Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Digging has begun!

Yesterday, the first of our volunteers arrived on site for the first day of the #DigBromsgrove excavation. One of the questions we were asked by a visitor is how the process of setting up an archaeological excavation takes place. So, here's a quick introduction to how we got from car park to archaeological site.

Site chief Richard Bradley directs the machining

Last week, we marked out the area to be excavated, then removed the modern deposits associated with the Market Hall and car park with a JCB. The machining was directed by Richard Bradley, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation.

It may sound strange to start a delicate and painstaking archaeological dig with a big mechanical excavator, but with a skilled driver and careful supervision, it is possible to remove very precise layers of material by machine. This Youtube video is a great demonstration, as Time Team's star digger driver Ian Barclay peels a banana using an excavator! As soon as we reached the archaeological deposits underneath the modern levels, the machine stopped and we awaited the arrival of our volunteers.

The site, machined and ready to be cleaned
The first crucial task on any archaeological excavation is to give the site a good 'clean', which in archaeology-speak generally means removing any loose material left by the machine, and then scraping back the top surface of the archaeology with a trowel. The aim is not to 'dig', but rather to reveal the archaeology more clearly. A good analogy is to think of sanding a tarnished piece of wood -  removing a very thin, even slice helps to bring out the grain in the wood, as a good trowel clean helps the archaeology to show up clearly.

The 'clean' is essential because before we start 'digging' down through the deposits, we need to have a clear idea of what we're looking at across the site. It will help us to start to think about the relationships between the different phases of archaeology and features across the site, and to plan which layers we'll excavate first.

After the first day, the site is already looking a lot cleaner, and the features and deposits are starting to appear as our hard-working volunteers toil away in the sweltering heat.

Our Volunteers giving a lovely demonstration of good trowel-cleaning
 Today, we'll continue the cleaning, and hopefully we'll be able to start seeing how the archaeology in our trench matches up (or not!) to the historic maps we've been studying. Fingers crossed!

Rob Hedge

No comments:

Post a Comment