Archaeology in East Oxford

Drawing Workshop

On Wednesday 14th we had a workshop – “Workshops in Archaeological Drawing” – the first one in a series; not quite sure how many as Jane is a bit snowed under at the moment, as she and David are interviewing for two posts. There is a bursary from the CBA for one post, and the other one is a replacement for Paula. Both are now filled – warm welcome to Jo and Olaf; but Jane and David have both been a bit preoccupied of late!

Got to Rewley House a bit early to give Jane a hand setting up – it was of course all done by the time I got there; I wasn’t late (much), honest! One just has to be a very early worm to beat Jane in to work; a fact I should have remembered from the Bartlemas dig. Everything seemed to be OK, the only problem being that when Jane had gone to the cupboard to collect the drawing boards, most of the full size ones had gone – but as we’ve got lots of smaller (approx A4) drawings to do, that shouldn’t be a problem.

The Sadler Room, Rewley House, set up for the workshop

The Sadler Room, Rewley House, set up for the workshop

When everyone had arrived, Jane gave a brief introduction, explaining the main purpose of the workshop; we had done all the drawings at Bartlemas in pencil – a) pencils are waterproof (even if the weather was pretty good most of the time, though I had to give up once as it was raining so hard even a pencil wouldn’t work!) and b) I don’t think anyone is confident enough to be able to do a plan or a section without having to resort to the trusty eraser on occasion. The trouble is that when you scan a penciled tracing, you don’t get a very good image – it’s good enough for reference but not for reproduction, and as we want to publish these they have to be re-traced using pen and ink; in our case, Rotrings. So Jane continued with a short introduction in how to use a Rotring, for those new to them. They are good pens, but you have to be aware of a few characteristics – hold them as near vertical as is comfortable, keep an eye on the lines you’ve drawn (the ink takes a while to dry), don’t use a ruler which is in contact with the paper (either capillary action or moving the ruler smears ink all over the place), always have a tissue to hand (though they don’t drip ink as much as they used to) and then we selected drawings to work on.

If we had been at the dig and had done any plans or sections, we,  of course, grabbed something we had done ourselves; I found the section of Trench 1 that I had done, Sector D. I had a bit of a discussion about the co-ordinates of the nails at either end of the section with Jane (when drawing a section one stretches a string between two nails, which are both checked to be at the same height, and uses it to take all ones measurements from) and how to work them out. I had not put them in on the original drawing – another example of how doing the follow-up work reinforces the importance of recording everything at the time – but we were able to work out the co-ordinates from the relevant plan.

Men at work, with Jane advising

I then steamed on with the occasional break, mainly to check on how to represent various things (Lime Mortar, Cement Mortar, Gritty Soil etc) which weren’t on the handout which Jane gave us; I kept a record for future reference.

Then, all of a sudden it was lunch time! I stayed on while everyone else went down to the common room, where there was coffee and biccies, as I wanted to check the photos for a bit of clarification on my section. Almost as soon as everyone had departed, in came the caterers with said coffee and biccies! Luckily, they were quite happy to take them down to the common room where everyone was waiting. Jane then turned up, with her usual industrial strength coffee, and we went down to join everyone else.

The afternoon went well, though again I was about the last to finish all that mortar and, woe, gritty soil; I had given up on the day and left a lot of it blank, but now I was inking it I had to do the whole lot. The Lime Mortar (45° hatching) wasn’t too bad, the Cement Mortar (random little circles) was taking quite a while, but it was the Gritty Soil (a mixture of dots and little circles) which almost made me lose the will to live! Got there in the end, though, without losing it completely, and was, I must admit, quite proud of the outcome!

Trench 1, Sector D, Section, almost complete, just a bit of lettering to do

The following day we had a talk/workshop about the upcoming season of test-pits, which Gill is going to blog about, and I have been doing a lot of swearing at the computer.  First off, I was scanning a document which Word insisted on forcing the paragraph numbering into numbered bullets – and if anyone out there has ever tried to edit something with numbered bullets will attest, it is an exercise in pure frustration; I have got to turn off the auto-complete function in Word to maintain my own sanity, and stop Gill coming down from upstairs asking “What on earth is going on?”.

My second bout of bad language was caused by ArcGIS Explorer – I’m continuing with my research into the pre-enclosure landscape and am getting a lot of references to Parish recordss, so I thought it would be useful to have a map showing the local parishes. Simple, I thought. Hah! In theory, very simple – there is a function for drawing areas (in ArcGIS Explorer-speak, an area note) – you keep on left clicking your mouse button to extend the area, then when you want to finish, you double-click, the software joins up your current position with your start position, et voila! Trouble is, the slightest twitch and the software thinks you have double-clicked – and the killer is, unlike MapInfo, you can’t edit the damn thing! Well, maybe you can, but I can’t find out how, so I just had to delete and start again; I suppose it’s free, so one can’t complain, but why can’t they make it so instead of a double click, you have to, say, hold down a key then left-click (or something) so there is no chance of a mistake being made.

Ah well, almost finished with the map – the next step is going to be going to the Enclosure Awards and using the descriptions to draw out the pre-enclosure roads. This will provide a skeleton to start to locate the fields which are mentioned in the passing in the awards. Then it’s a lot of work in the OHC looking at lease  agreements and (hopefully) title deeds to get a bit more information. Also the awards do say who the main landowners are (round here, unsurprisingly, Colleges) so that gives one more references to track down.


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