Friday, 22 August 2014

The greatness of the CBM

Another part of the excavation is the CBM - Project. CBM stands for "ceramic build material" and means the work with bricks and tiles. In many cases this material is quite underestimated even if it can offer many interesting points to support the interpretation of a site.

In a small context this can be a way to explain, in which ways ceramic build material was used to construct a structure. Maybe just a roof was made out of tiles or maybe just bricks were used to construct a floor or the frames of the windows. It gets more interesting, when you can figure out a re-use of material, as like you see by recording the material: For example at a certain point of a wall you see a huge amount of broken roof-tiles which originally belonged to a roof. This could point on for example on a later repairing phase in the history of the structure. For all this questions your local CBM-Team is ready to help you out!

Also in a larger context CBM can be quite useful: by analysing the material you get to be able to figure out connections between different structures. Maybe you are not able to date a single structure because the site offers you not a single clue, but by material analysis, stamps on the material etc. you can make a connection to another structure which is maybe several kilometres away and which can be dated. In this way you could get at least an approximate hint in which time your first structure could be dated.

How to analyse the material? For this you need samples for types and fabrics and by them you can record all the pieces you find during excavation. The pieces get measured by length, width and height and they get checked by type and by material. All this you record on recording sheets and later on you can see in a database how much of which material and which different types you found at your site. Than you should be able to give underlining information for the interpretation of the excavated structure.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Let's draw pottery!

One interesting aspect of find processing is the drawing of the finds. This means a technical drawing and not a creative picture, its purpose being to represent precisely the characteristics of a find. Not only interesting small finds made of pottery (Terra Sigillata, Turibula etc.), glass, bone and metal get drawn, but all the other pottery from different contexts as well. Except wall pieces all the fragments need to get drawn (rim- and bottom pieces, lids). This also applies for decorated and special/ unique pieces.
The fascinating thing about drawing is that  with the help of a tiny shard it allows us to reconstruct a ceramic vessel in parts or even entirely. To draw a shard you should start with the profile, when that is done you can easily copy the outlines to the other side with tracing paper. At last all the important sections and edges get drawn in as horizontals as well and all information about the person who drawed, the date, context number. etc. and further information about the object get put on the paper. 

Many people have problems in the beginning („Look, it looks like a peanut!“), but routine is everything! And it would be helpful to have a good eye and 3- and 2 dimensional imagination… Sounds complicated and of course not everybody likes it, but drawing is an important aspect of our work and especially for publications absolutely necessary, because things get very often more clear if you see objects as a drawing.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Getting smarter every day

Besides getting new experiences in field-working, we are also trained intellectually with lectures presented by experts.  During a lecture we can recharge with energy and get a lot of new and interesting information at the same time.

We heard about the roman period and about technologies and methods which can be useful on an excavation. This year first we learnt about glass and everything that belongs to it, for example how it is produced, about finds that are made of glass and so on. This presentation took us closer to those little pieces of glass which we mostly find and helped to imagine how they looked like. There was also a lecture about 3D photography which is a quite new technology that is useful in the documentation process. Hopefully it will be a general thing at all the excavations in the future. We also had a lecture related to the archaeological and cultic discoveries of Apulum, which offered us wide knowledge about the location where the excavation is taking place.

We all were very enthusiastic about these lectures as we got some insight on the theoretical parts of archaeology, which will be as useful as the practical skills gained outside on the field.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Think to finish!

Troweling, pickaxing, shovelling and many, many small find recording – so could one sum up the last two weeks’ field activity. After the first week of warming up, everybody got into a great rhythm concerning the work flow on site. However, no one should imagine that students were kept as slaves only to get rid of the thick and compact “blackish” layer, which really consumed the most part of everyone’s energy.

The hard labour was completed by a good and cheerful atmosphere. The jokes and laugh tried very hard to suppress the monotonous sound of pickaxing and shovelling, which seemed to be a successful operation. The four teams started to develop their own team spirit. The last week will definitely decide whether the “best” team no. 1; the “outstanding” team no. 2; the “brilliant” team no. 3 or the “marvellous” team no. 4 will be the winners of the excavation.

During the past two weeks the team managed to document and record, and afterwards to remove the demolition layer of the building. Thus new contexts related to the disuse of the building and other features started to contour. Everybody had the chance to take part in the documentation process including completing context sheets, planning, taking photos or recording small finds. The two weeks were long enough for everyone to get familiar with the single context planning method used at the excavation. Some layers, like the famous “blackish” or the “brownish” layer, contained dozens of pottery shards, animal bones and a large amount of interesting small finds (terracotta fragments, coins, turibula, terra sigillata, complete oil lamps) which resulted in an endless queue at the small find register and around the total station. 

The ceramic building material, simply called CBM, was processed on site by a special “squad”, the CBM team which classified and determined the different tile and brick types and fabric, and built a huge CBM pile sanctuary for everyone’s delight.

So that's with the excavation... One more week left, so think and sing to finish! And work hard! :-()

Friday, 8 August 2014

You just shrug and wash on

The second and third week is the high life of ceramic finds in the lab. The situation is the following: 2 crates of unwashed pottery, 3 crates of shards waiting to be processed and 9 crates of processed pottery. The excitement is concentrated on the huge amount of ceramics, but also the special vessels, which slow down the usual rhythm of pottery washing and processing. The impact of this experience sometimes is so strong, that it leads to confessions, which should be shared. Peter’s day spent in the lab resulted in thoughts as the following.

“Whenever I enter the laboratory I’m at first overwhelmed by the sheer mass of pottery shards which is stored there, waiting in plastic bags and covered with dirt all over their surface. Once you stumble upon an exceptional shard whose appearance bears a certain amount of significance, you stand up and make your way downstairs to the small find team, whilst the others look up from the sinks in front of them and try to hide their jealousy. You slam the door and run. You hit your head as you have reached the stairway, but finally you hand your discovery over to the small find team which thinks it’s worth mentioning it somewhere.”

After the cleaning process follows the quantification of pottery, this meaning that the shards are selected by morphological parts and functional categories, as a result we have a record of how much and what kind of pottery we are dealing with. The identifiable vessels are further analyzed and drawn, for some of them we find analogies, some can be dated, all contributing to a better understanding the meaning of ceramics in the Roman era.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Small excursion to Cluj Napoca!

As we already arrived to the halftime of the excavation, last Sunday the opportunity was given to visit Cluj-Napoca with the local colleagues, this time acting as our tourist guides for the next few hours. We have been guided around the city to see some of the local sights, like the birth place of King Matthias, the Saint Michael church, which – as we learnt – is the second biggest gothic style sacred building in Transylvania after the Black Church in Brasov.

We spent the rest of our time at the Matthias Square, where a market of handicraft items took place, so we also had the chance to buy some gifts for home. And of course we could not miss the chance of having some refreshments in the city of young university students. Sadly we did not have more time to see some other parts of the city, but hopefully we can return sometime.

After all these things our little group said goodbye to Cluj-Napoca and we headed back to the lovely Alba Iulia fresh with new experiences and ready for the next two weeks!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Restoring past knowledge – one small find at a time

The same as last year, the small find team works continuously on the processing of the artefacts, recovered by the field team.  Besides keeping a written and drawn record of all the small finds, it is also our task, if it is possible at all, to make primary definitions. In some cases, however, the finds (especially metal finds) need to be cleaned from corrosion, restored and conserved. In order to do so, we are working together with a team of restorers from the University of Alba Iulia.

The first step is the mechanical cleaning and removal of corrosion from the finds, which is followed by the conservation with various kinds of chemicals. The whole process takes some time and requires skill and patience, but in the end, the restored objects can really contribute to our understanding of the site.