Lock up your pets and grannies | Microburin’s on video

2014_SHBS_KirkvidAs if the world isn’t dangerous enough, @microburin is now on video – sounding alarmingly like Prince Harry – at Kirkleatham Museum, Redcar & Cleveland. The video introduces the Street House Before the Saxons exhibition which runs until July 2015. There are a few of my Mesolithic flint images (and text) on the info-boards too. MicrolithsThe Street House Farm archaeology project has been running since the 1980s under the directorship of Steve Sherlock, archaeologist extraordinaire and the chap currently responsible for the archaeological oversight of the A1(M) works between Leeming and Barton, including Roman Catterick CATARACTONIUM fort and town.

Street House, near Loftus in East Cleveland, has archaeological remains from at least the Neolithic − an early timber mortuary structure – through numerous Bronze Age burial mounds (and a wossit), an extensive Iron Age farming community who were probably making and selling salt, Romano-British canny folk who were manufacturing Whitby Jet objects like beads, spindle whorls and probably pins, with suggestions of continuity into the early post-Roman ‘dark ages’. There are also hints in the lithics of possible Later/Terminal Mesolithic activity, which is right up my street.

Of course, despite many thousands of years of human activity, Street House is probably best known for the Anglo-Saxon Royal Princess buried in a 7th-century AD cemetery, in her bed, with breathtaking jewels of gold and garnet, on permanent display. Do try visit both exhibitions—and peruse the Street House Roman phallus carving from the 2013 excavations?

Spence

Microburin is awf to Yorkshire | Smell of prehistory in the air

FOR IT IS DIGGING SEASON AND THE SEASONING IS GOOD!

Kiplin-Hall-560Dear Microburins,

Been busy writing up some lithics in the temporary luxury of the air-conditioned lab, outside temperature above 30, experiencing delight with the new desk-clamped anglepoise camera attachment device thingy and gossiping with my neighbouring office friends – who have nothing to do with heritage or archaeology let alone tiny lithic tools – about what I’m up to. I love how interested they are and the brilliant questions they ask. I’m even Tweeped-up with the lovely office manager, Lenka, who observed my early antics (and burglarized anxieties) as I tried to make sense of excavation outputs. Turns out that the corporate film company, next door, know the DIG Ventures crew through family. Archaeology does get about a bit.

Tool boxes x2, bags, undies (unserialised), caps hats and bonnets, insect repellents, mattocks, ranging poles, hampers, odd socks and coolboxes are now packed for the next adventure – the annual digging round, this time supervising and training volunteers on an exciting project in North Yorkshire. There’s more than 10,000 years of archaeology in prospect here, post-glacial up to the present day. The most enjoyable aspect, as always, as every one of the past few years, is the direct human repartee – the crowd of folks from amazing backgrounds – who make any fieldwork compelling and rewarding.

I hope you have a brilliant summer too – much appreciate you taking an interest.

Charting Chipeling – The Archaeology of Kiplin Hall

Kiplin_KidsFor the past six months we’ve been slowly uncovering the archaeology of the Kiplin Hall grounds through a variety of archive research, landscape and earthwork survey, historic building recording and test-pitting. Now the three-week excavation is upon us and you are very welcome to come to Kiplin and take part in the excavations. The dig will be running from Monday 28 July to Friday 15 August (except Sundays) and there are currently spaces available on all days.

george_calvertTargets to be excavated include a ditch-and-bank enclosure currently thought to be part of the wider medieval grange that pre-dated the Jacobean Hall, built by the founder of Baltimore USA, a probable post-medieval brick kiln and the line of the medieval and potentially earlier road that preceded the turnpike road to Northallerton. Anybody interested please contact jb@solsticeheritage.co.uk with your preferred dates and he’ll add you to the list.

More information on the project can also be found at www.chartingchipeling.co.uk

Spence

Photography, Diplomacy and Grub | 1986 archaeology on a moor in Yorkshire

Dear Microburins.

Danby RiggI was flipping through some old (scanned) pictures from the prehistory of my archaeological past and thought you might enjoy these. It’s 1986 throw-back time, the second season investigating the Bronze Age upland landscape on Danby Rigg in the beautiful Esk valley on the North York Moors.

Aerial photography | On-site diplomacy | Sectioned lunch

The Bronze Age triple dykes subsequently radiocarbon dated to the Viking period, which was a surprise. The Durham University project included re-examination of a Bronze Age ring cairn with a large monolith, proving it to have at least one cremation burial.

Ring cairnThe landscape survey plotted the entire network of field systems and cairns hidden under the heather—certainly one of the most comprehensive surveys of its kind in north-east England, and executed before the advent of GPS or Total Station technology, but we did have an EDM. This was all dumpy level and back-sighting. I’m proud to be able to set up a theodolite in five seconds, while sleeping!

There is a tenuous Mesolithic connection in that, on the long walk up to the moor each morning, Microburin discovered a small Mesolithic assemblage at relatively low altitude. It included some blades and a scraper with edge gloss from processing plant materials, but no microliths. A large Mesolithic core was, inevitably, lying at the bottom of the deepest Viking ditch (residual). It’s a bit like the “token” sherd of Roman Samian Ware (posh dinner service crockery) found most other places, no matter what period you’re digging.

AF Harding Danby RiggHarding, A., Ostoja-Zagorski, J. 1994. Prehistoric and Early Medieval Activity on Danby Rigg, North Yorkshire, Archaeological Journal 151, 16-97.

The plans and sections are mostly mine, but some cheeky rascal got the credit.

Spence

Wild Things 2.0 Palaeolithic-Mesolithic Conference 2014 Abstracts | Lithoscapes posters

wild20Abstracts are now available, including two poster presentations from Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation! That’s Paul Preston and me. There’s an exciting line-up of paper presentations with renowned national and international speakers. And a pub.

IMG_4469Unpicking the Palimpsest: A late Mesolithic upland activity area in North East England

Spencer Carter, Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation | p30

This poster will outline the emerging results from on-going analyses of artefacts recorded during a systematic rescue excavation of a typologically Late Mesolithic upland lithic scatter at White Gill, Westerdale on the North York Moors, UK. The excavation and lithic assemblages are described and evaluated, including unequivocal evidence of hearth features with associated, discrete knapping events surrounding them, artefact associations with flat-stones, and a tentative structure. The early results of the lithics analysis are elucidated and reveal the complex lithic chaînes opératoires including the possible expedient use of legacy lithic material, and the possibility that one of the knappers was a juvenile or ‘apprentice learner’.

WGW2000-conjoining-microlithThe poster will also outline interesting evidence for site “pairing” suggested by lithic re-fits between neighbouring sites in the proximity of a palaeolake, the transport of raw materials, including the presence of finished Pennine chert tools. The project therefore affords a rare opportunity to analyse potential coeval activity and mobility over distance. Being the first comprehensive study of its kind in an area hitherto ignored or largely unrecorded, the micro-scale of the analyses described in this poster provides a keyhole view that not only confirms a rich data set, but also opens up new research questions that allow us to begin unpicking a persistent, palimpsestual, complex Mesolithic taskscape in a largely over-looked period and region. It also highlights implicit warnings about the damage that well-meaning or illicit “flinting” activities can wreak on a fragile archaeological record.

IMG_9690Everything We Know is Wrong? The MESOlithics Project: Charging lithics into the Mesolithic Canon

Paul Preston, Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation | p42

Many researchers have set ambitious goals in attempting to create social narratives from Mesolithic lithic scatters in a landscape context or to derive socio-cultural/stylistic meaning from. While laudable, and recognising the rich debate that emanates from the research, such attempts have been arguably impeded by their reliance upon referential frameworks that fail to integrate adequately their theoretical base with systematic methodologies in support of their conclusions. As a result British Mesolithic studies — and concomitantly the so-called ‘Mesolithic Canon’ — have been hampered by the lack of three fundamental analytical foundations:

  1. a consensus definition of the Mesolithic, its phases and its geographic variation;
  2. an accurate, calibrated, sufficiently granular chronology, and;
  3. an explicitly defined, standardised, replicable lithic analysis methodology and typology.

KnapperThe most important of these is the third: it underpins the other two. However, this issue is especially acute since there are no agreed minimum standards for analysis and there remain a number of incompatible, unsystematic non-technological methodologies. It is therefore difficult to compare assemblages analysed by different lithicists, to derive reliable conclusions from past analyses and literature, and to communicate interpretations with universal clarity. Hence, interpretations tend to be subjective, result in para data rather than meta data, and are difficult to test in a replicable way.

As a consequence, this poster considers best practice in lithics analysis and how it can impact on current definitions of the British Mesolithic and its chronology. It then proposes a way to ameliorate many of the highlighted problems and outlines how a standardised technologically-based lithic methodology—with explicitly defined types, attributes and analytical protocols—can be developed and integrated with current theoretical paradigms.

About the conference

See you there!

Spence

Bio updated | 2013 fieldwork and Lithoscapes added

Spence-at-SHF13Dear Microburins, I’ve just updated my bio in case you’re interested in the latest fieldwork and a joint archaeological venture in-the-making with my colleague Paul Preston. I have also uploaded a summary paper about the Intertidal Prehistoric Peat Beds at Redcar in Cleveland, North-East England which is available to view on academia.edu. I’m grateful to Francis Pryor and Maisie Taylor for commenting on the pictures of possible stone axe marks and coppicing/copparding. The majority of the peat beds are now (October 2013) covered with beach sand again.

You can learn more about the peat beds north of the Tees Estuary in an earlier post

Spence

TEESSCAPES Teesside Archaeological Society eNews | Autumn 2013

The latest edition is out—packed with news and events! Two options are available:

» Read as an online e-magazine | NEW! Gorgeous format using ISSUU e-publishing
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  • TEESSCAPES Autumn 2013Society News | 2
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  • Special Feature | 7
    Skeletons in your cupboard?
  • Activities and Events | 10
  • News Roundup | 16
  • Site Notes | 22
  • Browser | 25
  • About TAS and how to join | 26

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Uncover the hidden heritage of North East England

Spence | Twitter @microburin