Category Archives: Excavation

Reflections on the 2019 dig

The end of another excavation at Aldborough. It’s always a strange time. After spending weeks closely working with a big group of people, everyone disperses. The minutiae of trench, known in such good detail, buried once more. This has been a very happy dig. The archaeology has been a treat, both answering some questions whilst asking so many more. But perhaps the thing that has most defined it for us were the people.

This year we were joined by 25 dedicated and wonderful volunteers, who worked closely with us in the trench and the finds tent. It is always so interesting hearing how people have come to be interested in archaeology, and the aspects of the dig they find most inspiring. There is a pooling of knowledge and skills on site, and conversations wandered from archaeology, to art, osteology, travel, flying, mudlarking, cookery….. For us, it reinvigorates the task in hand; archaeology is about people, both in the past and the present. And it is about forming community – a shared sense of purpose and discovery.

We also welcomed local primary schools to the site this year. At the excavation, pupils could see what we were doing before sieving for finds, and washing what they found. Site became animated with enthusiastic hoots of “I’ve found a tooth – a TOOTH!” and “look at my pottery!”. The children then visited the English Heritage museum, where the Friends of Roman Aldborough organised other activities. Many of the kids brought their parents to the Open Day to see the dig for themselves.

The Open Day was a success despite the morning rain. We welcomed 160 visitors on hourly tours between 11 – 3 o’clock. They were given an introduction to the site, a tour of the trench, and were shown some of the key finds from the dig.

For the first time this year we ran a weekly podcast SOUNDING ALDBOROUGH (see the ‘podcasts’ page). We had listeners tuning in from all round the world, following the progress of the dig, and interviews with specialists and volunteers on site. Do have a listen if you haven’t had chance yet!

SOUNDMARKS, Rose and Rob’s new Arts Council funded art project at the site launched during the excavations. Sound and visual art will be used to explore the sub-surface landscape at Aldborough. The collaboration will result in an exhibition, sound installation, book publication, interactive sound map, short film, and public workshops in mid/late 2019. Keep up to date with events and follow the blogat www.soundmarks.co.uk

So what now? Well, we hope to be back in 2020! In the meantime, we have an office full of finds waiting to go to specialists, data to sort and reports to write. And we’ll keep remembering that blissful 5 weeks in a Yorkshire meadow.

Backfilling

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Aldborough 2019

Aldborough Roman Town Project: Springs lambs on the spoil heap during the 2018 excavation (copyright ARTP)

We’re really excited to be coming back to Aldborough to dig this year! We’ll be on site 27th April – 1st June.

This year, we are investigating another of the 1924 trenches in the north of the town. We will be excavating an area to include their trench, and new material, just west of the main road heading towards the North Gate.

In 1924 this area formed part of their investigations into the line of the road. They found the very edge of it, but little else is know about what they found. The geophysics results in this area are obscured by ridge and furrow, so we’re not quite sure what we’ll find! We will be looking at the very early deposits in the area of the 1924 trench (digging through backfill will allow us to get to these quickly), and at the late deposits in the new areas. This will allow us to better understand the origins and endings of the town.

We are welcoming volunteers from FORA this year, to assist with digging and finds work. If you are interested, you get in touch via FORA
http://romanaldborough.co.uk/

An open day will be taking place on SUNDAY 26th MAY 10 – 4. More details on this nearer the time, or you can find out more through English Heritage.

We will be blogging and tweeting regularly – you can follow us on twitter @RomanAldborough. There will also be short podcasts from the dig directors and on site! Lots to look forward to!

Aldborough Roman Town Project: 2018 Excavation (copyright ARTP)

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Post-excavation

Another year of digging has come to an end. The trench, once dug and cleaned to reveal all we could, has been backfilled. The turf will spring back and before long little trace will remain of our explorations. But for those who came to look at the trench, memories will stir of limestone walls and the red sands of natural. We planted a few daffodil bulbs to mark the location of the two walls – a small natural reminder of what lies beneath.

It was a fantastic season of digging. We were joined by Donna and Gigi (LS Archaeology) and of course their dog Arwen, Hanneke Reijnierse-Salisbury (Cambridge University) and Jason Lucas (Open University). We were delighted to find internal walls of the north range of the Forum. From a plan of 1770, we worked out that we were digging inside 2 rooms and part of the north entrance. The walls were built of Cadeby Limestone and we are investigating where this was quarried. The floors had been robbed, and there was evidence of late Roman activity in the form of a burnt pit and midden deposits. But beneath the floor levels we were excited to find pre-forum deposits, including burnt beams and wood. We were lucky enough to have Dominic Powlesland with us to complete a photogrammetric survey and the 3D model will be available to view soon.

We’re now in the process of sending finds to specialists and drawing together our findings with the previous Radar survey and antiquarian plans. Exciting stuff!

As well as the excavation, we were joined once again by Leiven Verdonck (Ghent University) who came with his amazing Ground Penetrating Radar array. Leiven continued the survey from 2015 of the area around the English Heritage mosaics, covered new areas in Aldborough Manor and re-surveyed the village green. We look forward to his results in the next few months, but an initial look showed some exciting finds.

It was a really fantastic season, and we’d like to thank all our enthusiastic and fantastic volunteers from Friends of Roman Aldborough. Also to the whole village for being so patient and interested as we dug opposite the pub! We’re looking forward to coming back soon ….

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End of the first week….

Apart from one day of rain, we’ve had a fantastic week digging at Trench 1. We’re down to Roman layers now, having removed a large amount of redeposited 18th – 20th century material. We’ve located two N-S internal walls from the north range of the Forum, in roughly the location suggested by the 18th century plan and our GPR results. We’re starting to get Roman pottery out now, with a range of vessel types appearing.

Next week we’ll be continuing on down to try and find the floor levels, and work out the history of these rooms throughout the lifetime of the Forum.

We’d like to thank all the fantastic volunteers from Friends of Roman Aldborough for their help stewarding, finds processing and their general enthusiasm! You can find details of their events and volunteering opportunities at http://romanaldborough.co.uk/

Roman layers in the Forum, Aldborough

Excavation in progress

Wall of Roman Forum at Aldborough

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