happy summer solstice!

Happy Summer Solstice!

Today is the longest day of the year.  Enjoy the sunlight and take some time to reflect on all the beautiful and bright things in your life.

It’s the end of the first week of the 2019 season of the Bamburgh Research Project and I’m back in Edinburgh just for the day do run errands and do my laundry.

This season I am working as the Assistant Finds Supervisor.  If you’ve been totally out of the loop, the BRP is located at Bamburgh Castle in Northumbria.  Bamburgh was a massive Anglo-Saxon stronghold and later medieval fortress.  Excavations are currently focused in the outer ward of the castle in a known metal working area circa the sixth to seventh centuries CE.

So far, I’ve been teaching illustration techniques and am currently in the middle of reorganizing how the project stores bulk finds (pottery, ceramic building material, charcoal, etc).  Up until recently the project stored bulk finds by year.  It was decided that to make it easier for future study we would reorder everything so artefact types are together regardless of year.  It’ll make everything easier… but is a process to do.

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view of the office.

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This past week has truthfully gone by quickly.  I took the train from Edinburgh last Friday.  We had a staff work day on Saturday to organise our new offices and get the trench ready for students the next day.

I also received my degree classification last Friday.  I have been awarded a First Class Degree in History & Archaeology MA with Honours.  It’s a mouthful, but basically it means I did a pretty damn good job.  A First is the highest degree classification you can get in the UK.  Also, as I found out yesterday, I was one of two students to receive the Archaeological Dissertation Prize.  The award was split this year and is awarded to the student (or students) who received the highest mark for the year on their dissertations.  Maybe it’s time to actually print copies…

If you can remember that far back to April, my dissertation focused on architectural archaeology and cultural heritage management of the Botanic Cottage at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  I pulled in a lot of my experiences volunteering at the Cottage for the past two years as well.

But yeah. It’s been exciting.

And honestly, it’s a week illustrating what happens when you really, really want something.  I guess dreams really do come true, kiddos.  And, like, I really, really don’t want to sound like an asshole, but I’m so proud.  I am graduating from a top 20 world university with top honours, hanging out at an archaeological site all summer, and then starting a Masters in a field I love.

I never compare myself to others because we are all flowers growing at our own pace,  however, I do compare myself to past versions.  This is my evaluation: present-Kenn is everything past-Kenn hoped she would be, but, present-Kenn still has work to do so future-Kenn can be her best version.

But, I could have never done it without my friends or my parents or my lecturers or my supervisors or the RBGE or the BRP.  My heart is so full and I owe it to you all.

I’m back to Bamburgh this afternoon and then back to Edinburgh again next week.  My family is arriving for my graduation not long after I get back and it’ll be great to see them.

Happy Summer Solstice!

 

a video?!

 

what is this 2016?! I haven’t done a vlog in ages and this is the least I could do after shoving my camera in my friend’s faces for two weeks.  sorry not sorry. So anyway, here’s a belated mock-u-mentary about the anniversary dinner/roadtrip conveniently edited to a PG rating and under 5 minutes.

hey nerds.

Literally everything has happened but nothing of ‘ohmygodihavetotellyouallnowonthisblogwhichprobablyonlymyparentsandgrandmareadbutimgoingtopretendeveryonedoes’ note.  And, I’m not being ~dramatic.~

Since I’ve been back in Edinburgh, I’ve continued to plod on with what I do best, procrastinating and then doing everything on my procrastinated list in a 24 hour time period.  Today I spend time at the RBGE Library working on gathering resources for my dissertation on the Botanic Cottage.  I got to spend some time with archaeological reports and even some maps of the original garden on Leith Walk and architectural plans of the Cottage drawn by John Adam.  One of the maps was dated to 1777 while the architectural plans date prior to the construction of the Cottage in 1763.

Now, if you’ve been away from the blog or my loud American mouth for a hot sec… I’ll recap.  I’m writing on aspects of cultural heritage manage and architectural archaeology using the case study of the Botanic Cottage at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.  The building was constructed around 1763 and served at the gardener’s house as well as John Hope’s lecture theatre to teach botany to medical students at the University of Edinburgh.  The lecture room was rediscovered during excavations and because most of the university buildings in Edinburgh were demolished in the 18c to make way for new ones, the Cottage is arguably the oldest and only surviving purpose built lecture theatre from the Scottish Enlightenment!  Nice.  The Cottage was in use until 1820ish when the garden moved from Leith Walk to Inverleith (current location).  Okay cool fast forward.  The Cottage was basically forgotten after the garden moved and went through a lot of awkward phases including becoming an office for a van rental company!  That was until about 2007 when the building caught on fire and then was scheduled to be demolished.  The local community decided that was not going to happen and started research the building and as it turns out, the Cottage is probably one of the best documented small buildings in Scottish history!  Why?  John Hope was appointed by George III to be the King’s Botanist in 1760.  Hope’s patron Lord Bute was also named 1st Lord of the Treasury, leaving him in charge of funding a variety of projects and stuff.  To keep the funds coming for his garden in Edinburgh, Hope documented just about everything down to pillow cases and paper about the Cottage.  Cheers John!

At the moment, I have the historical side and documents concerning the construction.  I have information about how the Cottage was saved and rebuilt.  Now I just need to move more onto the theory side of the project (eg the stuff on Cultural Heritage, the meaning of place and space) and architectural archaeology.  I’m front loading on the research and gathering of stuff now that way I’m not stressed out of my mind come actual term time.

But, I have just over a week left in Edinburgh before it’s off on excavation.  The season at Bamburgh has already started but since I needed to work a bit in Edinburgh this June I’ll be joining the team down at the beginning of July for the last two weeks.   I went down just for the first day to attend a health and safety course which renews my CPR and first aid certification for another three years and a staff dinner, but I’m excited to see what they’ve been up to since!  After Bamburgh finishes it’s back to Edinburgh and then down further south to Chester for some more work at Poulton with medieval human remains.

However, before all that kicks off, my dad is coming to visit next week!  I haven’t seen any of my family since Christmas so I’m really glad to catch up with him.  I haven’t really planned anything except to go to some new restaurants and I *still* haven’t seen SOLO which is goddamn travesty and I’m sorry Obi Wan.  After Dad leaves I get another visit from the people of my past.  Betsy, one of my closest friends from Kansas!  She’s never been to Europe before so ofc she’s freaking out.  But, not to worry!   I’m meeting her in London at the beginning of July for a few days and then we we are going to take the train back to Edinburgh and spend a few days here.  Then she’s off to Paris for her amazing study abroad which I know she will absolutely slay.

So, um, yeah.  I’ve been doing that, making banana bread, getting really distressed about season 6 of Voltron on Netflix (my trash son betrayed and played me just as I was starting to trust his character), and crying over some young adult fantasy novel Caitlin loaned me.

Oh!  And before I forget and because my mom won’t answer my calls. I got all my final marks back for the year.   I finished third year with a 68.3 average which puts me in a really nice spot to graduate with either a very high 2.1 or if I play my cards right maybe a First!  I’m super happy with my final mark in Archaeological Illustration (I got a 78) because I absolutely lovvvvveeed that class and wish I could take it again.

Okay that’s all. byeeeeee.

roadtripping 2018

Sorry for the absence, I’ve been away for the last few weeks getting eaten alive by midges.

I’ve been in back in Edinburgh for nearly a week after time at the Bothy, Arisaig, Skye, and Torridon.  It’s been just enough time to take multiple showers, postpone my laundry until I physically couldn’t stand to have it in my room, read not one! but two! trashy teen medieval fantasy novels, get the photos from the trip developed, take part in the Processions to celebrate 100 Years of women having the vote in the UK, and teach young children about worms.

A lot has happened so I’ll try to summarize it the best I can without boring you.

As per my last blog post, I stated I would be returning to the club Bothy in Kintail to do some final fixings before I officially retired from my post as EUMC Bothy Secretary.  With great pride, I can say the EUMC Bothy is now fitted with a fully working gas kitchen.  We cooked a group meal on Saturday night and I spent another weekend in one of my favorite places in Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Then it was quickly back to Edinburgh to repack for the following two weeks of Roadtrip.  Gregor arrived back to the flat with his dad’s orange jeep and the four of us (being Gregor, myself, Tuva, and Erling) drove to Arisaig for the kick off of the annual EUMC Roadtrip and the 75th Anniversary Dinner.  This year was special in that the event was attended by not only current Yummicks but past club members as well.  I spoke with a few members from the 1970s and 1980s.   We arrived on the Friday night and had a BBQ on the beach.  On the Saturday, we went cragging to a nearby sport crag.  That evening we had a hog roast, a ceilidh, bottles of committee wine, and I got to meet not one! but two! very fluffy cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That Sunday, Gregor drove back to see his parents and I along with Alven and Tuva packed out kit into Ellie B’s car.  Erling, Oonagh, and Ben packed with Ellie Leigh.  The eight of us went to the beach near Arisaig were we discovered how quickly the Scottish tide can come in and that apparently, gin bottles explode in hot cars (?).  Then it was off to Mallaig to catch the ferry to Skye were the weather was the nicest.  No one really starts the Roadtrip with any concrete plans, we just check the weather and go.

I had never been to Skye before this week.  I had been close, multiple times.  The Bothy is just south of Kyle of Lochalsh, which if you wanted to drive to Skye over taking a car ferry is where you would find a very steep bridge linking the island to the mainland.  And the weather was incredible.  On average Skye gets about three sunny days a year, the rest of the time it’s known to be clouded in mist and rain.  The week we were there, it did not rain a single day.  Clear skies, hot weather to the point I was still sweating in just a sleeping bag liner… and midges.

The Scottish midge is a beast known only to itself.  While I pride myself for never getting ticks or mosquito bits… holy living Hell I was eaten alive.  I looked like a pox victim.  Actually, probably worse.  And since we wild camped most nights, the midges had no mercy.

But anyway, here’s what we got up to on Skye.  Ellie B and I had a nice walk from Elgol to Kilmarie.  It was along the coast and we stopped for ice cream and met a nice dog.  We ordered way too many plates of sweet potato fries from the pub in Sligachan and probably ate all their mayo as well, sorry.  All of us had the bright idea of wild camping at the Fairy Pools so that we could wake up early and see them without all the tourists, which was great and we all went for a swim until the tourists showed up… with their mechanical, whizzing drones.  I really hope when they rewatch the footage they see my kind, respectful one finger salute while I’m trying to bathe for the first time in a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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day 1 on skye

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In a stroke of ingenuity, we sat cooking dinner in a layby with cars speeding past.  We were all well beside ourselves having realized the speed of the cars kept the midges at bay (it’s hadn’t occurred to us how low our standards had gotten that were were excited about cooking on a layby)…  that was until I woke up the next morning to see the yellow roof of my tent covered in black patches.  In a speedy departure I thought I was home free until I fell into a bog up to my waist.  Pinned down by the weight of my base bag, my friends abandoned me to the midges while I pulled myself (and about a metric ton of bog crap) out and stumbled to the car.

That afternoon, everyone was just a little tired and split up to do different things.  Some went climbing, a few ran errands to get missing kit, and I went for a run.  Despite falling in a bog that morning the day evened out and I ran a solid 18km down Sligachan Glen at the base of the Cullins.  The sun was out, the trail was amazing, and I honestly haven’t felt that happy running in a long, long, long time.  I could have kept going… in fact I sort of did.  I only planed on maybe 7/8km max… but it was just one of those days were nothing hurt and the surrounding were beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was off to Neist Point for climbing by the coast.  I’m normally not scared of heights, but, ouch, did I think I was going to fall into the ocean.  But, I mean it didn’t help that the path to the crag neared about three inches to the cliff with horrid, cackling birds below.  But, the climbing at Neist was great.  The sun did not set until nearly 11 pm so we stayed out late AND! we had our first midge free night!

 

 

 

 

 

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🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

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The next day, Ellie B and I met up with Sophie, Caitlin, and Urte who were all on their own roadtrip around Scotland.  However, before we went to Dunvegan Castle because tbh is it a trip if you don’t see a castle?  That evening we pitched our tents on a dubious beach spot and got a bit of a fright when we thought the tide would wash us out again.  But, it didn’t and we had a BBQ and celebrated the week as the sunset on Skye with a bottle of cinnamon schnappes.

We were all brutally awoken by Ali shouting, ‘CAN EVERYONE GET UP SO WE CAN LEAVE THIS HELL HOLE!’ at 7 am. My eyes snapped open it was wasn’t even patches of black this time, no my tent was entirely blackened with midges.  Not wanting to even think about moving I shouted back, ‘Have you tried asking them (the midges) nicely to leave?’ No one thought that was funny and with panicked screeching we packed up and got the heck outta Dodge.  However, this was not before Erling became the next victim and if it wasn’t for his socially acceptable male leg hair, he would have looked like not just a pox victim but Patient 0.

Ellie B drove in silence back to the pub carpark and I didn’t blame her in the slightest.  I even forgave her a bit for almost murdering me in my sleep.  *Apparently* I snore and the only way to stop it was to hold my nose until I woke up.

That afternoon, Ellie B drove Tuva, Erling, and Alven back to Edinburgh and Ali returned to Aberdeen.  I swapped into Ellie Leigh’s car with Oonagh and Ben and we all drove to Torridon.  We spend the rest of the time in Torridon before Ellie Leigh dropped me in Inverness and I caught the train back Wednesday night, just in time to go to the pub and see friends again before they all left for the summer.

But back to Torridon, it was finally windy and the midges met their rightful demise.  The highlight of my time in Torridon was scrambling across the Liathach Ridge.  With just the four of us in Torridon and with limited rack and ropes Ellie and Oonagh split off to do an eight pitch route while Ben and I completed the ridge.  (I’ve linked the route description above if you want to check it out because I’m a little too lazy to retype it here.)  But basically, at a few points, while clinging to the side of a rock I cried to Ben (he offered no sympathy, mind you!), why I, a meager Kansas farm child, had ever thought leaving the flat of the valley floor below was a good idea. Jokes aside, it was actually fine and I’m glad for this view.

 

 

 

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Some scrambling.

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😻

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The next day all four of us drove to Diabaig for some climbing but after a while we bailed and went for a swim instead.  Then it was off to Inverness to drop me at the train station for my train back to Edinburgh.  I left early so that I could make it to the RBGE Volunteer BBQ on the Thursday.

 

And that’s the trip.  I’m back now and I spent today at the gardens helping the education team with school groups aged 5-6.  I need to start some research, pay a few bills, and answer a few emails before heading off on excavation in July.  I keep telling myself to do things and I probably should get started.

 

summer with the anglo-saxons

Hi all! It’s me.  Still alive and probably still a nuisance.  I just got back from my five week excavation at Bamburgh Castle along the Northumbrian coast.  I’m still super tired but the last five weeks have been amazing.  Here’s a quick run-down of the excavation from my excavation journal for the viewers at home.

12 June, 17.45 

First day at Bamburgh Castle excavation!  Arrived yesterday via train from Edinburgh.

Today we had a site tour, health and safety, and general info.  We are working in the outer ward of the castle with two trenches.  Trench 1 is located near St. Oswald’s Gate, the original 7c entrance to the castle.  Trench 3 is located closer to the inner ward of the castle in an area that has been identified as a manufacturing center with evidence of metalworking and animal processing.

We then took a tour of the Excavation offices located in the 19c windmill.  This is where most of the post excavation work is carried out.  We got a chance to see a multitude of finds from the project including bone artifacts and metals like iron, lead, and even gold.

We began to clean Trench 3 after removing the tarps and sandbags.  Cleaning a Trench means that you remove the top few millimeters of wash-in soils to reveals the colour changes of the archaeology below.

Trench 3 showed evidence of a structure with two cobbled paths.  The current level of excavation is around the 7/8c.  There is a large amount of animal bone as well as evidence of metalworking.  As stated, the current assumption about the site is that it was the manufacturing portion of the castle, near the entrance, with finished goods then taken into the inner ward.

13 June, 17.53

Day 2 complete.  Continued to clean back Trench to reveal colors of the features.  Nearly finished with cleaning and will start excavation in few days.

During cleaning, I uncovered an iron nail!  It was catalogued as a small find and given a number for the records.

A lot of animal bone has continued to come up so the site continues to support the ideas of a production center.

Excited to begin trench excavation.

14 June, 19.55

Finished cleaning trench today.  Took photographs of pre-excavation levels.  Will begin proper excavation tomorrow.

I was cleaning the ‘Roman’ area of the trench.  So-called because of the samian ware found in a hole in 2011.  This bedrock on this side of the trench is located higher up but is equal stratigraphically with the other side of the trench.  However, because Roman finds have been coming up on this portion of the trench, work in this area will stop until the Roman level is reached on the other side of the trench as well.

We have the castle tour tomorrow, which should be good to see with our supervisors leading the way.

Overall, I am really enjoying the site and learning a lot.

June 15, 18.54

Worked on Trench 1 today!  The Trench is nearly complete with aims to close at the end of the season.  I finished cleaning a feature, planned, and took a photo.

Today we also had a tour of the castle.  We learned more about the site and the history of the castle.

June 17, 19.21

Yesterday I worked Finds.  I floated samples, sieved, and worked in the windmill for a bit.  The Windmill is where all the records are kept and finds are managed.

As for floatation, I am always so surprised at the material recovered.  Basically, floatation consisted of taking soil samples from the trench and stimulating them in a large tank with running water.  This causes lighter organic material like charcoal and even burnt seeds to float to the top and into a collection bag.  The skill is really useful for collecting data about past environments like what I was doing in Romania last summer.  It’s a really useful way of analysing the site… I just really hate having to go through the process.

Excavation on site will continue tomorrow as I help to plan more of Trench 1 before it closes.

As for today, I had the day off and went to Alnwick (pronounced An-Ick).  I went to Barter Books as the recommendation of my friend Sophie.  The bookshop is HUGE! and is located in the old Alnwick Railway Station.  They basically just covered over the Platforms with boards and put in tons and tons of bookshelves and filled then with thousands of used books.  *heavy breathing*   After going to the bookshop, I went to the castle.  The castle was incredibly opulent and the library inside was ridiculous, I could not believe some of the title they had! Leather bound copies of both the Chronicles of Froissart and Monstrelet aka the closest we have to eyewitness accounts of the Hundred Years War including the best account for the Battle of Agincourt!  Alnwick castle was also the filming location for the first Harry Potter movie and was used for exterior scenes of Hogwarts!  And it was the birthplace of Henry Percy aka Harry Hotspur who helped to put Henry IV on the throne and then later became rivals to the family and according the Shakespeare a direct rival to Henry V.

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Causal castle crying.

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I work again tomorrow and Monday starts Week 2.

June 18, 18.04

Worked at the castle today putting a stair access into the trench by cutting back the turf and shoveling dirt.  This is because the ramp used as a second access point will soon be re-sucked back into the trench as Trench 8 (an old trench dug by Brian Hope-Taylor in the 1960s) will be reopened for re-evaluation.  The stairs will serve to allow access in. This a very important part in site planning and health and safety.

Additionally, after a long day of hard work in a surprisingly hot Northumbrian sun we ate ice cream and went for a swim on the beach.

19 June, 18.30

First day of Week 2!

Excavated a shell midden to start which proved to be a very complex feature with evidence of multiple dumping acts over a period of some time.  There were layers of shell beneath layers of sediments.

Next, I cleaned the feature in the corner and planned it.  Unsure as to just what the feature is as there are many different context boundaries and colour shifts.  It is intriguing that there is a near perfect darkened rectangle in the middle of the orange clay feature.  Possible burnt area?  Possible post hole?

June 20, 17.24

Worked a long day today.  Excavated the feature I planned yesterday.  Revealed to be a burning site, potentially in situ!!  As I found evidence of fire cracked stones.  Large stones were used as a means of boiling large vats of water quickly or could have been used to line a hearth.  However, the bone found in the area did not show evidence of burning. It was a more redish hue which could mean that it was boiled, connecting it to the fire cracked stones.

I collected two sample buckets of the burnt context for further analysis and then filled in context sheets, plan forms, and photos.

June 21, 18.24

Today I began a cross section of a possible feature.  I planned, leveled, and began to find the edges of the context.  This was in the afternoon.  In the morning, it finally rained and we went inside the Windmill and washed finds.

I am getting along great with everyone on site and am really enjoying the excavation.  I am a little tired though and probably a little bit more grumpy than usual.  But, it’s been 3.5 weeks camping for me now.  (1.5 on excavation and the two weeks before that going up to the Bothy and then the Road Trip).  My grumpiness could be linked to that or the kinks in my back.  I plan to take evening to read a little and go to sleep early.

Tonight we have a lecture about the Bowl Hole, the cemetery found outside the castle a few years back.  I am very excited for this lecture.

June 22, 17.39

Today I helped with the ramp building along Trench 8.

Trench 8 is to be re-evaluated once a safety ramp is constructed.  I shoveled dirt, belayed buckets out of the trench, etc.  No actual excavation today but setting up a proper area to work in is just as important as the actual work itself!  No one wants to become part of the archaeology!

And it was pretty fun to get some rope work in.  I used a hip belay to bring up buckets from the Trench.  Archaeology and mountaineering knowledge… am I Lara Croft yet?

24 June, 21.38

Yesterday I continued to clear out the backfill of Tench 8.  Again, T8 is the location where Hope-Taylor found the two swords and the axes in the 1960s.  We are reopening it to 1) Check the records are correct for publication and 2) Connect T8 to the cobbled path in T3 were last year a copper Anglo-Saxon bird plate was found.

We shoveled more buckets of backfill and will continue on Sunday when I work again.

Today I am off to Edinburgh to do my laundry and water my plants.

25 June, 19.46

Today we worked to plan a cross section of a pit by measuring out the grid, measuring rocks in the cross slab.  We did this by taking grid points aka eastings and northings.

Good day today with good work.  Easy Sunday.  I am excited to get back to work tomorrow.

26 June, 18.25

Today I filled in context sheets for the tri-pit.  So called because this feature is a pain in the ass.  It was thought to be a single pit.  Until two more pits were found cut into an older pit in the center.  However the southern pit has been truncated by an early section excavated in the 1960s.

The feature was half-sectioned and I filled in sheets for the section completed.  It was very confusing attempting to establish a chronology for the feature because you first need to locate the cut lines in the half section of the wall.

After completing the paperwork, for the half section the other side of the pit was excavated.  Samples were taken of the first two pits.  Each pit had to be excavated separately as to keep the samples with the least amount of contamination.

Tomorrow it is due to rain and I will be working Finds.

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living the tent life day 32. #archaeology

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28 June, 17.15

Yesterday it rained.

Today I finished excavation of the pit feature, previously called the tri-pit… now is the quad-pit. Today there was even evidence of a possible post hole burning with a perfect circle of charcoal appearing the new pit cut into the pit.

We realised that the multitudes of pits inter-cutting each other had made the feature look bigger than it actually was.  But, there was no way of telling the boundaries of the feature without excavation.

Lastly, the pit shows (maybe?) a relation to a know floor surface.  Was the floor surface cut into?

1 July, 11.59

Sorry haven’t recorded.  Thursday it rained.  So we worked finds in the morning and in the afternoon we took a trip to Lindisfarne.  We got to see the island, the priory, and walked along the beach.  It was a beautiful island and amazing to see the connections between Lindisfarne and Bamburgh.

Friday was another rainy day spent working on finds.  I sorted the environmental finds in the morning and finds washed in the afternoon.  All in all two good rainy days.

It’s been a little hectic lately with the living situation.  A group of us got majorly flooded out of our tents on Friday.  With our tents flooded all our kit got pretty soaked and the staff who had stayed at the campsite spent the day drying kit and making sure nothing was super wrecked.  It was awfully nice of them.  But, you can’t really return to a tent once it’s had nearly 2L of water poured out of it.  So I now find myself with the other students in an AirBNB here in Belford.

3 July

Yesterday I worked back in T8.  Continued to shovel backfill until the section edge reached 1.20m.  The legal working height for an open trench with small sides is 1.20m again health and safety.

Today I planned the stupid quad-pit and it still proved to a pain in the ass.  But the context is now closed.  Afterward I helped one of the staff members to locate a missing trench edge from an old plan that had unfortunately not been finished or included grid points.  By using the context register and old photos from 2002 we were able to locate the plan and then I started to remove the turf to uncover the edge.

6 July

Tuesday was the fourth of July spent in rainy Northumbria.  We worked in Trench 8 on the section plan until the rain puddled too much and we had to move to Finds.  I spend the afternoon working to track down missing samples from the Kaims which had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle a few years back.

Wednesday was sunny so we did a full clean of Trench 1.  So that it could be photographed.  T1 is again the trench by St. Oswald’s gate was thought to be complete until about 18 new features surfaced after the amount of rain we got last week. Wednesday afternoon I worked on Finds.

Today was the day!  We started the morning by going back to Lindisfarne to see the excavation being carried out there.  Looks like they found a new church!

That afternoon, I started to remove and sample the 9c pebbled surface.  The pebbled surface ran adjacent to the 9c metal working building in the SE corner of the trench.  I’m working on the area and today was excavation was recorded to later be used in some media uploads for the excavation.   The surface is between two rows of curb stones and consisted of many layers of stone deposit.  I have already found animal bone, teeth, and charcoal.  Basically, things people would have dropped or lost.  With it’s proximity to the metal workshop I am hoping to maybe find metal objects or coins.  The last part of the day I id’d a cut feature in the path which had been called a post hole.

I’m really proud to be able to work this pebbled path because it’s a really important part of the trench.

9 July

Friday I continued to clean away the surface.  We planned and photographed the area.  This included having to off sight plan by using a temporary bench mark.  We then used the tape measures to off sight the eastings and northings.

We did id a definite post hole on Friday and today I half-sectioned the post hole for sampling.  The post hole rests against one of the large curb stones and so the curb stone was probably used as a packing stone for the post.

While I was excavating the post hole my working partner half sectioned the path so that we could see the layers of stratigraphy.

After a bit time it became apparent we had entered a new layer as small pebble stones stopped and a layer of shell emerged followed back a layer of cobbles.  Next to the new layer of cobbles is what appears to be a sandstone area.

The curb stones on either side of the part are very deeply imbedded and will an absolute bitch to excavate out.

13 July

Monday, continued to work on pavement for half day and then moved to work on cleaning back trench edge on east side to reveal matching statifigaphy to missing plan.

Tuesday, worked finds.  I sorted between animal bone and human bone from old bone bags from the Bowl Hole.  Actually found a human finger mixed into the older bags.

Wednesday, worked on the cobbled path.  Removed layer of cobbles and sandstone to find that the cobbled path discovered last season underlays our area!  How big is this path?!  Also found another medieval hobnail!

Thursday, continued with cobbled path with planning and photography.

Today, last friday at the castle.  Very good season.  Today I was on Finds.  Worked through five bags of samples. I really enjoyed this season and as I weigh my options for next summer, I am really considering returning.

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Last week of excavation here and I'm sad.

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The excavation was really incredible and the site was in a beautiful location with the sea crashing up onto the nearby beach.  I am so glad that I was able to excavate here and again, I am so glad that I chose to study archaeology.  It gives me a chance to get out into the field but also stay in and work with records and books.  It’s an incredible feeling waking up each morning and entering a castle to work.  There were times when I was excavating the pebble path that I thought just how many feet had trodden over the surface and that I was now amongst them.  I guess it’s just like the pull of mountaineering.  To be able to go places and see things that few people will ever get to see.

On Saturday, a group of reenactors came to the castle to stage mock fights.  They pitched tents in the outerward by our excavation.  I shut my eyes and listened to the clanging of metal swords and spears as I worked.  For a brief minute, as I uncover the Anglo-Saxon world I got to be a small part of it and was re-learning what we once knew.

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whoa-o we’re halfway there

Hello friends!  It’s me.  Back in civilisation after a month of traveling around and living in the ~great outdoors~.  But just for a bit.

I’ve just finished week two (of five) of the Bamburgh Research Project.  I’m excavating at Bamburgh Castle aka the Anglo-Saxon capital of Northumbria.  There are three weeks left of the excavation but I caught a ride back up to Edinburgh to water my plants, do my laundry, and check up on things around here.

Just quickly because I’ll write a longer post at the end of the excavation, I’ve been working in the outer ward of the castle which was used as a manufacturing centre for the castle.  Think metal working, smithing, and animal production.  Past excavations have uncovered everything from patent welded swords to a metric fuckton of animal bone.  I’m staying in Belford with the rest of the excavation crew, in you guessed it, another tent!  And you guessed it, my back hates me.

We spend the first week cleaning out the trench and setting up for the season.  The second week, I excavated a corner of the trench which had evidence of burning aka fire cracked stones, charcoal, different colours of soils.  The rest of the week I helped to literally move a metric fuckton of soil to reopen another trench for re-evaluation.  I used some rope knowledge to hip belay buckets on buckets on buckets of backfill.

[Dad, I know you’re going to make some joke about me ‘actually doing manual labor’ in the comments.]

But it’s been fun.

I got all my marks back for the year and ended second year with a solid 2:1.  I’m now a Third Year!  Cries.  I’ve chosen my classes for next year.  It look like I’ll either have a course on the Crusades and Medieval Society or a course on Conflict Archaeology for first semester plus two required courses.  For second semester I have one required Archaeology course and then hopefully a course on the History of Tea (it sounded fun, okay?) or the Crusade class if I didn’t get it first semester and then another class in Forensics.

But anyway, that’s what’s up and why I’ve been more AWOL than usual.

things i should do

Hello friends and welcome to Limbo!

Since getting back on Sunday night this week has been a rather calm period again right before the storm that is going to be me in a tent for 35 nights crying over Anglo-Saxon archaeology in rainy/boggy Northumberland.  Picture a slightly more grotesque Gollum holding a trowel instead of The Ring and you should sort of get the idea.

This week I’ve spent it mostly inside because of the torrential downpour Edinburgh is currently facing.   We have gotten so much rain in the past week, Princes Street Gardens has basically become the Old North Loch again.  Now we just need a David Hume-like figure to fall in. (True story, David Hume fell in a bog right here in Edinburgh.)

However, on Monday I went to go see Wonder Woman.  Go.  See.  This.  Film.

I know I always gripe about DC and how their past films have been pretty shitty… but Wonder Woman is fantastic.  The acting is incredible and the story is spot on for today.  It has a great message at the end about doing the right thing and believing in hope even if everyone around you is being shitty.  It also does a great job at presenting both the female and male characters in the film.  This is a film that we’ve needed for a long time.

And, it’s directed by Patty Jenkins who is from Lawrence!  The playlist for today is just the Wonder Woman soundtrack because I’ve been listening to it on repeat.

I also finished playing Rise of the Tomb Raider the other night.  The final boss battle was frustrating af, but the overall game was great.

I’m doing some general tidying and then I’m packing for excavation.  This morning I used the egg coddler (a birthday gift from my mother) to make myself a plate of my favourite breakfast: eggs benedict.  I turned on some ~smooth~ jazz to drink my tea and write this post.  Look at me, #adult.

But today I have a list of errands to run so because since I find my days remotely interesting, I figured you would find them interesting as well.

I. I need to become a presentable human to the outside world and not forget to brush my hair.

II. Before I head out I need to put on a load of laundry or else face the wrath of the clothes monster growing faster than No Face from Spirited Away on my desk chair.

II. My disposable camera from the Road Trip has been developed so I need to run up to Princes Street to get the photos. Those (fingers crossed) will be uploaded to Facebook tonight.

III. I need to sort out the pillow situation for excavation or my neck will riot.   Thinking of getting a compressible camping pillow, so if anyone has any recommendations???

IV. My favourite body lotion, a combination of cocoa butter, oatmeal, and lavender is back at Lush…

V. The dishwasher is out of tablets and I am nearly out of milk… to the shop.

VI. Get a cup of coffee.  Or two.

In other exciting news, my writer’s block aka the constant nagging I’ve had for not publishing something again in the last six years has lapsed? Finally?  After basically abandoning a manuscript I’d worked on for years and was over 70k… I’ve just hit 30k on a new manuscript!!   I think the story works well and I’m hopeful that I can finish it.  Two words: Space Archaeologists.

But, that’s my afternoon.  It’s just starting to rain.

 

yummick road trip 2017

Hello friends it is I, your local hermit.  I just got back last night after a whirlwind tour of the UK.

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sound on.

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It all started right after my last exam on May 23.  I finished my exam at 4.30 pm and then headed right north to the Bothy with a small crew to finish renovations and spend a few days there.  I’ve officially taken over as Bothy Secretary for the EUMC and the place looks fantastic.  The kitchen is now fitted, doors are hung, the fireplace is filled in, and we even got a fantastic day out on the hills for some sunny walking.  We walked the Five Sisters of Kintail, a ridge line with five peaks and three Munros.  I got terribly sunburned during the walk and basically both of my arms  have peeled off.  On May 26, it was back to Edinburgh.  I spend May 27 airing my kit and repacking.  It was a quick turnaround as we left again, early, on May 28 to head south.

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hi mom! i forgot sun screen.

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Ali, Ellie, Tuva, Erling, and myself all crammed ourselves and our kit into Ali’s parent’s car and began our week long adventure across the UK.  We first headed south to the Lake District to avoid the bad weather up north in Scotland.  We may have had a mild SNAFU with the bouldering mat whilst driving the M-6.  For the first two days, we stayed at Ellie’s grandparent’s cottage in the Lake District.  The building was built in 1725! We spend one day climbing and the next day we went for a nice 17km stroll.

Then we packed up again and headed further south into the Lake District. We arrived in Great Langdale for a rainy afternoon.  We pitched our tents and I made sad sausages in the rain on my camping stove while Ellie held an umbrella over my head.  To wait out the rain we all headed to the pub.  Later that night, more Yummicks joined us at the camp site.  The next day we headed over to Shepard’s Crag for a day of climbing in the sun.  I got sunburned again.  I lead my first pitches in a right long while and it felt really good to be back out climbing.  The next day, Ali, Ellie, and I headed to the Langdale Boulders.  I saw the Neolithic rock art carved into the sides of the boulders and pitched my hammock and take a nap.  Tuva and Erling went climbing at the nearby Raven Crag.

The next day was a long haul drive from the Lakes up to Oban.  Oban is a port city on the west coast of Scotland.  We caught the ferry over to Mull from Obam.  Once on Mull, we put the party bops on and jammed out as we drove across the island to reach Fionnport.  We stayed the night at a campsite in Fionnport.  The sunset was incredible.

The next day, while many stayed on Mull for some climbing I packed up my things and caught the early ferry over to Iona.  Iona was the location for the Dinner Meet on Saturday night, a dinner of general shenanigans and debauchery.

However, Iona is also an island of significant historical importance.  In 563 AD Columba landed on the island with 12 monks and established one of the more important religious sites in Scotland.  The Abbey on Iona is famous throughout history.   And, a link to my upcoming excavation at Bamburgh Castle, when King Oswald was a boy he spent his exile in the kingdom of Dal Riata (modern day Argyll and parts of Ireland).  Iona was the religious center for Dal Riata.  When Oswald converted to Christianity, he would at some point visited Iona.  And later when Oswald returned to Northumberland and took back his rights as king of Bamburgh castle, he brought with him a new sense of Christian ideals.  It was Oswald who granted Aiden the land for Lindisfarne and strengthened the connection between secular kingdoms and the church.

So anyway, I spend the day on the island by myself.  I went for a run around the island to explore the sites.  It was fantastic.  The weather was amazing as I explored the Nunnery and the Abbey.  While I was listening to the audio guide at the Abbey, I heard what I thought was a crack of thunder.  At first I just thought it was part of the guide’s music but then I looked outside and saw that the sky had opened up and there was actually a small thunderstorm!  I waited in the 13c Benedictine cloisters for the storm to pass.

That afternoon, more yummicks made it to Iona and we headed down to the beach.  I jumped into the ocean and had a good swim around in the cold, but-not-too-cold water.

Iona was definitely an island where you could feel the sense of history.  It cloaked everything on the island with a sense of mysticism.  When I took the ferry over from Mull and caught site of the Abbey from the water, I could understand why for over 1000 years people have been coming to this island.

That evening, everyone finally took showers and we headed to the restaurant for the dinner meet.  It was a really nice time and I got a chance to see all my friends again before everyone leaves for the summer or in the case of a few for exchange the next year.  After dinner, we headed back to the campsite to change and then headed back down to the beach for a bonfire.  I roasted s’mores and then taught a lot of my friends how to make them as well.  I was shocked to find that the quintessential camping food was just an American thing.  We hung around the bonfire singing songs, telling stories, and drinking a lot of alcohol.  Lol, what did you expect?  You put 40+ twenty somethings on an island after a week of walking, climbing, and camping.  We finally got pushed out of the beach by an onset of rain around 3 AM.

The next day was a slow pack up and then ferry back to Fionnport.  From there we drove back around Mull to catch the ferry back to Oban.  The drive was long as we arrived back at the flat around 9.45 last night.

All in all it was a fantastic trip out with lovely people and a good start to a summer I know is going to be stellar.  The only downside is that it’s over and lost pretty much all the skin on my arms.

I woke up late this morning to air out my kit and write this post.  I’m just back in Edinburgh for a few days now.  I’ll be heading south soon again to start my five week excavation at Bamburgh Castle!

 

Kansas Soundtrack #1

Just to keep this blog alive over the summer, I’ll update with what I’ve been doing here in Kansas… and add some music (favourites are 1, 4, 7, and 8).

I’ve been back for just about a week now.  Driving back from the airport, I got to see my first Kansas thunderstorm in nearly a year.  Geographically, Kansas is located in the cross-hairs.  We get hot winds up from the Gulf of Mexico and cool winds down from the Great Lakes and Canada, add those two together and you get the infamous rolling prairie thunderstorms and tornados!!!

lol

Speaking of the weather… it’s been hot.  Dreadfully hot.   Today the temperature was 40C.  Kansas weather is just crazy, the summers are sweltering and in the winter it can get to -10C easy.

But, the Kansas countryside is pretty cute. It’s nice not living right in the middle of a city again.  It’s super quiet out here.
IMG_1424

I’ve gone into Lawrence over the past week and went to some of my favourite places (coffee shops, bookstores, etc).  I’ve been reading some books as well.  During term I did not have much time to just read for fun, I was reading a lot of academic papers for essays and classes.

Currently, I’m reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt a novel about a group of Classics students at a small liberal arts university who murder one of their classmates.  The book is well written and takes the classic ‘murder mystery’ and inverts it into not a ‘whodunit?’ but a ‘whydunit?.’ The characters are all morally grey and while you’re cheering for them… you’re not really. The novel opens with the protagonist confessing to the murder.

I also just started reading The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.  The novel is about Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Consort of the Yorkist King Edward IV, set during the height of the War of the Roses in the 15c.  I’m nearly finished watching the Starz/BBC television adaptation (which is really good and quite accurate) so I decided to read the book.  And as it turns out, Philippa Gregory got her phD in 18c literature from Edinburgh!

Besides catching up on reading, I’ve got to write my excavation report for Romania to turn into the school in September.  I’m also hoping to stab more into my current manuscript.  I have a bad habit of working on a manuscript and then getting bored with it.  I’ve got at least three with 50,000+ words that have been abandoned to the manuscript graveyard. #yikes.

So that’s been my week back in Kansas.  Figured I’d keep the blog alive over the summer, because I do genuinely like writing it.

Schela Cladovei Excavation: Part II

The past speaks to us in a thousand voices, warning and comforting, animating and stirring to action.
– Felix Adler 

Often times, there’s nothing but soil. A lot of times there’s just soil. But sometimes, you get to be the first person to see something in 6000 years. Most times it’s pottery or stone. Sometimes with the right conditions it can be organic material. But again, you have to be in the right spot at the right time. A lot of archaeology can be surveyed and mapped, but a lot still comes down to luck.

I got lucky this excavation. I got super lucky.

About two weeks into the dig, with thunderheads looming across the Danube and a clear rain shadow in Serbia, we were pressed to finish our squares before the storm drove us out. I was nearly done with my square when I realized I had something at the edge continuing into the next section. It looked like a distal end of a bone. I alerted one of the dig supervisors, a professor from Bucharest. With one glance at the bone she said, ‘Human.’

I looked back to section of bone sticking from my square. That was a person. Then I looked to the square next to it. I didn’t know how far the bone extended into the next square, if it did at all. For all I knew the bone was broken. But, it might not be.

The storm rolled across the Danube and we rushed the equipment back to the dig house. The next day we returned to the site and I was given the next square. Carefully I started to scrap at the surface with my trowel, peeling back layers of soil. The bone kept getting longer and longer. No breaks.

It turned out to be a fully intact femur, except for wear on the distal and proximal ends. It was short, belonging to a sub-adult.

A teenager from the Neolithic.

During finds processing, I carefully scrubbed 6000 years of dirt off it with an old toothbrush. If I’m completely honest, it was disorienting. This person had died in the Neolithic, some odd 6000 years ago. Who they were will remain anonymous. Their age can be estimated by size of the bone, but not their sex. Sexual dimorphism is really only present in the pelvic and sometimes cranium bones. I’d like to think they were female, a teenage girl like me, but again there’s no way of knowing.

What I did know is this was once a person. Alive. They died young. I’d like to think they were missed. But they had been lost to time. Forgotten. Their burial disturbed by a later feature, leaving their bones disarticulated until some amateur archaeologist from Kansas stumbled upon one of their 206.  Their femur of all their bones as well.  Where had this person walked?  Where had they traveled?

I’ll never know their full story, and it’s their anonymity that is so frustrating but irresistible at the same time. Where was the rest of them, the other 205 bones that once made up this person? They might be deeper in the trench. They might be gone. It’s the archaeological enigma.

I believe that archaeologists who excavate with the intent of finding out the whole truth will never be satisfied. The ones who recognize they can only catch quick glances into the past are the ones who succeed.  The same could be said of today’s people. We will never fully understand everything. Hell, I barely understand my own days sometimes. But, we can catch glances.  It’s about holding onto the small details in life and using those to make the bigger picture, with each memory connected like a spider’s web.

I think archaeology is not so much about discovery as it is about memory – the human memory. It’s about uncovering the memory of the past.  Personally, I don’t believe things are so much lost as they are forgotten. Whom ever the bone belonged to is long gone, but they are still communicating with us. Their bone can tell us about who they were and the world they lived in. It’s like a fragment of Sappho’s poetry, the broken lines already so telling and beautiful.  We are left wanting more, but to our bitter disappointment we have nothing else.

It is one of the many things I believe the ancient Egyptians got right. They believed so long as the memory of a person survives they will live on forever.  I know that my 3 weeks in Romania was but a small part in the greater scheme of understanding Romanian prehistory.  But, as I looked down to the bone I held in my hand, a gracile reminder of a human life, I got my glimpse into the past.  A glimpse that once again gave a voice to whomever that person was.

And, honestly knowing my luck that person was probably some bratty Neolithic teenager.