Cuttings, cloister corners and a most exciting find

We are excavating, bone-identifying, paperwork-doing MACHINES! 

Seriously, China couldn’t build a robot more efficient than us!  In only a matter of days, we’ve sailed through Cutting 4, opened a fifth cutting, Cutting 4A, and cleaned up the burials from Cutting 3.  

On Friday we continued to work on Cuttings 3 and 4. In Cutting 3, Ian excavated pristine samples of disarticulated human bone (DHB), including a skull which was completely intact.  He also revealed the top of a human cranium, which could indicate that there’s another skull beneath the first. 

Cutting 3; Skull and skull fragment
Progress in Cutting 3, facing W

The cloister wall, Cutting 3, facing W (Cutting 4 in background)

Siobhan and Jessica finished recovering the infant burial in the southwest corner of Cutting 3, a process which required carefully drawing the position of the skeleton and removing the tiny bones according to type and anatomical position because the bone was not disarticulated.  For example, the bones of the left arm were bagged together, the bones of the right arm together, and so on. 

Burial 3, Cutting 3 (see previous post by Jessica)

Cutting 4 was opened to the west of Cutting 3, to follow the line of the cloister wall. The overburden is shallower here.

Stephen & Melissa working on Cutting 4, facing E

Laura has returned from her holiday (Portugal, if you don’t mind) and was immediately set to work planning the cloister wall for the third time after we realised that the entire plan was off by between ten and twenty centimeters (whoops…!).  Beannan and I found and recovered a mass of DHB in the east section of Cutting 4, a task which took up most Tuesday morning.  Later, after washing and re-articulating the bones, we determined that the DHB and the cranium found on Thursday likely belonged to the same individual, a child. Work on Cutting 4 progressed a fast pace and by Thursday, we had the cloister wall exposed.

Cutting 4, facing E; cloister wall exposed!

On Monday we welcomed a new student, Maggie from New York, who was immediately put to work opening Cutting 4A. Fortunately, the Archaeology Gods have given Maggie the blessed gift of corner-finding, and the corner of the cloister wall was promptly uncovered. 

Cutting 4A opened to follow the cloister wall; SW corner located! Cutting 4 in mid-ground and Cutting 3 in background, facing E

There was also much excitement on site what we realised that the large flat stones being uncovered were actually large rectangular cuts of sandstone which featured arches carved into the bottom.  So far we have uncovered three of these large cut stones; they were found perfectly in line with each other against an unexcavated layer which is likely the west border of the cloister wall. Rain is interfering with progress on site, the team have frequently to dash for cover between very heavy showers. Mud is also an issue in cleaning the stones.


Cutting 4A; Ian & Fin working in the rain
Cutting 4A; three large cut stones apparently placed in line, possibly of the same piece (facing NE)

Based on their orientation and structure, these stones are probably the column caps that would have topped the marble or limestone columns that lined the cloister walls. We also have has a tantalising glimpse at the decoration on the underside of the stones.

Cutting 4A; beautiful decoration visible on the underside or arch of the cut stone

What will happen when we expand the cutting?  Nobody knows, but we sure are eager to find out!  Hopefully, now that there appears to be less DHB, we will be able to move quickly through Cuttings 4 and 4A.

It seems the more cuttings we open and the more we find, the more interested the locals seem to be. Several kids from around Trim have been visiting, and ask about what we’re doing, where we’re from, and what we’ve found.  Two of the boys even returned to help out for the afternoon, picking up rocks and watching everybody dig!  

Trim local Ross helps out with the excavation!

Melissa Clark, Ohio State University

Archaeological Supervisor

11th August, 2011

Melissa finished up on site this week; she will be greatly missed as not only has she done an outstanding job in keeping the site registers in order, but she has also written a number of informative and entertaining blog posts!

 16th August, 2011

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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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5 Responses to Cuttings, cloister corners and a most exciting find

  1. Eileen says:

    Just back from amazing week at the Black Friary. Thanks to Fin, Ian, Maggie, Jessica, Laura 1, Laura 2 and Siobhan for your warm welcome and your infinite patience. I learned a lot and had a great time while doing so. The lunchtime discussions were particularly stimulating! Good luck for the remainder of the season. I hope that I will be able to rejoin you next year at some stage. Best wishes

    Eileen

  2. Jessica says:

    Melissa, great entry! It was lovely meeting you and it was great working with you at the site.
    Cutting 4A is incredible. There are so many interesting finds.

  3. blackfriary says:

    Cutting 4A is amazing! Hope to get more photos up very soon!

  4. Kirsten says:

    I agree with Emma, AMAZING!!! You’ve found so much I feel like I won’t recognize the site when I get a chance to come back! I wish Australia wasn’t so far away so I could have come back this year.

  5. Emma says:

    AMAZING! I don’t think I will ever be able to wrap my head around everything this season (and this site!) are turning up. What finds!

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