Repent for the end is nigh! (you should have seen this before proof reading. It stated “the end is neigh!”)
The finality of our departure has just sunk in and a kind of resigned fatalistic gloom has sunk in over the team, not helped by the news that a second sillonian local has apparently perished since the start of our stay on the islands: apparently they just found his kyak near Seven Stones, half way to the mainland. The weather today has also been its usual self and I did not bother checking on it before dressing but just put on the waterproof trousers on automaticaly. However at around noon the weather cleared up a little and our day of backfilling in the rain was over.
In the evening spirits began to rise a little, like bad bread, and I undertook the apparently simple task of repairing a tent. Three hours of playing with needles and elastic later, I finaly got the bugger standing without any more poles rupturing and could at last calm down enough to realise I felt heartely sick, an expereince made worse by the uttely alien sight of Sly Dave sans facial hair. It could be worse; last year he started the Scilly dig with long-ish hair and shaved it to his now familiar black fuzz mid dig to the horror of all.
However I was soon cheered up by the awards ceremony cooked up by Edd, Owen and Rhys. Neadless to say that most of what was spoken is not fit for repeating here and it was a small mercy that all those under 15 were of crabing at the time because the language used was as colourful as a electric chamellion on bad acid locked insde a 1970’s discoteque. I won’t evern mention the role-playing and the acting out of the months most embarassing moments. My two awards were for best bum-bag and site know-it-all, both of which I accepted with my usual upbeat enthusiasm, although I was was envious that Rob and not me got the “most likley to kill everyone” award for his action with the imaginary bazooka. As if my staring down the EDM crosshairs at passing tourists and making “Bang! Clink-Clink” noises and making bolt action gestures all month was any less inpressive. I also refrained from booing for nearly all of the event. Unusualy braced by this we fell to discussing the meal we had just eaten. The quadbike sent to get food came back with two small boys that Jacqui and Ian had lost, but no chicken. Rather than eat that had been delivered, ala Hannibal Lecter, the quadbike was sent to recover the missing food. The errant poultry fillets were eventualy found in the road, in a puddle. Did it fall or was there fowl play afoot?
Aftrer that I walked to the pub with Jacqui and Rob. Three Archaeologists walk into a pub. Unfortunatly one of them is Jacqui and as the format of that particualr jopke is three blokes walk into a pub we’re working aganst the grain from the start. Speaking of working against the grain I plan to drink as much of it malted as I can and hope it can’t work against me. And in the pub there is a computer. Thus blogging happens, or is happening, or had happend from your point of veiw as unless you are a seer of have a really good long lens camera you can’t actually see me as I type this. I hope. And thus blogs, and digs, become self referential and end not with a shout, but with a whimper. Or a drunken song. Or Meta-Humour.
So here we are (well, your not here. If you were you could just ask me rather than reading it in a blog) at the end of the road (again, metaphor, there is no road to speak of- although now I think of it Bryher only really has one road and the pub is at the end of it so in theory we’re safe). The group has fallen to musing, drinking and discussing the philisophical ramifications of subjecting others to our purely interpretive veiw of the past gleaned though the last four weeks hard slog and our careful understanding of herminutic spirals where our understanding of the question asked about the past changes as does the question, and so that to answer it the mind spirals ever inwards to deeper levels of understanding of the world around us.
Well, one out of three isn’t that bad I guess.
Having never been to the islands before, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I’d heard that the Isles have their own sub-tropical climate, but the storm we came over in, on Friday 13th, didn’t do much to keep my optimism afloat! The following day, though, brought gladly received heat and light. I went off with the St. Agnes posse, who were doing the geo-physical survey of the cricket pitch, where reputedly, the bodies of the drowned sailors of the 1707 disaster were buried. I conversed with several local people, including an 85 year-old, who has lived on St. Agnes all his life. He told me of the day mark, built 5 years ago, and how it aligns with the lighthouse to inform seafarers of the deepest channel. Other locals said that the lighthouse was built in the 1600’s (though no-one knew quite when). It was fuelled with coal and most unreliable, the flame often going out. I wondered if this was a contributing factor to the ships that went down in 1707(?) and made several sketches of it. The geo-physics was not the most visually inspiring activity to observe, though the concepts involved may be useful in working things up during the summer.
Sunday 15th saw my first visit to Samson, what a place, 19 medieval house ruins and tons of history. Charlie gave some of us a guided tour and I spent most of the day absorbing the atmosphere. The next few days saw me working on drawings at Bryher and being involved in the workshops at St. Mary’s school. Both days were productive and fulfilling, weather still good. The children at St. Mary’s were eager to participate, polite and produced some great artwork. Weds, Thurs and Friday saw me back at Samson, Ian offered to teach me archaeological drawing and I jumped at the chance to learn new ways of producing visual language. I did elevation drawing for two days, which I thought might be tedious, but turned out to be quite enjoyable. Although this took a lot of precious time from my other work, it was well worth the effort. The drawing looked impressive, though not anything like my natural style. I am working out ways to incorporate it into my drawings (and future paintings).
Friday and Sunday I spent on Samson. I’ve been particularly drawn to the house ruins. I’ve found that each day I spend there, I respond to a different building. It’s not deliberate, it’s like a conversation that you can’t, or don’t want to, get out of. The most prominent buildings are houses N, P and C. House P sits on the horizon of South Hill and can be seen from everywhere (I viewed her from Bryher this morning). House N is also a prominent feature on South Hill and to me is the most beautiful. N has a romantic charm that can be captured from many viewpoints. N and P, we have to look up to, both for their physical location and their impressive dominance within the landscape. They are like eternal spirits, looking down upon us. The reality is, of course, that they’re just as vulnerable to the erosion processes that age and weather all things, stone or flesh.
I realize now, how important the archaeological surveys and recordings are, not just to gather information but to generate the awareness that helps to maintain such structures/spirits of the past. House C is a very different matter and is viewed from above, resting peacefully in the saddle at the bottom of South Hill. My conversations with C have been briefer but equally as rewarding. Of course the other house I’ve interacted with is house O, who taught me elevation drawing.
Yesterday saw the worst weather yet and a force 8 gale saw some very worried campers. Jacqui organized us into rescue posses and we spent the morning helping folks resurrect or take down their tents. We fared remarkably well with only the loss of 2 tents! The rain was relentless and most of us spent the day in the pub.
Today? Great weather again, everyone dried out. A large team went to Samson to continue work there. Myself, Jacqui, Edwina, kitchen crew and kids at camp on Bryher, doing’ the things we do!
Well, the boot is defiantly no more. Since I was last pressed ganged into web-logging we have not only failed to recover my footwear but also lost Sally from our dig team as she departed for normality, or as close as you get to it in York. However we have gained small children and extra members of staff. The small children attacked Rhys during the lunch break today, instantly proving their worth. We have also gained a foreign masters student. However, although tall, blonde and pretty, Rose was not Norwegian or Swedish as previously advertised but is in fact from Seattle, State of Washington, America-land. She is doing a masters in Celtic Studies and was roped into this in the most bizarre and horrible way; she volunteered. Today was her first day of archaeology ever. We all got up bright and early before 8am. We were then informed the boat would be delayed until 10am and we could have slept in late. However we had better than average meteorological conditions; miserable and not so much overcast as hung-over with clouds in the morning fading to the precipitation in the French onion soup of the afternoon with the croutons of rain and weird grated cheese of sardonic technical failures.
First the EDM control point we were setting up on sank. Then the tripod sank and then fell over. Then it sank and fell over and slipped. Having got the EDM set up without it actually having spontaneously combusted in a sad and Pythonesque manner, it refused to cooperate when switched on and took until lunch to decide to work properly. So we had lunch in the last few moments before the rain started its relentless yet doomed attempt to retake the land by parradrop. Well fed…well, fed… we began the task of surveying the old gig-house. The gigs would have been used to reach ships quickly to offer piloting services around the hazardous waters of the western coast of Brittan for a fee and competition between the islands for this cash lead to the tradition of gig racing that still endures and lives deep in the Scillonian memory. The recent death of a gig rower has overshadowed the islands terribly of late and the legend of Samson always ends with the sad tale of the womenfolk of the island being evicted on humanitarian grounds when the men died in a gig accident and they were left unable to fend for themselves. However of the gig shed little remains archaeologically save two rows of stones parallel to the sea, some visible on the surface where the flanks of rock jut out like broken teeth, others lying hidden below the surface.
So we set up and began surveying. It was a long distance survey and so required the walkie-talkies to communicate and without these devices, both of which I had carefully charged the night before, we would be utterly up the via cloacae without a paddle.
Ten minutes in, my walkie-talkie died.
So the day ended thus; as the day’s last half dragged on like the 4th circle of hell or Enya’s last album, I would sight down the EDM lens to spot the staff and take a reading. As per normal I would record the results when the laser was done firing. Then I would, rather than say “ok, next point please” into the radio, run up the hill to a spot where I was more visible, jump up and down flailing my arms about like a passing lunatic stuck on an electric fence, and run back down to stare down the lens and see Helen staring back sisterly with binoculars, small children pointing and laughing in between squinting into their binoculars, Rhys yelling at Rose to move, Matt directing Rose where to move too and Rose soldiering on with the EDM staff at the arse end of the worlds least efficient communication system since Mad King Ludwig the Third of Bavaria said “I have seen the future! Forget those old fashioned pigeons, I have two words for you; carrier limpets!”
And as I saw this, with her looking so forlorn in the stealth rain (light, but of a species that sneaks up on you, making you damp from precipitation and sticky from perspiration at the same time), a question came to me;
Why did she get such a better first day in archaeology than everybody else?
We were split into two teams today, one going to Samson and the other staying on Bryher to help with the Open day. I was posted to Samson. We all sleepily departed at 9.10am. The boat journey soon woke everyone up; even those slumped in their seats half asleep. No-one ever seems to tire of the journey.
I was put on the task of drawing a section of wall in house J whilst the others dug in the trench. It was tedious at first but I soon got the hang of it and was able to finish the drawing. Lunch time brought lots of laughs with Helen falling flat on her face after tripping over a rock (she was fine and even laughed) and Matt and Rhys attempting to wrestle, not particularly successfully I might add.
Those who stayed at camp began their day washing finds from Tean. There was, unsurprisingly, lots of animal bone and pottery. After that they headed to the community hall on Bryher ready for the open day. A relatively large amount of people turned up and all had plenty of questions to ask, keeping them busy for the rest of the day.
The journey home on the boat was a welcome relief to the hot day and was made even better by the fact that we had ordered pies for dinner. A rather strange topic of conversation for the evening was that of an archaeological horror film with killer birds which forever seem to try and enter the mess tent and the weapons we would have including mattocks as well as trowel throwing!! Don’t even ask how we got onto that topic!
Tomorrow is our day off, so it’s off to the pub tonight (no surprises there) and a nice relaxing day tomorrow.
Another day in the Scilly Isles and today we were digging on Samson for our second day of National Archaeology Week. We had a slightly earlier start than usual, and a different boat too, getting the Firethorn instead of one of the usual smaller boats we hire. All would have gone swimmingly had it not been for a select few (i.e. Ed, Owen and Rhys!) who decided to nip to the shop first and make us 10 minutes late! However, once we got there, all ran smoothly.
I was working on House O, right at the top of the “Hill from Hell” as we have now dubbed it, due to it’s long, steep climb. Whoever used to live there must have been extremely fit! I carried on digging the trench alongside the house with Kim and Owen and we managed to get down to the next context. Further excavation continued on the houses there, as well as the other archaeological surveying methods such as using the EDM. On the whole it was a day spent tidying the area up for the sake of recording, using a variety of media, and showing around the tourists who flocked to the sites. The only bad event of the day was Kayleigh being the first victim to the hogweed, making me grateful to be wearing long trousers!
Later on, due to it being Sally’s last day here, she asked everyone if they wanted to jump off the pontoon into the sea to mark the occasion and we were all more than happy to oblige! We took it in turns to run up and jump in (some keener than others!) and it was freezing! Most were eager to get out almost immediately, only to find that the pontoon was almost impossible to get back on! There was some diving for the less sane and i chose to have a short swim once i’d gotten used to the icy water! The mad shenanigans continued later on with rounders and overall, i’d say it was a good day for Cardiff Uni’s archaeologists! 😀
Dydd Llungorffenaf16 mynd draw I ynys St Mary a nofio yn y morgyda physgod jeli porffor gwenwynig, AAArgh
Dydd Mawrth 17 Gorffenaf Aethom ar gwch cyflym I ynys St Martin,cerddon ni am ugain munud I’r safle sef, Knackyboy Cairn, bedd mynedfa tua 4000 blwydd oed. Roedden ni yn mesury maes magnetig, I ddarganfod pethau o dan y ddaer.Roedd yn angenrheidiol I wisgo dillad heb unrhyw ddarnau metel. Roedd Enda a Daniel cystal wrth y gwaith a rhai o’r myfyrwyr. Ddaethom o hyd i dri darn o grochenwaith a llawer o darnau bach o esgyrn wedi’u llosgi.
Roedd y cwch bach yn ol I Bryher yn lot o hwyl gyda dwr yn tasgu dros yr ochrau ac ynein sblashio.
Ar y maes pebyll rydym yn helpu coginio I trideg o bobol. Rydym ynprynu ein llysiau gan Paul Jenkins, y ffarmwr a darganfyddodd cledyf drych, un union rhai sydd yn stori Michael Morpugo, @The sleeping Sword’
Today I caught a boat to St Mary’s to visit the local primary school. I went with Sally Brown, Edd, Rhiannon, Ted and the lovely Edwina. The aim of the school trip was to teach children from Year 7 to year 9 about the wonders of archaeology. Once upon arrival at school we started to set up the equipment for the daily tasks. The first year group to come learn the wonders of archaeology was year 9. There were only four pupils in this group. Sally started the presentation with a general introduction to archaeology. At this point I was still friends with Sally but in the next few minutes she would shock me to my very core. We had a previous understanding that I was going to talk about the archaeology of Tean but she jumped me in the deep end and asked to speak about Knackyboy. This is the only excavation I have had no experience and I had very little knowledge on the stated subject.
However the man that Rhys is was able to step to the challenge and in my professional opinion passed with flying colours. After the short talks on archaeology we separated the pupils into three groups; one group was leaded by me and Edwina our chosen subject was clay pottery. Edd and Ted took control of the art of artefacts, Ted was very good with children but Edd lacked the necessary skills. Rhiannon and Sally took control of the art of weaving with potatoes. This was basically the main concept with the Year 8 and 7’s. Hopefully all the children of Five islands secondary school enjoyed themselves because it was a very interesting and enjoyable time me and the rest of my team.
When dawn broke, neither fresh nor rosy fingered, I found I had gotten lucky last eve. The offending earwig, to whom I am referring, did not appear to share my sentiments and demonstrated this by writhing between my cheek and the groundsheet – clearly she found my advances too amorous. The misery of this morning did not last long and as the oppressive damp greyness retreated, so to did my hangover.
Today the whole team, with the exception of Edd and myself had their shackles cast off and were permitted to roam the islands as they pleased; swimming, shopping and eating dainty treats while we attempted to create presentations for tomorrow’s open day on St Martins. We did have a slight issue involving loosing a whole mornings work but I wont bore you with the details. Lets just say ALWAYS REMEMBER TO SAVE YOUR WORK!! Due to the evident lack of archaeological activity today, it seems an appropriate time for a recap on the progress thus far…
Work on Tean is now complete for this year. The excavation of the Romano-British midden has yielded countless fragments of bones belonging to large livestock (sheep, cattle and pigs) as well as rabbits, birds, rodents, fish and of course endless blessed limpet shells. The highlight of the finds from this ancient rubbish pit would be tiny, but definite, fragment of whale bone. These many finds have and will continue to provide invaluable information as to the diet of the inhabitants of Tean during the late Roman period (AD200-500). Excavation on the post-medieval farmhouse has revealed cobbling and a tiled path leading from the door. Geophysical and electronic surveying have been performed to discover any unknown underground features and record the existing buildings.
Objective 2 – St Martins
Work on Knackyboy cairn is now also complete for the year, and a great number of core samples have been taken to provide an accurate electronic map of the prehistoric land surface upon which Knackyboy was built. The hazardous void into which we nearly lost several students for all posterity has now been filled and no longer presents a threat to student and public life. Within said void we found a linear formation of granite which could be, well, just about anything. I also feel compelled to mention that I found the only 3 pieces of flint fragments on the site, one of which was a carefully crafted, but broken, flint blade.
Objective 3 – St Agnes
Our quest to find the bodies of the crew of the HMS Association and other Ships of the Line, which were shipwrecked in 1707, have so far been fairly unfruitful. Further analysis of the data gathered by magnetometry and resistivity survey may yet reveal something or provide scope for further investigation. Rather humorously, the site in question lies directly underneath the St Agnes cricket pitch and the semi-naked archaeologists prancing up and down the wicket provided endless amusement in the pavilion.
Objective 4 – Samson
Despite plenty of unsuccessful previous attempts to rediscover the two gig sheds on the saddle of Samson. we have managed to discover one. Much to the joy of the sodden men hacking their way through the undergrowth, who actually found them by falling over them! Black and white photography of the buildings is complete and the excavation of two new trenches are well under way. One has revealed an excessive quantity and the other an excessive quantity of mud.
From my self and the goat of Bryher farewell and adieu…Dave Fung
The second day of digging at Samson was approached with some trepidation as the weather forecast was torrential rain and thunderstorms. Luckily for us all, these did not materialise; the (not torrential) rain eased off at 10.30 and we had a successful day.
I was working in a trench just outside Building O, carrying on from yesterday’s work, trying to find out whether the bank which the house was built into was a lynchet, and also trying to get evidence to date it, as Charlie is hoping that it is prehistoric. At the end of the day we had not found the answers to these questions, but the trench was a lot deeper! We dug down to the second context, and on the way found some post-medieval pottery and thankfully no limpets. Kim and Dave were also digging in that trench, so Dave had to suffer a day of ‘girl talk’ which he said wasn’t too bad… Kim’s highlight apparently was chucking mud all over me.
The other group on Samson was digging in/near House H, and discovered a possible end wall to the building, and also a ‘spaceship landing site’ according to Rhiannon and Milly, and to all the others an ornamental garden.
The team at St Agnes were doing both geophysical and topographical surveys; they were rushed as they had to survey the cricket pitch before the match at 2.30!