Tuesday 7 June 2016

Binchester 2016: Day 1

So , we being our new series of project blog entries- today, we hear from Madelaine Ager, one our First year archaeology students:

“It’s the beginning of the fieldwork season and it has fallen to me to start off the blogging of what’s going on at Binchester. Yesterday, our first day on site, the main activity was cleaning the whole site using hoes and shovels. This was an important step because it allowed us to see far more clearly any differences in soil types which might indicate the presence of a feature. Once the site was cleaned small sections containing possible features were marked off and work began on clearing those to determine types of soil and the boundaries between them. The section on which I was working initially showed signs of a ditch running across it but once we had cleared it there was no trace of a boundary. We found sherds of pottery and ceramic building material, as well as bone fragments in our section. We continued our work searching for the boundary today, and our section was merged with the next one because the features appeared to be intersecting. Eventually we came upon the boundary between the dark fill soil and the gravel with our mattocks. We then cleaned up the area using trowels which allowed us to see the boundaries more clearly and define them. “

We should perhaps add,  yesterday was one of the hottest days we’ve ever had on site, and for many of our student it was their first day working on an archaeological project. They worked like Trojans and deserve a hearty pat on the pack (and probably a 99 with a flake!).

Back to Binchester: New season, New trench.

Yes, we're back! Although last year saw the end of our seven seasons of excavation on trenches in the vicus and inside the fort, we're still not finished with Vinovium. This year, we're going back to look at an area close the mausolea that were excavated by Time Team in 2007 (you can see the result of some of the GPR work they did here).

Rather than re-excavating the Time Team trenches, we are looking at an enclosure behind the one that contained the original mausolea structures. Unlike previous years, we are running on a much smaller scale, with just three weeks in the field for the next two summers. We'll also have a reduced team, with around 40 students and 10-15 volunteers. In another change, although we'll be continuing to regularly update the blog, it will now be done by different groups of students each day, with just the occasional intervention from myself (David Petts) or other members of the project team.

As usual, we'll also be updating our Facebook page and our Twitter feed (@RomanBinchester).

Sunday 15 May 2016

We're back! The dead centre of Binchester

It's been a little quiet from us for a while. However, we're pleased to announce we're going back into the field. Although we've completed excavation on our two main trenches (Trench 1 in the fort and Trench 2 in the vicus), we couldn't leave Binchester alone. This means that over the next couple of years we are planning two more seasons of excavations. Rather than looking at evidence for how the Romans lived at Binchester, we are instead going to look at how they buried their dead.

In 2007, when Time Team visited Binchester, amongst various bits of work, they explored parts of two Roman mausolea situated to the north of the vicus. These had initially appeared on the geophysical survey and the key question was whether these distinctive square stone structures were small Romano-British temples or mausolea. Excavation revealed that they were clearly burial monuments and a small number of burials were excavated. Yet, due to the nature of Time Team excavations, the excavation team only had a chance to scratch the surface of this interesting site. So, this year, 40 Durham students and a group of volunteers will be revisiting these fascinating structures in the hope of getting a better understanding of their chronology and to unpick what as going on around the edges of the funerary complex. The opportunity to excavate a major Roman period burial monument is a rare one, and only a handful have been excavated elsewhere on the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.

There are going to be some changes to our approach this year. We have a partial change in personnel; David Petts is taking a well-earned break and will be concentrating on his new project on Lindisfarne. Stepping into the breach will be Durham University academic staff, Sarah Semple and Mike Church with support from Brian Buchanan, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow. Another change is the length of our season; after seven years of two-month sessions in the field, we are scaling back a little, and over the next two years we'll just be running three-week seasons. Some things will stay the same though; we'll have the great professional support of the team from Archaeological Services Durham University, and we'll continue to keep the blog and Facebook page regularly updated. We are back in the field on Monday June 6th, so keep an eye out for updates.

Saturday 23 January 2016

Binchester Party

Apologies for the long delay since the last blog update- but great news; there is going to be a party!!
To celebrate the end of the seven seasons of excavation on the Binchester barrack block and vicus we're going to have (a much delayed) get together.

Date: Friday March 18th 2016
Time: 6pm-10pm
Location: Department of Archaeology, Durham University

We will kick off with a couple of short talks- David Mason talking about the results of the project and David Petts taking a lighter look at what we got up to and thinking about the future - followed by a get-together in the Department of Archaeology common room.

Who is invited? Everyone who has been involved in the project over the last seven years- staff, students and volunteers.

Everyone please bring some food to share! We'll provide paper plates and drinks

If you plan to come please let me know at d.a.petts@durham.ac.uk to I have a rough idea of numbers