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

Day 20 – The last day

First of all apologies for the delay in putting up this post. Friday was a hectic day but we got  there in the end and since then I have been taking a bit of down time and catch up on some of my other responsibilities.

Oil seed rape being harvested.

As I said, the last day of the dig was hectic with recording finishing in each trench as well as backfilling. The minute one of the cuttings was finished there was a crew waiting with shovels and barrows to move the spoil heaps and fill in the trenches. The pressure was on to get everything done in one day and not have to return too the site over the holiday week-end to finish off, like we had to do last year. Spurring us on to some degree was the harvest which was started in Rossnaree today. To be fair, the farmer said he would do the other fields first and he expected to be into our field on Saturday. Even if he did get to the field we were in, he said he would work around us and the cuttings. Nonetheless, we worked flat-out to be able to clear the site and give him a straight run at it.

Cutting 7 from the west.

Matt and Sophie in the site office.

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Matt finished looking at the possible feature in the south east corner of Cutting 7 and he drew it up and filled out the context sheets. Darren and Kevin took points over the excavated surface especially in the area of the graves using the total station. Hopefully, this will help with the final presentation of the excavation results. Watch this space over the coming months for the result! We also made sure that the length of each of the cutting sides was drawn to get some kind of an understanding of the ploughing processes and the degree to which ploughing may have truncated the archaeological features we encountered.

The last break-time on site.

The last cake! Check the stratigraphy.

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In Cutting 8 the final jobs to be done were to add some detail to the plan that had been started a few days previously, to take levels – thanks to Darren, Kevin and the total station for this – and then to draw the sections. This was achieved quite quickly and both Cuttings 7 and 8 were ready to be backfilled almost simultaneously.

Ciara metal detecting.

An unusual feature of our programme of backfilling at Rossnaree was the metal detecting of the spoil. Kevin, while on a previous visit, had scanned the spoil heaps to see if any metal finds had been overlooked in the sieving process. A few modern bits and pieces had been picked up. Kevin took the opportunity to repeat the process as the spoil was being moved because the detector was unable to scan the complete volume of soil while it was piled up. Thus, as each barrow was dumped in the cuttings, he scanned over the material. Surprisingly, in spite of the very methodical sieving, we got quite a good haul. The items recovered were indistinguishable in the majority of cases from small stones or small lumps of earth and without the detector, it would have been difficult to identify them. While many of these items are probably relatively modern, given the age of the site and that there was settlement activity, it is likely that some at least are quite ancient. The post excavation process will be interesting! As you can see from the photo, some of the other volunteers had a go as well.

Cutting 6. The pressure was intense...

So much paperwork...

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In Cutting 6 again the initial job was recording with the section across the oval enclosure being completed and drawn, a job duly carried out by Eimear and Kieran. Kevin and Darren took points with the total station and we also numbered and filled out context sheets for each of the layers visible in each of the three sections. We also took soil samples of each of these contexts as well for magnetic susceptibility and plant macrofossil analysis. While we were doing this we recovered an artefact that had been sticking out of one of the sections – an iron socketed implement that Matt immediately was able to identify as a weaving tensioner. I will hopefully get more detail on these items at a later stage but at the moment I understand that they were used in cloth making and that they broadly date to between the seventh and the tenth centuries.

Cutting 6 backfilled.

Eimear carefully removes the tensioner.

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It was after 7pm when we finally finished the backfilling – a huge thank-you to everyone for gritting through long after normal finishing time. Thanks also for the ‘dig-out’ from Fin & Co. who arrived shortly after 6pm and gave us the boost we needed to finish.

Some of the team.

The next phase of the work will now be off-site and involves the writing up of the preliminary report on the season of excavation for the National Monuments Service  who granted the license to excavate and the Royal Irish Academy who granted the funding. All of the finds bags will be checked and catalogued, and similarly all of the various soil samples will also be checked against the register. The site drawings will be digitised and prepared for the report so there’s a lot to do even before the post-excavation work properly gets underway. I will be adding posts to the blog intermittently as new work is carried out or other jobs are completed so don’t forget to check back occasionally to see what is happening with the project.

Thanks to all of those who worked on the site, giving their time so generously, to the landowner for granting us access, the farmers affected, the Royal Irish Academy for providing the funding and also to all of you who visited the blog. I am encouraged by the number of visitors and hope that you all drew something from your experience. I certainly did!

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