Tuesday, 24 December 2013

2013 End of Year Round Up!

2013 has been a brilliant year for Elmet Archaeological Services Ltd! In fact, we have never been this busy since our formation in 2009! 

We began the year with a commercial archaeological evaluation at Thrybergh in Rotherham, in freezing conditions and even snow! Our annual Dearne Valley Archaeology Day took place in mid-February with over 100 attendees and 10 speakers. An array of presentations was delivered with local, national and international topics. 

Freezing conditions at Thrybergh

Soon after this the Hickleton Hall Prisoner of War project started which ran for a few months and ended with fieldwork on the POW camp itself. Alongside this project, a number of workshops were hosted on a wide range of archaeological topics from Osteoracheology to Artefact Illustration which were open to members of the public and archaeologists alike. 

Working in the sun at Hickleton Hall

 In May we continued the war theme but focused on First World War practise trenches. Visits to Redmires in Sheffield and Silverwood in Barnsley followed, as did a round of geophysics training with various local groups. These included our regular group from the Oaks Day Centre in Wath-Upon-Dearne. We also had our second commercial job, a geophysical survey and strip, map and record in North Yorkshire.

Beautiful views in North Yorkshire

Immediately following this Hickleton POW project had finished with two weeks of successful fieldwork in July and we were still out in the field, but at Sutton Common, near Doncaster with the University of Hull, trying to find evidence for the Mesolithic period. Christine then went down south to Dartington in Devon searching for more Mesolithic evidence of short-term habitation, again training University of Hull undergraduates in the skills of fieldwork. 

Students hard at work at Sutton Common

October saw us helping Rotherham Archaeological Society to try to locate a possible Roman Fort in Ulley, a project which engaged over a hundred volunteers and local enthusiasts! November was taken over with our final big event this year; the commercial strip, map and record of a cementation furnace in the historical heartland of Sheffield at Kelham Island. 

Great weather for November, at Kelham Island, Sheffield

We also had many smaller projects, we’ve visited schools, held workshops at our Wath offices and we also helped the Brinsworth Local History Group locate a Roman road! Not only that, but we currently host a weekly reminiscences group in our Wath office for older people and we have worked with the good people at Clifton Museum, Rotherham and made many links with other volunteer led organisations. 

The Brinsworth Local History group learn how to use a resistivity array

Currently we are working on several projects that will take us into the New Year; some with local history groups; a First World War project and the archaeological examination of a Norman castle. Not only this, but we have plenty more projects on the boil as well! As good as 2013 has been, we think 2014 will be even better for Elmet! 

Both Chris and Alex would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped us in any way this last year, either by helping out on one of our fieldwork opportunities, or just by generally supporting Elmet Archaeological Services Ltd throughout 2013. We couldn’t be this successful without you!

Friday, 1 November 2013

1 November 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 15

The last day! Today was the day finished the surveying! Unfortunately we were also joined on site by this gentleman.

An uninvited metal detectorist. He had arrived before us and had already made several holes in the plough soil which we spotted as we walked across the field. He told us that he had landowner permission to be there, but couldn't tell us who the land owner was. We know who the landowner is, as we had gone through the proper channels to be allowed access to the field for the project. 

He also ignored our pleas for him to talk to the farmer to tell him what he was doing on his land, then called the game keeper to come and defend his presence (who was also confrontational and aggressive when he arrived). Whilst Elmet are not against metal detectoring on site, we do believe it should fit in with a proper archaeological strategy and should not be a randomly selected hole digging exercise. He had already recovered artefacts from the ground, but as they were taken out of context, they were completely useless for understanding the past. Plus he refused to talk to us about any further finds he made whilst on site.

All we ask is for metal detectorists to work with us and not against us, as this man did. It is deeply upsetting to see that our hard work of the past three weeks can be so easily destroyed by one single minded individual. Especially on the day that the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries wrongly calls metal detectorists 'Heroes of Heritage'.

In happier news, Dave and Brian helped to finish off the final few grids of the geophysical survey. For three weeks Dave has been coming to site to help and this was his first time using the resistivity! He was a natural! We have decided that the lack of Roman artefacts in the field shows that there is little point in covering the whole field and have targeted the important areas instead.

This was finished in super quick time and we had five grids completed before lunch! The rain set in just in time for us to collect the flags from the field and make sure we had left nothing behind!

So, the fieldwork is now over, it's back to the office to write the report and wash the finds. We will need help with washing finds, so please let us know if you are interested!

Also, the project has been featured in the Rotherham Advertiser this week, so please buy a copy and have a read about what we have been up to!

Elmet would like to extend our sincerest thank you to all who have been involved in the project as volunteers and the Rotherham Archaeological Society for allowing us this chance to work alongside them and their members. Hopefully, we will have many more similar projects in the future!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

31 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 14

It was another lovely autumn day today, the sun was shining bright and only a slight wind made for a good working day.

Over the road from us there are a couple of new additions in the shape of these piglets.

We also had another young 'un on site with us, Wayne's son, Noah. It was his first time on an archaeological site but he was soon helping with the geophysics.

With the field walking out of the way, we are now concentrating just on the geophysics, which does mean we only need a few people on site, and here was today's happy volunteers!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

30 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 13

We were going to be back on site yesterday, but unfortunately we were caught up in a meeting and couldn't get to site until everyone had already left! So apologies to all who turned up! However, the weather made up for it today by presenting us with a glorious autumn start!

We began the day by laying out the tapes ready for the geophysical survey. 

By now, our volunteers are professionals at these jobs!

There's no stopping them and it didn't take long to get set up.

 Then the survey was under way and the grids being eating up at a fast rate!

Helen hadn't had a chance to have a go at using the array until today, so here she is being taught how to use it.

Another new-comer was Sophie, she's eight and owns her own trowel! So now we've had an 81 year old on site and an 8 year old! 

We also had another visitor in the form of this hedgehog, it's great to see the wildlife out and about!

Along with the geophysical survey, we managed to complete the field walking of the entire field. We will go over some of the areas again, but it is mostly done now. Here are today's cold but happy volunteers!

Friday, 25 October 2013

25 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 12

Today started off miserable and this seemed to put a lot of people off as we only had five on site today. The rain did clear, however and we managed to get quite a lot of field walking done.

We cleared a lot of the grids in the bottom of the field, so then we headed up to the top near the gate where there was bags full of pottery! This is probably because the farmer has had manure sitting in this area or it is because it is the access path so has had a lot of traffic running through the area. Unfortunately we are still only finding that medieval pottery is the earliest artefacts on site.

Today's team who braved the rain!

We packed up early as there was so few of us, but the farmer is happy to allow us to continue working next week in order to recoup the days we've lost to rain. We still have the geophysical survey to finish off and some more field walking and so we will be taking it on a day-by-day basis, but check our Facebook page and Twitter feed for ongoing news about the work!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

24 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 11

We had a brilliant day today, weather-wise! The sun shone, there was no wind and it seemed to attract the volunteers as we had over twenty people drop in on the site throughout the day.

However, Christine had to be off site due to a family issue, so we were unable to continue the geophysical survey today, but the amount of people on site meant that we could do loads of field walking!

Again, the finds are the usual mix of medieval and post-medieval with no Roman. But Brian did find this lovely flint flake during the surface collection.

Here are a few of today's visitors, we had a bunch from the Brinsworth History Society and others from the Rotherham Archaeological Society and the Dearne Valley Archaeology Group! This project is mixing the groups really well!

It certainly looks like we will be going into next week, just to finish the geophysical survey off at least, so stay tuned!!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

23 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 10

The day started out wet and misty, but the wind soon blew the bad weather away and we actually saw the sun today!

The field walking continued, still the ground isn't revealing its secrets for us though! Lots more medieval and post-medieval pottery, but no Roman artefacts were found.

Maybe we were looking in the wrong place?

Although the pottery isn't really telling us about the existence of a Roman fort we are getting the occasional nice find, like this medieval piece of pottery with a thumb print in it, found by Vince.

However, the Geophysical survey is continuing apace, eight more grids were scanned today! Another good day!

And here is today's team photo, a good turn out despite the early rain!

Also today we had a visit from the Rotherham Advertiser's photographer, for a forthcoming feature in the paper! In keeping with the journalists, Alex was interviewed by BBC Radio Sheffield about the project. You can hear their podcast HERE. The interview starts after about twenty minutes.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

22 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 9

Another rain day this morning meant that we wouldn't be able to do any further work until the ground dries out a bit. Fortunately it seems that most people got the news via the Elmet Facebook page, where we will post any information about working.

It now looks like we will definitely be working into next week, we have lost two and a half days to rain so far and we need to pick them up.

Also in other news, our good friend Dane has been taken ill, so we are wishing him a speedy recovery!

Keep checking back for other updates!

Monday, 21 October 2013

21 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 8

Unfortunately, today we were faced with a downpour of rain. It was so heavy we had to abandon site before we'd even started!

The rain would make it impossible to get good readings from the resistivity meter and the field walking would just churn up the mud, so we made the hard decision to pack in for the day.

Here's hoping tomorrow is drier!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

20 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 7

Day seven began well; with the sun out although a strong wind was blowing all day.  The weather has been very kind to us so far! We had about ten people on site on and off, with people dropping in throughout the day.

We also had Mike McCoy back with us, to help with the field walking. Again, there isn't much coming up that is older than medieval in the fields and some of this could have been brought in from elsewhere.It's slightly disappointing, but maybe the geophysical survey will wield more results!

Speaking of which, on the geophysical survey Rachel learned how to use the computer! It may seem a bit complicated but surveying is easily picked up!

Today we also had two generations of a family join us, here grandson and grandpa work together on the resistivity array.

And grandpa was then joined by granddaughter! Archaeology through the generations!

We were joined by others this afternoon, but here are this morning's helpers!

And further musings on Google Earth shows this possible route of the Roman road excavated in the 1950s. The projected line runs by the side of Penny Hill Lane (the road leaving Ulley on the east of the village) and joins up with Brampton Lane further to the east. Remember, despite the myth not all Roman roads were dead straight and would have followed contours and other natural features as well. Maybe we can see the line of the old Roman road here?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

19 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 6

We were expecting more rough weather this morning but were pleasantly surprised when we arrived on site. The threatened rain stayed away and this was the view which met us first thing.

Alex is away this weekend celebrating the nuptials of our friend Lauren and her fiancée Steve in York. Our Alex replacement is Mike, who was keen to get underway - following a site introduction from Chris for him and the new volunteers.

 The weekend team is a little smaller than expected but were very hard working all the same. We continued to work within the grid we established on Monday, with people choosing to field walk first then moving to geophysics in the afternoon or vice versa. 

Our morning geophysics team included this young lady and her dad - although she's young she's certainly very interested and helped with everything. Here she is with the RM 15 resistivity meter and handling it like an experienced archaeologist.

Our field walking stalwarts were joined by two local detectorists, who had asked to work with us today. We also had a few local visitors who were just interested in what we had discovered and the history of the site.

There was much talk among the team about the site itself and the location of the roads entering and leaving, with people eager to come back and continue the work. Another good day and the rain stayed away!

Friday, 18 October 2013

18 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 5

The day started off cloudy and grey and although the rain threatened, we never got any adverse weather at all! In fact it was a nice day to work in today.

The activities got under way and we had a good turn out of helpers today, with more people coming and going all day. The geophysics team really went for it and broke the site record of eight grids surveyed in a day! Elmet will soon be out of a job!

As part of the project, we intend to involve the local community as much as possible and this is demonstrated by Brian, 81 years young and still doing archaeology!

Meanwhile, the field walking continued and we managed to finish off quite a few squares today.

However, the finds have been pretty disappointing, we have no definite Roman artefacts, just a handful of medieval pottery and lots of post-medieval and modern pottery. Having said that, absence of evidence does not necessarily mean evidence of absence... and we are still keeping our fingers crossed that the survey will produce good results!

Today's team photo!

And finally, whilst idly browsing Google Earth with the plan drawing of the fort overlaid it became quite apparent that there was an interesting coincidence with the roads in the immediate area of the field. Taking Philip Smedley's drawing as a starting point and tracing the line of the road excavated in the 1950s, it can be seen that the projection (dotted red line) runs across the centre of the field and joins Ulley Lane to the west of the field, just at the kink in the modern road. Further to this, that little section of road lines up neatly with the road heading to Aughton Crossroads. The modern road kinks past a modern farm in this place, which wouldn't have been there in Roman times. Maybe this the line of the original Roman road?

An interesting theory, that may be proved by the survey in the field showing the road running through the centre of the farm land. Keep checking back for daily updates!