Friday 26th July, 2013
So today was my last full day on site, the week has flown by!
With this being the end of this years project, the site took on a much quieter atmosphere today as no digging was really taking place and heads were down as the features were recorded. I started to prepare my section by cleaning back any loose debris ready for a series of photographs. When recording features archaeologists take a series of photo’s on film and digitally with a scale, an arrow showing north and the feature number. It is important that everything is recorded for many reasons, not least because it allows others to accurately interpret the findings of the dig. Another reason is that archaeology in itself is destructive, once a feature or find is removed from its exact position it can never be placed back exactly as it came out, so recording in fine detail in photo’s, drawings and measurements is the closest thing to preserving what you have observed as you have excavated it.
Once the photo’s were taken, a plan drawing (a drawing from overhead) is made. Tony assisted me with this, by placing a 1m x 1m frame over my section and recording the details on trace paper (placed over graph paper). This is done to make sure the drawing is to scale, whether it is enlarged or shrank for publication. Because the drawing is from above, it is difficult to show the different heights. To do this I used a Dumpy Level with Tony to measure how deep parts of the section is. A Dumpy Level is basically a telescope set on a tripod above a fixed point whose exact height above or below sea level is known. One Archaeologist places a measuring stick (which is basically a giant ruler) on different points in the trench whilst the other Archaeologist looks through the Dumpy Level to read the measuring stick. The different heights are recorded on the plan to give someone who has not been on site a clear idea of the different levels on the drawing.
By mid-afternoon my plan was complete. I then set about helping to measure the limits of the whole trench and the different depths of points on interest across the whole dig. For this we used an EDM (see picture below). This piece of kit is much the same as the Dumpy Level, but more hi-tech! The EDM not only has a telescope feature but also has a laser and computer which means it can measure a point in 3 dimensions. It does this by firing a laser to a reflector set on a staff. Another archaeologist (in this case me 🙂 ) walks around a feature or trench setting the staff at set points. The other archaeologist tells the EDM to record the point and the laser is bounced from the EDM to the staff and is reflected back. The clever computer on board then works out how far that point is away from it by recording how long it takes for the laser to go and come back. Because the point where the EDM is set up is known and is tied in with the Ordnance Survey map, the EDM is able to pinpoint all the features pointed out by the staff man accurately – clever stuff!
Whilst there have been days that I have been very tired and muscles ache, the whole week has been a fantastic experience! Last year the team discovered the burial site of Richard III and this year there was the first intact stone coffin excavated in Leicester, this site is a brilliant place to work on and is a place that just keeps giving. What will happen next? We will keep on watching and will keep you all up to date of the latest news as we hear about it 🙂