Weather changeable

Even though the excavation via the university ended last Friday, some of us were not able to stay away long from the site and returned to ‘fill the landscape’ for the Saturday open public day. The three of us arrived earlier than normal, since no coach was involved, Tracking up to the site too seemed strange, instead of 42 people walking up at different paces it was just us! At the site we were greeted by our site mascot Arwen  and Gigi, James parked up just minutes after we started the walk, but caught up with us before we reached the site. The weather wasn’t that much different as the last days of the excavation (cold, windy and wet) which meant that before anything was done, we first had to have tea, it did not take long before we were assigned to trenches. Kerrie was to be taken over the wall to trench AK, since it was in need of some extra attention. Alison and I were sent ‘home’ to our trench in the barrow. Here the both of us were tasked to level out the top section of the trench, this was easier said than done. The nickname Alison, very fittingly, came up with was concrete corner… many remarks have been made regarding this layer, I can’t remember hearing anything nice about it, it has been philosophised that when the people crated the barrow they had a massive party after the creation of the barrow, which compacted the soil.

Whether the open day was a success or not we will not be able to tell, as soon as we disappeared into the trenches, we got so stuck in that we even had to be reminded when the tea breaks were. Despite the fact that it was a cold windy Saturday, all of us still did not want to leave the site when 4pm came around, there was even talk about coming back on the Sunday, however when we started to realise that we had been excavating for the last 6 days in a row, and were in desperate need of rest we decided to take it….

After two days of (some sort of) rest we returned back on site with a substantial group on Tuesday. Today however was a bit different, since only three of us were able to go to site, we went by car. The prospects of the weather already made us take on less layers of clothing, and more were removed before the walk to site was made. On site work was resumed as normal, the top section of the barrow trench needed to be cleaned and prepared for photography, site recording as well as section drawing. But as it goes in archaeology, for certain jobs, the conditions need to be perfect, which of course the hardly ever are. For three weeks we have been dreaming of sunshine, while feeling cold and getting wet from strange forms of rain… But now the sun is out and we are waiting for clouds to move in front of the sun so photographs without shadows can be taken, some people just can’t be pleased! While waiting for this cloud Alison and I moved on to the drawing of a section of the trench. Since section drawing is a tedious activity it takes up quite a lot of time, and before we even had gotten to the second stratigraphic layer we noticed it was already 4pm. All three of us decided it was time to have another break, Alison and I were working on the barrow section drawing while Emma had been working all day ‘across’ the wall on sections, all of us were starting having trouble defining the different soil colours (yes there are a huge amount off nuances to brown , grey and black…). We decided to continue working on the section tomorrow morning with fresh and rested eyes, also we have a bigger group coming up tomorrow, so hopefully we can get a lot of work done in nice and lovely weather with enough clouds to photograph the trenches… sorry some people just want it all!

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The Boltby Volunteers….or How I Faced My Fear of Section Drawing.

Today a group of eleven of us returned to Boltby for some extra-curricular excavation…and were rewarded by searing sunshine. After three weeks of almost unrelenting wind and rain it was an odd experience to be in a trench and warm. The remnants of Group J headed back over the wall to see what had happened to trench AK since Friday; there had certainly been some changes. The ditch is now even deeper, extending into the gryke, and the palisade has FINALLY been found!








The first thing that needed to be done was to photograph the beautifully cleaned trench for the purposes of creating a 3D image. Unfortunately the sun became something of an annoyance here as shadows really mess up a 3D photograph. The solution was to balance Gigi on top of the Landrover so he could get an uninterrupted and shadowless view of the trench. Archaeology, it seems, is heavy on improvisation.

hearing that there was section drawing and context recording to be done I immediately volunteered to clean up and excavate the palisade feature as I’m far more comfortable with a trowel than with a pencil. Gigi, on the other hand, thought I really needed to get to grips with section drawing. He was right. Under his excellent tutelage I ended the day with a passable section drawing of the ditch. While I was embroiled in measuring deposits, Lois and Caroline were attempting to unravel the mystery of the contexts and get them recorded on the PDA. At the less stressful end of the trench, Jamal trowelled away quite happily uncovering the palisade.

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Group H Day 12- The Finale

Walking up the hill to the site of Boltby Scar on our last official day of 2012’s Summer Field School was rather melancholy really. Where had the time gone? We needed more!!  Eleven days plus our day in the North York Moors Visitor Centre was simply not enough!!!!

 We needed to finish recording the ‘baby barrow trench’ and the weather was particularly conducive to the task. Fortunately however, although Cassie and I had spent until afternoon tea break on Thursday expanding the ’baby barrow trench’ to answer one final question about the extent of Wilmot’s exploration or should I say intrusion into the barrow, we had in fact managed to complete all but one of the context sheets required, had taken a new set of 3D photographs, and with Gigi’s assistance had set up the planning frame and base line and started on the plan drawing.

 On Friday morning we finished the plan drawing, (complete with the extra ring stones we’d exposed as a result of expanding ‘baby barrow’) and then once again with Gigi’s able assistance set up the base line so as to complete our section drawing. Once this task had been accomplished in order to understand the complete process of data recording that Dominic employs, we entered the data from two of our context sheets into the digital records.

 The Grand Finale was a tour around the whole site to all the trenches, (dug by the ‘undugs’  who are now mostly all ‘dugs’), with Dominic who explained to us what had been learned as a result of all our hard work. The tour ended as did our official 2012 Summer Field School with a group photo on the barrow of Boltby Scar.

 Because there are a number of us keen to carry on digging during week 5 the Archaeology Department have generously covered the costs of a mini bus to get us to site on Tues. and Thurs. and on Wed. and Fri. Emma, Will and Alison will be driving their cars.

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Group J – Wednesday 16 May

Over the Wall….

What a BEAUT of a day! Even in the early hours the sun was shining!  As we walked up the hill towards the site, greeted by Arwen and Dominic’s Fabulous red beret, the volunteers and archaeologists were well underway, making it appear as if they hadn’t even left the night before. For the last week my group had been concentrating on the mystery that was described as a “prehistoric long barrow”, on the other side of the wall. After hours of mattocking, digging, and troweling we had established that this was not the case. Many discussions and theories later, the most likely possibility for this large mound of stoney clay was in the construction of the dry stone wall, that splits the site in two.

After recording our findings, the four of us then jumped back a few thousand years (of course not literally) and were also split in two. Two stayed on that side of the wall and assisted the rest of group J, with they’re work on trench AK. They did a fantastic job of mattoking and cleaning the Rampart and the stratigraphy can now be seen in the beautiful sections!

The other two (myself included), were allowed to hop over the wall and help out on the excavations on the barrow, in the search for the stoney ring and inner ditch. Although no ditch could be found, there were a few contenders in which will be investigated tomorrow. I finally had my first find, some worked flint! And then some more… and another, lets just say I’m now well acquainted with the recording procedure, which is great news! Although the suncream hasn’t always been needed, and we’ve all finally made use the waterproof trousers our grandmother’s bought us for Christmas, its been a fantastic hands on experience where We’ve had the opportunity to investigate both our distance, and not so distant past!

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Public open days – this weekend!!

Throughout this weekend you can join FREE guided tours of the site given by Dominic Powlesland and other team members from the Landscape Research Centre.

There is no need to book, you just need to make your way to the site and join a tour at the following times:

Saturday 19 May – 11am, 12 noon, 2pm, 3pm

Sunday 20 May – 11am, 12 noon, 2pm, 3pm

We are encouraging people to park at Sutton Bank National Park Centre and take the magnificent walk north along the Cleveland Way to the site (approx 45 minute walk). Details of how to find the site are available from the Centre on request.

Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to visit the excavation site at Boltby Scar!

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Group H – Wednesday 16 May 2012

The day began in the blue sky, cloudless and clear, for twas Wodens Day fewer people than usual awaited for the bus.  The Harewood house people were having their day off, but alas I did not envy them. Days off are not of much interest when digging is to be done.

The StageCoach journey was of little peculiarity, there were no race horses to be seen and nothing of note happened. However arriving at the site it soon became apparent that today would be most warm. The sun, with few clouds to temper it, bore down with such venom. Twas akin to anything the SunBane or Arrakis could deliver.  The heat was made all the more unbearable by the work to be done in the trench. Yesternmorrow we belived we had reached the natural layer, only to be told after much cleaning had been done, that infact one side of the trench was infill from a collapsed part of the rampart, Hence making it look much the same as the natural. Consequently an amount of mattocking was to be done combinded with a middling degree of shovelling.

But, for all the disappointment of not actually reaching the bottom I was not a rabbit of negative euphoria (not a happy bunny), but rather, I liked the work given.  The rain was missed with great sorrow. ‘When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,  And nestlings fly’.

Finally, after around 2 weeks of digging and recording layers, reaching the bottom was rewarded by the sun taking its leave behind a few clouds, thus causing the temperature to drop somewhat to a more reasonable level. I did like the digging part and hence was a little apprehensive about the recording stage. My fears would have to wait though as before any recording could be commenced a small site tour was given across the wall. And then myself and the other person working in the trench were told to help in the next trench along, cleaning part of it while the people in charge took various photographs and thingys in the trench I was originally working upon.

Alas, after doing my best to clear the other peoples trench, and probably not doing a very good job of it, I was told to find a long list of equipment to enable the drawing of the section. Hence myself and the other person working in the trench spent the next middling amount of time attempting to gather everything that could be needed. Needless to say that soon after all had been gathered and only managing to draw 4 points it was Rosemary (Rosemary and Thyme), time to be leaving and return to York. Thus, for all the heat of the day, it was most enjoyed.

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Group H – Tuesday 8 May 2012

9th day of Excavation but 8th day of “Digging” [due to weather issues as the end of last week]

Weather – spotty – rather windy, relatively low temperatures [read chilling] and slight rain showers – shower most severe at 9:50-10:00 am

Today I managed to finish working on my Palisade slot and in time to get it photographed too, at first the area inside the slot was pretty muddy from the earlier rainfall and became rather difficult to properly remove without removing the natural ground beneath that we didn’t want to touch; however, after about 3-4 hours of carefully trowelling and shovelling [with either my hands or a hand-trowel] the mud, silt, clay and general gunk from the slot I finally managed to finish….. Hurray! It was fun to do, trying to figure out what was “Natural” and what was “Redeposited Natural” was quite fun, unfortunately after a while my knees were really starting to hurt…. Bah but it was worth it!

After our final tea break at 2:30 I was asked to attempt to draw a sectional drawing of my slot, after finding the necessary equipment and putting everything together [it was about 3 or 3:30?] I began my first true attempt in almost five years to create a Technical Drawing, in this case the Section of my Palisade Slot – unfortunately I didn’t have time to fully draw the section but will continue on Wednesday and hopefully finish by Thursday at the latest – unfortunately due to sheer rustiness [its been 5 years after all] I’m not very good at Technical Drawings but I know I’m going to TRY.

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