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Roman Settlement Project Blog

Find out what is happening at the Roman Settlement dig by following our regular blog.

Friday 17 May 2014

Paul Dunn, Oxford Archaeology North

The weather has certainly improved and we have again been concentrating on the building area of the site which appears to be turning up some earlier features, possibly relating to an earlier building.

We also had a small digger on site at the end of the week to open up the deeper pits which were partially excavated last year. These may be cisterns or wells and we're hoping to excavate them completely this time.

Many of our volunteers worked with us last year and it's great to see them again. Marlene Nolan from Warrington, pictured with archaeologist Marta, returned to work with us for eight days.

She said, "Both seasons have been a really good experience. All the staff from Oxford Archaeology North have been very helpful. The first season here made me want to improve my archaeological skills, so I decided that I wanted to do an NVQ in Practical Archaeology, which I am now in the process of obtaining. There has been some hard work along the way but I have enjoyed it so far."


Friday 10 May 2014

Paul Dunn, Oxford Archaeology North

Whilst work continued on the various ditch slots through the main boundary ditch along the northern edge of the site, this week we began to concentrate on the area immediately behind the main building.


Volunteer John Laskey from Maryport continued to excavate the feature that Sonia Allen began a couple of weeks ago, which we originally thought was a kiln or oven. Further investigation has shown something more complicated – it’s a number of rubbish pits and a ditch, all containing Roman pottery and iron nails.

The flag floor in the second room of the building was also lifted this week. This revealed a layer containing a fairly large amount of burnt clay and charcoal, and a large amount of Roman pottery including some large fragments of mortaria and a coin (heavily corroded copper alloy). 

We then removed this deposit down to another floor surface. This one was made from clay rather than stone. There also seem to be other features running through this room and the third room at the back of the property.

If you’d like to help out as a volunteer on the dig please contact [email protected] .


Friday 2 May 2014

Paul Dunn, Oxford Archaeology North

Our volunteers have been trowelling the western end of the site nearest the sea this week. The rain over the weekend had softened the soil making it a bit easier to work with.

Once the area was nice and clean we could see several features showing up - small postholes, a couple of pits and a ditch. The ditch appeared to be the boundary to the settlement we were looking for last year, running approximately north to south.

The rain also made other features - probably drainage gullies - in the back plot area more visible.

We had some valuable help from pupils from Crosscanonby School and Dearham School who worked with is to sieve the spoil heap and dig some of the gullies.

Several of the volunteers continued to excavate the ditch which runs east to west through the northern part of the site. This ditch is fairly substantial and may be one of the property boundaries to the building that we are investigating.

In one of the back rooms of the building we have found some trenches. Our current thinking is that they could be post trenches for an earlier timber building. We're going to be digging through the layers here to try to get down to the natural deposits to see if there are any remains of any earlier structures.

We also started to take an area of rubble off on the southern edge of site which was up against the southern wall of the building. This revealed more features which look like fairly large pits.

We carried on cleaning up this area and towards the end of Friday found a small glass bead with gold foil inside. It cam from a deposit containing Samian pottery (red Roman pottery made in central Gaul) which suggests a fairly early date from the 2nd or 3rd centuries.

Thursday 24 April 2014

John Zant, Site Director Oxford Archaeology North

There are still spaces for volunteers of all ages to join the dig. It’s a great experience, but don’t take my word for it, this is what volunteer excavator Jimm Hunt says:

“My time on the dig was fantastic. Volunteers really make this excavation and everyone is friendly and enthusiastic.

“The volunteers are trained in all aspects of excavation that they may encounter by the Oxford Archaeology North staff, who are as welcoming and friendly as they are experienced.

“A highlight of my time there was excavating burnt animal bone deposits. With some of the site staff being bone specialists, I was certainly taught a lot, from bone identification to environmental sampling 

“I'd highly recommend the excavation to anyone - local or otherwise. Everyone is made to feel welcome and included, and there is plenty of archaeology to get stuck into!”

Please get in touch with Steve Rowland for more info on becoming a volunteer [email protected]

Saturday 19 April 2014

Sonia Allen, Volunteer Excavator

What a brilliant week at the Maryport dig - where old acquaintances were met and new ones made.  The weather has been kind to us - dry and mostly sunny every day - in fact it was very sunny today, and it was heavenly to sit in the sun, overlooking the sea and trowel out pieces of Samian ware.  Life doesn’t get any better! 

The first few days I dealt with a barren piece of ground which soon yielded the packed broken remnants of a wall footing - stretching for a couple of metres - running alongside the edge of a large ditch. 

For the last couple of days I’ve had the good fortune to have a lovely odd-shaped pit to examine.  It revealed two separate hearth-like features within it - which may have been the equivalent of a ‘kitchen range’!  The smaller, clay-based hearth looked as if it had been a ‘hot hearth’ with charcoal scraped out to one side - and might have helped provide coals for the large oval feature alongside which was the rather fragile remains of a deep, clay-lined base of an ‘oven’, probably once clay-domed, which may have been used for making bread or ‘slow-cooking’ stews in pottery vessels. It incorporated a huge stone in its makeup which would have held the heat nicely, and it also had a large flat stone at the front to rake out embers, and to rest vessels upon - or to act as a griddle or hotplate - one drifts off into flights of fancy and can imagine anything whilst trowelling away at such an interesting feature.  

Within the pit-fill were numerous pottery sherds of black burnished and grey-wares and a large rim with pouring lip of a mortaria.  There was a very heavy base-ring of a hefty Samian bowl plus a really fine sherd of Samian which had the remains of a cream slip pattern painted on it - the like of which I had never seen before.  Oh, and a dinky little, turquoise, whole melon bead too.

The time has simply flown by and I was really sorry to leave.  I’m returning next month and look forward to seeing what some of the features have turned into.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

John Zant, Oxford Archaeology North

The dig has got off to a great start and the weather has been beautiful this week!

We’d cleared the topsoil off the whole plot ready to begin on Monday 7 April.  Archaeologists and volunteer diggers then soon exposed part of the Roman road and the three main rooms of the building we found last year.

Volunteer Tracy Reed, who came with her daughter Maisie, said: “I found out about the dig on whilst searching archaeology news.

“The dig has been great fun and highly educational. I have been really impressed how the onsite archaeologists have taken the time to explain things in simple terms to my eight year old daughter.

“I would highly recommend an Oxford Archaeology dig to anyone.”

Maisie made a great find a few days into the dig. She said: “I saw what I thought was a piece of Roman pottery. I showed it to John and he said it was part of a bracelet made of glass. We don't know where it came from but we think it was made abroad.”

There are still opportunities for volunteers of all ages to join the team up to the last day of the dig, Friday 30 May.

Please get in touch with Steve Rowland for more info [email protected] 

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