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.

Happy new year

Well 2015 has been a full-on year here at Urban Archaeology. The 100 Minories‬ excavations in the City of London never failed to provide fascinating insights into medieval and post-medieval London: from fabulous oak revetments to 17th and 18th century buildings and drainage systems, as well as some wonderful domestic clearance dumps. All in all a very good year for timber, bricks, ceramics and clay pipes, as well as for digging very deep holes.

There is a lot more to Urban Archaeology than 'just' digging holes though; on the ecclesiastical front the Gloucestershire Cross-slab Survey is now up and running -we're having our first training day in a few days- and work recording the six Romanesque lead fonts from Gloucestershire is almost complete. There have been some wonderful artefacts to illustrate this year and there is plenty more illustration work in the pipeline, which looking outside at the rain can only be a good thing.

On the publication front, 2015 saw the long-awaited publication of two of my MOLA monographs -Upper Walbrook Roman Cemetery, and Post-medieval Spitalfields (with an article in Current Archaeology), and Plantation Place and Medieval Spital can't be far behind. Looking forwards we are working on the publication text for the excavation at Horse and Groom -Iron Age burials and some wonderful medieval farm buildings- and hope to get that into a journal for next year, along with a few short articles.

So thank you to everyone who has followed us over the last year, I hope you have found all the posts interesting, and I'd like to wish you all a peaceful 2016,

Chiz Harward
Urban Archaeology

Current Archaelogy article: Spitalfields Market post-medieval book

This month's Current Archaeology magazine contains an article on the MOLA Spitalfields Market project in London, which I co-wrote with finds specialist Nigel Jeffries (MOLA). The excavations in Spitalfields were one of London's largest ever excavations and were carried out between 1991 and 2007. I was a supervisor on the excavations and and worked on the post-excavation from 1998 to 2008, contributing to the medieval and post-medieval monographs.

Current Archaeology 310 - now on sale!

Horse and Groom Inn burial: carbon date results in!

We have just received the results of the carbon dating of the Middle Iron Age skeleton from Horse and Groom Inn, Bourton on the Hill, Gloucestershire. The skeleton was of a male, who died aged 25-40, and stood 1.76m (5'9") tall.
'Rusty' the Iron Age skeleton

Six Romanesque lead fonts from Gloucestershire, ongoing research

A short break from 100 Minories post-excavation allowed a day trip to St Lawrence church, Sandhurst, Gloucestershire to record their lead Romanesque font. The font is one of six surviving lead fonts which were all cast from the same mould in the mid twelfth century, and all are to be found in Gloucestershire. They were discussed by George Zarnecki in his 1957 book 'English Romanesque Lead Sculpture', but they have never been fully illustrated or described.
Romanesque font at St Lawrence Church, Sandhurst, Gloucestershire (click to enlarge)

100 Minories: post-medieval drains and sewers…

I've been spending the last few weeks checking through the records from the LP Archaeology excavations at 100 Minories in the City of London. It's been a nice opportunity to revisit parts of the site and take a proper look at some of what we all dug up over the last year. The site was located over the City Ditch, which gradually became infilled and was eventually built over in the 16th and 17th centuries. The whole site was then cleared and redeveloped en masse in the 1760s as part of a large, high quality Georgian development. One of my key interests on this site is in the development of post-medieval waste water and sewage management systems - or drains and sewers....

17th century brick cesspit cut by late 19th century stoneware sewer

Palmyra Photogrammetry project

Many of us have read of the destruction and looting of Syrian monuments and antiquities over the past few years, recently the destruction of parts of the stunning World Heritage Site of Palmyra, and the murder of curator Khaled Al-Asaad has been in the headlines. I've just learnt of a project to use a computer photogrammetry program to reconstruct a 3-D computer model of the site using digital photographs. The project will use digital photographs taken by tourists, photographers and archaeologists to create a 3-D model. The more digital photos they get -especially of the sides, backs and less spectacular parts- the better the model will be. 
So if you have ever been to Palmyra, or know someone who has been, then please get in touch via email at palmyra3dmodel@outlook.com

I'd like to believe all of us are appalled by what has happened in Syria over the last few years, a small part of which has been the destruction of priceless ancient monuments like those at Palmyra. Whilst we can't rebuild those monuments, technology does allow us to reconstruct 3-D digital models of their appearance.

Just one small thing that archaeologists and tourists alike can do to help preserve our common heritage. Please spread the word.

The project has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Palmyra3Dmodel/timeline.


100 Minories: post-excavation work

The excavation work at LP Archaeology's 100 Minories site finished a few weeks ago, but after a well-earned holiday work has re-started on the post-excavation program. The first step is to finish checking the 3000 individual context records, making sure that they are all complete and cross-referenced, both on the paper records and in the digital Ark database. In addition thousands of hand-drawn plans and sections must be checked; they will then be digitised using Q-GIS software plug-ins developed during the excavation by LP Archaeology. The digitised plans will then be loaded into the Ark database; this holds scanned copies of the paper context sheets, as well as digital registers for contexts, plans, sections, photographs and samples, and all the digital photographs of the site. These are all cross-referenced and are linked to the spatial plan data making a very powerful tool for interrogating the site records.

Hot off the presses.... The Spitalfields suburb 1539–c 1880

Just had news that the second MOLA Spitalfields monograph has arrived back from the printers and should be available soon....congratulations to everyone who worked on the many excavations (over 26 separate sites) and the post-ex process.

THE SPITALFIELDS SUBURB 1539–_C_ 1880: EXCAVATIONS AT SPITALFIELDS MARKET, LONDON E1, 1991–2007 by Chiz Harward, Nick Holder and Nigel Jeffries

'One of London’s largest archaeological excavations took place at Spitalfields Market, on the north-eastern fringe of the historic city, between 1991 and 2007. This book presents an archaeological history from the 16th to the 19th

Archaeology blogging research questionnaire

Fleur Schinning is carrying out research into archaeological blogging and social media for a Masters in Heritage Management at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Her research will focus on the use of blogs and social media and how they contribute to the accessibility of archaeology in the Netherlands, but she is looking at blogs from the US and UK:

"For my research I will be looking at several blogs from both the UK and USA; in these countries blogging seems widely accepted and used a lot as a tool in creating support for archaeology, and I have come across some very interesting and successful blogs...

...To be able to explore how blogging in archaeology contributes to public archaeology, I would like to question the bloggers and blog readers of these blogs. This is where my request comes in. I have set up a questionnaire in which I ask the visitors of your blog several questions regarding their motives for visiting the blog and so on....

The questionnaire can be viewed here:
...All participants also have a chance to win a small prize; 6 issues of Archaeology Magazine!"

So if you have a moment, please help Fleur with her research,


MOLA Monographs

This summer will see the publication of at least three monographs in the MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) series to which I've contributed. Together they account for some of the biggest projects I worked on during my ten years as Senior Archaeologist and Project Officer at MoLAS, and it is great to see them getting published. All of these projects were both challenging and stimulating, and each of them has tangibly progressed our understanding of London's past. I learnt a huge amount on each of these projects and it was a privilege to work with some of the best archaeologists in the country; my thanks and congratulations to everyone involved from the project planning to the final archiving.

First out is the 'Upper Walbrook valley cemetery of Roman London' which is just about to hit the bookstands. http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-upper-walbrook-valley-cemetery-of-roman-london.html The cemetery was laid out within a marginal and eroding landscape and casts new light on the famed 'Walbrook skulls' as well as posing new questions about the nature of burial and beliefs in Roman London.

Also out this summer will be the monograph covering the excavations at Plantation Place, Fenchurch Street, where we discovered a previously unknown Roman fort dating to immediately after the Boudican revolt http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/an-early-roman-fort-and-urban-development-on-londinium-s-eastern-hill.html. The massive excavations at Spitalfields will be covered by four volumes: the osteology volume is already published http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-spitalfields-suburb-1539-c-1880.html, and the post-medieval will soon follow http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-spitalfields-suburb-1539-c-1880.html, with the Roman and medieval sequences to follow.

Also out soon is a project I co-supervised but where I didn't work on the post-excavation. The fantastic Roman glass-working evidence from 35 Basinghall Street is published in a new monograph later this year http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/glass-working-on-the-margins-of-roman-london.html

100 Minories 'Pop-up Museum'

I've spent almost the last year working with LP Archaeology on their excavation at 100 Minories, next to the Tower of London. It's been a fantastic site, digging a transect across the Tudor and later City ditches, and excavating parts of the Portsoken suburb. We are holding a series of 'Pop-up Museums' next to the site over the next few weeks. Details can be found on the 100 Minories website, which is well worth a visit: http://100minories.lparchaeology.com/research/100-minories-pop-up-museum/

"Towards the end of the excavation works, L – P : Archaeology will be holding its very own ‘Pop Up Museum’ at the 100 Minories site.
Unlike a regular museum, Pop Up Museum is a temporary entity. For a few days in June and July  as part of the Festival of Archaeology, the L – P : Archaeology team are going to occupy the public space around the site to display the archaeology of 100 Minories to the public. On offer to visitors will be artefacts from the site to view and handle, one-on-one tours with the archaeologists, a chance to sample authentic historic food, as well as other interactive displays.
The idea behind hosting a Pop Up Museum comes as part of our commitment to ‘open’ archaeology and ‘open’ data, where often the commercial sector remains closed to visitors. By opening up the site and its findings whilst the site is being excavated, we hope to achieve a form of rapid dissemination for all those interested in the latest archaeological findings in London. We would like to invite the public to experience the history of the site and its finds within its landscape context.
Stay tuned for regular updates, on the Pop Up Museum via this project page, and our social media channels.
17th, 19th, 27th JUNE
17th, 18th JULY
The event is free and open to all."

100 Minories: new article on a 17th century timber structure

At 100 Minories the sheer depth and relatively recent date of the archaeological deposits has meant that some organic remains have survived on the site despite the upper levels not being waterlogged or fully anaerobic. Typically these are leather offcuts and parts of shoes, but we also recover fragments of cloth and wood.
We recently excavated a large rectangular pit dating from the early-mid 17th century containing over forty oak and pine timbers......
Read more on LP Archaeology's project website at http://100minories.lparchaeology.com/a-17th-century-timber-structure/

New article on 100 Minories and the City Ditch

I've written a short article describing the infilling of the London City Ditch. We are currently digging down through the ditch at 100 Minories and have been finding some beautiful artefacts, as well as timber structures and buildings dating from after the ditch was infilled.
17th century Lion mask glass stem, probably dating 1620-1642
Read more at http://100minories.lparchaeology.com/levelling-the-land-the-infilling-of-the-city-ditch-1600-1760/

Clay pipe training at 100 Minories

As part of the #100Symposium, we have been trying out different ways of training staff, developing skills, and increasing awareness of the various facets of the archaeology of London. At the start of site we ran a series of short handling sessions using an assemblage of unstratified clay tobacco pipes we had recovered during the watching brief phase. The collection of about 40 pipe bowls dated from the early 17th century to late 18th century and represented a good cross-section of undecorated pipe forms.

Read more at http://100minories.lparchaeology.com/clay-tobacco-pipe-training/

100 Minories website

The excavation at 100 Minories in the City of London is well under way, and there is now a project website where you can read more about the site background and what we are up to: http://100minories.lparchaeology.com/

The excavation is being carried out by LP Archaeology, with Chiz Harward of Urban Archaeology acting as Project Officer in charge of the excavation.

Gloucestershire cross-slab survey blog up and running...

Just got the basic framework together for the Gloucestershire cross-slab survey blog: http://gloscross-slabs.blogspot.co.uk/  It will fill out a bit more over the next few months as time allows.
Active fieldwork is on hold at present whilst we get the 100 Minories site finished, but once that is done we hope to get out and about systematically recording cross-slabs across the county and building up a gazetteer and database of the surviving cross-slabs. There is also a lot of work to be done transcribing antiquarian notes on cross-slabs, and building a database and GIS for the project.
Eventually we hope to cover the whole county, from the Cotswolds to the Forest of Dean, and publish a fully illustrated corpus of the surviving medieval cross-slabs in Gloucestershire as well as any records of slabs which have been destroyed.
We'll be posting photos, images and updates on the Cross-slabs blog, and on Facebook  as the project runs.
Please get in touch if you have any information on cross-slabs in the county, or are interested in helping with the project.

100 Minories, John Stow and the City Ditch

'But now of later time the same ditch is inclosed, and the banks thereof let out for garden-plots, carpenter's yards, bowling alleys, and divers houses thereon built, whereby the city wall is hidden, the ditch filled up, a small channel left, and that very shallow.'

At 100 Minories we will be excavating the City ditch which surrounded the City of London. A wall and ditch was built around the landward sides of the Roman settlement of Londinium around 200 AD, and along the Thames from c 280 AD. Following the re-occupation of London by King Alfred in 886 AD the walls and ditch resumed their defensive function and there is evidence for the continued repair, rebuilding and strengthening of the City wall and bastions throughout the medieval period. In addition archaeological excavations have shown that the City ditch was repeatedly cleaned out and recut.

How to make and use a pole-mounted camera

I've written a short article on making and using a pole-mounted camera for archaeological photography. The article can be viewed at http://www.scribd.com/doc/239637819/Tools-of-the-Trade-Pole-mounted-Cameras or HERE The article will be published in the Diggers' Forum newsletter

Components of a pole-cam mounting assembly

Overhead shot of 18th century brick drainage system taken from 3m above ground using a pole-mounted digital camera

More news from The Horse and Groom

Although we finished digging in December 2013 work is far from finished on our project at Horse and Groom Inn in the Cotswolds. Over the past few months a team of specialists have been looking in detail at all the artefacts, animal and human bone and environmental samples from the site, and writing detailed assessment reports on them. Over at Urban Archaeology we have also been busy checking and collating records, digitising site plans, briefing the specialists and creating a database and GIS of all the site data. We have also been writing a detailed account of what we found at the site, a framework into which the specialist data will be slotted later. This document, known as a post-excavation assessment (PXA) is an important milestone in the site's progress, a point where we stop and assess what we found on site, look at its potential and its significance, and decide what further work is required to analyse and publish the site findings.
The PXA is not a complete and final report: once it is approved by the local planning archaeologist work will start on the analysis phase and the preparation of the final publication text, which will be published in an academic journal. Meantime we have now received all the specialist reports and we thought we would give an update on some of our findings.
One of the finds on site that captured the most attention was the discovery of an adult human skeleton that probably dates from the Middle Iron Age. What we didn't say at the time was that there was a further burial alongside the adult skeleton, and that we had recovered other probable human remains from the site.
We have now received the detailed osteological report on the human remains, and it turns out that there were the remains of five individuals buried on the site: the adult crouched burial, a baby buried within the backfill of his burial, and three other fragmentary baby skeletons or parts of skeletons.
We identified the crouched burial as probably dating from the Middle Iron Age as the grave backfill contained large, conjoining, sherds of a Middle Iron Age jar that may have been deliberately thrown into the grave. It is possible that this pottery is residual and the burial is later than the Middle Iron Age -there are instances of similar Roman crouched burials from the area-  however there was no Roman pottery in the grave and no other Middle Iron Age features nearby that could have provided such large pieces of Middle Iron Age pottery. We will be using Carbon Dating to establish the date of the burial.
The first skeleton is also the most complete as he had been buried in a crouched position within a small pit cut down into the natural limestone bedrock. On site we identified the skeleton as being of an adult male (and luckily osteologist Gaynor Western agrees!) The skeleton is a of a male who probably died aged between 25 and 40 and who stood 1.76m tall (5 foot 9) (slightly taller than the known average for Iron Age males). Detailed inspection of the skeleton showed that he had slight congenital or developmental abnormalities on his spine and ribs, but nothing that would have affected him adversely during his life. There were no signs of any diseases, injuries or other trauma on his bones, and his teeth were in good condition.
The other skeletons were all fragmentary, and all were from new born or very young babies. Their bones were very fragile and we can tell less about these individuals. The dating of the other three babies is uncertain, they were all recovered from contexts dated to the medieval period, but all may be significantly older. It is not inconceivable that the burials may date from the Iron Age or Roman period given their proximity to the concentration of Iron Age and Roman activity on the site.

Back to the City

Back in 2012 Urban Archaeology worked on an evaluation for LP Archaeology at 100 Minories in the City of London. The site was immediately outside the Roman and medieval city wall, just north of the Tower of London and during the evaluation we found evidence for 17th century brick buildings, gardens and yards, and a very deep ditch: the 'City Ditch', which was first dug in the Roman period and ran around the City wall. You can read more about the evaluation here, here, here and here.
After a brief lull the archaeological project has restarted and we are gearing up for a major excavation later in the year. So far the existing building has been demolished and we have monitored geotechnical works to find out exactly where the District Line tunnel runs -it crosses the northern corner of our site. Now we are starting to go below slab level and get the site ready for the dig.
We know that on our site the Roman City Ditch has probably been truncated by subsequent medieval and post-medieval ditches, and the site may lie outside of the Roman East London Cemetery, Roman remains may therefore be limited to gravel quarries and agricultural features. By the 1580s mapping evidence shows the area around the site as small, enclosed fields east of the City Ditch, but by 1676 the area between the City Wall and Minories had been built up, with rows of houses and courtyards to the west of the Minories street frontage, and the ditch appears to have been largely infilled.
There was a major redevelopment of the site in the 1760s and a major Georgian development was built -The Circus, The Crescent, and America Square, all linked by Vine Street. Instead of digging deep cellars or basements the developers demolished the existing buildings and built on top of that level -then raising the road and back yard areas by up to 3m and effectively protecting the underlying archaeological remains under the new basements. Much of the Georgian development was destroyed by bombing in WW2, and our site was redeveloped in the 1960s by the Guildhall Polytechnic as a school of navigation.
When the 1960s buildings were constructed they filled some of the old  Georgian basements with mass fill concrete -up to 3.5m thick! We are now slowly breaking out that concrete so that we can expose the top of the archaeological deposits underneath. These deposits will be mapped and protected with geotextile and a layer of clean sand before the area is covered by a thick piling mat and the piling rig arrives. Once the pilers have built a pile wall around the excavation we will remove the mat and protection and have a proper excavation of the site -secure within our pile wall.
The site will be excavated in three areas, starting with the northern Area A. We dug one test pit here in 2012 and found evidence for probable gravel quarrying, and medieval or post-medieval yard surfaces -fitting nicely with the 1676 Ogilby and Morgan map which shows the test pit location within a yard. To the east and south of the testpit the map also shows a series of buildings around an alley and courtyard, and we are hoping that these may have survived the Georgian demolition. At the west of Area A we are expecting the ground to start sloping down to the City Ditch.

On-line course on 15th century England

William Caxton's printer's mark (styled initials in black)
William Caxton's printers mark © Public domain
The University of  Leicester has produced an online learning course on ' England in the time of Richard III'; the course is free and available on FutureLearn, an online learning portal. The course uses a variety of accessible articles, audio files, animations and videos to take you through the political, economic and social background to the late 15th century and the discovery of Richard III's body in a series of short modules. The course is suitable for anyone interested in later medieval England and assumes no previous knowledge of the subject. It's a great way of learning about a pivotal time in the evolution and history of England, and the modular structure means you can take it at your own speed as and when you want.
The course started a couple of weeks ago, but you can join in at any time and catch up, it takes about three hours a week over six weeks, although if you follow all the links and reading it could take far more! Professor Christopher Dyer, who has helped us with documentary records on our Horse and Groom medieval farm site, is one of the academics who has contributed to the course.

Day of Archaeology 2014

It was The Day of Archaeology yesterday, a day when archaeologists are encouraged to blog about what they are doing on the day. It is a fantastic project that gives a real insight into the huge variety of archaeological work going on around the world, and the huge variety of people doing that work, so please go and have a look at what archaeologists have been getting up to.

Unfortunately I can't talk about my current site -the client has asked us not to discuss the site or the findings at this time, so instead I've blogged about the issues of publicity and commercial archaeology.

Hopefully the blog will explain some possible reasons why it has been a bit quiet on here recently, but the good news is that the next project will involve a lot of public information -we are planning a project website and regular updates on what we are digging and finding out about the site. Can't wait!

Medieval cross-slab recording

Recent work has included a research project recording medieval cross-slabs in local Gloucestershire churches. Cross-slabs are a relatively overlooked class of medieval funerary monument compared to the better known and often more magnificent effigy slabs and tombs. Cross-slabs are essentially characterised by a central cross motif, although there is considerable variety in their style and decoration, and there is overlap with other types of monument.
Cross-slabs, and possible foot-stone, at St Mary Edgeworth. Top row, left to right: incised expanded arm or Maltese Cross in circle on tapered shaft, 12th century; incised simple Greek cross on stepped Calvary; incised composite Maltese and straight arm-cross with ring around shaft, stepped Calvary and Chalice, 14th or 15th century? Bottom row, left to right: incised straight-arm cross with ribbon work and shaft with ribbon work band; incised expanded arm cross with shaft, 12th century; possible foot-stone with crude incised round-leaf bracelet cross, 13th century?