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National Archaeology Week

Work Experience Fortnight 2008


Happy students at Beacon Ring Hillfort

Archaeologists of the future!

Between 7th and 18th July staff at the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) welcomed four young people to help them in a range of activities to discover valuable new information about archaeological sites in Powys. Four students aged between 14 and 17 from Welshpool High School, John Beddoes School, Presteigne and the Community College, Bishop's Castle joined CPAT for work-experience placements to record historic buildings, survey earthworks and undertake geophysical survey (as seen on Channel 4's 'Time Team'). The students themselves arranged the placements with support from their schools and 'Careers Wales/Gyrfa Cymru'. CPAT's aim was to inspire them to become the next generation of archaeologists! The work was undertaken as part of CPAT's Heritage Management project. At the end of the week all those involved helped to produce this new web page about their work.

Their experiences are recorded in the following diary...

WEEK ONE

Monday 7th July

Rhianwen Hart from John Beddoes Sixth Form, Presteigne starts the online diary...

"I entered the CPAT office on Monday morning and met Jack and Dean looking slightly terrified behind the office table. Jeff Spencer (CPAT) came down and set up a power point presentation explaining CPAT's role in the world of archaeology and a quick guide to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Jeff then showed us around the office, introducing us to the many people there. After a quick Health & Safety round up we set off up the High Street to meet the CPAT Contracts and Field Services team.

As the afternoon came about so did the heavy rain! Of course Jeff now thought this would be the perfect time to go for a walk! Now joined by Sophie Watson (CPAT), Jeff took us out in the car to see two Bronze Age Barrows on the summit of Long Mountain. Looking at the gorgeous panoramic views from the top of the hill, I could certainly see why someone would wish to be buried up here. As the rain eased off we headed down the road to see CPAT's very own Iron Age Hill Fort called Beacon Ring. We walked beneath the ramparts as Jeff explained it's history and gave us information on life in the Iron Age."

Is that another hillfort over there?

The students admire the view from Beacon Ring Hillfort.

Tuesday 8th July

"The day started off with us being confronted by huge piles of Field Monument Warden Reports. These reports include information about archaeological sites, details of photographs taken there and most importantly for us, when site visits were made by archaeologists over the years. They are also used to monitor the condition of archaeological sites over time. After sorting them by county it was time for us to sort them numerically. As many piles ranged into the 300's this took up most of the morning. Meanwhile, Dean took some time out and laminated large pages printed with capital letters from the alphabet to help keep all the books in the library in order.

In the afternoon we took a break from filing and hit the streets. Armed with ranging rods, clipboards, a camera and other equipment, we set off to survey some buildings. First stop: an interesting old shop. By using guide sheets printed off for us by Jeff we recorded as much information regarding the buildings as possible. We looked at the roof, windows, shop front, brick structure etc. I found this particularly interesting as I had never studied buildings, or any architecture, in this way before. We then proceeded down the street and repeated this process with a fine example of Edwardian architecture".

Wednesday 9th July

"Hooray! FMW report sorting has finally been completed. However...this was not the end. It was now our job to database all the recorded visit dates from the earliest to the most recent. It was extremely interesting to read how sites have changed over the years and how detailed reports must be. Some visits had pages of writing to them!

After lunch we continued with the databasing for a further hour and a half. We stopped mid afternoon with our fingertips throbbing and took a walk to the Powysland Museum. After surveying the building from the outside we were then allowed inside to view their fascinating range of archaeological artefacts."

Flint scraper

The students show off their photography skills. This flint scraper was found by Jack in fields near his home.

Thursday 10th July

Dean Roberts, from Welshpool High School, continues...

"The majority of the day we spent on the FMW reports but we did get out in the afternoon to take photos of historic buildings in Welshpool. Jeff also took us on a rehearsal for a guided tour of Welshpool to get him prepared for the real thing that evening, when he led a guided walk entitled 'The archaeology of Welshpool' as part of the Welshpool 'Be a local tourist' Week. Even though Rhianwen wasn't here the atmosphere was still good and Jack and I worked well together. Overall the day was very educational and interesting."

Friday 11th July

"We finished the last pile of FMW documents that needed to be typed up on the computer and put them into folders. After lunch we watched another presentation on the finds that CPAT have recorded over the years. Then we were given a talk on photography by a mystery volunteer a.k.a. Rod Trevaskus. Rod then let us have a go at photographing Jacks flint. Later on, Jeff took us on a guided tour of Welshpool."

Scale drawing in progress

WEEK TWO

Monday 13th July

"This week, we were joined by another student from Welshpool High School and whilst the rest of the group carried on with the paperwork – namely the FMW reports, he spent the morning with Jeff being introduced to CPAT – as the rest of us were at the beginning of last week. Later in the day we revisited Beacon Ring Hillfort to take some photo’s for CPAT and Jack fell over which was very funny!"

Tuesday 14th July

"We started off the day by finishing off the FMW paperwork and preparing for the trip to Moat Farm – a possible Medieval moated site located just outside of Welshpool. (Moated sites are traditionally square or rectangular in shape with one or more ditches surrounding an area occupied by buildings and other structures. They were mostly constructed during the period between the 13th and early 14th centuries and were often sited to ensure that their moats were filled with water, partly with a practical, defensive purpose as well as symbolising the status or social aspirations of its builder). The weather held out while we prepared for the survey – this involved laying out a grid and setting up the measuring tapes to enable us to do a scaled drawing of the site. (With careful, patient study and 'a good eye' a sketch plan can be drawn of part or all of a site such as this, and an impression of the shape and steepness of slope of the archaeological remains gained). The moat was most clearly visible at the southwest corner - so we worked primarily at this side, taking measurements for a scaled drawing to record what survives. The rest of the moat appears to have been eroded by a stream which cuts across the south eastern side."

(Image obtained from www.chobham.info/chobham_park_2.htm)

Moat Farm may have looked like this in its heyday.

Wednesday 15th July

Jack Rowe, from Bishop's Castle Community College completes our diary...

"We started out for Moat Farm at 9.20am and cracked on with the scale drawing, taking turns to take the measurements and do some of the drawing. We had definitely got the hang of it and worked much quicker today! The end result was really good, showing the top and bottom of the ditch in good detail. Afterwards we added hachures to the map to show the depth of slope." (Hachures are a way of illustrating on a flat drawing the parts of an archaeological site that aren’t flat! They can be drawn in a range of styles, but essentially the length of each hachure shows the length of the slope and the ‘head’ end indicates the top of the slope. The number of hachures used indicates the angle of the slope, the more used, the steeper it is).

The fruits of our labours!

A brilliant scale drawing produced by the students - this represents the south western corner of the moat. The scale bar in the drawing indicates 5m.

See the students finished plan (right).

Thursday 16th July

With their work at Moat Farm complete, the students headed off to pastures new....

"As soon as everyone was present we set off for Mathrafal, near Meifod where we were doing a geophysical survey (an electrical technique used to detect buried ditches and walls) on what was thought to be a Tumulus. The first activity was to lay out a grid (20m x 20m) to help us locate the site against modern mapping later on. This was made more difficult thanks to there being no visible features on the surface and we had to work off an aerial photograph to locate the site. Unfortunately, in the end none of us could have a go at the actual ‘geophys’ as we all had metal on our clothes, which interferes with the signal on the machine!

John Burman surveys the site

We were restricted to laying out grid lines (every 1m) to guide John Burman (a geophysical expert from North Wales) as he made his way across the site taking the readings. The end result was surprisingly good (see the images below) and the finished image showed not one but two ditches. We now believe that this is a henge – as two causeways are also visible."

Friday 17th July

"Today we started work on this! Our own web page to show you what we have learned! We also had a feedback session with Jeff to let him know how we have got one, what we have learnt and if we have enjoyed our two weeks of work experience with the Trust. He will no doubt tell you all about that though...."

Comments by the CPAT staff...

The students have been really enthusiastic about all of the projects they have been involved with this year and they have produced some brilliant work. In particular, the results of the geophysical survey at Mathrafal are really exciting as it may mean that what we thought was a flattened barrow (burial monument) may actually be a henge. There appears to be an entrance in the internal ditch on the upper right hand (NE) side and with the eye of faith a second, opposite, to the SW. The disturbance to the plot in the SW corner was caused by the wire fence and a large road sign which the geophysical kit objected to!

Spectacular results!

The results of the geophysical survey, showing two distinct ditches and a possible entrance in the internal ditch at the south eastern side.

Henges are rather enigmatic but date to the Neolithic (late stone age, 2200 to 4000BC), and a good definition is - "A circular enclosure defined by a bank and (usually internal) ditch, with one or two (rarely more) entrances. Of ceremonial/ritual function, they can contain a variety of internal features including timber or stone circles".

The original 1976 aerial photo, © CPAT photo 76-005-0013

This is the second time that we have taken the opportunity to give students on work-experience placement the chance to participate in a fieldwork project, and from the perspective of CPAT it has been a great success. The geophysical survey work carried out at Mathrafal has produced some stunning results and we are looking forward to offering a similar oppurtunity to students next year. We would like to thank Marc Jones and Peter Jones for giving us access onto their land, and also to John Burman and Rod Trevaskus for their hard work and enthusiasm during the two weeks. The students all enjoyed themselves and appeared to be even more enthusiastic at the end of their placements than at the beginning!

But don’t just take my word for it, here are some quotes from the students themselves!

    “I feel I have learned lots of things.”
    “Working on site gave me new insights into archaeological surveying.”
    “Everything was fun!”
    “I enjoyed working with everyone.”

Oooh eck watch out!

Information gathered, prepared and presented by Rhianwen Hart, Jack Rowe, Dean Roberts, Jeff Spencer, Sophie Watson, John Burman, Rod Trevaskus, Wendy Owen, David Vaughan and Richard Hankinson, July 2008.

National Archaeology Week is aimed at families throughout the UK, and is organised by the Council for British Archaeology and the Young Archaeologists’ Club.


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