Sunday the 22nd of July saw the community open day for Season 3 of the Blackfriary Community Archaeology Project. The day ran from 2 to 5pm, with tours of the site every hour. Luckily the rain held off and members of the public were willing to forego the Meath match to come and visit the site. Three tours were carried out and every tour was full to capacity!
Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) director, Dr. Stephen Mandal, started the tour with an introduction to the site, and gave the background and history of the site, setting the context for the significance of the Blackfriary to the town of Trim. Stephen then spoke about the site today and the community archaeology project being undertaken, in partnership with the local authorities, and the Blackfriary Community Group.
Caroline, an intern with the IAFS and graduate in World Heritage Management (UCD), then spoke of the community awareness research project that is being carried out, which is measuring the awareness of the residents of Trim to the Blackfriary site and the field school.
With a warning to visitors about the presence of exposed skeletal remains, the tour then headed up to the excavation itself where supervisors Emma, Jessica and Kirsten brought visitors around the site and explained the archaeological work and progress being carried out in the cuttings. The supervisors also explained the layout of the friary that has been uncovered from the excavation and helped visitors understand its scale and layout. The supervisors are all alumni of the field school and have returned from the USA, Canada and Australia, respectively, in order to continue the development of their professional archaeological skills.
Supervisors Sylvia and Siobhan had set up a small finds museum in the office to explain the different types of artefacts we are finding on site, from bones to pottery. Siobhan, a postgraduate student specialising in osteoarchaeology, demonstrated how bones can be used to learn about the people buried on site; this may include the gender and build or stature of a person, in some cases we may be able to identify personal histories such as injuries, disease, or perhaps physical development or wear patterns that may indicate occupation or activities. Architectural fragments were displayed to show the level of craftsmanship that was required in the construction of the Blackfriary.
Sylvia, a volunteer archaeologist and finds specialist, showed a range of artefacts found at the site. Reconstructions of pottery vessels were used to demonstrate the types of containers that were used at the site; she explained the importance of these sherds, such as the Saintonge pot fragment that was found in Cutting 3, in helping to date burials and understand the economy of friary. Saintonge pottery was in the importing of wine and oils into Ireland from France. The reconstructed pots gave visitors an insight into life in the Blackfriary.
The dry weather (a first for an open day at the Blackfriary) and the great turn out left us looking forward for our next community event!