ICE AND FIRE | 2017 Community Rescue Archaeology Project on Teesside

est17_ice-and-fire◊ Dear Microburins,

I’m delighted, as TimeVista Archaeology, to be part of this project team: a HLF-funded community project on Teesside, North-east England – supported by the local MP – ICE AND FIRE! Volunteer opportunities for outdoor fieldwork and indoor activities will be announced soon – all with training, so no previous experience is needed. You can register your interest via the website. The rescue project will look at the prehistoric archaeology of this fragile upland landscape from the end of the last Ice Age. Most fieldwork will take place in summer 2017 but with seasonal fieldwalking too. DOWNLOAD THE BROCHURE »

Project director Adam Mead is a Durham University archaeology student and we’re grateful for considerable support from the department and Teesside Archaeological Society.

Spence

Mesolithic North East Yorkshire | Free Tees Archaeology Report

◊ Dear Microburins,

Meso_NEYorks_TeesArch2Tees Archaeology and Historic England have just published a summary report about the North-East Yorkshire Mesolithic Project that completed recently. The report is aimed at a general readership and accompanies an illustrated e-booklet aimed at kids, as well as a guide to prehistoric lithics (flint).

Although Teesside is perceived as a recent industrial landscape, the natural history and archaeology is all around. We have definite evidence for the early post-glacial pioneer colonisers, reindeer hunters, around 8500 BC—the Early Mesolithic—as well as evidence for the filling out of the landscape in the later Mesolithic into the advent of Neolithic farming communities and monument builders. This is a long six-thousand year epoch and one of rapid climate change, warm-and-cold events, rising sea levels, a tsunami, and the creation of today’s Island Britain.

Microlith_EMDC_TeesEarly Mesolithic flint projectile point, Deepcar type, c. 8500 BC (a little later than Star Carr) from Eston Hills, Teesside. White flint has sources in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, many tens of kilometres away. These rare but characteristic tools are found along river valleys.

TVA_LateMesLate Mesolithic flints from the North York Moors, c. 8000-4000 BC. Left are geometric narrow-blade microliths, usually used as projectile arrow barbs but also for other tasks; Top right are microliths and utilised flint blades; Bottom right is a core from which blades have been removed for working into tools. Coloured and speckled flint comes from beach and glacial till deposits on the NE coast and can still be picked up today. Some has been dragged over from Denmark and chalk beds now under the North Sea.

Spence

Mesolithic Teesside | Great free booklet by Tees Archaeology

Hunting the Hunter-Gatherers: Mesolithic Teesside

◊ Dear Microburins

Meso_TeessideThe lovely folks at Tees Archaeology have recently published a *free* and lavishly illustrated e-booklet on Mesolithic Teesside (oh yes, we have Mesolithic!).

The booklet brings together information about the first people of Teesside, north-east England, during the Mesolithic Period (around 10,000 – 4000 BC).

Congratulations to ‘flintman’ Peter Rowe and local artist Nigel Dobbyn!

Spence

Mesolithic silly season | Seals in the Tees

Dear microburins,

Mesolithic Spence (or The Mighty Microburin as DigVentures labelled my dorsal face, ha!) is back in London. The digging season, I’ve been away pretty much since June, is complete so that I can focus on commitments around the festive season: a few lithics reports to finish, fieldwork to write up, two journals to edit, somebody important to hug, readiness for the Teesside Archaeological Society (TAS) AGM in January, an endless list although the phone still rings with offers of commercial work. That’s good news. Clear the decks! My formative commercial presence, embodied in a website, is also nearly finished as I sit eying up mam’s rum-laden Christmas cake, exuding its rich and mind-altering odours, on the almost-too-high-to-reach (a legal high?) shelf. Heavens: I’ve already procured the Wensleydale cheese to accompany it.

TeesProjectLast week in the north-east was jam-packed and rich with opportunity. The River Tees Rediscovered HLF Landscape Partnership project kicked off its heritage & archaeology steering committee with a great scoping and idea-sharing session at Tees Barrage (literally in the barrage’s south tower) overlooking a seal, yes in the Tees, with a whopping fish in its mouth.

Saturday last saw the equally compelling AASDN (Durham and Northumberland Arch & Archs) day workshop, supported by CBA North and TAS, focused on the planning process and building stakeholders around ‘heritage at risk’ advocacy. It was fantastic to meet old friends, some throwback blasts from the past, and to make new friends too. I’ll write more about both very soon. I also wish all the candidates good luck for the Local Heritage Engagement Network officer (LHEN) at the Council for British Archaeology – interviews underway. Congratulations too to Tara-Jane Sutcliffe on her new role as Antiquity’s operational editor. I know she’ll be missed at CBA after a compelling and energised tenure there.

Durham day workshop on the planning process and heritage advocacy. I’m hoping we can do a Teesside-based follow-on session in 2015.

 

Meantime, my friend David Mennear, aka These Bones of Mine blogger, published another excellent post about the Bradford Uni Lithics Lab and lithics use-wear PhD research – as always an excellent and read. Likewise, another great friend Lorna Richardson has just published an insightful paper, based on her doctoral thesis (she is Dr Lorna now with bells on), concerning themes of authoritativeness, expertise, reputation and inclusion (or otherwise) in a social-media-mediated digital world. I highly recommend the read. And celebrate the fact that Internet Archaeology is a fully free open access journal – hurrah!

RFS_Tale_01Lastly, Clive Waddington published the popular book about Low Hauxley and the Rescued from the Sea project which completed last summer. It’s lovingly written, celebrates the community venture that made it all possible, certainly isn’t a dumbed down rendition of complex archaeology, and is beautifully illustrated – a bargain at £10 from the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s website.

Hopefully I’ll come up for air soon, and perhaps I’ll see you at TAG (Theoretical Archaeology Group) Manchester later in December?

Spence

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

Editing Archaeology | Two recent achievements in print and online

Dear microburins,

A post-free month, and then two come along all at once! I dare say there’s a third fermenting somewhere in the back of my gaseous, bubbling, overly-knapped, conchoidially-fractured, corticated and (breath) patinated mind.

Microburin is coming up for a breath of Spring air and a transition to other duties—back to the lithics lab and conference planning. Many of you know I’m a voluntary editor for Council for British Archaeology Yorkshire and voluntary chair for the refreshed Teesside Archeological Society (now with on an upward-trending membership again). I’m proud to contribute to both organisations.

CBA Yorkshire

ArchaeologyYorkshire_croppedMuch of the winter was spent editing CBA Yorkshire’s FORUM YORKSHIRE archaeological journal. This is a new series that sits between the informality of past magazine-style annual publications and the more traditional county and thematic periodicals that we must complement. I think we have found our sweet spot whilst maintaining a standard that attracts a broad range of well-written articles spanning the variety of archaeology in the county—academic research, commercial developer-led, educational and community.

CBAY_FORUMcvr_SFinding a Sweet Spot

In this year’s volume 2 (for 2013), while somewhat volatile in terms of the readiness of committed articles and their respective back-end project progress, I think we have managed to create a portfolio that does justice to the scope of activities happening across our Ridings. The excellent contributions under two banners, in particular, give us a unique mix and presence in the publication record: Communities In Action and Behind The Scenes give voice to multifaceted community ventures, some completed and others in-progress, as well as demonstrating some of the inner mechanics of the archaeological discipline and its many allied specialisations. I am particularly pleased to host papers from the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) courtesy of Catherine Hardman and Potted History—artisan archaeological potter Graham Taylor who continues to supply expertly researched and skillfully rendered replica ceramics to the likes of Stonehenge visitor centre and many museums. His grooved ware renditions are, simply, huge in every respect!

Paper versus online

The debate between the value-by-weight of print versus electronic publication is one side of the story. With a typical 50% of CBAY Membership who are Internet-enabled, paper still holds a special value and a relied-upon communication vehicle, no matter the increasing postage costs. Rural Internet (broadband) access, most especially across a County with profound wi-fi topographic dynamics—the utterly urban to the completely rural (BT and UK Government take note)—are veneered with a generational capability in terms of computing confidence. With a demographic, also nationally typical, that sees a majority membership over the age of 55, we are far from a tipping point wherein “online” would be a reasonable expectation for all. Let me ask: how comfortable do we all feel with the corporate/banking/government coercion toward a ‘paperless’ life, especially when so many transactions rely upon proving identity and residence by virtue of providing original paper records? We’re in a quandary. Moreover, the Heartbleed openSSL security bug debacle hasn’t helped. Who is safe as the first hackers and abusers are arrested?

open-accessOpen Access Commitment

Hence, CBA Yorkshire have agreed upon full, free open access to our journal after a grace period of one year—green access level. FORUM YORKSHIRE vol 1 (2012) is therefore available online now, tied to the publication of vol 2. We’re using ISSUU as an e-publishing vehicle and maintain a PDF download using Dropbox. As time allows, our plan is to host all papers via ADS too in PDF-A archive format. It will take a little time to prepare this, with due diligence.

TASiconTEES Perspectives

The second major effort has been TEESSCAPES, the e-Magazine of the Teesside Archaeological Society. Our presence on the Internet—Email, Website, Facebook and Twitter—have been innovations only recently, literally the last year or two. We started with email using the fantastic MailChimp cloud technology. Our website, hosted on WordPress, appeared just before Christmas. Grasping the social media bullet, Facebook came next—we achieved over 158 followers within a two weeks (I need to shout out here: that was jaw-dropping!) and the comment “at last! TAS joins the 21st century“. That’s my favourite. Girding ones loins, knowing how social media requires regular monitoring and messaging, Twitter followed to complement the suite. And now Facebook and Twitter are integrated into our website alongside regular news posts (backed up with email campaigns).

What hour are you in?

The major benefit is to reach an extended audience of tens-of-thousands in an instant. While Facebook’s reach is increasingly limited, by function of the drive for advertising-based commercial “promotion” (i.e. you have to pay), Twitter still allows an awesome capability. So, for example, using vehicles (and hashtags) like #YorkshireHour, @RyedaleHour and several others across Cleveland/Teesside and the north-east of England, a lecture invite can reach an audience of over 25,000 people, in a split second. We have garnered quite a few new members, and many more interested followers, as a proven result. All praise for social media, say I! (But not Facebook).

The Power of Guest Writers

TEESSCAPES_2014-01_CvrThe latest edition, TEESSCAPES Spring 2014, also includes two great articles on top-of-mind topics by guest writers. David Mennear, an osteo-archaeologost and TAS friend, guides us through the complex but thrilling world of human origins and the latest discoveries in Georgia and South Africa. Meantime, Kim Biddulph of @SchoolsPrehistory gives us a taste for what the forthcoming inclusion of Prehistory in the English National Curriculum means in terms of teaching readiness and the impact on seven-year olds—this is not far short of a curriculum revolution, accounting for the missing million years of hominin and human presence in Britain. Schools Prehistory provide advice and wonderful resources for teachers.

Your Chance to Share

As I eye up the forthcoming seasonal editions of the magazine, I am hoping (and perhaps you can help) for equally insightful and informal contributions that explain the inner and outer workings of archaeology and the significance of recent discoveries. Go on! Write for us? Email teesarchsoc.news@gmail.com.

That’s it for now. It’s been a thrilling week on the back of a winter of gruel. Archaeology MUST REMAIN accessible to ALL. At whatever cost—surely?

Spence