It’s the first week of Season 3 Blackfriary, and glory be, the sun shone, the sky was blue and the temperatures hit into the twenties, definitely Blackfriary weather!!!
So after a few preliminaries, the safety spiel from Bairbre, the site tour all around the field with Ian it was time to get down and dirty! Within a few hours the plastic was off and folded away, and the errant weeds that had tried to colonise the cuttings were assaulted with vigour.
Dr. Rachel Scott has come all the way from Arizona State University to be with us for the next four weeks. She lectures in bio-archaeology in Arizona State University and has a research interest in medieval leper hospitals in Ireland. So it is wonderful to have her here as we are returning to deal with the skeletal remains we had begun to uncover within the nave of the church and the cloister area last season.
Day 2 and we were down to serious clean-back and already disarticulated human bone is coming up. We decide to clean down the baulks (vertical faces of the cutting sides) in Cutting 3, and in doing so confirm that we are coming across infant bones with some frequency in the destruction levels, those which formed after the friary buildings had been taking down, plundered to build Georgian Trim. They are full of stone and mortar fragments, and an inhospitable place for such tiny bones. We decide that we will systematically clean the section faces to see if we can isolate any particular area the bones are coming from, and unsurprisingly they are coming from the southern half of the western face, in the area where we had an infant burial last season (south of the cloister wall), and further south of this. This strongly suggests that part of the site was used as a Cillín, a burial ground for un-baptised children which are post-medieval in date.
Archaeology supervisor Joanne, has joined us to put order on the office, and manners on our recording of finds and samples. She will show the students how to deal with finds when they come out of the ground and will reinforce the need to keep proper records.
Finds from the rubble layer, a post medieval metal fragment
Day 3, and the students are being initiated into the mysteries of using the trowel and mattock. Tiredness has set in, jet-lag for some, but they rise to the challenge.
Student supervisor Lucas, and recent graduate of Boston University, was with us in our first season; has re-joined us this season and has uncovered what may be a relatively complete infant burial, so he is going to be busy for the next day or so!
At the end of the week we are heading to Trinity College Dublin to attend the Space and Settlement in the Middle Ages 2012 Conference.