Monday, 14 October 2013

14 October 2013, Ulley Roman Project Day 1

we have begun our long awaited Ulley Roman surveying project today, despite the threat of rain! We are working with Rotherham Archaeological Society to try and identify a possible Roman fort or camp in the village of Ulley on the Rotherham/Sheffield border. The project is a memorial project for the late Philip Smedley, who helped create the Rotherham Archaeological Society and also identified this possible Roman feature.

Philip studied aerial photographs which had the tell-tale sign of crop shadows which indicated possible ditches. From this he drew up the plan below of the possible fort:

This was drawn up in 1958, with some later amendments and as far as we know has never been published before. Philip also indicated some Roman roads which had been excavated by Dorothy Green in the 1950s and 60s, at least two of which can be seen to lead into the field. Very little has changed in the field since 1958, except a few houses built on the road on the left of Philip's plan, here is his plan overlaid onto a modern Google Maps picture of Ulley:

So if Philip's presumptions are correct there should be remains of the ditches in the southern area of the field! An exciting prospect! RAS approached Elmet to help carry out a geophysical and fieldwalking survey of the field in a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and today was our first day on site.

We were initially faced with a downpour of rain, but the plucky volunteers elected to brave the weather and begin anyway!

We began to grid the entire site in 20m x 20m grids, ready to for the survey and fieldwalking. We can then give each grid a specific number so we know exactly in the field where the survey points or finds are located. This will help identify areas of concentrated pottery assemblages which may help identify underlying features. Also we will be able to overlay the geophysical survey data onto a modern Ordnance Survey map.

Gridding a site is dependent on knowing the magic number of 28.28 and this was drilled into the volunteers. 28.28m is the length of the hypotenuse of a triangle that will have two sides of 20m long each, so for a right angled square the diagonal line between two corners should measure 28.28m as a square is only made up of two right angle triangles! OK, enough maths, here is a photo of the volunteers gridding the site:

We thought that the field would be too big to finish in a day and estimated that we'd still be at it tomorrow as well. However, the volunteers soon picked up the process and the entire field was covered in twenty metre grids by three o'clock!

Yes, it was a great result for the first day and certainly put us a day ahead of our estimations! It means that tomorrow we can begin the survey immediately.

It is interesting to see where the field sits in relation to its surrounding landscape, Ulley village sits on a plateau of high ground and you can easily see over to Sheffield, and in Roman times, over to Templeborough Roman Fort and even Wincobank Hill Fort. So, this location makes perfect sense from a military point of view.

And finally, here are today's intrepid volunteers who braved the rain to help in an exciting project!

There'll be more updates coming tomorrow, so keep a look out for further developments!

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