Thursday, 27 September 2012

Possible arctic scene on pottery!

Nick Brannon has looked at the pottery sherd found in Cutting Five and suggests that the image represents a piece of chinoiserie (Chinese style), a costumed figure. It seems to come from a small hollow-ware (cup/bowl/egg-cup) with external-only black+white transfer print.

Pottery fragment from Cutting Five
A possible match for the image is that of an ‘arctic scene’ (especially the 'heavy' sleeve and possible back-pack straps, wherein the figure may be of an explorer/Eskimo/Inuit- type figure)! These gained popularity from images published in the 1820s, relating to explorations by Sir William Parry in search of the North-West Passage. One source says that these wares were not that common in Britain and it is possible that they were produced primarily for export to Canada. Lots of echoes of export of so-called sponge-wares, much produced in Scotland and exported world-wide.

Staffordshire platter showing arctic scene (Image:
While this sherd has no link with the Plantation period activity it provides an interesting insight into 19th century Bangor. It probably entered the ground through agricultural practice.

Nick Brannon (Project Leader)

Cutting Five looking good

Cutting Five is all cleaned up and ready to go. The three pits that were shown in the geophysical survey are very clear in the ground. We'll keep you updated with any results as excavation continues!

Cutting Five being cleaned back with a trowel

Geophysical image showing pits in Cutting Five

Little Diggers and a little sunshine

The storm has passed and Tuesday dawned blustery but dry.  Yesterday we were visited by the film crew and were interviewed on camera, which is a new experience for most of us. In the afternoon we were visited by the Little Diggers, a group of young archaeologists which is organised by Heather and Lianne at the North Down Museum in Bangor. 

Little Diggers visit our site (Image: Heather James)

They all put on vis-vests and were issued with a trowel, hand shovel and bucket and shown how to dig carefully. They were very excited to find fragments of pottery and some flints. Some Little Diggers washed and photographed their favorite find and Nick was on hand to tell them about the pottery and share some surveying skills. We have not yet found any buildings but, it is early days yet and there are some very large pits in one trench which we very much hope will contain midden thrown away by the people who lived here in the 17th century. 
I wonder how many of these Little Diggers will be the archaeologists of the future?
Heather James (Community Archaeologist, Northlight Heritage)

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

One person's rubbish,....

A small piece of pottery/ tile was found in Cutting Five today. The fragment shows part of a person wearing a long sleeved tunic holding something in their right hand. Perhaps it represents a monk or a religious figure? What do you think?

Pottery fragment showing person holding something - intriguing!
Three large pits have been identified so far in Cutting Five which match up to the images of the geophysical survey. Lets hope they represent rubbish pits as you know what they say.....One person's an archaeologist's treasure!

The rest of the site is coming along nicely,....if a bit damp!

Happy diggers!.....

Monday, 24 September 2012

Week Two - Singing and Digging in the rain

Well Week Two has gotten off to a very wet start.....fingers crossed we won't have to come to site in paddle boats in the morning...

Just as well the excavation crew love the rain!?

Met Eireann - technical term is Very very very wet weather!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Week One - De-sodding turf and TV interviews!

By the end of Day 2 on site, with the site huts installed and a pedestrian corridor being fenced for H&S reasons, turf and topsoil had been stripped to clear the way for excavations to begin in earnest.

De-sodding - it's an art form!

Wednesday afternoon was taken up with a film crew from Televisionary, who are making an 'Ulster Unearthed' TV series for Ulster Television. The presenter, Rita Fitzgerald, interviewed archaeologist Nick Brannon (project leader) and Fintan Walsh (Excavation Director), to a background din of seagulls, police sirens and nearby machinery, but the filming seemed to go well. It's all in the editing!

Filming on site, all you need are two buckets and a patient camera crew!

Geophysical results and excavation proposal

Joanna Leigh, our geophysics expert, identified several areas with strong archaeological potential (possibly one of the houses, several rubbish pits, garden boundaries) and Fintan Walsh, our excavation director, had laid out five trenches to intersect them.

Geophysical Interpretation showing location of excavation cuttings 1-5 (Image: Joanna Leigh)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Year One - Servants' Hill, Bangor

Our first excavation site is targeting an area known as Servants’ Hill in Bangor, Co. Down. Thomas Ravens map of 1625 shows houses at this location on the Hamilton Estate which likely represent the servants’ accommodation. Three of the houses appear to be 'Irish' in appearance - single-storey, without gables (and therefore, perhaps oval or sub-rectangular), perhaps built of timber and wattle with mud daub, and thatched roofs. But they have chimneys, generally recognised by architectural historians as being a colonial introduction.

Ravens Map of Bangor, 1625 (Image: Nick Brannon)

One house (the second from the top) in the Raven illustration of Servants' Hill appears to have a gable, and may be of 'English' architectural style. Excavation will hopefully shed light on these structures which may explain the settlement process on this estate.

While such houses are regularly illustrated by Raven on his Hamilton estate maps (and on his 1622 picture-maps of the London Companies' settlements in Co. Londonderry) only one has ever been found through excavation in Ulster. Professor Audrey Horning, of Queen's University, Belfast, excavated one at Movangher, near Kilrea, at the Mercers' Company village. The scant remains suggested an oval structure built using earth-fast posts.

Example of house identified at Movangher (Image: Audrey Horning)

Project background

Over the duration of the project three key sites will be selected for detailed survey and archaeological excavation. It is hoped that the community and local schools will be involved throughout the project. The project will aim to raise awareness of Ulster-Scots history, heritage and culture; educate young people, students, locals and visitors in Ulster-Scots history and the impact of the Plantation period, and promote cross-community sharing, tolerance and social inclusion. The results will ultimately be shared through a combination of publications and community outreach. This project is being funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.