Friday, 8 July 2016

Heavy metal

As we come towards the end of week 2 and the time that the undergraduates have with us, some of the students have really started to impress us with the skills that they've picked up. It's great to listen to them discussing between themselves how best to tackle a new context, or watching them carry out the full recording procedures by themselves with little assistance.

And the archaeology has been going along very satisfactorily, with some really interesting features showing up. Various pits, dips, and hollows have given the students plenty of practice at half-sectioning cut features, photographing, and drawing them. We have also had structural evidence being uncovered, with a possible cob wall collapse in one part of the trench, and a very intriguing surface lying in the area of the road. The jury is still out on what it might be, so further work into next week will hopefully tell us more!

We find loads of copper alloy objects on site: the students have all got used to spotting those little green flecks in the soil which give its presence away. As promised in the last post, on Tuesday evening back at the campsite Peter Forward gave the students an incredible demonstration of copper smelting, working almost entirely from scratch, using just some clay, the "ore," (an artificial approximation of malachite), and his home-made bellows, built to designs he himself developed based on 8th and 9th century viking relief carvings, plus materials from the local environment. Mixing some straw and earth in with the clay he formed the small furnace, and dried out the clay to prevent any major cracking through gently bringing up the temperature of the fire inside. After about an hour of consistent firing it was ready for the "ore" to be added, and another 2 hours of constant bellowing followed, with some of the students getting to have a go as well!

2 hours later, Peter did the honours and opened her up, and we had our lump of pure copper!

A brilliant evening, and a lot of fun for everyone.

Now, time to finish off this week...

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