Archaeology in East Oxford

End-of-Year Meeting, or Oops!

Had the End-of-Year meeting last night – a series of presentations, mainly about the dig at Bartlemas, along with nibbles and soft drinks and chat – before heading off to the ‘Rusty Bicycle‘ for a well-earned (or in my case, desperately-needed – more of that later) drink.

We had decided to give Jane a break this time, so Paul took over as MC for the evening, kicking off with a few words by way of an introduction, before handing over to David Griffiths for the first presentation.

David talked about the work the Project had done over the year, covering not only the test pits but also the less high-profile work such as geophysics and place-names research, culminating in the dig at Bartlemas. He concluded by commenting on how far we had all come since this time last year and wondering where, at this rate, we would be next year!

Graham then picked up with background information about leper hospitals/chapels in general and their place in the landscape, especially in relation to their ‘parent’ towns. He also explored the link between the chapels and water; always important with respect to leprosy, as the only realistic ‘treatment’ – more a palliative – was hygiene, lots of washing.

I then carried on with a description of Trench 1, which turned out to be more of a learning experience than I had planned! What I mainly learnt was always check the presentation on the USB stick you take to the talk is the latest and complete one. This will save on ‘brown-trouser’ moments for the speaker and general incomprehension for the audience.

I had just introduced the way the trench was layed out and what went on in the digger watch when I ran out of slides in PowerPoint. Luckily (for me , if not the audience) I had rehearsed enough to carry on, trying to paint a picture in words but I think I was only saved by the fact that the majority of the audience had been to Bartlemas and had a pretty good idea of what I was talking about. At last got through to the end and staggered to my seat, thoughts firmly focused on a pint!

Leslei followed on from me with a description of lifting the bones from the charnal pit in Sector E; the techniques involved and the complexities of actually doing it. It was a difficult task as the bones were all jumbled up with the rubble from the repair work on the chapel.

Paul then talked about his experiences of Trench 2, from the de-turfing (sodding-off!) to the end of his involvement, via Open Days et al. He was followed by Roelie who concentrated on the finds which turned up in Trench 2, especially the skeletons: the complete adult lying East-West, the two juveniles lying North-South and one discovered on the last day. As she said, there has been a lot of speculation about the two juveniles; why buried that way in a church-yard, and so close to the main door?

We were then presented with a double act, courtesy of Nathalie and Ruth entitled ‘Clay and Apples’, recalling the two dominant factors in Trench 3 – it was surrounded by apple and quince trees and the soil seemed to be mainly clay, varying from compact to mattock-bounces-off-it-and-just -makes-it-even-harder! Interesting, if enigmatic, finds and structures.

Following this was a montage of images and music put together by Chris Turley; just the light break we needed after quite a bit of information. We decided against a break at this point so went on to Gill’s presentation on Small Finds. She took a small set of representative finds, did some research about them to flesh out the bare bones – for instance showing what a complete Bellarmine jug looked like, as opposed to just the fragment we had recovered.

Then Paula gave a talk about the human remains, this was as much about what we could expect from the research being done on the bones, as what she could garner from what she had seen so far – there are a couple of days of bone-washing due later this month which should clarify matters.  Swii continued saying ‘the bad thing is, I haven’t got a PowerPoint presentation; the good thing is, I haven’t got a PowerPoint presentation!’. She gave us some thoughts and observations on the perceived divide between academic and communal archaeology – a lot less than some would like to believe, in certain respects.

Paul then wound up with a request for a logo for the project; so we all have to put our design hats on and come up with something arresting! We then descended upon the nosh and chatted away, though we could not ignore the Bartlemas dig as Pam was doing the rounds and handing out photocopies of the context sheets so that we can start the writing-up process, until the call came to tidy up (not our loose!) and repair to the pub – as I mentioned above, this was something I was pretty well focussed on after my experience!


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