Archive for the ‘St. Agnes’ Category

Geophysic Results

July 30, 2007

You can view the geophysic and other survey results at

At present they are just data with no interpretation, and I am darned if I can pick out the buried sailors, or any of my entrance graves – hmmmm.  As I have said a dark art this geofizz stuff.  Hopefully Tim will make these images into something…..




July 24, 2007

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. 

St. Agnes Lighthouse- mixed media drawing

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. 

Conversation with N

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. 

Elevation O

 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!

Dave’s Blog 16th July

July 16, 2007

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…


The Geo-physics equipment

Objective 1 – Tean

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.

 Owen hard at work

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

Shipwrecks and Skeletons-14th July

July 14, 2007

Yesterday had left everyone with dampened spirits, also reflected in the weather. Today however, dawned bright and sunny and was great start to National Archaeology Week (NAW).  Settling in today was good given the rain had stopped but we still have quite a lot to work out. It was a bit chaotic with the new routine, we were off to St. Agnes the last of the islands Sally and I hadn’t seen.

 Neither Sally nor I had done any geophysics before but were intrigued. We quickly realised that we were horrendous at the necessary skills despite how much effort we put in. It was a damn good test of  Tim’s (geoarchaeologist and site manager) patience, it took a lot of explaining for our mistakes to be sorted. We realised he’s very good at taking deep breaths when dealing with clueless students.

Helen and Sally geophysing

Should our results be readable, our aim is to hopefully prove the local legend, that some 1400 bodies  from the shipwrecks of the HMS Association and three other ships were buried on St. Agnes’ cricket pitch. With it being NAW, it was really good to be able to talk to both tourists and locals and hear the legend. However, as with all legends, the facts seem to change depending upon who we spoke to, but we really enjoyed  trying to piece it together. 

 We spent the morning setting up all the points and tapes. When we finally got started it took us a good few hours to realise that we were doing it wrong and had to start again! Despite this major technicality we finally got the hang of it and sped ahead with our work. We also discovered that when you sing the readings that need to be recorded it keeps everyone smiling. 

 Spaghetti bolognaise for dinner was awesome despite the puddle of water on the plate from the pasta. (Kim’s serving skills!) Tim is currently uploading our data and we’ve been speculating all day about what we could find. We’ll let you know. We‘ve also realised that within archaeology people have their strengths in certain places but we still had a great day, a challenge is good for anyone! 

By Sally and Amy