Internship Blog Series – Spring 2019 – Week 2

Posted on January 21, 2019 by Steve Mandal

Week 2 – January 14th 2019 

by Dominic Melvin

I spent a quiet weekend catching up on university work from home and exploring Wexford Town. On Monday it was all systems go and the teams of Cuttings 1 and 2 got right back in to digging. I was still assigned to Cutting 1 and continued cutting back the eastern corner. I was lucky enough to discover that the wall I had been uncovering the previous week continued to the south. This was excellent as although Cutting 1 was not producing as many artefacts as Cutting 2, we have structures! The afternoon was spent with an introduction on how to take levels by Richard (the Site Supervisor).

On Tuesday I continued following the wall until it was completely uncovered. Unfortunately, it appears to not continue the entire way through the cutting to form a corner with the already exposed southern wall. The students then spent the entire day trowelling back and cleaning the cutting in preparation for ‘publication level’ photography of the cutting and in preparation for drawing (planning). Six of the nine students in Cutting 1 began their drawings of the cutting. These drawings are undertaken using the sites grid system so they can all be joined and display real world locations. Drawings are also taken as well as pictures so hard copy information is retained for the site record. Data can be lost so the more copies, and types of information for the site record, the better.

Wednesday was spent on the drawings of Cutting 1. As drawings must be accurate this process is often slow and takes a couple of days to complete when, like with the students, it is being learned for the first time. I also spent part of the day inside in post excavations learning how to process finds. This was important because on Friday Maddy, the post excavation supervisor, is going back to university and I will be undertaking this process in the midland’s office in Birr in the next part of my internship (bye Maddy!). Wednesday was the first cold day (by Irish standards) so Steve and Denis bought us hot chips (fries to you Americans) and Wexford rissoles – a local delicacy that has to be tried – to end the day.

On Thursday I was switched to Cutting 2 as Cutting 1 did not need me around to complete their drawings, which were starting to take shape and looked fantastic. In Cutting 2 I trowelled back for most of the day and discovered what could possibly be three stake-holes. Two of the students found pottery with engraved patterning.

Unfortunately, it had rained overnight so on the Friday all our trowelling on Cutting 2 had to be redone. This only took an hour to complete due to the teamwork of Cutting 2, who ignored the drizzle and got the job done. The students had their quiz on Friday so after morning tea Richard, Jordan (a local volunteer) and I cleaned up Cutting 2 in preparation for photos and site drawings. After that it was drawing until the end of the day. Most of the students then headed off to Cork to explore and adventure!

Dominic Melvin

Internship Blog Series – Spring 2019 – Week 1

Posted on January 14, 2019 by Steve Mandal

Week 1 – January 7th 2019 

by Dominic Melvin

I arrived in Ireland on January 2nd from warm and sunny Australia.  After a 21-hour flight, the bus ride down to Gorey, Wexford (in southeast Ireland) flew by and I was picked up by Denis (one of the program directors).  I started my internship at the Carrick archaeology site, itself located in the stunning confines the Irish National Heritage Park, the very next day.  As the students had yet to arrive myself, Maddy (who coordinates the site laboratory), Denis and I spent my first couple of days cleaning out the office – after recent construction and renovation works.  Now I won’t say the office is now as nice as the view from the dig site but in my unbiased opinion, it sure is close!

Skipping over most of the weekend (which I was lucky enough to enjoy with Tara the homestay coordinator and her family, so thanks Tara!), I spent Sunday night at a minor Presentation by Denis and Steve (the other course director) welcoming the students to the park and introducing us to our homestay families.  I was placed with Jackie Gilgannon, her family, and two other students called Tom and Phillip.  Tom is an Australian from South Australia and Phillip an American from North Carolina.  The homestay also has 3 dogs and Jackie made us all feel very welcome.

On Monday we explored the local countryside including Roches castle a 16th century castle directly across the River Slaney from the dig site.  It made for AMAZING views.  That morning also involved a lecture on the history of the Carrick site.  The students were extremely tired, but Denis’s delivery of the course information and history had many laughing and excited.  Jack, from the park, also provided an enthralling tour of the Irish Heritage Park and took us through 9000 years of Irish history.

On Tuesday we all received another lecture and after this packed on to the bus for our first out of town field trip.  The group had 19 students and me.  Our major stop was Ferns Castle, an amazing Norman castle built by the Marshal family in Ferns (north Wexford) in the early 13th century.  The castle contains one of the finest castle chapels in Europe, with fantastic surviving carved stone decoration.  This castle has a direct connection with our site at the Irish Heritage Park, as the stone castle at Carrick was also built by the Marshals in the early 13th century.  We were also kindly given a tour of the history of Ferns, in tapestry form – based on tapestries created for Ferns Castle visitors centre by a local tapestry group.  The afternoon was filled learning how to do a site plan and take baseline coordinates.

Wednesday was our last day of tours and we spent it on the south coast exploring the Hook lighthouse – the oldest ‘continually running lighthouse in the world’ at over 800 years old!  To put it mildly, it was beautiful down there and the tour guide was a wonderful lady who had answers to all the questions the students asked.  We also celebrated Hannah’s (one of the students) birthday and Steve nicely purchased her a book that we all signed.

Thursdays we finally got into my favourite part… digging!  After a site induction and talks on how to be safe on a worksite the group was split into two groups and assigned a cutting.  Cutting 1 was by far the ‘superior team’ and everyone got along well making jokes while cleaning the cutting face.  Cutting 2, led by Richard’s example, was humble in its ability to find artefacts and by the Friday afternoon were very tired from walking back and forth from the office to empty finds trays.  On Friday we packed and cleaned up and headed to the pub – tired but content after a great first week!

Dominic Melvin

Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 9

Posted on October 5, 2018 by Steve Mandal

In this final week intern Erin tells us about the Medieval Feast…

Week 9 – 23rd July 2018

I am sad to say this was my final week of my internship. This week the weather was much cooler and cloudy – finally some nice Irish weather!

Ashely continued her surveying this week. She surveying the site for any subsurface features such as walls or ditches. We have yet to receive any post-processing results on site, she indicated that there were some features found – more updates to come! Meanwhile, I began creating a tapestry for this summer’s archaeological dig, which was comprised of all aspects of the excavation.

On Thursday, we had a medieval feast to celebrate the end of the field school.  It was complicated to plan but was worth it in the end! Some students participated in an ethical hunting workshop and then skinned and butchered rabbits to be cooked in a Bronze Age Fulacht Fiadh and over an open fire. Other students prepared vegetable stew, salads, potatoes and desserts, all without the use of modern technology. The final group, the prep team, set up decorations, and made Viking goblets and props for a photo booth. It was a fun day and a great way to end the summer season. After the feast, some students even stayed the night in the Heritage Park’s replica ringfort!

Friday was the last day for this group of students and for the dig as a whole. We finished excavating and recording the site, covered the site with sandbags to ensure its safety, floated soil samples, and packed up the office to prepare for our move to the Birr office on Sunday.

This was my last week with the IAFS and I am now off to another field school in Spain! It has been a great summer so far and a great two months in Wexford. Thank you to all of the INHP staff, as well as Denis and Richard for a wonderful experience. Until next time!

Erin Kislan

Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 8

Posted on September 28, 2018 by Steve Mandal

Intern Aisling describes the excitement on site when a student found an unusual piece of pottery…

Week 8 – 16th July 2018

Monday was one of the most exciting days on site of the season. The day started like usual: digging and sieving. My job for the day was to finish removing the orange soil (F1027) from the sondage in Cutting 1, with Edgar. Just an hour or so into the day, Sloane discovered an incredible piece of pottery in Cutting 2 north. It was in the shape of either a horn or claw, with a brownish glaze on one side of the piece.  We are unsure about what it is, but will find out on Friday when Clare McCutcheon, a medieval pottery specialist, is arriving to the site. For the rest of the day, you could feel the excitement in the air! In the afternoon, we packed up our tools early and each student explained what was happening in their cuttings. Edgar and I gave a short talk about our sondage in Cutting 1, and explained what we have found and what we think it means.

On Tuesday, the excitement continued, as we had another exciting find in the morning. Melania Leung found what we think is a decoration piece for a horse strap, in Cutting 2 north.  Meanwhile, I was in the Cutting 1 sondage with Gigi, taking photographs and making a section drawing. After lunch we were joined by zoo-archaeologist Fiona Beglane of the Institute of Technology in Sligo. She taught us how to identify animal bones and the species and body part it belongs to. She explained which animals are common in the area – pigs, cows and goats – as well as those that aren’t as common, such as the two missing camels of Ireland! It was fantastic to participate in her workshop and learn more about the types of bones we have been finding on site.

On Wednesday, Ashely Green arrived to conduct GPR and EM geophysical surveys of the fortification site and the town of Carrick. While Ashely did her surveying work, the rest of the students continued in our cuttings. In the morning, Gigi and I finished our section drawing of the Cutting 1 sondage. After that, I started correcting and completing the Cutting 1 feature sheets, and then joined Cutting 2 north and helped them trowel back the section between Claire Cotter’s two trenches. At the end of the day, we packed up early to visit Jim and the birds at the falconry center next door!

The next day, I finished the majority of the feature sheets for Cutting 1, except for the walls, which will need further investigation. I then moved back into the Cutting 1 sondage to see if there were any other foundation stones that were not visible to us at the moment. While doing this, we found that the foundation stones were about 60cm deeper than previously believed and we found the cut that was made in order to place the wall foundation.

On Friday, Ashely finished her surveys at the site and moved to the town of Carrick. Meanwhile, Gwyneth and I made a profile drawing of the revetment wall in Cutting 1. In the afternoon, we all listened to Clare McCutcheon give a talk on medieval and post-medieval ceramics in Ireland. She not only showed us finds that she brought with her, but also talked about our finds, including the piece that Sloane found on Monday. She told us that it was a 13th century local pottery called an aquamanile. The piece that was found was not a claw, but rather a Fallow deer antler and would have been a part of a larger jug in the shape of the deer. She described its significance and said it was a rare find because it was made out of ceramic, instead of the usual metal.

Aisling Lacey

Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 7

Posted on September 21, 2018 by Steve Mandal

Intern Gaile had an entertaining weekend after working hard all week in a new Cutting…

Week 7 – 9th July 2018

This week was a lot of the same old, same old. I moved into Cutting 4, our test trench, to find the returning wall of the eastern building. The team consisted of Danni, David, and myself. When I joined them, they had already cut down through the sod and uncovered a layer of rubble but had yet to find anything.

Opening a new cutting consists of lots of recording, including digital, written, and drawn. Because archaeology is a destructive process, it is important for others to know exactly what you uncovered. Therefore, as we trowelled Cutting 4 this week, we took written notes on all the different layers of soil and drew plans of what the cutting looked like during different stages. We also took levels using the dumpy level in order to compare the rubble layer that we exposed to the rubble layer in Cutting 3 to see if they were at the same level. We eventually exposed what we thought was a robber’s trench from the quarry of stone in the previous centuries.

Despite the slow week, Danni found some interesting red clay pottery sherds. We will have to wait until next week for any answer as to what kind it is. Typically, on a site like this you can find Saintonge, a fine French pottery used for wine and oils, Leinster Cooking Ware, a coarse local ware; and English wares such as Ham Green A and B.

During the weekend, there were a few local festivals, including the Kilmore Seafood Festival, which we ended up going to on Saturday. The small town was filled with locals and visitors alike. The chipper was splitting at its seams because who doesn’t want some fish and chips with a refreshing glass of cider on a hot summer evening? While it’s wonderful being able to dig every day and be in my element, it’s also important to experience local culture and have a bit of fun!

Gaile Juknevicius

Internship Blog Series – Summer 2018 – Week 6

Posted on September 14, 2018 by Steve Mandal

This week our intern Erin tells us about her tour of Wexford as temperatures soared in Ireland…

Week 6 – 2nd July 2018

This week marks the halfway point of my internship, and it was orientation week for the new group of IFR students. We reached record-breaking temperatures this week. I am glad for the beautiful weather but I only wish I had more water to drink!

On Tuesday, we listened to a lecture and took a historical tour of Wexford town, both led by Emmett Stafford, a local archaeologist. The tour of the town was beautiful, and we were able to see what remained of the original wall of medieval Wexford. He also took us to St. Patrick’s Church, Selskar Abbey, and St. John’s Graveyard. In the graveyard, he asked us to locate the remains of a medieval church, and we found a coffin, which was standing upright. It was made of stone and had three holes in the bottom,  which according to Emmett, were used as a drainage system for after the bodies decayed and returned to the earth. After the tour of Wexford town, we went to Rathmacknee Castle for a tour.

Emmett also taught us about the process of repairing medieval walls. One must wait until winter to scan the wall to see it clearly without all the vines and shrubbery. The next step is to remove the plants without damaging the wall. This must be done carefully because if the mortar loosens, the wall becomes weakened.

The next day as the students headed off to Hook Lighthouse with intern Aisling, the rest of the interns and staff stayed on site and began weeding the ferns that were growing back within the cuttings. We also did our best to weed around the tree stumps, as we cannot remove them, at risk of damaging the walls and structures within the cuttings and removing any potential evidence.

For the remainder of the week, I assisted Ryan, who continued his LiDAR scanning, both on site and across the road, in the hopes of scanning the “Lost Town of Carrick”.  I sketched an image of the site from across the bridge, as well as an image of what we believe the town looked like.

Next week I will be digitizing the plans of Cuttings 1 and 2 – I can’t wait to get started!

Erin Kislan