A day-by-day account of the activities of the Rossnaree Archaeological Project 2010-11

Archive for July 7, 2011

Day 4 – Another day at the office

Again, there was heavy rain overnight and the forecast for the day was not promising. Nonetheless, we arrived down the lane to the cabin as usual to get organised for the day and trekked across the damp fields to the site. The cattle seem to be getting used to us now and don’t bother getting up as we pass.

A mattock.
A shovel.

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We continued taking down the ploughsoil square by square in each cutting using spades, shovels and mattocks. There is very little trowelling yet, much to the disappointment of some of the volunteers I suspect, but there will be plenty of trowelling to do fairly soon. Many people don’t realise that it is probably the mattock and not the trowel that is the quintessential archaeological tool. Certainly, the mattock does a lot more work in terms of the weight of material shifted compared to the trowel. It is not a very common tool – you tend not to see them on the shelves in your local Woodies Hardware store – but they are very useful. The shovel, probably a more widely recognised tool, is the essential companion to the mattock.

Find of the day - a blue glass bead.

We continued to collect fiends with flint flakes and flake fragments being relatively common. Animal bone was also turning up, probably indicating occupation and the consumption of meat on the site. However, the find of the day today, and probably the week, was a lovely intact blue glass bead spotted by Niamh between the roots of a plant while being sieved. This is an early medieval artefact type rather than prehistoric, but it is no surprise because of what we learned about the site during last year’s dig. There is still plenty of evidence of Neolithic activity in the flint, and hopefully before long we will also have some Neolithic features as well. The sieves where most of the artefacts are being found. They are really working well and most of the time the soil passes through nicely. However, after showers, which were frequent this morning, things get a bit more messy and working the sieves becomes a bit more difficult. This effect tends not to last too long as the rain only wets the soil surface – underneath the ground is quite dry – and the soil dries out quickly.

Progress so far – Cutting 6. 15 sq m.
Progress so far – Cutting 7. 12 sq m.

 

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Day 3 – Getting the hang of it

A little taste of Egypt on the Boyne.

The gang arrived again bright and early on site for another day’s digging, not having been deterred by the torrential shower of rain the previous day nor by the pretty poor weather forecast for today. We optimistically erected a gazebo to act as our on-site shelter as the cabin is located some distance from the site itself. It certainly added a certain atmosphere to the site, especially when the sun was shining! Unfortunately, in only a relatively light breeze, the gazebo broke. I still have the receipt and will be returning it to the shop. Luckily, we had no need of shelter, in spite of the weather forecast which was less than promising. However, we have the feeling that before long we will need something to huddle under.

The contents of the sieve.

The crew on site today was slightly smaller than other days but undeterred, we continued in both trenches to dig and sieve. Good progress was made as the weather was with us and there were no delays or stoppages. In Area 1 Cutting 6 we started on squares G9 and I9 and by the end of the day a total of six square metres had been cleared completely giving a cumulative total of 9 square metres altogether. The pace is picking up as the crew find their rhythm.

The long walk home.

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In Area 2 Cutting 7 the crew continued to take down squares U12 and T12. They also went back to the squares cleared yesterday to deepen them slightly. We are working down to a level of about 25cm which, although not the base of the ploughsoil, seems to be close. Once all squares are cleared to this depth, we will first of all take samples for lab magnetic susceptibility measurements and then we will trowel over the exposed surface to remove the final skim of ploughsoil. Once this is done in both areas, we should be able to see the intact archaeological features identified in the geophysical surveys.