Aberystwyth – Public Engagement Meeting
What a good start! Today I went with Jeff Spencer, our Historic Environment Record Officer, to
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, in Aberystwyth (@ http://www.rcahmw.gov.uk/) for the Public Engagement Meeting. I had the chance to meet some representatives from the other Welsh Archaeological Trusts: Dyfed Archaeological Trust, Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust; and, of course colleagues from the RCAHMW and CADW. I also had the chance to meet other CBA’s holders who are doing their placement at The Royal Commission: Kimberly Briscoe and Sarahjayne Clements.
The meeting was really inspiring as people presented various community archaeology projects developed in their region during the year, and I have to say, some of the ideas were unbelievable: from fishing cucumbers (tanat valley 12000 @ http://tanat12000.com/ ) to a large group of pupils involved in their school ground excavation; and many more to further develop for future projects.
Witnessing the commitment of a motivated team made of different members from different areas, working for a common goal was the best way to start my experience. The next twelve months will be rich of engagement opportunities and fun activities.
Investigation at Caerau Roman Vicus, Beulah, Powys
Between September and October I spent 5 days working with Richard Hankinson, our Project Archaeologist, at Beulah.
During this period we dug a 10×1.50m trench to investigate a bank visible on the east side of the fort and several test pits in two separate fields. It was hard work but very well rewarded with Roman pottery, bricks, tiles and glass.
The co-farmer came down to the site a couple of times to have a look of what we were doing and he could not believe we removed all that soil just using a trowel (tell me!). He was even more surprised when he realised that I actually loved what I was doing! Both, Richard and I explained what was going on and offered an interpretation of the exposed archaeology. I showed him a fragment of glass and some pottery still encapsulated in the soil. His amazement made my day.
In five days I had the chance to do what I love the most (I can proudly say “my job”) and to learn about farming tradition, about Welsh tradition and its strong connection to the land and the animals.
This experience allowed me to improve my excavation and interpretation skills. I appreciated the trust given, to work both independently and in a team. This was a great opportunity to get closer to some of my colleagues and the people who care for the local heritage and the local archaeology.
Hopefully I will be able to engage the local Primary School, by taking children to the site and doing some in-class activities to improve the understanding of the area where they live……so keep following me!
Setting the Beacon Ring on Fire! Volunteer day with local accountancy firm Whittingham Riddell!
Today, we lit fires at the Beacon Ring and we did it on purpose!
The Beacon Ring hillfort was acquired by the Trust in July 2008. The Beacon Ring hillfort crowns Long Mountain in eastern Montgomeryshire. Through this acquisition the Trust ensured the preservation and long-term management of the site and its environs for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public. The interior of the hillfort is currently densely wooded which gives the place a sense of magic with its “white fairy rings”, magical mushroom circles. (I do love this story!) And here a bit of folklore:
You have probably come across one of these as you walked through woodland somewhere and smiled at the strangeness of those mushrooms growing in a circular shape. Of course, there is a logical, scientific explanation, but the myth is so much more fascinating. So I looked into the topic and I discovered that fairy rings, as they have long been called, have occupied a popular place in folklore for thousands of years in several countries (another fascinating aspect!).
Fairies are magical beings who create the circles by dancing within them. Myths tell of mortal people entering fairy rings and suffering for it. Some believe that anyone stepping into an empty fairy ring will die young. Those violating fairy perimeters become invisible to those outside and may be unable leave the circle. The fairies force intruders to dance till exhausted, dead, or in the throes of madness. The only safe way, according to some beliefs, to investigate a fairy ring is to run around it nine times only. A tenth lap would nullify the effect. Doing this allows the runner to hear the fairies dancing underground. It must be done under a full moon, and in the direction the sun travels during the day. It is also said that wearing a hat backwards confuses the fairies and stops them from doing the wearer any harm.
After discovering all this, I liked those magic mushrooms a little less, but what a wonderful story to involve kids with during a visit to the hillfort! They will always remember the experience.
Little appears to be known about the hillfort – not even the origin of its name. But with extensive views far across mid Wales and Shropshire it would certainly have been a good site for a beacon. Its Welsh name – Caer Digoll (‘Digoll camp’) – comes from Cefn Digoll (‘unbroken ridge’) the Welsh name for Long Mountain. It was first built and occupied at some time in the period between the later Bronze Age and the early Iron Age – after 1000 BC and before the arrival of the Romans in about AD 50.
The significance of the site makes it the ideal venue to develop educational and engagement activities. As the hillfort was suffering from scrub and bracken growth which was hiding archaeological features we organised a community day involving a brave and motivated group of accountants from the Whittingham Riddell firm to clean part of the banck and its ditch. The day was opened by our Director, Paul Belford who welcomed the participants and offered a brief of the site and the day. Then our former director and site expert Bill Britnell offered a tour of the site explaining the different visible features and the importance of the site.
After that we were all down to the hard work! A camera was placed in front of the area where we were working and a picture was taken every ten minutes. This allowed us to checking the progress of our work and recording how the “make-up” of the site changed over time.
The day was a great success with a lot of hard work and lot of rain….but thankfully fish & chips kept up our spirits! And then we lit the fires. It was very interesting to record the reaction of occasional walkers who stopped and asked what we were doing and why follow by “thank you for doing this”. This was very rewarding for all of us.
At the end of the day the group was tired and wet but cheered by the fact that new archaeological features emerged. And I have to say, I had the impression that some of participants did not want to leave……….
For more information about the Beacon Ring hillfort please look @ http://www.cpat.org.uk/beacon/index.htm
Archaeological Field Survey at Cwm Gwdi Military Camp -with Charlie Enright, National Trust.
Today I joined Charlie (CBA placement with National Trust) and a group of volunteers at Cwm Gwdi, Crecon Beacons Military Camp to recording and mapping archaeological earthworks.
Cwm Gwdi was once a military training camp dating back to the late Victorian era. Soldiers used to sleep in tents here until the 1960s when a canteen, wash rooms and Nissan huts were constructed. These buildings were used until the late 1980s, and the concrete bases of these can still be seen amongst the trees.
From the army to the National Trust
The army used the hill Allt Ddu, on the east side of the valley, for mortar practice. You can still spot several firing abutments in the field below, which are built up half-circles. Firing mortars ceased in 1981, but the army continued to use the camp as a base for ‘aggressive’ hill walking until 1996 when it was taken on by the National Trust. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wra-1356313008035/view-page/item388943/
We first had a quick look at some of the former military buildings. Only the platforms are still visible but some key features such as drainage systems and sanitary or kitchen tiles allowed us to offering an interpretation of their use within the military camp.
We measured and recorded the platform and then moved to the next field to record some trenches.
We then moved to another field where Charlie offered us an introduction to the training trenches visible in the landscape. The aim of our day was to measure them and record them.
We all worked hard and enjoyed the activities. It was lovely having the chance to meet new people and having the opportunity to learn new things from them. This is the beauty of public involvement: every single person has a story to tell, skills to share and ideas to develop. For some volunteers this was the first archaeological experience and yet, they enriched the day with some interesting information about their personal experiences as volunteers for museums or historical societies. This is what I like about community engagement: it is a meeting point, the intersection where different paths convene together to enrich different experiences and grow into something bigger.
By lunch time the weather turned really vold and the wind was merciless but this did not stop us. I can say on behalf of all the group that we are still all very grateful to Rebecca’s mum for preparing a very much appreciated coffee at lunch time!!
You can follow Charlie’s activity @ http://charlesenright.wordpress.com/
Finds and environmental processing workshop – with my colleague Sam Thomas, Headland Arcaheology, Hereford.
One of the positives of doing this work experience is the chance to enable peer support and cooperation. Today I went to Hereford to meet my colleague Sam Thomas who is doing his training placement with Headland Archaeology (http://www.headlandarchaeology.com/) . Sam planned a finds and environmental workshop for some students from the Hereford Sixth Form College who are doing their A-level in history and/or archaeology, or who simply want to find out more about archaeology and its practice.
The day included the following activities: wet sieving, finds washing, finds marking and residue processing. The students were assigned to different stations and in turn, they had the chance to practice different activities. I offered to lead the finds washing and finds marking activities, but before this I had the opportunity to give students some information about archaeological conservation on site. This also brought back some nice memories when one of my site supervisors, Mark Evans gave the same talk to me and other fellow students during a rainy day (one of the 22 rainy days) in Somerset, digging a Bronze Age round barrow.
On site conservation is very important as it aims to prevent objects from deteriorating both physically and chemically before they undergo conservation in laboratory or go into long term storage. On this topyc MOLA can offer some very usegul guidelines (@ http://www.museumoflondonarchaeology.org.uk/). To make a long story, short: the way finds are recovered, looked after, packed and recorded, all have a major impact on the information that can be gained from a site.
The finds were all from a Roman settlement and they are the results of years of investigation and excavation. The material evidence was mainly composed by pottery (lots and lots), some nice samian examples and animal bones. Sam kindly shared with us some nice examples of creamation, with well preserved pots, one of which still showed the fingerprint and mark on its wall, almost as it was made in a hurry. Perhaps result of an unexpected loss? We will never know but we created a good story for the day and students were quite captivated!
The day went on washing, marking, sieving and sorting environmental samples. Residues are the collections of finds such as shells, tiny mammal bones, fish bones, charred plant remains and charcoal mixed with very fine gravel from the soil samples. These finds are often too small to see and recover on site and are retrieved by washing soil through large sieves to collect them. Once samples are washed smaller finds can be sorted out from the gravel usually using tweezers, microscopes and magnifying glasses, but for the purposes of this training we only used our powerful sight. Once this task is done we are ready to send to environmental experts for analysis. The evidence from these samples will help with environmental reconstruction and building up a picture of what the landscape of the site may have once looked like and the way it was previously used.
This was just one of the many days students will spend processing artefacts. Shortly they will be able to work independently, master these post-excavation tecniques and re-use them in other occasions during their academic and professional carreer.
Novemember news: Archwilioapp is on its way.
What is Archwilio app? This is a new mobile app developed by the University of South Wales’ Centre for Excellence in Mobile Applications and Services and commissioned by the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts: the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, the Dyfed Archaeological Trust, the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust and the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust.
The app will enable users to access millennia of archaeological information specific to Wales, providing a fun and real-time resource to improve education and understanding of the importance and variety of Wales’ archaeology. Archwilio App will enable locals and visitors to go out and discover more about the distinctive heritage and archaeological sites across Wales. More information available @ http://www.southwales.ac.uk/news/2013/10/24/archaeological-app-wales-first/. https://www.facebook.com/cpatarchaeology https://twitter.com/CPATarchaeology
Powys Culture & Heritage Audit – Powys Regeneration Partnership
Today I have joined my colleague Abi, at the Powys Culture and Heritage Audit with the Powys Regeneration Partnership. The aim of the project is to find opportunities to maximise the tourism growth potential of cultural heritage in Powys.
This was an excellent opportunity to expand my network of contacts and to gain a good insight of the relation between business and cultural heritage: challenges, issues, opportunities and best practice.
We were split into different groups and we were asked to share our experiences and develop a plan to develop sustainable community projects.It was a very enriching experience as I had the opportunity to work with people who came from different froups and organisations, and with different priorities and strategies.
Cymru/Wales Community Archaeology Dayschool Machynllet. IFA Community Archaeology Day School in Machynlleth.
The day included a series of talks about Community Archaeology and it looked into different approaches and views (professional and amatorial) on community archaeology today: best practice, issues, challenges and opportunities. It was a positive experience to see the variety and scale of community archaeology projects across Wales, and it gave the opportunity to some amateur community archaeologists to present their work and to express their opinions about community and public involvement.
Some very important questions were asked during the day about the meaning of community archaeology and the ways we are conducting community archaeology today. Is it just a notion? A concept sometimes abused or used erroneously? What is community archaeology? Is there a distinction between community archaeology, public archaeology and outreach? How these relate? How do we link them? What the media are selling about community archaeology?
Plenty for reflection.
The day included some interesting community archaeology projects such as “The Making of the Lydbury Landscape Project” by Lydbury Field Group and several field projects presented by W.T. Bill Jones from the Industrial Arcaheology Society.
The missing link- Bill Jones (amateur archaeologist) Industrial Arcaheology Society, Blaenau Efestiniog “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Mark Twain
“The Making of the Lydbury Landscape Project” led by The Lydbury Field Group offered some interesting ideas about community involvement and public engagement which included the involvement of the landowner in fieldwalking, the “Dig in your garden” appeal where locals where asked to share accidental finds in their gardens and plots and let children digging test pits in a safe field. In particular, the way the group involved young people and their parents in the project inspired me to develop similar activities in future projects. (For more information about http://www.lydburynorth.net/LFG.htm).
During the event two important messages have been launch. When we plan a community project and we think of the deliverables we should always remember the it’s the journey that counts and not the end of it. A community archaeology project can be an enriching journey of discovery as well as an opportunity for personal development. Secondly, when we think of developing and delivering a successful community project we should make sure that we know what we want before we do it and that we measure the social outcome through feedbacks.
Beautiful Stiperstones and Cordon Hill Country Landscape Partnership Scheme
Tonight I attended the launch of the Stiperstones & Cordon Hill Country Landscape
Within the Stiperstones – Corndon Hill area, varied and ancient geology underlies an impressive landscape of hills and vales, in many ways more suggestive of Wales than England. Its landscape character reflects the way in which the natural environment is no respecter of man-made boundaries. This is a special landscape – having been lived and worked in by human beings since before the Bronze Age, some 4,000 years ago. The Landscape Partnership brings together local people, groups and organisations alongside professionals from England and Wales, and covers an area bounded by the settlements of Churchstoke, Chirbury, Minsterley, Pontesbury, Bridges, Wentnor and Norbury. This scheme aims to safeguard this special and cherished border landscape. http://www.stiperstonesandcorndon.co.uk/
The evening went really well with an audience of over 85 people celebrating the launch of the Stiperstones & Corndon Hill Country Landscape Partnership Scheme at Chirbury Village Hall. The event featured displays on the Scheme projects and presentations from well-known specialists including Mike Shaw – author and researcher on the mining heritage of the local area, Tom Wall – formerly Reserve Manager for the Stiperstones National Nature Reserve and a keen naturalist, and Cath Landles – Community Officer for the Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership.
The event also allowed participants to meet the new LPS team and find out more about different partners and projects, such as the “Helping Hillforts and Earthwork Castle: community conservation projects” and “Land Between Lands- Open Hills, Old Ways & Commons”.
I had the chance to talk with a nice group of locals and people interested in wildlife conservation and explain a little bit more about CPAT’s work and how we can contributeand support the scheme. Among the displays: Shropshire Hills, Shropshire Geological Group, Snailbeach Lead Mine, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Natural Resources Wales. Contracts are being let for the specialist delivery of the aerial LiDAR survey, which will be the kick-off point for the Open hills, old ways and commons project, and for the heritage mixed-skills apprenticeship and work placements programme by a specialist-training provider.
One of the project that catched my attention was the “Young People and Heritage”. This project will work with primary and secondary schools within the LPS area, and also with families, to promote an awareness and appreciation of the special landscape and heritage.
I was particularly impressed by a project supported by The Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership and the Shropshire Wildlife Trust who are helping children and teachers from Norbury Primary School to achieve the John Muir Award. This is an environmental award scheme focused on wild places, and encourages people to connect with, enjoy and care for the natural environment. The Stiperstones National Nature Reserve is Norbury School’s chosen wild place and four site visits are being made to explore local geology, wildlife, conservation and history. The John Muir Award is definitely something I would consider for future projects to develop on the Beacon Ring.
I love Romans! Fieldwork at Caerau, Beulah and School Project
A community archaeology project has been undertaken at the Irfon Valley Primary School, Garth. Students from year 3 and year 4 were involved, together with their teachers and the
head teacher. A preliminary meeting was arranged on November, 18 to offer an induction to teachers and headteacher received an induction about archaeology and the work that CPAT carried out in the past at Caerau Roman Site.
On November 28 I met the students of Irfon Valley Primary School. The day included a presentation about archaeology, archaeologists and methods of site investigation. The children engaged and largely contributed in discussing different aspects of the discipline. The learnt new terminology and had the chance thinking, understanding and communication skills. We then focused the attention to the Roman Fort and Vicus at Caerau which is an important element of the local heritage. We had a great time developing in-class activities where students handled, recorded and interpreted artefacts. They also had the chance to investigate and rebuild a quern…… which they did in no time!
The artefacts used to run the activities included items from different periods, from Neolothic to Modern time. Students had the chance to choose a variety of objects such as flints, pottery, coins, domestic objects, a modern camera and an IPhone! These activities allowed students to draw conclusions about the past from primary sources and material evidence as well as drawing conclusions about differences between present and past.
Next we explored the historical timeline and recognised different artefacts from each period. Working with timelines in classroom is very important because it allows to work with numbers and enhance chronological awareness and organisation skills.
The afternoon involved a field trip at Caerau, where children could meet professional archaeologists in action and also the landowner and his wife. They had the chance to ask questions about different archaeological features, the work my colleagues were carrying out on the site and also what significance the site has for the landowner and the way he maintains and manages it. Students gained an understanding of the fragility of the archaeological record and this made them aware of their roles as potential wardens of the past.
And then…..biscuit time!!! Mrs Roberts offered buiscuits to the children before saying good-bye. In recognition of the hard work done during the day the kids have been awarded with a certificate.
The day concluded with an unexpected visit from two members of the public who wanted to
visit the site. They were introduced to the
archaeologists and I offered a tour of the site.