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.

TAG 2012 Liverpool

I’m just back from three days at TAG in Liverpool. I presented a short paper on simple, affordable and effective training methods for site staff as part of the Diggers' Forum session, the paper will be published in full next year and the DF is planning on publishing all the papers from their session in some format. An earlier version of my presentation is available on the FAME website: http://www.famearchaeology.co.uk/2012/07/presentations-from-fit-for-purpose/#more-618

The rest of TAG was the usual mix of sessions on theory, research and practice (although it didn’t seem very ‘TAGy’ this year, no sessions on post-processualism in Star Trek…) and catching up with old friends, and meeting new ones. Highlights for me included an excellent keynote speech critiquing reflexive archaeology and multivocality at Çatalhöyük by Shahina Farid, a paper on oral history and industrial period archaeology by Kerry Massheder, Anglo-Saxon cremation pots as brewing vessels by Gareth Perry, Viking Age archaeology by James Barratt, salt-making on the Atlantic coast and the EcoSal Project by Andrew Fielding, and Michael Nevill on Industrial Archaeology, databases and Grounded Theory. I’m looking forward to next year’s conference at Bournemouth.

Sections, shoring and single context recording

A recent contract with LP Archaeology in the City of London raised some aspects of recording worth some thought. The contract was an archaeological evaluation on a site that straddled the projected line of the Roman, medieval and post-medieval ditches that lie immediately outside the walls of Londinium and London. Due to the expected depth of the archaeological deposits (geo-technical boreholes showed up to 7.8m of potentially archaeological strata) the evaluation strategy was for five 2.5m x 2.5m test pits that would be dug as fully shored shafts. The test pits were located to give information on the survival of archaeological strata, the nature of any such deposits, and the potential survival of complex masonry and environmentally significant remains. The pits were positioned across the site in an L-shape with three of the test pits located to provide an east–west transect across the expected line of the defensive ditches.
In order to illustrate the excavated sequence it was decided to record a representative section of each test pit, these could be used to construct an illustrated section across the site which would illustrate the strata found in the test pits, along with their conjectured extent. The impact of the proposed development could be mapped against this to give an immediate visual representation of the site. Unfortunately given the projected depth of the test pits they would need to be close-shored with steel trench sheets and timberwork. After the first metre or so of each pit had been dug and the shoring had gone in, there would be little opportunity to view and record a traditional section as due to the loose nature of the fill the trench sheets needed to be dropped every 200-300mm to ensure the integrity of the shoring*. 

View of Test Pit 3 at approximately 7m depth