ‘biographical’ social histories of individuals and communities. Tom Phillips and Tom Lyons; brilliant field archaeologists, project partners and friends.  Tony Legge’s interest in our bone assemblage at Blick Mead, plus his support of us and what we were trying to do as a team, really helped put the site on the map.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

Blick Mead. Not only is it exciting to be involved in a potentially paradigm shifting excavation, but it has been great seeing the way the project has engaged people in the town of Amesbury in such a genuinely meaningful way. A museum/History Centre has come out of this interest, I’m told the Amesbury downtown has re-generated partly as a result, and people’s sense of themselves and their town has been lifted. This is most evident when large numbers of people from the town process to the site just before Christmas by torch light. It really shows what archaeology can do. Many of our most knowledgeable volunteers come from the town and long may it remain so!

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Mule in the Isle of Man. This Neolithic chambered tomb was excavated just after the war by a German prisoner of war. It is located in an absolutely stunning position which overlooks Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. It is also the only point on Man where you can see right across it. This site, like the Isle of Man itself, is a sleeping archaeological giant in the Irish Sea. It was clearly an enormously important, but now largely ‘lost’ place in the British Neolithic.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

1) That archaeology barely took off as a subject at school and is now already on the decline. It could not be more of an important – it should be a national curriculum subject. There are huge benefits for people’s individual and collective sense of identity.

2) That sometimes new ideas can be given a rough time because people don’t like change. The new needs friends. There’s a need for outsiders in most walks of life.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

That full assessments of sites and landscapes (including hydrogeology) always need be done before plans are drawn up. The Stonehenge tunnel policy is a case in point. It is based on a pretty limited assessment of a limited area in that landscape (only the WHS has been assessed) and would have benefited from broader assessment criteria and broader assessment full stop.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

There are enormous public benefits which come from understanding the historic environment we all live and work in and I think the earlier we can get to excite people about it and get them involved the better. Speaking as someone who has been a teacher, I think that archaeology, including hands-on excavation, should be an integral part of the school curriculum. It really is a subject for all – we have disabled people, the young, the old, people from all different walks of life on site at Blick Mead. What we have found is that people find discovering things and being part of a non hierarchical team enabling and empowering (learning about team skills and the different ways that teams can be structured would be another learning opportunity). I am sure that archaeology in school would vitalise children’s enthusiasm for learning in a way that nothing else can match. It is the ultimate mixed ability subject and it suits and empowers different mentalities. We see it on site all the time. It can also connect well with other disciplines.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I would be working in teaching, or for a charity I should think. I am truly lucky to be working as an archaeological researcher and say that to myself most days!

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

I’ve got a lovely 7 year old, who’s stimulating in a way that is ultimately relaxing. I love reading a bit of fiction when I get the time. I can really recommend ‘” target=”_blank”>Skippy Dies’ by Paul Murray, If anyone is looking for something to read at the moment (it is better than it sounds!).

We’d like to express our thanks to David for taking part during what has been a busy few months for him.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

Archives

May 2016
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Twitter Feed

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,582 other followers

%d bloggers like this: