ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
One week of this term’s student excavation at Uppåkra has finished – one more to go – and I could easily fall asleep at 8pm. Possibly a combination of a full week of continuous outdoor work and being on a very windy site (with continuous noise from the motorway as a bonus). Extermely windy today, as a storm was moving in. Luckily we had time to cover the trench for the weekend before the downpour hit.

Uppåkra is a very interesting place: inhabited from the Roman Iron Age to the end of the Viking Age, with its heyday as a high-status site in the Migration and Vendel periods. Unfortunately, we’re not digging at the centre of the site, where you would regularly find nice artefacts (even gold!), but at a craft/production area in the periphery. This trench has been excavated for several terms, but now we’re almost at the very bottom, and it will most likely be finished by next term’s students. The finds are less exciting: postholes, two hearths, some animal bone, some flint flakes from the Stone Age, the odd sherd of pottery. On the plus side, this means that the report will be easy to write, and there is almost no extra cost for conservation of metal objects. The students seem to be happy with the excavation, although of course it’s always more fun when you keep finding things…

If you want to know more about Uppåkra, all the articles about the site have been digitised at the department website: http://www.uppakra.lu.se/uppakrastudier/
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Flygödlefossil)
Do you like fallow deer? Do you want to do a Ph.D.? The Fallow deer project (Fallow Deer and European Society, 6000 BC - AD 1600) wants you!
"The doctoral research will explore the cultural significance of European fallow deer (D. d. dama), their impact on ideological landscapes and their role in cosmologies throughout Europe from the Neolithic to the Post-Medieval period. Issues to be addressed will include how status, gender and religious and cultural beliefs are reflected in fallow deer images and material culture. This will involve extensive research of iconographic representations of fallow deer, their display in material culture and the artefacts deriving from their remains. The doctoral thesis will not involve a zooarchaeological examination of fallow deer remains from archaeological deposits, as this research is being carried out by other members of the project team. Therefore an archaeological background is not a prerequisite." Full job ad.

- Jurassic detective work: fish accidentally snags pterosaur, and both die

- Excavations in Manchester's notorious 19th century slum, described as ‘hell on earth’ by the social reformer Friedrich Engels because of the shocking living conditions.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
It’s cold and dark now, and there aren’t as many Christmas lights in peoples’ windows and gardens as I would like to see. I guess it’s a combination of bad finances and that many people in Oxford live in rented rooms (less storage for seasonal items, and of course you usually go elsewhere for Christmas). In times like this, it’s nice to be able to recall warmer times.

Six months ago I was sent out in the field, to a Roman settlement site not very far from Oxford. It’s a gravel quarry site, and as the quarry expands, we get called in again. It’s the site that never ends, or at least if feels like it. I really like it, as it’s rather easy to dig (unless the ground is very dried out) and there’s usually no difficulties in distinguishing the archaeological feature from the natural ground it’s been dug into (as opposed to other sites I’ve been on). At first it was great digging weather - not nice summer weather, but I didn't care - but as the weeks went on it got hotter and on the breaks we tried to sit in the shade of the vans and the site hut, trying to catch a breeze.

Cut for pictures )
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
It’s my last week on site, and the lovely weather we’ve been having in October (in general sunny mixed with overcast and 15-18°C) has now been substituted for November rain. It’s a clay site, and with every step you get a centimetre taller - not always evenly. I’m sure health and safety would have something to say about walking around on what’s technically high heels.

The last samples have been taken from bone ditch and two transverse sections of it have been fully excavated, photographed and drawn. What remains to do is to excavate the last bits of two buildings, and then we’re done. Despite that it was fun to be out on site, I’ll be glad to be back indoors.

I feel pity for those who have to work outside through the winter - a reality in the UK, unlike in colder Sweden, where most archaeologists either go unemployed or, if they can, take temporary work until the digging season start again. I’m not sure which way is better. In Sweden, you never know if/when you’ll get excavation work the next spring, so the uncertainty isn’t good. Also, most employers like workers who will stay on a while, not just for a few months, so it can be difficult to get a winter job. The archaeology season overlaps with the seasonal winter jobs, so we often can’t take those either. On the other hand, digging in winter (i.e. the cold and rainy/sleety season) is nasty.
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
I was sitting at my desk, working on an animal bone report, when they said, ”Hey Lena! We need people on site urgently and your report deadline is not until November.” So off I went to site.

The last time I was excavating was over four years ago, so I felt very much like a newbie, with patches of memories regarding excavation procedures popping up now and again, and well aware that many parts of my body would hurt in the next few days.

People with little experience are usually put on simple tasks. For me, it was digging a ditch section. Piece of cake! Or so I thought… Midway down the ditch I found a circle of large stones. A bit peculiar, so I excavated the middle, and it turned out to be what looked like a stone lining of a pit. After I had planned and photographed the stones, I started to remove them.

And then things got a bit more complicated: what looked like a smaller stone which had shifted vertically, turned out to be a large stone, c. 40 x 25 cm. Such large stones are not likely to be accidentally positioned vertically in a otherwise slightly sloping stone lining. And sure enough, other stones around this one were positioned diagonally downwards, and there was a gap in between them. Possibly a stone lining of a posthole in the middle of the possible pit. And again it was time to plan and photograph.

And the fun didn’t end there. When I removed the larger vertical and diagonal stones, I found that the ”posthole” extended sideways, now with horisontal stones. Was this a (much smaller) pit lining? Back to the plan, and add the new stones. And below these stones: an articulated cattle pelvis and lower spine. And the table water.

That was my last day on site before heading off to Sweden for a symposium in honour of Elisabeth Iregren, professor in osteology at Lund university, who was retiring. When I came back to site my ditch had been taken over my one of my co-workers and it was now over a metre deep. No more peculiarities apparently.


ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)

January 2019

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