2010 Field Season – Black Friary Day 20-23 (3-6 Aug-10)

Blog by Gabrielle Gill, Wagner College, New York

Getting back to Cutting 1

Tuesday August 3, 2010

On the morning of the third Cristina (the first Italian student for IAFS) and I joined Lori, Christina, and Shayna to wait for Fin to pick us up for the first day back at Blackfriary, and for Cristina and I’s first day with IAFS. Neither of us knew what to expect, save for the stories we had heard from the others about Bective which heightened our excitement.

When Fin came to collect us there wasn’t room for all of us in the van, because she had already picked up Siobhan, Jesse, and Lucas so Shayna went along and the rest of us waited for round 2. This gave time for my nerves to work themselves up. This is my first dig and everyone is more experienced then me. However it didn’t take long for my nerves to calm themselves- after we got into the van I realized how friendly Fin and all the girls were. Even if I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I felt like I would not be afraid to ask.

I am not sure what I was expecting the site to look like.. but this was not it. It was overgrown with tall grass, and when we first pulled up there wasn’t evidence of anything. The others from the first drop off crew had gone to “the house” and fetched the tools which I would soon learn the names of. After managing to get the gate opened we took the tools up to where two cuttings had been made. To me and my untrained eyes it looked like some rocks and some garbage bags. But underneath the black plastic was where the students in June had begun digging.

Fin explained the site and the general layout of what, between their knowledge and the remote sensing, they believed to be below us. Where the digging had been started was most likely where the church was. While the others started removing the backfill, my first job in the Irish Archaeological Field School was beating down nettles with a spade. I did not know what a nettle or a spade was. While deductive reasoning helped me figure out the later, I asked Fin exactly what a nettle was, however it wouldn’t take long for me to learn the hard way as one swiftly lodged itself into the outside of my palm.

Luckily that task did not last too long as Fin decided to call the city council to get them to clear the field. Then I got to switch with Cristina and Lori clearing out a hole, at this time there was only room for one person, a hand shovel and a trowel. I hopped into the hole really pumped to get to do something then looked up at Fin and told her this was my first time holding a trowel. She acted like it was no big deal and showed me how to go about it. It was awesome.

It was muddy and smelled terrible, and rained off and on. I loved every minute of it, even though I was just removing dirt which had already been taken out and put back again. I had been wondering for months if I would actually like the act of digging, and I did J . It didn’t take too long for us to clear out the backfill, and since we couldn’t do more work until the grass was cut down we ended digging a little early and replaced it with a walking tour of Trim. We went to St. Patrick’s church, Yellow Tower, and Trim Castle, which are described earlier in this blog.

After our walk a few of us remained in Trim to use the Internet. Then as we trudged back to Mary’s in our boots and covered in dirt, I knew this is what I want to do with my life.

That night I dreamt about digging.

Wednesday August 4, 2010

Extending Cutting 1

As we waited for Gianmarco (who was running on Italian time) to pick us up for day 2 at Blackfriary I was jittery with anticipation. Today the city council would cut the grass and we could be excavating new territory and see new features.

Today there was also more people, four Irish volunteers I had not met yet. Stephanie, who had been with CRDS since Bective and three other girls Denise, Caroline, and Maureen who would just be there for the rest of the week. It is really awesome to have a blend of people from different backgrounds working together on a project like this. Aside from being hard workers these girls are hilarious and very friendly. The combination of all of us was really great. I realized this other aspect of archaeology that I hadn’t thought of too much before because I was too worried about the logistics. The truth is one of the great things about it is the interactions and relationships within the group of us. I was learning how to do things I had never done and what a maddock was, but I was also having fun and getting to know other people from around the world.

After a few hours of work we had exposed a large portion of what appeared to be fallen wall. I was working in another hole fit for one, cleaning it up- mostly just fallen rubble but I found my first find- a vertebrae which looked to belong to a horse given its’ size. I wasn’t exactly uncovering any archaeological mysteries here- but I will remember that moment forever.

Later Gianmarco explained the grid to us and how to set it up, and the formula to make sure your square is even and straight.

Progress in Cutting 1

Before I knew it, it was the end of the day and we were tidying up very well because Fin informed us that a government senior minsiter and other important delegates, along with the press, would be here tomorrow!

Thursday August 5, 2010

Extending Cutting 1 further still

Thursday was a big day for us. The morning consisted of prepping for the press and continuing working on the areas around the exposed features.

Gianmarco was teaching Cristina and I about the type of information CRDS includes on their fill sheets, cut sheets, wall, sample register, worked wood recording and drawing (plan) level sheets. He also took the time to explain what the terms on the different sheets meant as some differ from the American, Italian, and UK terms. He also told us that not only does each country do it differently, but each company as well because there is no international regulating organization for archaeology. As he was telling me how leveling works, I noticed that Fin was leading a small heard of people in suits through the high grass up to the site. The VIPs had arrived, and I could see the Minister and other dignitaries, and journalists with press passes and notebooks, and a lively camera man with enough personality for us all.


Fin gives site tour to Minister Noel Dempsey and delegates from Trim Town Council

As they approached I could hear Fin telling them about the history of the site and they all stared at the work we had done and watched us go about our business. Eventually the charismatic photographer jumbled us all together for a photo after which a journalist interviewed Cristina, Shayna, and I.

After the press left and a lunch break some of us got to go and look at two of the skeletons that had been removed from the site last year, checking for traumas that had been missed and learning about them in general. It was the first time I had ever seen and touched a real skeleton. Lori who wants to be an osteologist showed me how the vertebrae fit together, and where you can see fractures on the bones and previous wounds in the skull. It was really cool!

It was a good day for seeing parts of being an archaeologist that isn’t actually digging in the dirt, I learned a lot and it was a good day!

Friday August 6, 2010

Nearing the base of Kirstens Wall (see Day 15)

Friday was a bittersweet day, we finished our first week, and a lot of people went home. Siobhan left for Dublin Friday night, while Lori and Shayna were to leave Saturday morning, it was the Irish girls last day, and Cristina would be leaving Sunday. It was a weird feeling because I knew that after today I would have to get used to a whole new dynamic that didn’t involve helping translate for Cristina or laughing at Siobhan, or having Lori around to be “the same person as me”.

Work wise we continued digging, mostly clearing out massive amounts of rubble around the fallen wall. Fin said she thought we may have a bit of the bell tower given the curve of the stone. The weather was rainy and at one point we had to seek shelter in the van, and that was a great way to end our time together because we got to all hang out- many were leaving too early to go to the pub so instead we sat in our muddy clothes and talked about where in America the girls must travel. No one agreed on anything but for the record Jersey sucks. Sorry Lori. J

What a difference a week makes

So I hope that everyone who left made it home safe and for those still traveling I hope they have great time! I really enjoyed getting to know all of you and thank you for all you taught me!! You will be missed!


About Irish Archaeology Field School

The Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) is Ireland’s leading provider of university accredited, site based archaeological research and training. Our archaeological and heritage programs include research projects in a number of locations in Ireland, including in Co. Wexford and Co. Offaly (with satellite schools frequently undertaken elsewhere). We provide credited and uncredited programs (and internships) for novice and experienced students, and also specialise in the preparation of purpose-built faculty led programs incorporating excavation, historical research, remote sensing, non-invasive survey, ground investigation, landscape assessment etc. Whilst our programs are excavation-centered and aimed primarily at students of archaeology, anthropology and history, courses are open to all, and are guaranteed to give you an enriching and thoroughly worthwhile study abroad adventure.
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2 Responses to 2010 Field Season – Black Friary Day 20-23 (3-6 Aug-10)

  1. Siobhan Swiderski says:

    Great job Gabrielle! Wish I was still there with ya!

  2. Emma says:

    Look at the progress you guys have made! I am so excited to hear what is happening, and I wish I could just jump on a plane and head back over! I’m sorry to hear about the nettles experience, Gabrielle, but we all have to learn sometime! The first round on the dig, two of our girls learned what they were by falling in them and getting them in their ears!

    Go figure, the grass has grown back. Keep up the good work everyone!

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