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Thursday 13 September 2007: 09.30-19.30 at the BA Festival of Science, University of York Biology Department B/B/002 PROGRAMME
09.30-09.35 09.35-10.05 10.05-10.35 10.35-11.05 11.05-11.20 11.20-11.50 11.50-12.20 Organiser Gavin Simpson Lydia Carr Linda Hall Introduction Some aspects of product packaging and recycling in later mediaeval Baltic trade. Working partners: Tessa Verney Wheeler; Mortimer Wheeler, and the Caerleon Amphitheatre Dating fixtures and fittings in historic buildings; work towards a typology The silent shores speak: investigating a maritime landscape in north Argyll The Van
Break – Tea and coffee will be provided
Colin Martin John Schofield, Cassie Newland, Adrian Myers, Anna Nilsson and Greg Bailey Paula Ware
12.20-12.50 (12.50-14.00) 14.00-14.30 14.30-15.00 15.00-15.15 15.15-15.45 15.45-16.15 16.15-17.45 18.00-20.00
A cautionary tale: conflicts of opinion in the interpretation of an early medieval battlefield Beneath the Sands of Time: Unravelling the hidden past of the Vale of Pickering Doggerland: mapping a lost European country
Lunch break – A sandwich lunch will be provided
Dominic Powlesland Vincent Gaffney
Break - Tea and coffee will be provided
Brendon Wilkins Ian Gibb
Time and tide: five millennia of environmental change and activity on the banks of the Suir “Shake, Rattle and Roll: Vibration Effects at the Hampton Court Music Festival”
Break Reception in the Refectory, Kings Manor, Archaeology Department, University of York. Presentations by Julian Richards
The purpose of the awards is to encourage researchers to present their work, much of which is fascinating but often little-known, to a wider public. The audience are invited to help with the judging, and to meet the speakers at a reception at the end of the afternoon when the awards are presented. Each speaker will speak for 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes for questions from the audience. V2: Created 30.05.07
Time and Tide: five millennia of environmental change and activity on the banks of the Suir. Brendon Wilkins. Headland Archaeology Ltd. Republic of Ireland. Talking about his dark 1970 Korean War comedy, M*A*S*H, the late Hollywood filmmaker, Robert Altman, said that he didn’t direct the film—it just escaped. Looking back on the six months my crew and I spent excavating Site 34, Newrath, Co. Kilkenny, I know exactly what he meant. Affectionately known by our team as ‘THE BOG’, this wetland archaeology site was excavated by Headland Archaeology Ltd on behalf of Waterford City Council, Waterford County Council, Kilkenny County Council and the National Roads Authority prior to the construction of the N25 Waterford City Bypass (NGR 259040 114340; 8 m OD; excavation licence no. 03E0319). As summer turned into winter it descended into a quagmire. One morning we arrived on site to find the whole area submerged beneath water over a metre in depth. Freak storms had combined with spring tides and you could canoe from one side of the valley to the other. But miraculously the waters receded and we lived to tell the tale. These may well have been the harshest conditions I have ever worked in, but I also have to admit that it was the best archaeology I have ever excavated. Site 34 was an exceptionally well-preserved multi-period site comprising 21 individual wooden structures and 5 areas of activity, with almost every chapter of human history represented in the same excavation. There were Mesolithic flint scatters on what would have been a dryland surface at the waters edge; Early Bronze Age trackways intended to cross boggy ground to reach the open water; a Bronze Age burnt mound on the edge of the wetland area; Iron Age hurdles to cross tidal creeks for saltmarsh grazing; medieval platforms for the same purpose; and a 19th-century brick kiln, making use of the abundant alluvial clay. Situated in an alluvial and estuarine landscape, the wet conditions of Site 34 meant that as well as quantity, Newrath had exceptionally well-preserved
archaeological deposits. In different parts of the wetland area and at different depths below the present ground surface, we encountered archaeological material and environmental evidence relating not just to different time periods, but belonging to different types of landscape. This posed a technical challenge, but it also presented us with an excellent opportunity to try and understand how cultural and social practices had changed over time. Archaeology bridges both the sciences and the humanities, and we draw on a wide variety of information using a diverse range of skills and techniques to build a picture of our past. Environmental archaeology is a specialist subdiscipline that investigates past human environments using techniques developed in the life sciences like zoology, botany, geology and geomorphology. By analysing plant and animal microfossils from core samples taken at Newrath, we have been able to reconstruct past vegetation and sea level. These methods include: • • • Pollen grains from plants living close to the site Diatoms: single-celled algae living in the wetland habitats Foraminifera: single-celled animals indicative of water salinity
This research has enabled us to recognise the dramatic environmental changes at Newrath, particularly over the period between 5,000 and 2,000 years ago. As sea level rose, the dense woodland growing beside the river Suir became progressively wetter, killing off the trees and replacing them with reedbed. Further rises transformed this freshwater environment as brackish tidal water flooded the reedbed, eventually being replaced by open grassy salt mash. The results have provided us with a framework or a context to understand what kind of landscape people were living and working in, but it is the structures we find and the artefacts associated with them that provide the tantalising clues as to what people were doing in those landscapes—how they were living, how they were working and, sometimes, even how they were thinking.
It is tempting to explain the different forms of trackway as a cultural adaptation to the rich wetland environment, but we must beware that our scientific explanations of how similar landscapes work in the present does not inhibit our ability to understand how people interpreted their world in the past. This was not a neutral landscape where the only consideration was access to resources. Foragers, farmers and fishermen would all have developed a personal understanding of the wetland landscape, identifying pools and creeks by name or story – an intimate web of knowledge that powerful influenced how the landscape was used.
Newrath in the Iron Age, illustrated as a tidal, salt marsh landscape.