Tag Archives: ucl

Infamy, infamy (they’ve all got it in for me)?

Those of you who know Bloomsbury probably imagine I have a lovely view across one of the squares from my office window. Until recently, you would be right!  UCL are building a new student hub (everything is a ‘hub’ these days) and had to have somewhere to house the workers.  The solution? … a two storey stack of portacabins in a tunnel over the pavement.

The Institute of Archaeology, UCL.

The Institute of Archaeology, UCL.

Just to add to my joy, the staircase between levels is just by my window, so they have covered it in plastic…

The view from my office.

The view from my office.

It is scheduled to be like this until December 2018.  No wonder I prefer being out surveying. Jarrod Burks, who many of you will remember from the course, was out surveying the other day.

Jarrod surveying, December 2016.

Jarrod surveying, December 2016.

Seems a bit too extreme for my liking!

You may wonder what this tale of woe has to do with geophysics and CAGG?  UCL have put up a nice set of panels on the hoardings to advertise what the Institute does and to make the place slightly more inviting.  I was really pleased to see…

The Verulamium survey on the hoardings.

The Verulamium survey on the hoardings.

Yay, fame at last!  Sadly, the only caption near the image of our survey doesn’t mention CAGG, Verulamium or geophysics.

The caption.

The caption.

Oh well, never mind.  Perhaps I should find a plastic holder for our CAGG postcards and leave a few there for the curious.

Local Hertfordians maybe interested to see the article on Batford in this week’s Herts Advertiser and compare that to my posting about the survey.

Merry Christmas everybody.

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…!

Three day catch-up

I haven’t managed a Verulamium post for a few days so here is a quick catch-up.

Firstly, the mag has been slowly working its way eastwards along the Macellum Field.  They are getting pretty close to the end of it.

The mag survey in the Macellum field after day 35.

The mag survey in the Macellum field after day 35.

As can be seen, Watling Street stands out very clearly running from near the theatre to the Chester Gate.  There are lots of buildings along the road as would be expected.  Some are less clear than one would hope because they have been partially excavated.  The spec-ally look to the data, almost certainly because of the gravel subsoil, does make it harder to see what is going on here.  The carrot at the end of the stick — apart from just finishing the field of course — is that there are two Romano-Celtic temples known from aerial photographs near the modern road.

The next image is just to show how much of Verulamium we have now completed.  Poster, anyone?

The complete survey so far.

The complete survey so far.

The resistance survey has had a few problems.  The lack of rain has made the top-surface of the field very dry and hard.  It is very slow going, and the data is not as clean as one would like.  Despite the problems, however, some of the buildings along the road, especially at the north side of the plot, are very clear indeed.

The resistance survey after day 35.

The resistance survey after day 35.

Although it doesn’t jump out at one when just looking at the plot, the sinuous ditch does show in the resistance data when one knows where to look!

The GPR team completed some blocks along the hedgeline which I haven’t processed yet… sorry!  They also did one block up next to the Chester Gate to investigate the building here, and one over the sinuous ditch.  The latter did show the ditch but very little else.  Let’s look at the block near the Chester Gate.

The mag survey near the Chester Gate.

The mag survey near the Chester Gate.

This first image shows the mag data.  The building in the middle shows as white lines roughly parallel to the modern drive.  There are lots of other darker features, probably various pits and the sinuous ditch shows to the west.

Day 35 GPR, slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

Day 35 GPR, slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

This time slice shows the impact of splitting the survey over two days!  The left hand side was done yesterday afternoon, the right hand side this morning.  The pattern of the ploughing and the tractor’s turning circle in the corner of the field show clearly.  Luckily, the problem is much less acute at lower depths.

Day 35 GPR, slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

Day 35 GPR, slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

This time slice now shows the building beautifully.  What a wonky end wall on the north side! There is a long narrow range of rooms to the SW.

Day 35 GPR, slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

Day 35 GPR, slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

This time slice shows the SW line of rooms more clearly, although at the southern end they are been partly destroyed.  We can see, however, fainter traces of the walls on the NE, a corridor, perhaps?

Day 35 GPR, slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

Day 35 GPR, slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

This time slice does show the “corridor” to the NE much more clearly.  Perhaps it is more deeply buried in the plough bank?   For most of the plot, though, nothing much else is showing.

There has been a little rain this evening.  I have my fingers crossed for more.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be dry so that the mag can plough on eastwards!

As always, many thanks to everyone, especially those working with the res meter.  It is slow and boring at the best of times, but slow+annoying is a great deal to ask.

Record breaking

It was an odd day, weather wise. Largely dry with just one quick, light shower, windy at times, sunny spells… Luckily nothing interfered with the fieldwork!

The res team consisted of myself (when I wasn’t putting in grids for people), Ellen, Tim and Pauline.  They pulled out the stops and managed a record-breaking eight grid squares.  Area-wise, that is what the GPR covers in an average day, but for resistance survey at 0.5m intervals, that is very good going.  Well done everyone.

The resistance survey at the end of day 32.

The resistance survey at the end of day 32.

Today’s grids behaved themselves and make the four odd ones from yesterday stand-out even more.  I did make sure that some of the connectors were off the ground today.  How annoying. We may have to re-do those four grids.  The survey did, however, show the buildings along the road in the SE corner beautifully.  The big question… where now?  North to the sinuous ditch?  South for more shops?  West to cover the cross roads?  Only four days surveying left, and we have to assume that we won’t cover eight squares every day.

The mag team also had a very successful day in the Macellum field.

Detail of the mag survey showing the Macellum field.

Detail of the mag survey showing the Macellum field.

We can just see a hint of the cross-roads running NE-SW across Watling Street.  The ‘1955 ditch’ barely shows.  With the eye of faith one might see it in the high readings along the edge of the cross-road, but very much with the eye of faith.  Is the ditch just so built over we cannot see it?  Or was it never built here?

With just four survey days left to go, the team is getting close to finishing the field, but I think we are a day or two short of being able to do that.

The entire mag survey to date.

The entire mag survey to date.

Way down across the field, the GPR team tackled another fiddly staggered bit along the hedge line.  In the next three images I have made the previous days’ surveys partially transparent.

The day 32 GPR, slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 35 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

The day 32 GPR, slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

The curious shallow valley to the west of the surveyed area (‘valley’ seems a strong word for it!) that runs down the hill towards the temple is just as devoid of buildings or other recognizable archaeological features as the mag data.  In all three time slices not a great deal shows.  Was this valley always empty?  Or has the archaeology been eroded away, or even buried?  Difficult to say,  There is, however, a long narrow building just to the right of the middle of the surveyed area almost parallel with the hedgerow.  It seems fairly ephemeral, but it definitely there and one corner was picked-up in last year’s grid to the south.

Although the GPR hasn’t covered as much as the mag, we have still collected a mass of data.

Montage showing the area surveyed with the GPR to date.

Montage showing the area surveyed with the GPR to date.

It certainly takes-up a large chunk of my hard disk.

Many thanks to everyone who came out today and worked so hard.  A very successful day all round.  Our next survey day is on Thursday.

I think we found a building…

Today we managed to run all three instruments despite the very blustery weather and the occasional shower. Many thanks to everyone who put up with the bad weather.

Firstly, the magnetometer survey went very well today with another nine grid squares completed, albeit there were many partials!  Here are the results:

The mag after day 31.

The mag after day 31.

As can be seen, the nice straight line of Watling Street continues running from the SE to the NW. Curiously, there appears to be something cutting across the street and running down either side (shown as white lines).  How strange.  The star find, however, is the very nice building parallel to Watling Street.  The wall foundations show as clear white lines against the mid-grey, i.e., non-magnetic wall foundations (or foundation trenches) cutting through the more magnetic background.  Just in case anyone is wondering where the building is:

Today's mag showing the building.

Today’s mag showing the building.

OK, I’m not being entirely serious.  It is perhaps one of the clearest buildings I have seen in our mag data despite the rather noisy background.

The GPR crew were working quite some distance away.  Here is a location plan:

Location of the three surveys.

Location of the three surveys.

It is 550m from the magnetometer survey to the GPR survey as the swallow flies, slightly further as the archaeologist trundles.

The GPR team were not to be outdone by the mag team.  Here are four time slices from the area they did today. Remember each slice is going a bit deeper into the ground.

Day 31, GPR slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 2 (9.5 to 12.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 3 (12.5 to 15.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 4 (15.5 to 18.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

Day 31, GPR slice 5 (18.5 to 21.5ns).

The top image (time slice two) is just showing noise in the ploughsoil.  The second image is showing a nice Roman building very clearly.  There might be more than one phase, with the upper phase being somewhat damaged.  The third image shows the building very clearly.  In the last image some of the internal walls show a little more clearly suggesting that they may have been robbed or replaced at some point.  All in all, a rather nice building in a prime position on the road across the town.

The GPR team have now covered quite a large area of the town!  Remember that they have to walk four times the distance to cover the same area as the mag, but have the advantage of being able to create images at different depths.

The extent of the GPR survey after day 31.

The extent of the GPR survey after day 31.

The Earth Resistance survey managed four grid squares today after the rain made it possible to take readings at all!

The earth resistance survey after day 31.

The earth resistance survey after day 31.

The res has picked up some more details of the Insula XVI temple.  Unfortunately, the trick of spreading the remote probes widely apart to avoid problems with grid matching has finally failed.  We did not have enough rain to change the moisture levels at 50–75cm down, so I am not entirely sure why this is the case.  Perhaps some current leaks through the grass?  I’ll have to investigate.

The weather forecast is better for tomorrow and so we will be out again in force.

Watling Street

Firstly, apologies to those who turned-up and found themselves unemployed. With ground conditions difficult for the resistance meter, we just couldn’t run all three machines. Thank you for being so understanding.  Looks like it will rain most of tomorrow, so hopefully we can press-on with the resistance survey on Saturday.

The mag survey in the second field, which I am going to call the macellum field for convenience (it isn’t the field’s real name) is going well.  Firstly, an image of the whole town:

The mag survey of Verulamium.

The mag survey of Verulamium.

My long-held dream of having a complete survey of Verulamium is getting close to becoming a reality!  Thank you everyone.

Looking at the new area in more detail:

The area surveyed on days 29 and 30 in the macellum field.

The area surveyed on days 29 and 30 in the macellum field.

Hopefully, everyone can see the clear linear feature running from the SE to the NW.  This is Watling Street, the main road from London to Chester.  As one might expect just near to the gate (which was robbed and then excavated, and lies in the trees), there appear to be lots of little buildings along the road which show as white lines against the mid-grey background. What is more curious is the rather different look of that background: much less even and more noisy. I’m not sure why, yet.  The field certainly feels different: flatter, slightly different vegetation, and is obviously closer to the river.  Perhaps we have moved from chalk to the river gravels?  I must check the geology map…

The GPR has been doing lots of bitty blocks around the edge of last year’s survey area.  Rather than hold-up the posting of the mag data, I thought I would do the GPR later when I have dropped all the different areas on to Google Earth.

Thanks to everyone who helped today, especially Graeme for acting as my driver and go-fer as I limped around the field  (don’t ask!), and Ruth for helping transport all the equipment.

 

Done it!

The mag team have completed the Theatre Field. Yay!

The mag survey of the theatre field, complete.

The mag survey of the theatre field, complete.

Congratulations everybody.  It is quite an achievement.

A detail of the area surveyed on day 29.

A detail of the area surveyed on day 29.

The detail above shows that the very north end of this field is quite busy.  This is unsurprising being right next to the Chester Gate.  The sinuous ditch, or should we just call it the aqueduct?, leaves the town about 50m away from the gate.  Unfortunately, it goes straight into woodland. Hopefully, we may get a chance one day to look for it the other side of the wall.  Rosalind Niblett traced what she thinks is the aqueduct from aerial photographs all the way the valley to Redbourne.

The mag team also started in the next field, but I’ll report on that when there is a little more completed.  The res team struggled with the hard, dry ground conditions and managed another two grid squares.  We will have to stop doing res until we have had some rain.  There is some forecast tomorrow.  The GPR team also completed two areas.  I wanted to post the completion of the field, so I’ll report on everything else this evening.