Blackfriary Season 3, week 1

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.

L-R: Kayley, Erin, Joan and Anna cleaning back in Cutting 3

Kayley, Erin and Ian examine some bone fragments from the east facing baulk in Cutting 3

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.

Rachel and John

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.

Rachel assessing bone fragments with Anna; Lisanne & John looking on

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!

Lucas excavates an infant burial in Cutting 3

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.

The cows are sitting down – only a 60% chance of rain!

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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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