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National Archaeology Week

Work Experience Fortnight 2009

Over the course of the 2 weeks between 6th and 17th July, staff at the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) welcomed 7 young people aged between 15 and 17 from Welshpool High School, Builth High School, Llanidloes High School, Bishop's Castle Community College and Caereinion High School, Llanfair Caereinion on work experience placement. The aim was for the students to help CPAT with a range of activities to discover valuable new information about archaeological sites in Powys. The students themselves arranged their work-experience placements with support from their schools and 'Careers Wales/Gyrfa Cymru'. Our task at CPAT 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 fortnight all those involved helped to produce this new web page about their work. We’ve changed the format slightly this year, rather than writing a daily diary the students have, in their own words, written about a particular topic that featured during the fortnight, we hope you find it informative and entertaining!

Meet the teams....

The Week One Team!

The Week Two Team!

Moat Farm moated site, Llwynderw

(Image obtained from Moated sites are traditionally square or rectangular with one or more ditches surrounding an area occupied by buildings and other structures. They were mostly constructed during 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. Moat Farm may once have looked like this (left).


Field Survey at Moat Farm

By a student contributor

© CPAT 87mb0977 - The moated site is the earthwork in the centre

Going crazy in a field

Moat Farm moated site from the air in 1987 (Left photo) / Laying out the grid with tapes and road irons (Right photo)

"On the first day of work experience we set up a base line running north to south to tell us where to start our grid; for the rest of the four days we used different tape measures and techniques to create 20m by 20m squares forming a grid. We did this to cover the area in a grid so we could tell what part of the ground belonged to each 20m by 20m square and it basically split the whole field up into sections. This helped us cover a large site a bit at a time."

"We aimed to do this so it could tell us a little about our heritage and the ways that some medieval farms were constructed. We surveyed the site to get a better idea of what it looked like and so that one day it can be added to a map. With the tape measures we created right angles and put in bamboo canes to mark out a square with each side 20m long. To check that the canes were all 20m apart in a perfect square, the diagonals of each square had to be 28.28m long, we checked these with the tape measures too."

"One technique we used to record the earthworks was to use two tape measures set parallel on the grid 20m apart and another tape perpendicular to them both. We then had to walk along every inch of the perpendicular tape while discussing and finding certain areas where there were changes in slope of the ground that could have been the banks around the moated site. We shouted out how far along the tape the changes were and marked them on the scale plan on our drawing board. When we were happy with the results we moved the perpendicular tape 2m up till we had covered a complete 20m by 20m square, then we started again in the next square in the grid."

"To be honest I personally liked the whole of the week we were surveying even if it was cold and there was a lot of cow dung around everywhere you walked. One of my favourite parts was on Friday 10th, we were surveying the area but in the field next to us there was a mad cow trying to cross the stream and get to our position which was only a metre away. I found that only one thing was slightly difficult, this was the part where we had to put our information onto a grid set out on a piece of strong tracing paper to create a scale drawing. There was nothing of the week that I hated while we were surveying the area."

Not bad for a first attempt!

The scale drawing of the ditch and banks at the south-west corner of the moat, and the stream that may once have fed the moat. This was produced by the students in the field. The scale bar in the drawing indicates 10m.


Geophysical Survey at Moat Farm

By Jessica Pennie, Welshpool High School
Geophysical survey with the gradiometer
Me using the gradiometer to survey the site, with John in the background.

"On Thursday, we took part in a geophysical survey on the site at the Moat Farm, Welshpool. John Burman, our geophysics expert, accompanied us to the site. We did this survey in an attempt to add to our understanding of the site. The survey shows any buried archaeological features (due to differing soil conditions), and so allows us to build on what we already know to come up with a conclusion.

The geophysical survey involved us setting up various lines inside the grids we had used to complete the field survey described above. By setting up these lines we supplied a guideline to John, allowing him to complete the survey accurately. We put two lines on opposite lengths of the grid to use as base lines. These lines were marked with yellow tape showing 1 metre, two metres and so on. Then we simply applied more lines across the grid showing how far along each metre was. Then, with a gradiometer, John walked up and down each side of the lines to produce the survey.

Towards the end of the day, I had a chance to use the gradiometer! It was very interesting, but at the same time rather heavy! The results have now been processed and interpreted (see below), so we may have even found something very archaeologically fascinating, you never know! I found it fun using the equipment myself, even though it was rather pressurising holding a machine worth £5,000!

Overall, this week has been very interesting and I have learnt a lot, so I am quite excited about our future surveys taking place at Beacon Ring next week!"

Geophysics results

The results of our geophysical survey, the grid represents 20m by 20m and north is at the top of the image. We've interpreted them to help you!


By Katy Mascord, Llanidloes High School

Grid laying, not war dancing!

Katy and Jess start to lay out the survey grid with help from Jeff.

"When I first heard that I had been accepted as part of the work experience in CPAT a year early I was quite surprised, I was also quite pleased. Until I received a more detailed letter on the events of the week I imagined the week would involve cataloguing archaeological finds and perhaps aiding an archaeological dig for a short amount of time. I was not expecting as much fieldwork, which did come as a welcome surprise."

"When I arrived at CPAT offices on Monday morning we were given an introduction on health and safety in the office and outside, and we were told about where we would be going to undertake our fieldwork (Moat Farm). After this we helped set up a display in the town's library. The afternoon however was quite interesting. We were taken to Montgomery Castle, Offa’s Dyke and to some Bronze Age barrows. The next morning we were taken to Moat Farm for the first time, it was a medieval farm that had a moat around the main buildings to protect them. Our first task was to set up the grids so we could start our fieldwork. We did this by measuring out 20 by 20 metre squares and checking the diagonals to make sure they were square, unfortunately the guide book was wrong and told us the diagonals were 8 meters shorter than they were supposed to be. Eventually after having to relay our grids three times, we made two squares in which we could start surveying."

"The survey involved us laying measuring tapes along the side of each grid, we also had to lay another one across the grid at two metre intervals. Once we had laid out the basics we had to walk up and down the tape trying to feel where the ground changed angle or became flat, once we had decided where this happened we measured the distance of the spot from the tapes at the side. We could then lay this data out on a scale drawing. Eventually we formed a basic dot-to-dot birds eye view of the ground workings of the farm. On Thursday we took part in the geophysical survey of the site using a very expensive piece of equipment. I don’t know if we found anything. Jeff promises to let me know as soon as possible. On Friday we drew hachures on our diagram to show the slopes of the feature."

"Apart from repeated stings from stinging nettles and scratches from thistles, I have enjoyed my work experience week because it kept my interest and allowed me to help get more information on a not very well known site, it has also given me skills I can use in future life. After this week I am still very keen and interested in archaeology and history."

Beacon Ring hillfort, Long Mountain

By Josh Dean, Llanrhaeadr-ym-mochnant

© CPAT 85-c-0139

Hill-forts are a prominent feature of the landscape here in Powys. Most of them date from a period in time known as the Iron Age, c.800BC – AD 100. It is known as the Iron Age because of the use of Iron and its impact on people’s culture. It is generally accepted that the Iron Age ended with the arrival of the Romans, although it is also accepted that Iron Age people continued with their lives under a gradual process of Romanization, which then eventually petered out with the encroachment of Christianity. Beacon Ring is regarded as being from the Iron age along with other local excavated sites like The Breiddin and Gaer Fawr, Guilsfield. A feature of the Iron Age is the appreciated change in climate to a wetter and colder one, which placed adequate farmland for Iron Age farmers at a premium. The result we suspect was a rise in tension and conflict resulting in the necessity for easily defensible locations like Beacon Ring in order to protect valuable territory. Wales is a place that provides many ideal locations for hill-forts with commanding views allowing Iron Age people to control their landscape.


Geophysical survey at Beacon Ring

By Josh Dean, Llanrhaeadr-ym-mochnant
An illustration by Josh explaining the geophysical survey pattern.

Our Aims

We spent 2 days at the Beacon Ring hill-fort, purchased by CPAT to allow them to offer ‘hands-on’ education and training experience for people like me. The fieldwork portion of our experience was an attempt to examine the entrance to the fort. We wanted to understand how it was constructed, whether our interpretations would correspond with other hill-forts in the area and ultimately what it may have looked like during the Iron Age. We employed the methods of conducting an EDM survey and geophysical survey in order to achieve a greater understanding of the site.

Geophysical Survey

The geophysical aspect of our fieldwork up at Beacon Ring was an attempt to better understand the subterranean features of the entranceway to the fort. We wanted to lay our results for the geophysical work under the EDM mapping of the entrance to the fort (see Topic Four below). We positioned the baseline on a 45-degree angle to the entrance. John Burman, our instructor for the magnetometer and Jeff Spencer our supervisor concluded this would help gather the best possible results after processing on the computer. We laid down a base line, with three points, using the EDM to create a straight line for our grid. We then created further station points with trigonometry in order to establish a grid of 20 x 20 metres. We then laid trackways 1 metre apart off of the baseline, leaving us with a grid like this (see diagram to right) which we then swept up and down with the geophysical equipment. From what I have learned from John Burman the geophysical equipment requires a zero point to start with against which to compare other readings across the site, and that it is sensitive to temperature. Although I’m told it measures ancient disturbances in the terrain's magnetic field I still believe that magic has a part to play in its function! The results from the geophysics (after more processing by John and Jeff!) will hopefully show discernable results of areas on the print out which may show the locations of ditches, postholes or even palisade walls – perhaps highlighting areas of archaeology suitable for excavation.


EDM Survey at Beacon Ring

Alice Bufton Caereinion High School

EDM Survey

Recording EDM reference points

"On Wednesday the 15th of July we went to Beacon Ring, an Iron Age hill-fort above Leighton. To begin our survey work we established four 'stations' around the main entrance of the fort, then made a base line (that needed to be straight) between two of these stations that ran diagonally across the entrance. Every 10m we put a cane in the ground. From every 10m point we measured 10m and 14.14m, and wherever they crossed was where we needed to place another cane. We did this either side of the base line in order to create a straight and even grid for the EDM (Electronic Distance Measurer) survey and the geophysical survey. This also made it possible to overlay the information from the geophysical survey onto the results of the EDM survey and so that it would all be to scale.

On the main station we assembled the EDM on the tripod that needed to be level, which was difficult due to the ground being uneven. Then we measured the distance to the station in the forest using the EDM. It measures the distance from the EDM and the angles of the land by firing a laser. By using a prism on the station it reflects the laser back and we can work out the distance. Then we record the information in a computer. We did this at all the points we marked out earlier. Also we plotted the top and bottom of the banks and the troughs of the ditches as well as the later parish boundary bank that runs through the middle of the hillfort entrance, in order to create a map of the area. After doing so we also plotted the fence using the EDM".

Survey results. Image by Bill Britnell.

The results of our EDM and geophysical surveys. The disturbance behind the rampart may be an area of burning or a particularly stony area.


Vegetation Survey at Beacon Ring

By Jessica Pennie, Welshpool High School

"To carry out our vegetation survey We walked around the hill-fort and recorded where the various types of vegetation occurred on the defensive ramparts, and how thick it was growing. We used a handheld GPS (Geographic Positioning System) to record the position of areas of vegetation. The vegetation mainly consisted of gorse and individual trees. We recorded the position of any vegetation and also any animal activity (mainly rabbits). We did this in order to produce a survey plan showing the areas where the archaeology may be disturbed by roots. Also, small burrowing animals like to shelter in gorse and can destroy features underground. In the future we may have to take out the vegetation in order to preserve the archaeological features at this historic site. It may seem a shame to destroy the trees and clumps of gorse, but it may have to be done in order to take care of the archaeology at Beacon Ring."

Montgomeryshire Wildife Trust will be consulted for advice before clearance of vegetation or new planting at Beacon Ring.

Oooh pretty! Image by Abi McCullough.


Building Survey in Welshpool

By Jessica Pennie, Welshpool High School

Building survey.

Alice and Kerala surveying ye olde pub!

Our building survey involved travelling around Welshpool and studying several historic buildings. We went to four very different buildings and did surveys on them. The building survey involved drawing a sketch of the building, noticing its features, realising the materials it contained, recording its purpose and trying to identify why it was built and when it was built.

Firstly, my group consisting of four surveyed an electrical shop near the top of Welshpool. This was a 17th century building with several unique features that we had to record. Then we studied Saint Mary’s church. This was interesting as the bricks and stones were very prominent which allowed us to recognise its age and the patterns it displayed. Also, we visited the flannel factory near the Royal Oak Hotel. This was interesting as we could point out the buildings shape and its very symmetrical features. Last of all we surveyed the Powysland Museum. We studied its walling technique and its purpose (it was built as a canal warehouse).

We surveyed all of the buildings by studying them and listing their features. The aims of our survey were to try and learn more about our historic buildings and to identify the archaeology within them. We used cameras and ranging rods to show the scale and size of certain features. We also used techniques such as sketching to get a clear understanding of the building.

I enjoyed learning about the technical terms used to describe the features of the building. I also enjoyed studying the features of the buildings, as I feel that this is very valuable information. I feel that this week has involved numerous activities all helping to make this a very entertaining work experience!"


The Portable Antiquities Scheme (That's finds folks!)

By Kerala Irwin, Caereinion High School

© CPAT 2894-0004 - Roman brooch, photo by R. Trevaskus

A Roman dolphin-type bow brooch, multiple views on one photo show all the details

"The Portable Antiquities scheme is used to help record accurately archaeological objects found by members of the public all over England and Wales. Some members of the public find certain archaeological objects using metal detectors and others may just come across them by chance. The Portable Antiquities Scheme encourages these people to bring their finds to archaeology centres throughout Wales and England to have them recorded. The Scheme works to help the public realise the importance of the objects they may find and how they can contain information that can help archaeologists understand more about the past.

Firstly we were shown a slideshow about the Portable Antiquities Scheme, after this we were allowed to see and handle some of the artefacts. These included coins, brooches and axe heads; the oldest may have been up to 4000 years old. We also had to guess the origin and use of some recreated models.

Photography plays an important part in recording the objects found. We had the opportunity to learn how to take and present photographs of artefacts correctly. There are many aspects you have to consider in photographing finds, such as the colour of the background, the scale, the focus, and whether the artefact is the same colour in the photograph as it is in life. We had the chance to photograph different coins and try and achieve a good result. We changed the speed of the shutter, aperture, film speed and the positioning of the flash to achieve the best result possible. After photographing the coins we photographed a lump of gold. This proved more challenging because of its three-dimensional nature. It was harder to get the whole object in perfect focus.

My favourite artefacts were the dolphin-shaped brooches; you could still see the design on them although the pins were missing. I also liked the model of the Victorian lamp; I thought it was very well made. It was quite exciting holding some of the artefacts because they were so old and it was strange to think that they once belonged to a person who died hundreds of years ago. I enjoyed guessing the origin and use of the model artefacts and found all the artefacts interesting. I did, however find the photography quite complicated although it was also very interesting".

Comment by the CPAT staff...

We would like to thank Mr Peter Jones for giving us access to his land at The Moat Farm, and also to volunteer staff members John Burman and Rod Trevaskus for their hard work and enthusiasm during the two weeks. Many thanks to Dave Hopewell and GAT for help with processing and interpreting the geophysics plots.

The 2009 CPAT 'spot the deer' competition! With added self-promotion! Thanks Rod!

Information gathered, prepared and presented by Jeff Spencer, Sophie Watson, John Burman, Rod Trevaskus, Wendy Owen, Bill Britnell and Abi McCullough, July 2009.

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