Thursday, 28 August 2014

Glendalough Field School 2014: Part 7

The second week has provided students and supervisors alike with a lot of excitement, which has been gradually increasing as we continue day by day. With this we had hopes to kick of Day 7 with a hefty amount of work in order to catch up from the rather disastrous day previous. We begin our daily report in trench 10!

Trench 10:
After a rather disastrous afternoon yesterday we began day 7 with high hopes for a dryer day of archaeology. Trench 10 throughout the day saw a nice amount of activity with the appearance of medieval pottery and flint. With the aims for the day being the identification of the natural these finds were a pleasant surprise. Excavations around the stones also went underway in an attempt to better reveal the possible feature a little bit more. A quick study of a new photo depicting the tea house shows the bank below to be less steep than what is currently present. This could indicate a possible steepening of the bank after the destruction of the tea house.

Trench 12:
With the general theme of this trench being confusion, it was not quite clear what had to be done in order to further understand what was going on. Possible linear agricultural features which run approximately north-west to south-east were excavated further which revealed the natural soil underneath. While it is unclear as to what these features are the dipped shape of the soil in cross section suggests possible plough furrows.

Trench 11:
The collection of large stones towards the eastern end of Trench 11 were removed today and led to the discovery of two post-holes and a potential pit. During the removal of the soil large pieces of burnt animal bone and charcoal were recovered. Just adjacent to the two post holes, it appears that the ditch highlighted in the geophysical survey has been discovered.  The western edge of the trench was cleaned back after yesterday’s rain and highlighted four possible features. Each feature was half sectioned and it appears that two of the four features are post-holes. In the afternoon trench 11 was visited by …… ? (We're unsure of the name of the company filming today and were hoping you'd be able to give us information on that - Thanks!)

In Focus: Palaeoenvironmental Survey

The Palaeoenvironmental survey takes place throughout the second week with students learning the fundamentals of auguring (coring) and how to assess samples. They began the morning by carrying all supplies to a suitable spot in a boggy area near the lower lake. The environmental survey was carried out to better understand the entire history of the Glendalough valley. With the two lakes having been joined at one period in time it is possible to see this through the changes in soil colour at different depths.

Three types of cores were used:
 - Small bore
 - Large bore
 - Russian corer

In the morning the small and large bore corers were used to demonstrate the different equipment used. However due to the open design it is not possible to take accurate samples from these pieces of equipment. For sampling the Russian corer was used. The design of the auger allows for easy sampling at all depths. Missile in shape, it consists of a body and 'fin' which when rotated in a clockwise or anti-clockwise opens and closes the chamber. Sampling revealed a loss in colour when in deeper depths of soil. The bed of an ice age lake is depicted by a metallic looking grey/silver soil while the upper levels show a dark brown soil with decayed wood or reeds.

The samples of the auguring survey were placed in a drain pipe and covered with cling film. They were labelled and given the top and bottom depth as well as the site code. They can then go back for analysis in the lab.

                                   By Emily Geoghegan
Brandon Walsh

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Glendalough Field School 2014: Part 6

It’s the start of a new week and the start of some new surveying opportunities for the students. Using the discovery programme’s previous survey carried out to record the gravestones in the cemetery UCD has gone back over the research to examine the gravestones that were missed. The students began the survey today and will continue until the end of the week. The aim is to record the gravestones missed in a small section of the cemetery.  Despite the rain pouring down and making the drawing extremely difficult the students really enjoyed getting a chance to carry out this survey and found to be a great way to learn this technique of recording.

Sadly the day did not provide a decent opportunity for the students to excavate through any of the trenches for an extended period of time. While planning was undertaken in trench 10, cleaning back and a deeper excavation of the sondage was carried out in trench 11. Trench 12 saw a cleaning back with sieving of soil which revealed a large amount of iron material. It is unfortunate that the field school could not continue for the entire duration of the day however with the time we did have much progress was made which will hopefully lead onto great success in the upcoming days.

In Focus: Graveyard Survey

Today saw the beginning of the graveyard survey in the main monastic complex at Glendalough. The students undertook a range of activities which furthered their surveying skills and applied their knowledge to a research project. To begin the students were taken through the health & safety guidelines. Safety for both students and public was under constant enforcement throughout the day with things such as tripping hazards being monitored.

The survey was taken today in a section near the main entrance to the graveyard. A series of gravestones, slabs, boobie tombs and many other features appear in linear patterns which the students wish to record. They wished to continue with a survey undertaken by the discovery programme which mapped out a percentage of the grave markers in the monastic complex.

In the first part of the morning the students recorded features using a graveyard feature record form. Pictured below, the form allows for a great level of detail to be taken when recording. This intricate procedure allows for an in depth analysis of the graveyard later on.

Later in the morning the students were broken into separate groups and were sent to plan a specific row of grave markers. Using a drawing board, aerial map and permatrace each group was sent to plan a set of graves themselves. They started planning the unidentified gravestones onto permatrace placed above the discovery programme survey pictured below. By measuring two points from known measurements they were able to close in on key points of unmarked gravestones. The entire grave was mapped out in this method and added to the overall graveyard survey. This technique was used throughout the day along with cataloging each feature on the graveyard feature recording form. Below is a set of photographs taken during the graveyard survey.

                                                                                                                             By Emily Geoghegan
                                                                                                                                   Brandon Walsh
Graveyard Recording Sheet (i)

Graveyard Recording Sheet (ii)

Glendalough Field School 2014: Part 5

Day five ends the first week of excavations at Glendalough and saw the end to the geophysical survey. During the second week students will still get the opportunity to carryout the drawing survey but on a much wider scale as the graveyard survey gets under way.

The Geophysical survey has been taking place beside Trinity church just to the southwest of the car park. The students had spent the week carrying out two different types of geophysical surveying techniques. These were magnetometry and earth resistance survey. Before the students got a hands on experience of these techniques, some background information and description of the equipment was provided. During the few days students have had the opportunity to use both a standard resistivity frame for earth resistance survey and a 2-probe gradiometer for the magnetometry survey, both carried out along a 20m grid. As this was just a teaching exercise the readings from the magnetometry survey are not accurate as there was no avoidance of metal that would disturb the probe. Both of these techniques were carried out in the field that is now the location of both trench 11 and 12.

Trench 11 and 12 today had seen great progress throughout the day with the weather holding strong. In trench 11 a sondage running along the length of the northern section was put in place in order to better understand the ditch feature picked up in the Geophysics along with the rectangular enclosure. Plans of the eastern section of the trench where a wall was once thought to have been was undertaken as well. The plough furrows were excavated as well to investigate any possible archaeology held within.

Trench 12 had plans taken of the current present surface. Examination of the different soil colours revealed a possible few sections of plough furrows in rather strange shapes. Excavation of these plough furrows was then taken towards the end of the day to once again attempt to reveal any archaeology held within.

A fantastic end to week 1 of the Glendalough field school, with the weather holding strong and much progress being made through excavation we are one step closer to better understanding the Glendalough valley.  

                                                                                                                             By Emily Geoghegan
                                                                                                                                & Brandon Walsh

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Glendalough Field School 2014: Part 4

The rain and mist didn't dampen the spirits of students at Glendalough today. Today saw new groups getting the chance to excavate at the different trenches and others receiving the chance to take part in different surveying methods including: drawing survey which has been taken place beside Our Ladies church to the west of both trench 11 and 12, geophysical survey and digital survey this week.

Weather throughout the day fluctuated between sun and rain with sun prevailing for most of the day. We had a large amount of rain towards the end of the day which luckily only took place as we were cleaning up.
Trench 10 saw a new day of excavating and students got the opportunity to work along the pattern bank. For many it’s their first experience of an archaeological dig and the consensus is that their loving it despite their aching muscles from being on the hill.  A sondage was opened on the western side of the trench and some more stones have been uncovered with this. The eastern side was brought down to a context just below the topsoil and work will continue on this tomorrow.

Trenches 11 and 12 experienced an exciting day to those previously. Excavation of the eastern section of trench 12 revealed what appears to be a stone structure running north-west to south-east and then curving to the south. To the west of the wall a hearth is making an appearance with a large amount of burning and charcoal present around the area. Agricultural furrows continue to make an appearance to the west of the trench. A plan of these furrows was taken towards the end of the day which will make way for photography early tomorrow.

The students had also been taken on a range of other activities with certain groups doing surveying, digital surveying and geophysics. Speaking with students we received nothing but positive comments about doing each different task.

Trench 12 saw the appearance of less features today. Mattocking and troweling were undertaken earlier today with the rest of the day focusing on the contrasting colours of soil found throughout the trench. The main focus of the day was to better understand what each of these colours may have possibly meant. Finds from the trench included animal bone, medieval pottery and iron work.

All in all day 4 saw the worst weather so far, which didn't hinder the performance of the students. Progress has increased dramatically on both trenches with a range of different discoveries coming from all three trenches. Hopefully tomorrow we can take these discoveries and elaborate on them and their uses.  

by Brandon Walsh
Emily Geoghegan

Friday, 22 August 2014

Glendalough Field School 2014: Part 3

Day 3 saw the continuation of yesterday’s activities in Trenches 11 and 12. Mattocking was undertaken in both trenches along with shovelling. With both trenches in relatively close proximity to one another it is no wonder that we are finding relatively similar archaeological material from both sites.

Trench 11 painted an interesting picture for interpretation during the afternoon with a series strips of darker soil. running north-south. The pattern of light brown with dark brown soil has led to the identification of the striations as agricultural furrows. Finds from the trench include ceramics, glass, different shaped iron objects and clay pipes.

Field School 2014 in Glendalough

To the east of the trench an amalgamation of large stones has been uncovered. With no clear patterns to date it is unknown as to whether these may be natural or not. Trench 12 saw the same mattocking, cleaning back and shovelling as trench 11. A similar appearance of large stones has appeared to the eastern section of the trench. It is unlikely that these bear a resemblance to that of trench 11, however evidence for the heavy agricultural activity in the past at the site is good information as we further through excavations. Finds from trench 12 include ceramics, glass, clay pipes, iron objects as well as a medieval tile.

Day 3 began similarly on trench 10 with the remaining topsoil being removed and the stone feature being cleaned off. Excavations then stopped for the day as a pre-ex-plan was carried out now that more of the stones had been uncovered.

Visitors were more frequent today at the site which gave us a chance to interact with many tourists and a number of locals and it was interesting to hear some of Glendalough’s history from those that live there. At the end of day 3 we are starting to grasp the recent past of the site between the monastic complex and our lady’s church. With heavy agricultural activity being a prominent feature in both trenches we can then expect similar disruptions in the archaeology. Another successful day with many interesting features arising.

                                                                                                                            By Brandon Walsh
                                                                                                                                & Emily Geoghegan

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Glendalough Fieldschool 2014: Part 2

We move onto day 2 of the excavations at Glendalough with the cleaning back of both trenches 11 and 12. The de-sodding and quick clean back left the second year archaeologists with a nice surface to begin working with. Both trenches were then troweled back, followed by mattocking taking place on the eastern and western corners of the trenches. The mattocking was undertaken in order to remove what remained of the topsoil and bring us onto a richer orange-brown soil.

Trench 11 gave way to a range of finds which all appear to be modern in date. Large glass bottle bases, broken glass shards of many colours, ceramics: thick and thin alike, clay pipes and even an iron horse stirrup were among the finds. Discussions with local visitors indicates that the field was used for growing potatoes in the recent past
Field School 2014 in Glendalough

Trench 12 presented similar finds to that of trench 11 with different types of ceramic, glass and clay pipes being found. In contrast to the previous trench however iron nails, a small black bead, two flint pieces and animal bone were uncovered.

Unlike trenches 11 and 12, trench 10 told a different story. The morning allowed for desodding of the trench with a clean back which revealed more stones associated with the three originally found. The stairway however which was originally thought of is seeming increasing unlikely, with more stones appearing along the Pattern Bank which does not fit the structure of a staircase. Examining the area around the trench has shown that many stones are protruding from underneath the grassy bank.. With the only find of the day being a single coin there is still much work to be done to influence our interpretation of the site. All in all day 2 has been widely successful for all parts of the excavation. 

                                                                                                                                    By Brandon Walsh
                                                                                                                                         Emily Geoghegan

Glendalough Field School 2014: Part 1

UCD Fieldschool in Glendalough, August 2013

Since 2009, UCD School of Archaeology has conducted small scale excavations at Glendalough which, despite its iconic status has seen little recent archaeological research. The dig this year focuses around the anomalies found in a geophysical survey carried out in 2011 by Ian Elliot alongside the school.

Two trenches (Trench 11 & 12) have been opened in between the main monastic complex and Our Lady's church in order to investigate these anomalies. The earth resistance & magnetic survey paved the way for the opening to trench 11 which will examine a possible large ditch lined with stones. This potentially could be one of the main boundaries of the monastic complex. Near the western part of the trench there is evidence for a rectangular structure most likely medieval in date. This particular trench aims to answer questions about the early phases of the monastic city.

Geophysics identified a small curvilinear ditched feature which may represent an earlier enclosure. This may present to us a pre-monastic settlement at Glendalough. 

The opening of trench 10 was initiated by the identification of a stone feature along the Pattern Bank located between the monastic settlement and the river to the north. We hope for excavations to reveal part of an ancient enclosure of the monastic city or a structure earlier in date. 

Moving onto the happenings of our first day, the archaeology students entering 2nd year were brought on a brief tour of Glendalough which led them into lunch time. Meanwhile supervisors mapped out and constructed the fencing surrounding each trench. Desodding took place after lunch on trenches 11 and 12 which were then cleaned back directly afterwards. All in all our first day went fantastically, we got all the dirty work done and have made preparations to bring on (hopefully) an even more successful fortnight!

Excavation Newsletters:

  By Brandon Walsh
& Emily Geoghegan
Peace and quiet in Glendalough, August 2013