Archaeology in East Oxford

Starting the Bartlemas Report & other things

Quite a lot done today – I started off going to get some weed-suppressing membrane. Sounds a bit off-message, I know, but it’s what is used as a cover when a trench is back-filled but is going to be re-opened some time in the future. It gets laid on the bottom of the trench so when the trench is redug, one can see where one had got to previously. I’m using it as I’m closing down the test-pit in my back garden to open it again next year and extending it to check out the putative Roman footings – all I’ve got at the moment is a small slice in one corner of the pit!

Then off to the Oxfordshire History Centre to try to find the map with the pre enclosure field system for Cowley which I want a copy of so as to Geo reference it; that is put it into a software package which understands geographical referencing systems (longitude & latitude or grid references, for instance). After a lot of consulting with the librarian we worked out that it has never been copied so I’m going have to work with the original. More tracing to be done but it’s OK to bring in my portfolio and a lamp – all I have to do (I think, sometimes things rarely work out as straightforward as one thinks!) is book the map table and he assured me the actual book that the map is bound into will take no time to get.

Then a meeting in the evening about starting the reporting processing for the Bartlemas dig – the serious stuff of the day! Quite a few of us turned up, thankfully, and Jane gave us a good run down of where we have to start. First thing is to decide on a format for a list of all the contexts (each different ‘event’ that occurs when digging; for example when the soil changes or one comes across a post-hole) which pulls together all the relevant details. These can be the finds, the ‘Small Finds’ which are recorded separately, drawings, photos, environmental samples, etc – the list gets frighteningly long when you start to really look at it! Nathalie decides she’s up for it so is going to generate a template which we can all use as we then agreed to split up this part of the work into sub-groups to work on a trench each – I’m part of the Trench 1 group. Jane is photocopying all the context sheets and will distribute them when done to the relevant people.

Once we have done that, we’ve got the basic description of what was actually done on the dig, then we can start on the interpretation, putting it in context, both historically and in the landscape, and generally trying to make sense of the mass of data we have ended up with. Of course, there is still a lot of actual work still to be done – finds washing, sorting, measuring, analyzing; environmental samples to be worked on; the results from the scientists at the Institute of Archaeology to come back. But all that feeds into the basic matrix which we are starting to put into place now.

Graham and I seem to have volunteered to help trace all the drawings – the originals are in pencil which doesn’t photocopy properly so they have to be traced in ink to give a good copy. It also gives us a chance to apply a consistent set of standard representations – i.e. how one denotes mortar, say, or clay.

Also managed to put together a team to meet up at Bartlemas on Sunday to take some measurements of the chapel, the external ones. This managed to slip though the cracks, as it were, while we were doing the actual dig; it just occurred to me when thinking about the presentation we are doing on the 9th. It will provide a ‘pattern’ into which to drop the various plans of the sectors in Trench 1, pulling them all together – an event which I am really looking forward to. It is surprising how the buttresses have made putting an overall picture quite difficult.

Eventually got home to some light reading – Gill and I have got the details of the NVQ we are doing. Now we have to decide which modules we want to do. I don’t know who writes these things, but it doesn’t make for very entertaining reading! We are both looking forward to the course itself but this part is a bit daunting – and of course we both forgot to ask Jane for a meeting about it (she’s our course supervisor) at tonight’s meeting – ah well – more emails.


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