Archive for the ‘Tean’ 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…..



Nick’s blog- 20th July

July 20, 2007

Friday 20th July

 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. 

The great wrestle!

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.  

Guests at the open 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.


Captains Log Thursday 19th July 2007, 21:09:70

July 19, 2007

Today in the words of Rhys was ‘absolutely mental’.

Samson was the destination of choice for the crazy gang. Departing on the Firethorn vessel, the pride of Bryher and on equal pegging to the Death Star and a Robin Reliant combined, at a sharp 09:15 and arriving at Samson on the sands at 09:32. A long and arduous journey through the rough and unpredictable Scilly seas; many a good man has been swallowed up by its’ mighty wrath. Sally became one of those men today and she will be sadly missed (i.e. she went home on the Scillonian!).

At Samson, whilst Aidan was planning sections of the post medieval garden adjoining house H found in a trench last week, Millie and Ted planned the interior walls of house O, accompanied by Eleanor and Sarah, who planned the suspected prehistoric lynchet, also at the mega site that is house O. Owen and Edd whose undoubtedly royal credentials and work rates that have often made handy Andy look like Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen, were clearing the potential old Woodcock gig shed on the south of the island. This task, not possibly but definitely, the most colossal on the island was taken apart as they slashed vegetation mattocked earth and trowelled soil until their hands were blistered and cut, feet ached and ankles slashed, defeat never in question they fought on like Spartans (but they had three hundred and we just two). By 17:00 the gig shed was taking shape – as was Owen’s sock tan lines – the lines of the stones exposed seemed to show a larger than expected structure, however the old maps refer to the presence of the gig shed in this location.

The Boat Home

 At Tean was an open day for the public to come and see the archaeology of this Roman and medieval site, including a Chapel, Farmhouse, post Roman house on a midden and a series of trenches. Visitors were coming off the bench like the British at Normandy. A good time was to be had by all, with the exception of the poor souls back filling the trenches. All in all a great day, once again in the words of Rhys Davies ‘absolutely mental’.

The Tean Team

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

Robert’s day

July 12, 2007

The day started out pretty slowly and it was a slightly hung over group that travelled to Tean this morning. There were three groups today with three distinct purposes; one to survey the area around Bennygate Hill and one to photograph the Bronze Age chamber burials on Cruthurs Hill. The Bennygate Team including Tim, Nick and I got a free tractor ride that almost ended their day but produced smiles all around. The luggage unloaded, they began to assess the area around the cairn by using ground resistivety and magnetometry to determine any topographic features. In the results 2 distinct features were discovered, one being to the north of the Cairn and one right angled structure to the south east. This might suggest further burial structures or some sort of complex to the Hill site. The mist could not hold back the ramblers and soon visitors came to the site to discover some of the methods used in Archaeology.

The photography was carried out by Rhys and Amy, aiming to catalogue the existing chamber burials on the hill. The site comprises of three distinct promontories each containing an archaeological feature, but another chamber burial was discovered by the pair in their exploration. Much of this involved the tedious endeavour of removing gauze to get the best picture. This had previously been overgrown by vegetation and proved a good rediscovery, expanding the importance of the site.

Chamber of tomb on Cruthers Hill, St Martins

The Teän team continue the surface excavations of the Chapel site digging further test pits hoping to expand upon the knowledge of its layout. The Roman Midden, which in itself in contains several periods of use, produced a hearth that was further excavated and the trench was expanded. Another rectangular building found to the south of the Chapel had cross excavations begun and a rock floor quickly emerged in the surface layer. Clearly the day, leaving some hot and bothered, meant that Owen and Ed went for an evening swim to cool off and return to St Martin’s. Ed almost drowned, rescued by a passing boat, but Owen managed to make its all the way across and the massive smile on his face proved dividends for his efforts.

The returning groups was greeted by Chef Dave who had spent the day collecting his ingredients and picking flowers as the entourage of a perfect meal. Let no-one say us archaeologists don’t take our work seriously with the perfect garnish being just as important as the perfect hole.


Kim’s Blog- Wednesday 11th July

July 11, 2007

Today dawned bright and sunny (as usual) but soon became grey as the clouds took over (as usual). Sarah and I had been asked to go to St. Mary’s to help out at the museum and, because the boat was later leaving the usual boat to Teän, we had an hour to kill. We used this hour to not only lament over this extra hour we could have had in bed (!!!!) but also to wash over some of yesterdays finds, while talking about them to passing campers who expressed interest.

 We were accompanied on the boat to St. Mary’s by Sally and Millie who were going to visit the school in Tresco. After saying goodbye, we went to arrange boats to our dig sites during National Archaeology Week (Do come and visit us if you can!) before wondering up to the museum.

 We were greeted by Amanda, the Museum Curator and Natalie, a volunteer. Our days task was to re-arrange the display of commemorative China. Highlights of the day included a visitor being so appalled at our pitiful technique in un-screwing the cabinet, that he did it for us. The Prince Charles and Princess Diana China were put on the same shelf as the Charles and Camilla China (well…. It was funny at the time!).
 We returned home to be greeted by sun and slight showers. Our hopes were further lifted by the Pies from the Butcher, which in my view were the best I have ever had! In other archaeological news, Teän saw much sieving and animal bone finding. The site was also surveyed and Geo-physics continued from yesterday.

Tim and Helen doing geophys on Tean 

Aidan sadly still has only one boot! We were all distraught at the fate of the other one after the search in the seaweed came up empty handed!

 Amy and Rhys continued photographing the site. I am also told that the water was rather cold when it came to getting in the boat – Rhiannan and Kayleigh suffered from wet foot syndrome all day when they decided to jump in to get ashore with their boots on.

 Back at base camp, Megan continued the finds washing, while Matt augered at KnackyBoy and Dave made him jealous by finding a flint dagger. He also interviewed Ken Rose, an inhabitant of St Martins who recited the story of Knackyboy for the camera crew (also known as Helen).

All in all a good day, and seeing as I’d spent most of the time before on Tean, it was nice to have a change of scenery. We now have only two days until we depart  to Bryher, which we’re looking forward to.

By Kim 

Samson with Aidan

July 10, 2007

Site blog, 10th July 2007.

Today was a day of four important yet separate archaeological expeditions from our base in St Martins.

On St Martins the excavation team continued to auger down to try and discover the ancient Bronze Age land surface, the discovery of which could help in bettering our understanding of the approach to the Knackyboy monument and the impact it may have had in the past looming over the land, visible from the other tombs and from which the other tombs could also be spotted, with the now flooded lowlands of Scilly, possibly the source of the mythical Lyonesse, lying behind.

On Samson the survey team and I checked the position of the EDM total station base stations from last year and tied them into the national grid by backsighting to a bolt of known coordinates left on the island by the ordinance survey. By doing this we can check that the wooden pegs left from last year have not moved and we can use them as points of known coordinates to set up the EDM during the work yet to commence on Samson and so accurately record the position of walls, features and finds. We also set up two new surveying base stations to help record the possible gig house on the neck of the island and the as yet poorly documented buildings beyond the crest of south hill. I also took the opportunity to test the ability of the EDM’s 5 times magnification to get a close up look at bishops rock lighthouse, spy on passing boats, and generally get all the voyeurism out of my system before national archaeology week.

On Teän the geophysics team set out to try and locate the buried walls of the early-modern farmhouse and search for other buried features. As yet the results are being processed and are in flux to some degree, but as opening the box can determine is the cat is dead or alive I am sure some event will occur to collapse this academic wavespace and ensure we no longer have both useful results and no useful results, as is the current situation. The use of the GPS was however far more decisive and with the GPS base station set up we can now take the position of the GPS rovers to within a few cm as the base station will continually check the position of it’s stationery mass and by comparing this to the satellites and other base stations tell the rovers where they are in relation to objects on the ground as well to orbiting multimillion dollar patriotic shrapnel, creating a far more accurate signal (legend has it the GPS is more accurate when the USAF is operating as air force top brass in the pentagon makes the GPS system deliberately unreliable except when it is needed by American fighter-bombers. This is probably an archaeological urban myth, but it is still worthwhile doing surveying when there’s a war on the news, just in case). Militarily ambitions aside (all your base station belong to us), with the Base station working well on Teän we should find surveying the island much simpler. The continued excavation of the roman midden and post roman hut also vomited forth a ridiculous amount of animal finds, making me quite envious as I was working there yesterday and didn’t find as much preserved animal bone as the others.

And the fourth mission of such importance it overshadows these?


Yesterday when the planning boards blew away on Teän I, bravely and nobly in the spirit of self sacrifice, leapt up gazelle like (but in a totally masculine way) and grabbed the board before it went in the briny, saving us all from fishing it out of the drink and the evil smell of wet permatrace. However I was in the act of changing into my sandals so I could navigate the rocks to get on the boat back without wetting my boots at the time, and so rather than remain unwetted my boots remained unremembered. As a result rather than get soggy hoping through the surf to the transport they endured a violent undersea odyssey (Das Boot?). So Ian was despatched to track down the errant stealies and recovered one of the pair. And so the prodigal footwear, righty, came home. Alas his sinister brother is still M.I.A, and if the magnetometer dos not pick him up tomorrow (waste of Uni resources? Misuse of equipment? What misuse of equipment?) then perhaps realisation of his loss will dawn. But as yet the other shoe has yet to drop.

Yrs, Aidan

Captains (B)Log Stardate 09 July 2007

July 9, 2007

Steve playing island skittlesWe have now been working here for over a week and, whilst the weather has not been entirely kind, everyone has developed as a minimum a great navvy tan (on the face, back of neck and hands).  We have survived torrential rain and high winds, but whatever we get here seems mild compared to the strange weather on the mainland (floods and hail) and our lack of communication (no TV, newspapers, and radio very intermittently) has increased our sense of bewilderment when we hear of terrorist attacks.  

All tents remain standing; they are a source of worry to me – what do we do if we get wiped out?   However, even our 70’s frame tent on Tean, which is standing up without much of its frame, is clinging tenaciously to its upright form.  The sweepstake on its demise is favouring those who voted it would still be standing at the end.

With regard to the archaeology, I remain unconvinced that our blog provides anything other that a frankly bewildering account of boats, rain and mud so I thought I should try a summary.

Firstly St Martin’s, at Knackyboy Cairn, the entrance grave (a tomb with a chamber containing the cremated remains of the dead) we have cleared the vegetation (again) so the site is visible. 


Then using an auger (a large corkscrew on a stick) we have been examining the surrounding landscape.  From last year we know the entire area around the monument is covered in windblown sand and we trying to map the buried ancient land surface.  In one of our 2006 test pits we found a line of stones and further excavation has indicated a substantial wall running inland from the monument – the age of this is unknown and it may yet be post-medieval.  There are accounts of sand blows in the 17th century that caused the islands to be abandoned, so we may well be looking at build up from this event.  Today our geophysics chap, Tim, arrives so we will be trying to trace the wall over a larger area.  We have also discovered the cause of the strange holes dug into the monument – they were foxholes during the war! 

Elsewhere at Old Stable the test pitting has revealed a concentration of flint, but in no great numbers.  Coastal monitoring has recorded a number of flint tools eroding out in front of Knackyboy Cairn and by the Old Quay; both are previously recorded find spots.   We will clean up the sections, photograph and record these areas.  Mel, our flint specialist, is pleased with her haul and has gone home happy. 


Tean is a beautiful uninhabited island, and the multi-period site in East Porth evokes a real sense of time.  The site was first dug in the 1950s by Charles Thomas and we are continuing his work. 

Charles Thomas - the previous excavator returns

The oldest part is a Romano-British midden (rubbish heap of shell, fish, bird and mammal bones and organic waste) with a semi-subterranean structure built into it (a possible hut).  Nearby are a couple of fired clay ‘platforms’, which have been interpreted as corndryers.  This part of the site is eroding and we are examining the surviving deposits looking for pottery or other datable material.  

The next recorded activity is the burial of a four bodies in long stone lined ‘cist’ graves.  These include an older ‘toothless’ woman whose head lies under the altar of the later built chapel: Charles thought she may in fact be St. Theona, after whom the island is named.   A stone built chapel overlies these graves, and a series of later cist graves were then dug.  These ten graves included four young children and evidence of leprosy was found in some of the skeletons by Don Brothwell (the details were published in a paper in 1961).  After analysis the skeletons were returned to the islands and possibly reburied in the Tresco graveyard.  We do not know if these people were related, where they came from, their diet or over what period they were buried – all of which modern analytical techniques could tell us if they were still accessible – never mind.  The chapel lies within an enclosure that we will be examining by geophysical survey to see if more graves are present.  We have also cleared the chapel of vegetation to make it easier to understand for visitors and now some of the cist graves are once again visible.

The next discernable phase is the much later Nance farmhouse built in 1684, this family introduced the kelp industry to Scilly.   Seaweed was burnt to obtain potash used in glass making – the stalwart of many coastal communities (I have seen a kelpers village up on South Uist) during the Napoleonic Wars when cheap potash from France was not available.  Later the Tean farmhouse was built in the late seventeenth century, with associated outbuilding, including one used as a slaughterhouse.   There are also the ruins of a quay built out form the house.  Finally a large field wall (the Tean Wall – very similar to the Deer Park wall on Samson was built).  We are recording the farmhouse and have cleared down to the floor revealing beautiful cobbles in the entrance area and stone paving leading out from the house. 

Tean farmhouse

The other buildings and walls are also being recorded, and comparison with the 1880’s OS map data suggests that more buildings were present but had been ruined and incorporated into the enclosure wall at that time, something else we need to explore.  The sea, the weather and gravity are all taking a toll on these buildings and, just as we did on Samson last year, we are recording them before they are conserved in an attempt to perverse them for the future. 

Tean farmhouse - blocked up window

Anyhow that’s enough archaeology for today, I have to go and see how various tasks are coming along and post this on the blog.  I will be updating the archaeology blog again next week, after our search for the crew of the HMS Association on St Agnes.

On a lighter note our assimilation into the local community is gaining pace, three of our team have been playing cricket with the local chaps and last night we had an enjoyable night of skittles, food, beer, quiz and music (including some great Johnny Cash covers). 

Steve playing island skittles

Edds catch

The whole team love St Martin’s and its inhabitants and it will be a wrench to move to Bryher on Friday.  My recognisance to Bryher with Charlie yesterday revealed a grand little pub, café and friendly folk so I am sure we shall all survive.

Bye for now.


Megan’s Day- 8th July

July 6, 2007

Day 8 on St. Martins- After the predicted force eight gales last night, the camp awoke to blue skies but with a gusty wind.

At camp, because of a sprained ankle, I have been washing finds from the Old Stable, the Farm house on Tean and the flint found both during field walking and below Knackyboy and the Old Quay.

Once the finds were separated into categories; flint, pottery and bone each was counted. A list was made which consisted of the site name, the context number or test pit number and what the bag contained along with the number of items within the bag. This information was then typed into excel to create a finds list.

Today people were also digging in the Old Stable garden in test pits nine and ten, where more flint was found.

Most of the people on Tean were drawing wall plans today. A couple continued digging on a post-roman hut to try and find the edge of a wall.

The day is going to end with blue skies and sunshine.

5th July Wet adventures! Helen

July 5, 2007

Today did not start well. The wind had died down and the tents stood still for the first time in days.  Everyone was tired and it was raining heavily outside, no one wanted to get out of bed.  When we finally arrived at our designated sites the weather had not improved.

A small number of us went across to Tean, and yes, the tent is still standing! Copious amounts of water had collected on the tents roof which Jacqui carefully emptied on to Matt’s head.  This led to Matt being in a particularly bad mood, with the comment that “I’m going to push anyone in the water who is smaller than me”. 

After a brief site tour given by Charlie, we were met by Charles Thomas who excavated the site here over fifty years ago.  Here he is below standing in the centre of Steve and Sally.

The legend! (in the middle)

He explained to us what it was like living on the island whilst excavating here.  Chaps must have been made of sterner stuff back then as the weather on this particular day was hideous.   We left the island before lunch time due to this particularly bad weather.  On the boat journey I was both the most excited and terrified I’ve even been as the boat seemed very, very small.

The eerie boat journey home!

The day ended conveniently with a meal of Thai green curry and rice with pancakes for pudding, for all but Dave who unfortunately severed his finger, hopefully not into the food!  This is the second pudding we’ve had, the first one being drop scones made by Sally last night.  Some sort of pudding competition seems likely.  But the problem tomorrow is that it is Rhys’ turn and a well prepared pudding doesn’t seem on the cards. 

Everyone is very excited about Saturday, our first day off. Rhys and Steve both agreed that large quantities of alcohol should be consumed. Others are more excited about merely getting a relaxing day off and some well earned sleep.