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Canterbury YAC

What we have been up to- Blog written by the club's Young Leaders

November 2017.

A brilliant session hosted by the Canterbury Archaeology Trust due to numbers we split into two groups. One group got their hands literally dirty and wet washing finds from a Roman settlement in Dover. Learning the correct technique and the  need to ensure labelling followed the artefact . We found Roman items through to Victorian showing the length of continuous settlement on the site, including clay pipe stems, pottery, glass bottles and what when cleaned turned out to be possibly one-half of a mould. All would have liked to spend more time cleaning and trying to piece together the various bits of the same pottery and bottle we found, but we had to swop with the other group for the second ha;f of the meeting.  

The other half were meanwhile sifting soil with tweezers ,separating out  fish bones ( masses of tiny fish vertebrae found), chicken and other small animal  bones, shells, wood and slate and charcoal flakes.  Understanding how this helps understand what people lived on and what can find that might miss at first sight. 

Realised how long and time consuming both processes are -but enjoyable at least for us .

September

We looked at the variety of archaeological features to be found on the coasts of Britain and beneath the sea and the extra difficulties encountered in uncovering and recording them caused by the sea and tides. 

We also considered the number of wrecks on the Goodwin Sands from the Dover Boat, through the Roman invasion upto the second war . 

August

We revisited the Roman farmstead site at Faversham where we were able to dig last year to spend the morning joining the Kent Archaeological Field School uncovering the foundations of the substantial barn, Plenty of Roman finds uncovered including shards of pottery, bone and glass.

July

Chance to dig ! 

15 of us  visited the CAT site at Folkestone. We were slightly held up as they were taking aerial photos by drone and this drowned out Isobel's introduction to what we could see and had been found so far. We then waved as it took a photo of us . 

We then split into 2 groups as too many of us  to dig at once. 

My group went down onto the beach at the bottom of the cliffs to see if we could find anything that may have been washed down, though we found bottom of cliff was a lot further out than top of  the cliff. we found some post 1900 peices of pottery and tile - appears in WW2 they just dumped a whole lot of bomb destruction rubble over the cliff/onto the beach.

The other group dug and we then switched over for second half - ground was hard (apparently ) not quite as hard as last year. Most of us picked up the technique for trowelling and managed quite well -though slow going. We mainly found bone. Tantalising the interesting bones and bits seemed to be in the layer we uncovered ready for the archaeologists to excavate during the following week. 

Look forward to November when we will be doing find cleansing and maybe get to find out what was uncovered.  

June

Leaders got us ready for the summer digs. Isobel gave us a talk about the site Canterbury Archaeology Trust had been excavating at Wear bay in folkestone in previous years and we saw a short video of the Roman villa adjacaent to the area being excavted this year and the iron age house found last year. 

Martha and Isobel then talked us through what happens on a site and what we could expect to see and do and what tools.

Martha then tried to teach us stratigraphy - how can idenitfy different layers and sequences of use over time of a site. Most of us just more interested in the promise we could eat the cake once Martha had cut the 'ditch' filled it back up with chocolate cake and 'eible gold decorative cake balls ' to represent finds then sunk post hole it in and filled that up. cake was nice.

Peter then got saddled with the helath and safety briefing - but tried to make it fun with a mix and match  game -try matching the risk to the preventative measures.  

May . We got to look at graves and skeletons .Thanks to Marion Green of Canterbury Archaeological Trust for laying on a really good entertaining and gripping session on interpreting graves and skeletons. With help from Isobel "the bone specilaist" at the trust as well as being our Asst. leader we got to handle some real bones. Marion lead us through a series of slides requiring us to indicate what we could see buried with the skeletons ( actual graves found by the Trust) and how that could help us decide age and sex of person buried and clues as to what they did. Everyone really found interesting the apparent family found buried together inside Canterbury with their dog , this lead to lively discussion as who they might have been and why they died, ended comparing our views with the summary of the various expert reports . 

We finished by taking turns ( if small enough) in being laid out in the manner of the Anglo-Saxon warrior(?) found.  

At the April meeting we got to investigate a 1861 map of Faversham area to locate potential historical sites and compare it with a modern day map.We discussed what had changed and what old maps and other documents can tell us.

We also looked at old maps of Canterbury going back to the 17th century and earlier to discuss how the layout had changed. Along with other documents archaeologists had used to identify the site of the Whitefriars monastery and help them understand what they found when they excavated that site.

 

March we were given a tour of the archives in Canterbury cathedral by the staff and then a guided tour looking at the history of the site. 

February 2017 we looked at the procedure for Mummifying and pyramids.

In the course of which we mummified oranges and filled them with virtually the same mix of salt and sodium bi-carbonate they used in Egypt . To be resurrected at the May meeting to see how they have shrivelled and dried up and to discuss the effect of different temperatures/places on preservation.

 

January 2017

Peter had us working out our maths in practising the skills archaeologists use . Three activities in turn, using rim charts to work out from just part of the rim the diameter of the actual pot, then onto measuring your hand and stride and checking the  accurate of those measurements against tape measurements. Finished with preparing a timeline setting which order time periods came in and actual dates, with brief information as to events in Kent and highlights of each period  to help us understand time periods and exactly how little time compared to overall has passed since the Norman invasion.

Finished with Peter finally unveiling why he had us in November count the steps down from the current Canterbury road level to the level of the Roman road. Using the depth of the step to work out the total depth. Talking about why Roman level so far below current road level in Canterbury compared to the artefacts being only about 2ft below the current level at the Faversham villa where we dug on last summer. 

December 2016

We finished the year at Dover museum looking and talking about the Dover boat and what the English Channel must have been like in those days.

November 2016

Dr Swift from Kent University laid on a special hands on event for us .We were able to handle actual Roman artefacts,coins, glass and day to day utensils and how to recognise them. Also why handle them wearing cotton gloves.

rOctober 2016

Saw as on a windy, cold but dry Sunday morning gathering at the side of a road leading to St Margaret's Cliff nr.Dover . Vince Burrows gave us an introduction to the wealth of worked flints found in the area and how to potentially identify worked flint.  We then spread out across the adjoining field with our parents trying our luck in identifying worked flint from natural and plough broken flint.

We then brought our bags back with varying degrees of hope to Vince who then went through each bag identifying what we had found. With varying degrees of success we had found some worked flint some microflints and some had found cores from which flint appears to have been taken.Vince also identified various fossils and fossil sponges people had picked up as well as couple of peices of Roman and medieval pottery.
 

Good introduction to field walking and Vince offered to run another session next year when hopefully he can bring along some flint hand axes and other flint tools for us to handle.

September 2016

​We visited the Roman Painted House at Dover and the remains of one wall of the fort buried now under the bypass. Suprising structures still in place up to 3/5 foot high interior and exterior walls with painted plasster. Then tried our hands at Roman games.

August 2016

Kent Archaeological Field school kindly invited us to join them for the morning and have chance to dig on the site of a Roman villa/farmstead at Faversham.

A tour of the site and surrounding existing farm was lead by the director of the field school during which he told us why the farm would have been built there, why farming remained important on the site up to modern day, why find other villas scattered along that area of Kent associated with the springs. Dr Wilkinson then explained the plans drawn up of the excavations over previous years and where the walls lay under our feet.

We then looked at the finds trays and were able to handle some of the coins and other small items dug up this year.

Then we were able to get down to dig with the new members scattered amongst those who had experience to guide them. We all found items, Peter (the branch leader) found the rim of an medieval or Roman domestic pot, others found animal bones and glass .

To say goodbye as they are off to university to study archaeology and ancient history respectively Lynda and Ellie (over 18 years between them as club members and asst leaders), brought cream cake and pop for everyone to eat adjacant to the site.

30 July 2016

A not-so-sunny morning saw us on the cliff top above Folkestone getting a chance to dig on Iron Age site thanks to Canterbury Archaelogical Trust. Andrew from the Trust explained the significance of the site and the surrounding cliff area including the adjacent now reburied Roman Villa excavation, which Lynda (then a YAC and now an Asst leader) had been lucky to have the chance to dig on with the YAC's in 2011/12. We were amazed at the number of quern stones (over 200) found on the site and the broken quern stones just laying around where they had broken during manufacturing. The size of the round house whose ditch had been excauvated suprised us I think we all thought from pictures they were a lot smaller.  It felt like we were on one of the earliest factory sites and imagined what must of felt like taking all those hours to carve the stones only for it to crack when drilling the hole through the middle.

Most of the 10 YAC's had never been on a dig before so we were given initial tutorial as to how to trowel from Andrew from the Trust and Isobel one of our new assistant leaders, who had been working on the site in glorious sunshine for the previous 2 weeks . We then got down to dig under the guidance of Isobel, Andrew, Peter and the other leaders. Unfortunately the hot weather had baked the top soil and even with using the sprayer to wet it, it was hard work. Whilst none of us individually found much by end of the session Isobel and Andrew were able to show us we had in in our finds tray, iron age pottery, shells, possible worked flint, animal bone which had been scrapped to get the meat off and bones and teeth showing what they had been eating. Andrew then showed us the complete domesticated wolf's skull they had found carefully buried in the ditch of the roundhouse in the Iron age - cool!!

June 2016

Learning basics of using scale drawings and photographs to record upstanding features under guidance of Mark Williams and his colleagues from Wessex Archaeology. Using  historic chuch at Great Monegham as our model we first used a quiz sheet to find out and record information about the church and unusual features. We then split into two groups . One group learnt about why accurate plans are important and practisised preparing scale plans of the alter area using the same techniques used on site. The other group were taught how to use a camera on a tripod to take photo's , Learning about what photo's you would want to record the various features of the outside of church. Also hands on experience of the need and process of  leveling the tripod and angling the camera securely (LEADER NOTE & LEARN please!). Also how and what scale measure to include in photo to make it useful for recording. We them swapped for the remainder of the time.

May 2016

Warm sunny Sunday morning saw us doing hands on conservation work at the Napoleonic Fort above dover . Always fun geting into the site stooping  through the tunnel leading through the outer mound into the dry moat with the fort towering over 40 ft above us . Whilst the leaders and parents shifted bricks pout of the officers quarters to make them accessible for visitors the rest of us de-weeded and cleared out a temporary magazine that was originally used to store the gunpowder and shells for the gun placements on either side when they might be used and then replenished from the main gunpowder store.  Unlike our last visit we did not find anything but fun had by all and  we got to use our new equipment. Good tour of the site by the appreciative volunteers and found out about the mascot  the soldiers stationed there in the 1850's used to take for walks through Dover-it was lion!

April 2016

Peter gave us an informative talk -mainly whilst trying not to step backwards of the top of a windy Dene John mount, on the  effect on the Norman invasion on Canterbury. Made us think about what actual change meant to day to day life and the architecture in towns. The fact that castles did not exist before then and that within 25 years of the invasion  there were over 250 and what physically was involved in building them.  Then finished the meeting with a tour of the exhibition of 25 years of Canterbury Archeological Trust at the Musuem with members of the trust.

March 2016

Club members had a escorted tour of the Oare gunpowder factory site where gunpowder had been produced for over 150 years prior to WWII. Volunteers gave an interested tour explaining what each building had been used for. Designed with thick walls and thin roofs so the explosion when things went wrong went straight up and the owners could re-roof and easily bring the building back into use.

February 2016

We had an illustrated  talk from Mark Williams from Wessex Archaeology Unit based at Maidstone on the excavations they have done over the last year. This lead onto a discussion as to the problems of excavating everything as opposed to evaluate and preserving sites for the future. Mark was surprised that the members were strongly in favour of evaluating and preserving given the lack of money to evaluate, record properly and store that is  removed.

January 2016​

We visited the Herne Bay Museum and we were treated to a tour of this small but fascinating museum. Recently renovated, we were taken on a tour of the history of Herne Bay from the prehistoric to the seaside town it is today. A special treat was the exhibition on seaweed and its uses through time, a suprisingly interesting topic which spanned medicine,growing crops and fashion design. A huge thank you to all the volunteers at the museum who made us so welcome.

Ellie

December 2015

Our last meeting of 2015 and we made use of the greatest building on our doorstep: Canterbury Cathedral.

Led by Martin Crowther, Community Engagement Manager at the Cathedral, asked for our help in developing resources for education as part of the “Canterbury Journey” project to out to schools and community groups. We needed to come up with ideas for experience boxes based on the themes of crafting the Cathedral and spiritual journeys.

For inspiration, Martin led us on a highlights tour of the Cathedral. It is a breath-taking place with a fascinating history. We saw the nave and the soaring epic pillars that have kept the Cathedral standing for hundreds of years. Next, our eyes were directed upwards to Bell Harry Tower, the highest tower in the Cathedral, although the height you can see is only a third of the total height of the tower. From the site of the  martyrdom, Martin regaled us with perhaps the most famous tale of the Cathedral, the murder of Thomas Beckett, while the tale of his shrine continued in the crypt. We were also taken into a side chapel, where a beautiful section of wall painting had been saved from the destructive hands of Henry VIII. Lastly and most excitingly, Martin took us into a private chapel that is not usually open to the public. Some of the best preserved graffiti is in this chapel with a beautiful carving of an African woman’s head. It was strange to be admiring something now discouraged on historical sites, but it was much more beautiful than current day graffiti (controversial, I know!).

Our tour over, we went back to the education centre sat with biscuits and drinks, we compiled our ideas for experience boxes; from the design of the boxes including mason’s marks and stained glass, to options for what should be included such as documents from the archives, or examples of medieval food. It was great to have our ideas part of a bigger project that will allow others in the community to appreciate the wonderful history of Canterbury Cathedral. Big thanks to Martin for running the session for us.

Ellie

Highlights from 2014 and 2015

November 2015 saw the members studying medieval herbal remedies which people hoped would prevent their getting the plagues. Everyone got to make several remedies , which wee all fairly smelly and to try one infusion which actually tasted NICE!!! (like mulled ginger beer). Though not sure Malteasers were around in medieval times to take away the taste.

In October 2014 we headed down to St. Margaret’s at Cliff to join the White Cliffs Metal Detecting group for a field-walking and metal detecting session.  It was glorious weather compared to the year before, and lots of prehistoric flint was discovered.

In November we were not so lucky!  It rained torrential for most of the session when we joined the Freemen of Blean re-enactment group at Druidstone Park for a session all about the Peasant’s Revolt.  The YACs joint the peasants and cane up with some modern day additions to the original peaants demands.

Also in November, Lynda Walker, one of our long-serving members became the national  Young Archaeologist of the Year Award, being presented with her award at the Council for British Archaeology’s Winter meeting by Dan Snow. .

Blessed with unseasonably good weather in December, the YACs had a fantastic session in a wood near Ashford with "Jack Raven bush craft", learning all about how fire would have been made by pre-historic man, and some simple knapping skills.

Back in doors for the New Year, we had an interesting sessionat the Canterbury Museum learning all about the recently discovered Bronze Age helmet.  It was fascinating to see the 3D-printed version too!

In February, our session in the Learning Lab at The Beaney took in the whole of Hadrian’s Wall, learning about how the Romans built the great defense, and what life was like for the soldiers.

Our March meeting was a little messy!  We learnt all about the history of loos and poos!  From prehistory to modern, we drew a timeline of loos and loo paper, but finished the session getting messy (with gloves!).  Trays of fake poo had been made with added ingredients that matched the diet of different archaeological periods.  The YACs had to dissect a ‘poo’ to find out what seeds, pulses and other bits survived, and see if they could work out if they were looking at a Roman, Aztec, Viking or Saxon deposit!

In April and May we joint Thanet Archaeological Trust in digging test pits in Perry Wood to help them try to locate the prehistoric remains within the possible hillfort.

In June saw the YAC's racing around the streets of Canterbury in groups to complete the special Magna Carta heritage trail. This saw the members visiting several sites and museums around the city engaging with the museum staff and re enactors to gather an idea of what Canterbury was like at the time, the role of some of the key players including the then Archbisjop of Canterbury in the events leading to the Magna Carta being signed.

August some some members join North Down YAC's in a day out at Hampton Court where the YAC's were able to go behind the scenes with the archeologists currently working there to look at the fascinating items that have been found and which are not on general display,

October 2015 saw the members having a guided tour of  the newly open WW2 tunnels at Dover leading through the cliffs out to the WW! Fan mirrors and being shown how they would work and the items left behind by the soldiers stationed in the tunnels and which had kaid undisturbed until the tunnels were reopened over the last few years.

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