2010 Field Season – Black Friary Day 16 (29-Jun-10)

Blog by Sam Neilson, Australian National University

Unfortunately yesterday I was ill and missed out on a lot of progress made by the team in both cuttings. This morning when I arrived at the site I took the first ten minutes to wander around the site and look at the progress that had been made. I noticed that significant work had been done in both cuttings, except that no one had touched my narrow 50cm wide trench in Cutting 2 that I had begun Friday last week. At first I was thankful for this because there appeared to be an interesting feature occurring roughly a quarter of the way along from the west edge of the cutting, which seemed to be another line of solid stone and mortar foundation running north/south. However, as I would discover later, this trench would prove to yield nothing for me except a little back pain.

First of all I will recount the work undertook in the cutting that I have been working in, Cutting 2. In total we had seven people working on different parts of the cutting, all trying to accomplish a similar goal but in the end yielding a different result. I continued on the trench I have already described and began with trowelling out loose stone at the base of the wall (Feature 102) searching for the edge of the wall and hoping to uncover the same void (Feature 105) between the wall and layers below it that Emma had found in her section on Monday. I found this void in the wall at roughly 10cm below the starting level of the day, and from there, using a mattock (my favourite) and occasionally a trowel when a delicate touch was needed, I slowing dug down into the trench hoping to get through the loose stone from the toppled wall and outline the new foundation I thought I had found. After several hours of intense mattocking I realise that my new foundation is nothing but a large chunk of mortar that did not crumble into rubble and the rest of the section is composed of the same loose stone in soil until the end of day stopped my exploration at a depth of 30-40cm. And there was much rejoicing. Yaaaay!

The rest of the C2 gang had a far more productive day then me. Emma, continuing on her section connecting the north edge of the wall and the north wall of the cutting, began to explore deeper into earth and uncovered a shard of a human cranial vault lodged between two stones. Luckily it was not damaged badly and is still a fantastic discovery that was found in what has been labelled Feature 106, which is the layer below the void found in the wall because we determined that that is where the wall would have landed when it fell, therefore everything below was already there when the wall fell. Ryan, with help from Nigel, continued the stimulating task of planning the wall which proved to stimulate some interesting conversation from him. Rob was exploring deeper into the section at the southeast corner of the cutting and after several hours work he uncovers the most interesting discovery of the day, a stone that had ridges carved down its length in the image of an old Greek Corinthian Column. There are several theories to its purpose, the most popular being; it is a part of a window frame, it is part of a door frame or it is part of the decoration for the corner of a wall. After much discussing it was decided to leave it in context seeing as it is roughly 40cm long, 20cm wide and 15cm thick, and therefore too large to bag. Sam and Jessica continued on the section on the west side of the wall along the south edge of the cutting. They dug slowly through the dense concentration of loose stone (Feature 104) until they uncovered two particularly large stones that they could not find a way around and even though their progress was slow they produced the best conversation of the day with discussions on the Power of the Penis and my experiences in Amsterdam standing out.

The work undertook in Cutting 1 by Elle, Kirsten, Meg, Caroline and Pearl was concentrated around what they had started the past two work days, sections either side of the wall foundations at the south end of the cutting. Meg and Caroline explored the southwest section by digging through Feature 6 in which they found a long flat stone, similar to and on the same level as the once discovered in the section on the other side of the wall. The preliminary thoughts on this are that they are the face stones of the wall while the rough stone and mortar that is seen in the exposed wall is actually the core of the wall. A possible later medieval belt buckle was also uncovered in this section. Elle, Kirsten and Pearl made great inroads into a mini section within the larger southeast section in an attempt to uncover the bottom of the wall. Digging in a new feature (Feature 7) and so deep that Kirsten is almost lost within the hole, they uncovered a tarsal bone that is likely human and another large block stone which further supported the theory that these are the face stones of the original wall.

Along with the day of eventful excavating, Gianmarco enlightened us with a quick explanation of why we use the seemly outdated planning and drawing methods. Firstly he explained that we do not draw from photos for two main reasons; they are a conic projection of an image which creates distortion, and when taking a photo, things closer to the lens appear larger than those that are further away. Gianmarco also showed us a method of drawing using pictures which was used at the previous excavation at Black Friary. By taking a large amount of photos of a feature with specific points marked that have had their exact position recorded by a GPS and then creating a collage of these photos, one can put all this information into a computer and accurately draw a plan of the feature. This requires the proper software and equipment on site but can severely shorten the time it takes to plan a complicated feature.

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About blackfriary

The Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) is Ireland’s leading provider of university accredited, site based archaeological research and training. The Blackfriary research project is part of a community archaeology project, based in Trim, Co. Meath. Blackfriary is a 13th century Dominican abbey site; the archaeology includes the buried remains of the medieval abbey and graveyard. Students that participate in the excavation experience and practice all aspects of archaeological excavation processes, learning from experts and leaders in their field, and contribute to an established archaeological research project. IAFS have been excavating at Blackfriary since 2010; students participating have come from all over the works including the Australia, Canada, Europe and the USA.
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