Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Seeing the light of day

We'd like to share some great infrared photographs of the site taken by Peter Jenner using a full frame fisheye lens, showing the early stages of the excavation of the buried cellars and some of the finds recovered from them. We hope to feature more of Peter's photos as the dig progresses.
Bottles recovered from the infilled cellars
Yard surface and well to the rear of No 2, Lich Street
The mechanical excavator has now completed its work, and our archaeologists are out in the spring sunshine carefully 'cleaning' the exposed areas. 'Cleaning' in archaeology is the process of scraping back the loose top surface of material, usually with a small pointing trowel, to reveal the subtle differences in texture and colour that mark the boundaries between different deposits - much like sanding a piece of wood to reveal the grain.
'Cleaning' the site
Once an area is clean, we begin to examine each deposit to try and understand how its composition, how and when it formed and how it relates to other structures and deposits. Sometimes, like in the case of a rubble deposit that has been tipped into a cellar, this is simple, but often the boundary between a buried garden soil, a rubbish pit or an ancient foundation trench can be marked by nothing more than a subtle change in a shade of brown!
Filling out the records
Each different wall, floor, structure or deposit gets a unique reference number, and is photographed and recorded on a 'context sheet' and a scale plan. This record is vitally important, because in many cases it is the only chance that we have to understand the site before it is lost or reburied.
Hearth within cellar at the south-west corner of Lich Street and College Street
It is strange to think that many of these cellars are seeing the light of day for the first time: in most cases, they were excavated beneath existing buildings, and were infilled when those buildings were demolished around them, only to emerge into the spring sun hundreds of years later during these excavations.

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