Welcome to the Urban Archaeology blog. Freelance archaeologist Chiz Harward provides a range of on and offsite services to the archaeological profession, including running and working on excavations, post-excavation services, training and development work, and illustration work. This weblog will carry news of projects as and when they happen as well as wider thoughts on archaeological issues, especially recording, stratigraphy and training.

Medieval floor tiles

Medieval floor tiles in the collections of the Museum of London (click on image to enlarge).

Roman lathe-turned porringer and ash bowl

Both pieces are in the Museum of London (MoLA), and were found within the Roman Upper Walbrook cemetery that lies beneath the Finsbury Circus area of the City of London.

The porringer was lathe turned from timber from a pollarded oak, which gives the beautiful effect from the myriad of small knots; it had warped badly since deposition and was illustrated as it would have appeared before warping (click on image to enlarge).

A sherd of this lathe turned ash bowl was found during excavations in 1987 by the then Department of Urban Archaeology of the MoL, a predecessor of MoLA (Museum of London Archaeology). It had been preserved by waterlogging beneath the early 20th century buildings.

The Upper Walbrook cemetery has been archaeologically investigated since the 19th century. Chiz Harward was Project Officer on recent major excavations by MoLA. A publication programme is now underway at MoLA which will incorporate some antiquarian findings as well as MoL excavations in a MoLA monograph.

The drawings were initially made in pencil, then scanned and finished in CorelDraw.

St Mary Spital, London: reconstruction of canons' infirmary

This is a draft reconstruction drawing based on the excavated evidence for the range of buildings which developed from the original late 13th/early 14th century two-room canons' infirmary (click on image to enlarge).

By Dissolution the area had developed into a complex of timber framed buildings around a
semi-enclosed courtyard and may have ceased to function as an infirmary.

The excavations at Spitalfields between 1998 and 2009 were just one part of a long campaign of excavations in the area by the Museum of London. The main MoLA excavations, led by Chris Thomas, uncovered a Roman burial ground, this was covered by the remains of the Augustinian priory hospital of St Mary Spital. The east end of the Priory church was excavated, as was the Canons' Infirmary, fishponds, gardens and much of the Outer Precinct which contained numerous tenement buildings. The main cemetery was also excavated, with over 10,000 individual skeletons excavated, possibly the largest archaeologically excavated cemetery in the world. Up to 100 archaeologists worked on the site for over a year.

Chiz Harward was one of the principal supervisors of the main excavations, and is co-author of the forthcoming medieval and post-medieval monographs.

Reconnaissance survey in west Nepal

In 1998 and 2000 Chiz Harward carried out a reconnaissance survey of medieval monuments in west Nepal for the Central Himalaya Project. This remote area of the Himalayas was once home to the medieval Khasa Malla kingdom, who established a winter palace in the foothills at Dullu, and a summer palace site in the mountains at Sinja. The two sites were joined by a royal road, part of a network of trading trails that criss-cross the Himalaya.

The survey involved trekking from Dailekh in the foothills along the royal road to Sinja (see maps), a journey that took nearly a month. A basic survey was made of monuments discovered en route, which included many temples (upper figure), waterpoints (lower figure), dharamsala (guesthouses) and standing stele or pillarstones.

A return visit in 2000 concentrated on monuments in the vicinity of the summer palace at Sinja, with more detailed recording of standing stele and pillarstones unfortunately cut short by the Maoist insurgency.

The survey discovered many new monuments and complexes, as well as re-recording monuments first discovered by Professor Guiseppe Tucci in the 1950s. The survey was a part of wider ongoing research work by Tim Harward (Central Himalaya Project) with Cambridge Archaeology Unit of Cambridge University, and the Institute of Archaeology, UCL.

St Vedast elevation

Elevation of the south wall of St Vedast Church, Foster Lane, City of London, showing coursing by contexts identified during recording of the wall (click on image to enlarge).

Recording work at St Vedast was undertaken by the London Archaeological Research Facility in 1993, and published in London Archaeologist.

This is a recent electronic reworking in CorelDraw of the published pen and ink illustration.

Post-excavation training seminars

In 2008 Urban Archaeology provided training seminars in post-excavation processes to staff at LP Archaeology, a leading archaeological unit in London.

The seminars covered the use of the Bonn archaeological matrix program, subgrouping, spot-dating, grouping, landuse and periodisation using one of their sites as a working example. The theoretical background to the 'Landuse' approach was discussed, and each stage of the post-excavation process was described and demonstrated using site data. The methodological processes, potential problems and workarounds and the implications of using this system for programming post-excavation projects were all discussed.

The seminars were backed up by our own training handouts and wider reading material. This training allowed LP Archaeology to fine tune their database structure and post-excavation methodologies.

Guy Hunt of LP Archaeology said:
"We were very pleased to offer this excellent training in post excavation techniques to our project managers. This is part of our commitment to CPD and training for our staff. The seminars were very well executed and have subsequently proved extremely valuable to us both in project work and on a more general level as we have revised our companywide post excavation practices.

In particular, we wanted our project managers to gain a greater in depth knowledge of the systems that can be used to handle sites with deep and complex stratigraphy. The presentation style was informative and enjoyable. I would heartily recommend this service to any other unit looking to raise awareness and skill levels in post excavation techniques."

Urban Archaeology has developed a series of training resources for excavation and post-excavation processes; these can be used as handouts for one-to-one or group training seminars, as prompts for 'toolbox talks' on technical archaeological subjects, or as general handouts to staff (click on example to enlarge).

Flexibility and knowledge on site

Urban Archaeology demonstrated its fast responses, flexibility and value with its very first sub-contract in August 2008 on a site just outside of the City of London in Hackney.

Following a phone call from Archaeology South-East (ASE), a major south-eastern archaeology unit, Chiz Harward was on site at 8am the next day assisting with an evaluation, and then maintaining an intermittent watching brief on site works: Chiz was able to meet the demands of an evolving site programme and methodology, liaise with ASE, the archaeological consultant and the main contractor, and maintain a watching brief on underpinning, demolition works and site clearance.

Despite the presence of significantly more archaeological remains than had been originally expected, Chiz's detailed knowledge of the local archaeology and years of experience working with construction companies meant that the site works and archaeology could proceed hand-in-hand with the minimum disruption to programme. After the initial evaluation the watching brief evolved seamlessly into a further evaluation for a crane base, and then full excavation of the crane base with a small team of archaeologists from the parent unit.

The site archive for the first package of works was checked and completed on site, and text sections written to ASE's house style for the works supervised by Chiz Harward. This was all delivered to ASE for integration into the final report.

The site had been partially basemented in the Victorian period, but because the street level had been raised by over 1 metre in the 17th-century, archaeological strata survived beneath the basements as well as to their rear. The site was an open area in the Roman period, with a possible road-side ditch and large quarry pits containing waterlogged material. This was sealed by a medieval back-garden soil through which refuse pits had been dug. A masonry boundary wall may be originally medieval in date. The masonry wall was rebuilt with Tudor bricks, associated with a Tudor garden soil and further pitting. The boundary wall continued in use after the 17th-century groundraising, with a large culvert, cesspit and soakaway associated with one of the 17th-century brick houses built on the site.