Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Magna Deluge 2024

It rained.  A lot.  No excavating today.

In the morning we went over to the "original site" at Vindolanda and had a chilly, damp site tour by Bellissima Marta, the archaeologist in charge there.


Being Italian, nobody gestures at wet stones with greater verve than Marta.  It was good to walk in the old places again, to see the walls and roads we once worked on.  It's been a bit of tough going over there as well this season, 1920's excavations left a mass of stirred up archaeology, and until the debris and spoil has been shifted its slow work.

Then for the afternoon a lecture on Roman pottery.


Forecast tomorrow is again looking very moist.  Not much can be done about that.  It is a chance to reflect on what I've dubbed "Badger's First Law".  The less successful the excavations, the more fun the nights in the pub.  The reasons for this are obscure, but it is consistent across many seasons of ups and downs, of sun and rain.....

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Magna Dig 2024 - Day Seven

 As we are actually digging some distance from the actual fort/civilian community there are fewer "features" than on my various digs at Vindolanda.  It's an interesting "zone" of the Roman defense system, one that has not been much studied.  But in place of walls and floors we get a fair number of.......ditches.  Just channels to move water.


Only moderately interesting.  I'm pretty sure my ancestors left the Old World because they were tired of digging ditches and, well, here I am back doing it.  But its all part of the patterns that help us understand things.  And there is the occasional bit of stuff to remind us that Rome was once here.


When I come back from these jaunts I'm often asked if I found anything old.  Why yes indeed.  In addition to the above sort of thing the pathway to the excavator's hut is made of various stone bits.  Including ancient fossils!



Monday, May 20, 2024

Magna Dig 2024 - Science n' Stuff

Archaeology has gotten a bit more "scientific" in recent decades.  And the dig at Magna reflects this new focus.

This is Wally, named of course for the nearby Hadrian's Wall.  It is monitoring various aspects of underground chemistry.  Water levels, pH, oxygen levels.  There is a concern that climate change is damaging the anaerobic layers deep under ground.  


The fence is there to keep sheep, especially the new lambs, from getting too frisky around the electronics.

One day we had some University types show up and deploy this equipment:


It looks like something you'd use to shock night crawlers out of the ground.  It actually is some sort of new geophysical imaging gear.  I asked, and was assured that the nightcrawlers are in no way bothered by whatever rays or beams are being sent into the earth.

We do a fair amount of sampling of pits and ditches.  In theory you can figure out what people were doing, what they were eating, what sort of plants were growing on the site in times past.  The samples collected are stirred and sieved.  


Not as exciting as excavating, but when I was assigned to this duty a sudden thunderstorm brought everyone back to the dig HQ looking like drowned rats, so there was that.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

An Annual Tradition

 For reasons hardly worth trying to explain our little band of recurring excavators takes a "70's Album Cover" photo every year.  Here's this year's offering from the Old as Dirt Tour.


One of these years I'll get around to doing a complete back story to The Anaerobes, perhaps even a "Spinal Tap" sort of mockumentary film would be in order.....

Friday, May 17, 2024

Magna Dig 2024 - Day Five

With the split teams and offset periods it is more difficult to have social occasions.  Last night we got together with our friends digging "the other site".

Ribald birthday cards, various ciders and ales, and some really outstanding Wild Boar and apple pie at The Mile Castle.


Back to work today.  It is Sytennte Mai, the Norwegian equivalent of the 4th of July.  Although instead of kicking out the British I guess they just exchanged being run by the Danish for being run by the Swedes.  Some kind of upgrade I guess.  Our Norwegian excavator brought flags. 


Not much else happened.


Thursday, May 16, 2024

Magna Dig 2024 - Day Four

Well here's more what you'd like to see....


A barrow full of nice dark organic stuff.  It's about to go on the spoil heap with all the dry, boring rock and clay material.  We are getting into more interesting features which I can't show at the present time.  But, something that was shown officially is kind of fun...


On the far end of the site is a stone lined Roman well.  It too had dark, funky anaerobic material in it but almost no artifacts.  

Obviously a bright, sunny, perfect day for archaeology.  Tomorrow we'll get a bit of drizzle but nothing that should stop the fun.






Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Magna Dig 2024 - Day Three

Here's where we are working.


Notice that standing water and patch of reeds down there?

I spent a good part of the day taking off nasty, tenacious patches of soggy reeds.  Reeds are pretty tough.  When you try to put a spade through them they resist with vigor.

The trick is to "comb" them out of the way.  


As neither I nor the fellow I'm digging alongside have had to use a comb for some years, this was a skill that required re-learning.   

Magnificent weather, really could not be improved upon.  The next few days should start getting interesting.