We got loads done today: progress on all trenches, coring and geophysics, and the first of the school parties out with us. Thanks to everyone involved.
Our geophysics is carried out in collaboration with Ian Elliott, who runs his own archaeological geophysical consultancy. Today we were working in the ‘Pattern Bank’ immediately adjacent to the main monastic complex. The photograph shows the students doing earth resistance survey (or ‘res’), which looks at the variation in the soil’s resistance to an electrical current. Ian will also be doing magnetometry (‘mag’) which looks at variations in magnetic response (not quite the same as a metal detector). It is remarkable that no geophysics has taken place around the monastic enclosure at Glendalough before. Our results are important for decisions about how to manage this landscape.
Geophysics at Glendalough
I was rather busy today, so didn’t get to see the coring team but Steve was delighted that they had got to 9m deep, and Christina was very excited to have a piece of late glacial lake mud wrapped up in cling film as a souvenir. The sequences in the long cores are very complex, showing changes from lake to peat to erosive deposits. They will repay very detailed mapping and laboratory investigation as we attempt to unpick the history of this landscape.
Trench Five (Kim’s Trench) was very interesting. Having finished lots of planning, we were able to carefully and delicately start removing tumble from the cross base.
Excavation is a delicate and careful process. And just in case any of the relevant authorities are monitoring this – this photograph was staged! You can tell – Kim isn’t wearing a hard hat.
This seems to show that a more formal cairn sits atop an earthern mound. We look forward to exploring this in more detail tomorrow. A probable plough furrow/narrow ditch runs up towards the cairn and it is hard to see how it can stop before it: at present it seems likely that this furrow runs under the cairn, which would provide powerful relative dating evidence. We excavated features exactly like this in 2011, and they are post-medieval in date.
Furrow or narrow ditch, running in (and probably under) the cross base, Trench Five.
Trench Six (Neil’s Trench) was completed today. Several amorphous, complex features were present beneath the cultivated gravel. Our colleague Helen Lewis is an expert in soils and the archaeology of agricultural landscapes and believes that we have evidence of a phase of open furrow cultivation as well as cross-ploughing. These have left the ambiguous features seen in the photo below. All plans and formal photography was completed, which means that we have to double check some of our records tomorrow, but we’re basically done. Some students even got to sample the joys of backfilling…
The amophorous features are to the right of the scored line (and the left of the puddle).
The completion of Trench Six meant that we could open Trench Seven (Neil’s new trench).
Clearing topsoil from Trench Seven
I was particularly pleased about this because I got to spend the lunch time doing a mid-excavation plan of the trench.Planning stones is a part of archaeological fieldwork I love, and I get very little chance to do it nowadays.
The field drawing of Tr 7 plan
Trench Seven examines the low earth and stone bank that surrounds the caher, and seeks to establish the relationship between this bank and the drystone wall and look at what the bank is built of and on. Finds from the upper layers are dominated by very modern material.
Neil was delighted to give these a finds number.
Our initial observations indicate that the caher is built directly on the stones of the bank – with no intervening soil deposit. This may indicate that the bank was landscaped, or scarped, to provide a flat surface to construct the caher on.
Visitor numbers were good today – the weather helped. There is so much interest in what we’re doing, and Thomas and Mark play an invaluable role in helping us manage these visitors. It is always interesting to gain a sense of people’s perspective on the landscape and the past, and talking about what we’re doing and why is a very good way of doing this.
Visitors at Trench Five