Tag Archives: archaeology

Hogshaw Redux

Anyone new to this blog or geophysics in archaeology is recommended to read the material on the “Geophysical survey in archaeology” page.

Archaeologists often have skeletons in their cupboards. Sometimes they are real skeletons. Sometimes, as here, they are unfinished jobs that they haven’t quite got around to completing.  There are a few surveys we have undertaken that never quite got finished, and for which there are no blog posts (shock! horror!). Way back when we got together with the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society’s Active Archaeology Group and CVAHS to undertake some surveys at Hogshaw in Buckinghamshire.  The AAG had undertaken an interesting research project on this site including topographic survey.  We managed some mag (even though the mag was down to three probes) and some Earth Resistance survey (using our old system).  The results were posted at the time.

The following year, in 2016, we returned and expanded the mag survey and undertook some Ground Penetrating Radar survey.  We had only just started using GPR and I was still learning how to process the data.  The following year, Mike and I returned with the GPR to survey another two areas.  Due to problems with that data (we were distracted by lunch), that I couldn’t solve at the time, the results were put on the back burner.  Fast forward two years and I am now a little more confident and have a better handle on the software.  Having finished processing the awkward survey at Bovenay, I thought I would have a go at re-processing the Hogshaw data.  As you might guess from the fact you are reading this post, I had some luck and so, two years late, here are the results! (See the older post for the previous results and the background to the site.)

The magnetometry survey was mainly aimed at finishing the awkward bits around the edges, and an area to the south where the landowner kindly took down his fence so we could survey across it.  The results are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: the magnetometry data after the 2016 survey.

At first sight the magnetic survey is rather busy and hard to interpret.  This is not unusual in historic period sites where iron artefacts and fired bricks are relatively common.  I have labelled the plot with some basic interpretative points (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: magnetic data interpretation.

The fence line is where the farmer kindly removed the fence so we could survey.  It is fascinating to see that even when the fence has gone, we still detect the line of it.  Iron rust etc. washes down and permeates the soil, I guess.  The platform is a large flat area in the NW corner of the site.  We do not know what it is for, and the mag does not help a great deal (neither did the Earth Resistance last time).

Perhaps the most interesting feature that we detected last time is the four squares inside a square.  This was quite a surprise.  It looks very much like a formal garden.  If it is a garden, there appears to be a line heading out westwards to an area of magnetic noise.  I rather ignored that last time, but now I wonder if that is where the remains of the manor house were?  It was abandoned in the 18th century.

There are two lines of very noisy magnetic readings, one along the current road and one along the northern edge.  I’d like to see how these relate to the topographic features.  I think they line-up with the banks, and could be lines of brick rubble.  Unfortunately, the LiDAR data for this area does not cover the site, ending just under half a mile to the north (Fig. 3).  Typical!

Figure 3: the LiDAR data overlain on a Google Earth satellite image.

Three blocks of radar data were collected.  We used SEAHA’s Mala GPR, and we thank them for the loan.  The location of the three blocks are shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Location of GPR blocks.

The southern block was surveyed in 2016 because an excavation had found a couple of stone walls in this area, and it was suggested this might be the location of the lost chapel. Figure 5 shows the top nine time slices (note that north is downwards in these images).

Figure 5: time slices from the southern block.

The first time slice shows the road nicely.  Also helps build confidence when the method detects the absolutely obvious! By about the fourth slice (second row, leftmost image) the road is largely gone but there are two parallel lines running north south.  Could these be our missing walls?  Perhaps, but I suspect they are compacted earth either side of the fence which the farmer took down for us.  The area of high amplitude reflections in the bottom-right corner (north-west) is the area of wet mud around the various temporary structures that were moved.  All in all, a rather disappointing result.

The platform block was an attempt to see if we could work out the function of the platform in the NW corner of the site.  Figure 6 shows nine time slices.

Figure 6: time slices from the platform block.

Again, note north!  There is a vague hint of something in slice 7 (third row, first image) that might be rectangular, but it is quite low down in the sequence, and a bit amorphous.  Looking at the radargrams (the original vertical slices), I cannot see anything particularly wall-like.  I suspect that what little radar energy has been reflected has been greatly emphasised in these plots creating the illusion of something.  Figure 7 shows slice 7 in context.

Figure 7: platform block, slice 7, in context.

Last, but not least, is the “garden” block (Fig. 8).

Figure 8: six GPR time slices over the “garden” block.

In slice 1 (top left), the results just reflect the uneven surface. In slice 2 we can start to see something, but it is in slices 3 and 4 that we can see the “garden” feature quite clearly.  The whole feature is about 36m across with the internal square about 12m by 12m.  To the south there appears another strong linear reflection.  Maybe a road to the house?

Figure 9 shows slice 3 in context.  I’m glad to say that the mag and GPR data match very closely.  The edging around the features must be something both magnetic and that reflects radar data.  Brick is one possibility, and some form of igneous rock is another.

Figure 9: the “garden” block, slice 6 in context.

One might ask why I am so keen on it being a garden feature.  Looking at another much grander garden, we can see many similar features (Fig. 10).  The part I have outlined in red is approximately the same size as ours.  The inner squares of that garden at Hatfield are 11m across, the enclosing hedge 28m by 42m, the outer edges 37m by 57m.  As always, the only real way to tell is to dig a hole…

Figure 10: the gardens at Hatfield House.

Many thanks to everyone who helped on the four days of survey, especially to the very helpful landowner.  Also many thanks to Anne Rowe for commenting on the “garden” feature and sending me some very useful information. Hogshaw still has some secrets to give up!

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Sawtooth Saturday and other tales

Anyone new to this blog or geophysics in archaeology is recommended to read the material on the “Geophysical survey in archaeology” page.

The lack of posts doesn’t mean we haven’t been out working…

Enough of that!  The lack of posts is simply that we had a friend staying and a BBQ and beer won over working on the blog.  Sorry…  Well, not very sorry.

The mag team have been working southwards across the “Fosse field”, the proper name for which is Mobbs Hole.  The area we have covered in around Verulamium is getting pretty large (Fig. 1)!

Figure 1: total area surveyed to date.

The survey has now started to clip the edge of the Fosse itself. In Figure 2 I have used the 2006 imagery in which one can see the Fosse clearly as a soil mark.

Figure 2: the mag data on the 2006 imagery in Google Earth.

Progress is excellent for four and a half days of survey.  Figure 3 shows the survey in more detail.

Figure 3: the mag data after day 5.

The edges of the Fosse can be seen in the mag data, mainly as a lighter line.  This is because the topsoil will be thinner over the lip of the ditch as soil has eroded down into the fill.  There is a line of large dark “blobs” along the lip of the Fosse.  Although these might be something interesting, I suspect they are tree-throws (i.e., the hole made by a tree being blown over).

The field system which shows in the upper half of the survey is interesting.  Jon Mein has kindly shown me the 1799 map of the parish and these boundaries do not match those mapped then.  There is a line of woodland following the line of the Fosse a little to the south of the area we have reached.  The track which runs along the northern edge of Mobbs Hole was a much more important road at that date.

Wheeler thought that the Fosse represented the “first Roman city” at Verulamium and cut several sections across it (Figures 4, 5 and 6).

Figure 4: Wheeler and Wheeler 1936, plate 109, detail showing the location of the sections excavated by the Wheelers.

Figure 5: Wheeler and Wheeler 1936, plate 18. Sections across the Fosse.

Figure 6: Wheeler and Wheeler 1936, plate 78. Sections across the Fosse.

We now know that the early Roman town was based down towards the forum where the Museum now is.  The Fosse, however, does appear from Wheeler’s finds to be first century.  But what was it for?  Hopefully, the geophysics within the line of the Fosse may give us a clue.

One aspect of the landscape I had not appreciated was that the dry valley which the aqueduct has to dog-leg across as shown in our survey (the V-shaped long linear feature within the town walls shown in Figure 2), becomes quite a major feature to the west of the walls.  The northern arm of the Fosse lies on the crest between the dry valley and the valley of the Ver, and then when it turns to form the southern arm it has to cross that valley.  Figures 7 and 8 compares the plate published by the Wheelers showing the view from the crest to a panorama I took the other day.  The hedge line shown in the Wheelers’ plate is no longer there.

Figure 7: view southward across the Fosse as published by the Wheelers in 1936.

Figure 8: Panorama of Mobbs Hole (click to see full sized).

Back inside the town walls the GPR crew completed an awkward couple of blocks on “sawtooth” Saturday and another 80 x 40m block on Sunday.  Figures 9 and 10 show some of the time slices.

Figure 9: the GPR from day 4.

Figure 10: GPR time slices from day 5.

On neither day do we have some of the beautifully clear buildings we have seen previously.  There does seem to be a small square structure showing on day 5: the NW edges showing in slice 8 (the sixth image in Figure 10) and the bottom edge in slice 10.  Figures 11 and 12 show slices 5 and 6 from days 2 to 5 in Google Earth.

Figure 11: GPR days 2 to 5, slice 5.

Figure 12: GPR days 2 to 5, slice 6.

Although we have not got lovely clear buildings, the “blobby” bits do have a generally SW — NE orientation which matches the town grid.  It is, however, very difficult to interpret.  Looking carefully, however, there is more than immediately catches the eye.  Lets look at the day 5 data more closely.

Figure 13: GPR day 5, slice 6.

It all seems rather dull.  Now plot that on top of the mag data.  Look at the point the red arrow is indicating in Figure 14.  Figure 15 just shows the mag data.

Figure 14: Day 5 GPR overlain on the mag data.

Figure 15: the mag data from the same area as Figure 14.

The feature which shows quite clearly in the mag data does show quite faintly in the GPR.  The moral: lovely clear buildings are wonderful, but sometimes there is more there than you think.

We have been enjoying our two days off, and will be back at it on Wednesday.  The forecast is for it to be a bit cooler.  Luckily, our guard dog has been keeping a close eye on the flags…

Figure 16: Guard Dog.

Many thanks to everyone involved.  The heat has made it quite hard work, but the survey looks ever more amazing with each new grid square!

 

Just too claggy

Anyone new to this blog or geophysics in archaeology is recommended to read the material on the “Geophysical survey in archaeology” page.

A group of us headed out to Little Hadham today with the aim of extending both the Earth Resistance and magnetometry surveys.   By the time Nigel had pushed the mag across the field, the wheels had diameters several inches larger than they should.  Jim tried a line or two of data collection, but the odometer was over-running by two meters and the wheel needed trowelling clean every transect.  We decided, therefore, to abandon the mag survey, and concentrate on enlarging the area of the Earth Resistance survey.  We managed another six 20x20m squares giving us a total of 100m by 80m, some 32,000 readings in total.

Figure 1, below, shows the initial results.  As before, the data is dominated by striping caused by the cultivation pattern.  A 2D fast fourier transform (as implemented in TerraSurveyor), quickly removed these stripes.

Fig. 1: the Earth Resistance data overlain on the mag data.

In Figure 2 I have applied the filter to remove the striping.  To the right I have put the mag data for comparison.

Fig. 2: The resistance data after processing with the 2DFFT. The mag data of the same area is shown to the right.

Unusually, most of the features show in the res and mag data.  The res data has nicely picked-up many of the linear features more normally only clearly seen in mag data.  In Figure 3 I have labelled a few points.

Fig. 3: the res and mag data with labels.

Ditch features A and B show nicely in both the res and mag data.  What is clear from the res data, however, is that the ditch continues between the two and they are one distinct linear feature.  If one draws a straight line along A and B, it lines up perfectly with the linear feature C we found across the road in 2014.   Linear feature D shows equally well in both data sets.  At E, something complex is happening.  In the mag data it looks almost as if A is turning and runs alongside E, whereas in the res data is looks more like AB cuts across the linear to the west of E.  The parallel lines to the west of E show quite well in both, and are probably some form of trackway.

Many thanks to Jim (CVAHS; both for surveying and transporting the equipment and myself), Nigel (NHAS), Caroline, Peter, Amanda and Mark (BAG).  Hopefully we can get to do some more when the field is less claggy.

Just two more days

Anyone new to this blog or geophysics in archaeology is recommended to read the material on the “Geophysical survey in archaeology” page.

I did consider using antepenultimate again, but I thought you might think me pretentious…

Everyone worked extremely hard today.  Mike and Jim on the GPR finished yesterday’s block and managed another 40x40m grid square.  No easy task over the long grass and thistles.  Ruth, Dave and Julia completed five earth resistance squares, including two that had to be done in two parts and joined together in the software later due to an inconvenient hedge!  Good job everybody, and many thanks.

Here is the Earth Resistance survey, both normal, high-pass filtered, and the magnetometry data from the same area.

Fig. 1: the Earth Resistance data at the end of day 16.

Fig. 2: the Earth Resistance data at the end of day 16, high pass filtered.

Fig. 3: the magnetometry data for the area shown in Figs. 1 and 2.

I hate to say it, but our five squares, including the two annoying partials, appear to lie between the buildings along the road to the north of the hedge line, and to the north of the buildings we found yesterday. We do, however, have a nice tidy area surveyed now.  We couldn’t have left quite such a silly hole in our survey data.  Tomorrow we head north to survey along the northern edge of the block we did last year.

The first block of GPR data from today was a continuation of yesterday’s

Fig. 4: the GPR time slices from the block completed on day 16.

Nothing very exciting jumps out from the plots, although there are some things to check out.  Slice 6 (second from top on left) has a strange upside-down M shaped feature (in black) and slice 8 (bottom-left) has something semi- or sub-circular near the northern edge.

How about the second block?

Fig. 5: the GPR time slices from the second block completed on Day 16.

Not a great deal there either.  Sorry guys!

Tomorrow sees the GPR crew filling-in an odd gap between last year’s survey and this years.  The plus side is that the mag shows lots of buildings, so tomorrow’s results ought to be much more interesting!

Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard in the sun today.  Just two more days.

A picture is worth a 1000 words

The Verulamium magnetometry survey.

The Verulamium magnetometry survey.

I suppose I cannot really get away with that simple a post.

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to everyone, it is a fantastic achievement and I am so proud of all of you.  Secondly, a big thanks to everyone who turned out for an extra day on Bank Holiday Monday to complete the Macellum field.

How about some numbers?  Well, Verulamium is the third biggest Roman town in Britain, after London and Cirencester.  It is, however, the largest Roman town in Britain which doesn’t have a modern settlement built over most of it.  We have surveyed 64.5ha of the total area of 81ha.  It has taken us 83 working days starting in the summer of 2013, but we didn’t do much at Verulamium in 2014.  It took 12,900,400 readings to cover those 64.5 ha.   That, of course, doesn’t include the grids we did twice because of frozen sensors or other problems. People pushing the cart walked about 322km, not including having to go back to the start for partials, getting to the squares in the first place, or laying in the tapes and strings.

Let us look in more detail at the last bit surveyed in the Macellum Field.

The area surveyed during day 37) high contrast).

The area surveyed during day 37) high contrast).

Several things come to mind.  Firstly, there is very little there!  Towards the NE and along the western side there may be a ditch feature, although it is quite faint.  Other than that, the main (and annoying) thing are the strong magnetic anomalies along the edge of the field.  Some of you may remember the 12″ gas main which runs across the Park… well here it is again.  What I do not entirely understand why there are differences between the negative and positive readings along our grid lines.  Jim and I spent some time making sure I put the composite together correctly, and we are sure it isn’t a survey error.

This end of the field is know to contain two Romano-Celtic temples.  These are known from aerial photographs taken in the hot summer of 1976.  I wonder if this area of the town was kept clear of encroaching buildings, pits, ditches and the like deliberately?  If we turn the contrast down (i.e., clip the image at +/- 40nT instead of +/- 7.5nT, we can see one of the temples close to the hedge as a faint white line.

Low contrast version of the area surveyed on day 37.

Low contrast version of the area surveyed on day 37.

Yet another target for the GPR next year!

Some of the team (many thanks Ellen, Mike and Jim!) helped re-do a number of areas of the res survey, plus one extra bonus square.  The biblical deluge of Sunday night (Lamer Lane was flooded once more) was not ideal.  This is the final area completed in 2016:

The 2016 resistance survey.

The 2016 resistance survey.

It is a pretty good result.  There is almost no use of the “edge match” feature of the software to get the various grids to join neatly.  It could be improved.  The very high contrast of the temple rather makes the buildings faint, but either the creation of selective composites (i.e., processing bit of the survey separately), or use of a high pass filter, would improve that.  The survey is quite big for a res survey: 2.5739ha according to TS (or 2.6ha to sane people who round numbers), which equals about 103,000 resistance readings.  That, of course, doesn’t include the large numbers of squares we re-did due to the dry conditions.

There is a great deal more to do in terms of data processing and interpretation, but I think we all deserve a well-earned rest.  Well, at least until Thursday…!

Almost round the bend

Today saw a slightly smaller team than we have had, but we still managed a good area of magnetometry survey and GPR, and even one small square of Earth Resistance survey.

First, the mag survey.  The team are starting to work their way north along the western edge of our survey area filling in between what we have already surveyed and the third century town wall which is hidden in the trees in the Google Earth image.

The magnetometry survey up to the end of day 24.

The magnetometry survey up to the end of day 24.

Looking at the area surveyed today in more detail, we can see the beginnings of the corner of the “1955 ditch”.

The area surveyed on day 24.

The area surveyed on day 24.

There is surprisingly little of anything much showing inside or outside the ditch in this corner.  The ditch is, however, slightly narrowing and bowing.  How curious!  Tomorrow should, fingers crossed, see us pick up the rest of the corner.

The GPR team, way down the hill near the drive, completed another 40x80m block.  Here are four 3ns thick time-slices.

Day 24 GPR, time slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

Day 24 GPR, time slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

Day 24 GPR, time slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

Day 24 GPR, time slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

Day 24 GPR, time slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

Day 24 GPR, time slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

Day 24 GPR, time slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

Day 24 GPR, time slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

The top image (time slice 2) just shows the noise in the ploughsoil.  The second image, however, shows a lovely little building 16.5m by 10m in size, aligned with the “1955 ditch”.  I’m not certain what this building is, it seems an unusual plan for a domestic structure.  The third image (time slice 4) shows this building, but also a very strong reflection from a wall on the eastern side.  Presumably this is part of a building which has been robbed out more thoroughly.  In the last time slice the signal has “attenuated” and we are only getting the strongest reflections showing.

The overall image gives some idea of how much we have now covered.

The area covered by the GPR at the end of day 24.

The area covered by the GPR at the end of day 24.

This image is a bit of a mismatched mishmash as the data was collected at different times and the time slices are somewhat variable as I have learnt to process the data over the last year.  At some point all the data will need to be reworked systematically, but that is beyond me while we are out collecting yet more data every day!

Many thanks to everyone who helped, and welcome to the people who have recently joined the team.  Your efforts are producing spectacular results.

 

Back to Gorhambury

When I woke at about 6am I could hear the pitter-pat of rain outside the window.  I groaned. Today was to see the start of the second season of work at Gorhambury.  Rain!  Just what we didn’t need.  I shouldn’t have worried as the rain soon stopped, and by midday the sun was out and the weather was warm.

My other worry was that a week ago we had no equipment.  The mag was being repaired, the GPR was somewhere in Oxford and the Institute of Archaeology’s nice new RM85 Resistance meter had yet to be delivered.  On Sunday we tested the mag… all seemed well.  Yesterday Ellen drove to Oxford to collect the GPR (she’s a star!), and UPS delivered the res kit.  Yay.  All ready to go.

We had a large team today consisting of a mixture of regular members and some new faces, mainly from the St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society.  It was excellent to have such a large team allowing us to run all three instruments.  Many thanks to everyone who helped.

The new resistance meter has the ability to take two readings side-by-side, and does so very quickly.  I was very impressed with the first day we used it.  We managed five 20m x 20m squares at four readings per meter, even with a delay as we set it up.

The new resistance meter in action with St Albans Abbey in the background.

The new resistance meter in action with St Albans Abbey in the background.

We also completed eight 40m x 40m mag grids and two GPR grids, one 40 x 40m and one with a ragged edge.  The next image shows the mag survey of the entire town so far.

The town as surveyed so far.

The town as surveyed so far.

I’m starting to believe we might actually get the whole town, well the area available within the town, surveyed!  Zooming into the area we did today, we can see that we have picked up some more of the “1955 ditch”, the first-century boundary of the town first excavated by Frere in 1955.  It is the wide, straight dark linear feature which runs diagonally from the SW to the NE in the image below.

The area surveyed on day 19.

The area surveyed on day 19.

The annoying sensor-freeze struck again in the penultimate square.  Luckily it was only one line (the funny stripes are a result of the data processing) and we can re-do just that tiny bit and merge the data into the square in the software.  We mainly found ditches and pits (the dark blobs and lines), and are just getting to the busy area near the road.  There is a faint suggestion of a road behind the 1955 ditch, as we found in the southern area.

The resistance survey was a great success!  We did an area to the WSW of the theatre.

Location of the resistance survey.

Location of the resistance survey.

As I hoped, it picked up the road very clearly, but also picked up some of the details of the buildings.  The next two images show the resistance data and the mag data for comparison.

The resistance survey.

The resistance survey.

The mag survey for the same area as the previous image.

The mag survey for the same area as the previous image.

The GPR survey is just to the south of the res survey.  I have only processed the north block as it is too late to process the jagged-edged one too.  A number of walls and buildings are evident in the third and fourth time-slices.

Day 19 GPR survey, north block, slice 3 (14 to 18 ns).

Day 19 GPR survey, north block, slice 3 (14 to 18 ns).

Day 19 GPR survey, north block, slice 4 (18 to 22 ns).

Day 19 GPR survey, north block, slice 4 (18 to 22 ns).

The comparison with the resistance survey is also very interesting.  The GPR time-slices tend to show the walls better, but the resistance survey tends to show the road better.

Resistance survey overlain on the GPR and mag surveys.

Resistance survey overlain on the GPR and mag surveys.

GPR data from the same grids as the res survey in the previous image.

GPR data from the same grids as the res survey in the previous image.

Short and sweet posting this evening as we have another busy day tomorrow, but at least this gives you a feel for what we are now finding.