More from Alison
It’s been a beautiful sunny day at Nottingham Castle for trainees, Explainer volunteer Cara and tutors Laura, Tristan, Joe and Jen.
It was good to welcome more new trainees today and we’ve had lots of interested visitors. In fact, Cara (helped out by Alison) was kept busy for almost all of the day, nipping out in the afternoon only to join in with the pottery workshop.
Today’s trainees began with the features in the west of the trench and there was excavation, cleaning, recording and drawing to work through. Trainee Beth was also a real asset, using her new expertise to help the newer trainees with taking levels.
Later in the day our newer trainees moved to the eastern extension of the trench, where they continued to take down the soil level and clean the newly exposed stone and rubble, keeping an eye out for changes in soil colour that might indicate a construction ditch. For those needing a stretch and a break from digging there was spoil to sieve, finds to wash, and a hands-on tutorial in contexts and context sheet recording with Tristan.
Other highlights of the day included a pottery identification workshop with Laura and a tour of Mortimer’s Hole with legendary guide Richard. In addition, the excellent ice cream van was spotted near the bastion-cum-We Dig the Castle tea room, which meant a very happy We Dig the Castle team.
Catch trainee and Explainer volunteer Cara tell us what she's gained from being part of We Dig the Castle 2017:
A note from Alison
It’s the first day of the last week of We Dig the Castle 2017! Where has the time gone?
After the departure of some long-term trainees on Friday we welcomed a number of new faces today. It was great to see some returnees from We Dig the Castle 2016, and we’re looking forward to seeing what our new trainees uncover across this final week.
As ever, it’s been a busy day with a whole range of activities. It was a grey day to start with, with a bit of a wind that kept blowing away the maps and pictures at our viewing platform! The occasional light rain also seemed to keep visitors away at the start. By later morning, however, and even though it had become wet and cold, we suddenly had a rush of visitors eager to see the trench and talk about what we’d found. Again, we've had a lot of international visitors, combined with local families, and the finds from We Dig the Castle 2015 and 2016 proved really popular. We also had a quick visit from no less a person than the internationally famous Friar Tuck!
Trainees have been continuing to take down, clean and record the very clear-cut, steep-sided, features in the west of the trench. They’ve also been recording features in the northern extension. Those taking down the soil level in the eastern extension (which runs towards the curtain wall) have been looking for evidence relating to the construction of the brick and rubble platform.
For our new trainees the day began with an introduction to the site from Laura, followed by finds washing in the marquee. They were soon in the trench, working with Jen in the eastern extension or learning about context sheet recording with Tristan. After lunch they pressed on with the eastern extension, working on features in the west of the trench, or taking levels with now-expert Beth.
With the weather a bit inconsistent we were glad of our marquee, which allowed us to push on with recording from the relative comfort of a chair!
Tutor Joe tells us what the We Dig the Castle team has been working on today.
Notes from Explainer volunteer Roger
The weather at the start was very pleasant. Rain was forecast at 2pm but it did not materialise.
I got in using my bus pass and arrived about 10, but one visitor was already there! Fortunately Alison was already holding forth and so I listened intently to catch up on anything new.
The rest of the day was just nicely busy. It went by really easily. There were quite a few visitors; many from abroad; I remember one delightful party from Texas. There were also parties from Italy and Australia. I wanted to take pictures but the official camera said 'CF Full'. It only had 2 pictures on it but it would not co-operate. Alison stepped in with her phone but we did not take so many as last time. I think Alison did a lot of video on the official movie camera. I was glad as I had enough to do. I did not feel like making the effort to get co-operation from the equipment as I had only travelled from Scotland yesterday. Alison also set up a very satisfactory 'finds table' which helped inform and entertain the visitors enormously.
At the end of the day Alison and her manager [Dr David Knight, Head of Research at Trent & Peak Archaeology] were complementary about my contribution and said I could drop in next week and be welcome. I may well do just that assuming my energy levels are restored. Alison said she learnt stuff from my presentation which I severely doubt as she has a first in history.
At the end of the day they all withdrew to the 'Trip' but I deferred as I could not have improved on a perfect day and would only have bored people with unlikely theories.
Roger Clifford, Explainer volunteer and NCMG volunteer
A postscript from Alison
It's been another good day, and, surprisingly, very sunny!
Trainees have been working on the infilled features in the main (western) part of the trench, excavating, cleaning and recording these. The soil at the immediate west of the brick surface is being taken down, and work continues to clean and record the bricks. The team also processed environmental samples with Rosie and carried out surveying with Norma (both from Trent & Peak Archaeology).
It's also been a busy day in the viewing platform and Explainer volunteer Roger and I were on the go all day. We spoke with a lot of local families but also visitors from as far away as Australia, Germany, America and India. It was great to also be visited by the Teen Twitter Takeover team - a group of young people who are running the Nottingham Castle Bid Twitter feed today.
Other visitors to the site included Ron Inglis, Service Manager for NCMG, and the ever-exuberant Richard, a tour guide at the Castle. We also welcomed two groups from the Thoroton Society, with one member offering an intriguing suggestion as to what our features in the west of the trench might be. More news on that coming soon!
The day finished with the regular Friday pub visit and a goodbye to some of the trainees who are leaving us.
Some short videos from the Teen Twitter Takeover team:
Thursday 10 August
It was an exciting day for the trainees with a visit from the BBC! Fantastic new television personalities were born – Liz ‘the Pinz’ Clifton and ‘Sparky’ Paul. There were lovely words from both about the dig and their experience here at the Castle.
Thankfully, the rain stayed away and we basked in glorious sunshine! There was a big clean up of Area 4 today (the main part of the trench) after the rain damage, to reveal the features clearly once again. Others ploughed through the recording that since Monday they have been unable to do.
'Posh Lunch Thursday' went ahead despite the altered timetable due to filming and local VIP visitors. In fact, we surpassed ourselves the extent that it looks like there will also be a 'Posh Lunch Friday' too…
A big thanks to Rosie, Norma and volunteer Josh from Trent & Peak Archaeology, who came out to teach the trainees more about environmental samples and the EDM machine. Their time and efforts are very much appreciated.
It looks like the weather will be fine again tomorrow, so onwards with digging out more features! Sadly, however, today was the last day for stalwarts Liz and Michelle and we wish them a fond farewell and all the best for the future – hopefully we will see them again. Good luck Michelle with your archaeology degree course at the University of Leicester!
Friday 11 August
It was a lovely sunny day again, so excavating and recording continued apace. Work mainly focused on cleaning up the exposed bricks and taking down the remaining upper layers on the immediate south of the brick layers.
Rosie and volunteer Josh from Trent & Peak Archaeology came out again to work through the samples of soils taken from some of the features in Area 4 (the main part of the trench). They had a lot of input from trainee Steve, who seems to have taken a shine to that area of the archaeology, which is great to see.
The find of the week came from Nicola with a fine, large sherd of Anglo-Norman ‘shelley-ware’ pottery from one of the slots in Area 4 – huzzah!.
By the end of the day the site was looking dry and clean, allowing Richard to mark out new slots for digging during the final week of the dig. Fingers crossed that the dry weather will hold so that we can get the job done!
There was another emotional goodbye to ‘Sparky’ Paul, and one of the mainstays of WDC3, Sam, who were trainee students from the University of Nottingham. Both have been a pleasure to have on site and we wish them all the best for their studies and, hopefully, future careers in archaeology/heritage.
Today we were joined by some guests. They included supporters of the dig, people with an interest in community archaeology and training, heritage/historic environment staff from Nottingham City Council and representatives of the NCMG and TPA volunteers. Led by Matt and David, they heard about the known history and archaeology of the Castle site and our excavation area, saw the dig in action, learnt about trainees' discoveries so far and looked at some of the artefacts uncovered. We'd like to thank everyone who joined us.
With no rain, and even a slight glimmer of sunshine, trainees pressed on. There was excavation, cleaning and recording in the trench to work on, levels to take, surveying with Norma and flotation with Rosie (both Trent & Peak Archaeology). At the end of the day there was also the option of joining Dr David Knight (Trent & Peak Archaeology) for a walking tour of the medieval Anglo-Scandinavian borough and its boundaries, which also took in the sites of known excavations.
Another highlight of the day was a visit from presenter Carol and her cameraman. You can catch her visit, and interviews with trainees and Project Manager Matt, on BBC East Midlands Today at 1.30pm and in full at 6.30pm. Catch up online (available for a limited period only).
Tuesday 8 August: a biblical downpour
Continuous overnight rain left the site looking a bit sad – and, to top it all, on Tuesday the rains came in the morning and never left!.
The main Area 4 (the western part of the trench) was out of commission, being too slippery. Its sections were extremely weak and starting to collapse with the weight of rainwater. Consequently, digging was confined to the top of Area 6 (the brick surface) on the newly exposed bricks. Our intrepid trainee Paul (Sparky) courageously braved the biblical downpour.
Meanwhile, the trainees enjoyed workshops on stratigraphy, photography, surveying, pottery identification and context sheet recording. This has hopefully left them in a strong position to crack on if the weather lets up tomorrow.
Just before lunch the trainees were given a break from studies to enjoy the castle museum and its art galleries.
Wednesday 9 August: the rain stopped
After a certain amount of trepidation that rain would stop play again we actually had a dry day. As Area 4 began to dry out we were able to let more trainees into the trench to continue with their tasks of recording the work done on Monday.
For many trainees this is their first time drawing and writing context sheets.… so the classes of the Tuesday stood them in good stead!
We were also able to get some of our more experienced trainees on to to cleaning up Area 5, to gain a clearer idea of what might be going on in there.
Big thanks to Monty, our explainer, who went beyond the call of duty to entertain a large group of American guests until after hours.
A note from Andy
Morning: visitors few and far between. I may call the next one Friday!
Afternoon: many more visitors now, from Spain, the Netherlands, London and Notts. It's torture watching the digging and not joining in!
Andy Simmonds, Explainer volunteer and NCMG employee
A short update from Alison
We've had a good day in the trench, marquee and viewing platform.
In the viewing platform, NCMG employee Andy was today's Explainer volunteer, chatting with visitors, sharing his love of Civil War history and showing some of the finds. With it being a Monday the Castle wasn't as busy as it had been at the weekend but there were still plenty of visitors to keep him busy.
In the trench there was cleaning, recording, drawing and photographing to press on with, while Steve learnt to take levels. New trainees Josh and Dominic began with finds washing and finds processing, and after our mid-morning break got stuck in with cleaning features.
In the marquee Peter Hammond came to deliver another workshop in clay pipe identification. We particularly liked the potty-shaped pipe and another with a lady sitting on the lavatory (both from his own collection)! It was then back to the trench for returning trainees, and a tutorial in contexts and stratigraphy with Tristan for Josh and Dominic.
After lunch (today's quiz was song titles including the names of American states) it was back to the trench, with metal detecting in the spoil heap and an optional archaeology tour of the Castle site with Acting City Archaeologist Scott.
The view from the trench: notes from tutor Tristan
We had on and off drizzle today but we still mainly managed to keep going. There was lots of recording to be done following Saturday’s work and it was a good opportunity for starter trainees to learn new tricks and for some of the more experienced to show off their knowledge in assisting them, under Laura’s watchful eye. It’s great to see the confidence showing through for those that have been with us for a while now.
There was lots of important catch-up work done today with context sheets and drawings, while today was also a chance for many to learn how to take and record environmental samples. We're all looking forward to having Rosie from Trent & Peak Archaeology come out again to work with the trainees on processing the soils.
An update from tutor Richard
News from the past couple of days, from Alison and Paulina
Today was a bit unusual for us, being a Saturday training session. It was a lovely sunny day (to start with at least!) on which to welcome both returning trainees and some new faces.
Regular tutors Laura and Tristan were joined by archaeologists Paulina and Vicky (both of Trent & Peak Archaeology), with NCMG volunteer Jon as our Explainer. Trent & Peak Archaeology volunteer Monty was also onsite, working with three young winners of the Dig it! with YAC competition. You can read about what our young archaeologists got up to in the dig diary entry below.
Our trainees quickly set to work, with an introduction to the site and a health and safety induction for those new to the dig. Armorel and Cynthia continued excavating, photographing, drawing and recording the deep features in the west of the trench. New trainees were soon busy washing, recording and rebagging finds with Paulina, sieving, cleaning the bricks and taking down the soil level to their immediate west. There was also a pottery identification tutorial, a stratigraphy workshop, an optional tour of Mortimer’s Hole, levels to take, possible features in the eastern extension to clean, and finds processing to carry out.
It was also a busy day for our Explainer volunteer Jon. He spoke with lots of visitors, showing drawings of the medieval site and maps of the grounds and giving them the opportunity to handle finds. In return, visitors offered some interesting ideas for the features in the west end of the trench, which even included slots for wheels and axles! One young visitor was looking forward to writing about the dig as part of his project on castles, and was excited to hold a musket ball.
Working in the north extension at the east end of the trench, volunteer Monty and our young archaeologists uncovered a number of artefacts that they described as like black wax crayons. One parent suggested that they might be carbon arc rods, which have been used for a range of purposes, including spotlights. Volunteers Monty and Jon are looking forward to researching whether these have ever been used at the Castle, especially during the Second World War.
We also had some other visitors. Trainee Dawn returned to show her family the dig and we were visited by the Nottingham City Women's Institute, accompanied by Dr David Knight (Trent & Peak Archaeology).
You can read about the archaeology that our trainees have uncovered in the news section.
At the end of week 3 the We Dig the Castle team would like to say a thank you to all of our trainees, the visitors and members of the public who have shown such interest in the excavation and the Explainer volunteers who have taken photos, made recordings and been so eager to share the history and archaeology of the site with others.
Alison and Paulina
Hear about Paulina's day and why she enjoys working with trainees:
A very special visit from the winners of the Dig it! with YAC competition
We were excited to be joined today by Georgina, Kian and Phoebe - winners of the Young Archaeologists' Club's Dig it! with YAC competition.
Our young archaeologists' day began at 10.30, when lead tutor Laura welcomed them to the dig, introduced the features and artefacts found so far, explained some of the questions that we're hoping to answer, and told them about health and safety in the trench.
With hard hats and hi-vis vests on, our new trainees were straight into the trench, equipped with their brand new trowels (part of their goody bags from Past Horizons). Guided by Trent & Peak Archaeology volunteer Monty, they worked hard to clean soil from the bricks in the east part of the trench.
In the process they uncovered lots of finds, including slag, nails, fragments of glass and pottery, and some mystery objects, which might help us to understand how and when the bricks came to be here.
After some hard work in the trench it was time for our young archaeologists to join Laura for a quick tutorial. Using finds from our own dig, they learnt about some of the types of pottery that they might find on the site, and how to recognize these.
We had a quick lunch and then Georgina and Phoebe (and parents) joined other trainees for a tour of Mortimer's Hole. Meanwhile, Kian set to work on our spoil heap, sieving for artefacts. He quickly had a collection of finds, including a piece of pottery that could be medieval in date.
It was then time for Kian to join a cave tour while Georgina and Phoebe tackled the spoil. The finds bag quickly got full, and by 4.30pm, when our day ended, it was almost full with glass, metal, bone, clay pipe stems and slag.
We've had a great day with our young archaeologists and were very impressed by their knowledge, enthusiasm and interest. Thank you all for your hard work! We'd also like to thank their parents for accompanying them, and Monty and the trainees for the time that they gave to support our visitors.
If you have a youngster aged 8-16 who is interested in archaeology why not find out more about your local Young Archaeologists' Club?
We were really happy to receive a copy of this letter from the Young Archaeologists' Club, which was sent to them by Phoebe and her mum.
An update from tutor Tristan
The weather was again not on our side in the morning but it brightened up towards the afternoon - and the better weather brought the visitors to our viewing platform with it!
Amongst the visitors to the dig were holidaymakers from Wisconsin, Spain and Oxford, plus, of course, people from the exotic Midlands.
Yesterday our trainees enjoyed a workshop on surveying with Tiago from Trent & Peak Archaeology, followed (for some) by a tour of the medieval Anglo-Scandinavian borough (now the Lace Market area) with Dr David Knight. Today our new trainees had the opportunity to get involved in a workshop on clay pipe identification with Peter Hammond. We've already found a lot of clay pipe bowls and stems in the trench, which have helped us to date some of the features. We hope that the new trainees will be able to take a role in identifying the probable dates of any further clay pipes found.
We were also joined today by Rosie Hughes (Trent & Peak Archaeology). Rosie has been teaching wet sieving and supporting trainees to assess the ecofacts (such as seeds) present in the soil samples taken from the trench. This will help us in interpreting the complex features in the main (western) part of the trench.
Later in the afternoon we also had a visit from the Derbyshire Archaeological Society, led by Dr David Knight (Trent & Peak Archaeology). They were intrigued by the site and promised to think about any parallels that they might have seen elsewhere.
For some of our trainees this was their last day on the dig. They enjoyed a full day of recording - which included creating plans, drawing sections, photography and taking levels.
Today we said farewell to Jan, Tony, Sophie, Amy, Trinity, Lesa and Veronica. We hope that they've enjoyed and benefited from their time with We Dig the Castle.