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.

Metal finds from Finsbury Circus

Roman small finds from Finsbury Circus, in the collections of the Museum of London; clockwise from top left:

Copper alloy wire bracelet or armlet with terminals, probably from a burial; Roman copper alloy key; Roman cast lead weight with raised concentric circular lines; Roman copper alloy balance (click on image to enlarge).

Finsbury Circus: Roman small finds

Roman copper alloy finds from Finsbury Circus, City of London in the Museum of London Collection (click on image to enlarge).

These pins, spoon, ligulae and tweezers were found during the construction of Finsbury Circus in the early 20th century and probably derive from burials within the Roman Upper Walbrook cemetery. These finds complement examples excavated under controlled conditions by MoLAS.

Finsbury Circus: Roman tombstone

Roman oolitic limestone tombstone from the Upper Walbrook cemetery (click on image to enlarge). Found in 1837 it is in the collection of the Museum of London.

The Inscription reads:

'To the spirits of the departed and Grata the daughter of Dagobiti, forty years old. Solinus arranged for this to be made for his dearest wife'

Stove tile

Medieval stove tile in the collections of the Museum of London (click on image to enlarge).

Hadrian's Wall

September and October 2009 saw Chiz working as site supervisor for English Heritage's Archaeological Projects up at Birdoswald on Hadrian's Wall. The site was part of a cremation cemetery which was fast disapearing over the edge of a 300 foot cliff into the River Irthing so the plan was to excavate a strip along the cliff edge to get ahead of the erosion. The team was led by EH Project Manager Tony Wilmott.

Recording on site was using a digital system from Sweden called Intrasis, which involves digital inputting of all data. This did cause some problems and issues, but given time and tweaking does have potential. The site also acted as a training excavation for a great bunch of archaeology students from Newcastle University under the direction of Professor Ian Haynes.

Numerous cremations were excavated, dating from the Hadrianic period onwards, with two possible 5th-century inhumation graves possibly relating to sub-Roman occupation of the fort. The cremation cemetery was contained by a small marker-ditch, parallel to a cobbled roadway, which had eroded into a hollow-way as it led downhill. The cremations were of various types, with possible bustum burials, as well as stone cysts and cobble lined cremation pits. Some cremations appear to have been marked by small ring ditches. No pyre sites were located, but areas of cobbled surface may indicate heavy use of some parts of the cemetery, possibly adjacent to pyres. Finds were fairly limited, although some pots were removed to Fort Cumberland for excavation in the lab, and initial x-rays suggest the presence of metal artefacts, including possibly fragments of chain mail. Tony Wilmott's weekly site roundups can be read here.

Site accomodation was next to the Augustinian Priory at Lanercost, a fantastic site and well worth a visit (photo above). The Cricket club is also worth a visit.

Site handouts

Urban Archaeology has developed a series of handouts covering excavation and post-excavation processes, and basic finds information (click on examples to enlarge). These are similar to 'crib sheets' used by some archaeological units but are not confined to basic archaeological techniques.

The handouts can be posted in site huts, handed out to staff, or used in training or seminar sessions or as the focus for weekly archaeological 'toolbox talks'. They have proved to be very useful on sites as both training tools and as an aide memoire and complement the basic technical information in the site manual.