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We're happy to welcome Ben Saunders to our team. He is developing Sitelines, a site specific theatrical production company specialising in converting archaeological site reports into community theatre.

Mission statement: Archaeology is based around the accruement of knowledge about our past through excavation, survey and artefact analysis, and more importantly, making this knowledge accessible to the general public. Currently this process is completed by creating a written site report which may become available on the internet. This one-dimensional presentation of a site can leave members of the public isolated from the archaeology uncovered. Sitelines puts forward a method to create a second tier of presentation to archaeological sites. We take the information in the site report, and combine it with general research into the local area and the specific time period of the site to create an individual theatrical event for the site.

This type of presentation is particularly applicable to community archaeology projects as it presents the findings in an easy to access format as well as bringing in other members of the community who may not have been aware of the archaeological finds but are interested in the theatrical performance. The project would run shortly after the completion of a season’s work and would hopefully involve as many of those involved in the excavation as possible, as well as other members of the community, to create a fictional play based around the findings of the excavation. For this, the script can either be written in group sessions between volunteers or one commissioned.

Sitelines also contains a cinematography section specialising in creating short films, of both documentary and fictional styles, to present the site and its findings.

Our background: Ben Saunders trained as an archaeologist and has worked on projects throughout the UK and in the Middle East with experience writing and presenting site reports. He also has extensive experience in theatrical events having set up and run a production company whilst at university which ran site-specific theatre as well as normal theatre. He has 6 years of practical technical theatre experience, giving him a strong understanding of the issues involved in staging theatrical events both in theatres and in less conventional spaces. He has written a short site specific theatrical event as well as a stage version of Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. Danford Showan has worked in many areas concerned with visual media, including graphic, print and web design, photography and videography. He has over 3 years work experience carrying out a wide variety of media projects with a local company, where he has developed additional interests in marketing and advertising. Alongside studying Psychology and Philosophy at Durham, he was the technical director for the University TV station and has undertaken freelance work in producing short videos for a range of clients. Having also made a number of short fictional films, he aspires to direct and edit more ambitious features where he can develop a growing interest in VFX.

 

THE INVESTIGATION & CONSERVATION OF ROMAN ARTEFACTS
FROM A FARMER’S FIELD IN KENT

AKA: ‘PLOUGHING DEEP:
THE MYSTERY OF A BOX, JUG, BOWLS & AN AMPHORA’

Chance Finds Exhibition, Canterbury Museum


Please click on an image to enlarge it.

A group of Roman copper alloy vessels, ceramic and wooden fragments were brought to AMTeC by Dr. Andrew Richardson, Kent Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (www.finds.org.uk). Some of the finds were metal detected from plough soil, others were recovered from a trial excavation of the area near the find spot containing a large metaldetected bronze jug.

Although the finds were of incomplete, fragmented and mis-shapened pieces – close examination has uncovered much information about their original forms and possible relationships to each other.
A number of different scientific techniques have been applied to the material towards the quest of understanding the assemblage:

Microscopy:

Identification of wood structure preserved by mineral salts of corroding iron fittings – this confirmed that there had once been some type of wooden container/box/casket – which probably contained cremated bones. Other cremation burials with wooden boxes found from Roman Brittain had feasting vessels surrounding the box.

Fine striations on the metal surface of the best preserved fragments of a bronze bowl may explain how it was made and why it has survived with such a beautiful patina.

X-radiography:

X-rays penetrate metal in relation to what it is made of (components of the alloy eg. different %s of copper tin and lead), its thickness, how it was worked, and corrosion effects. These differences in penetration will expose the x-ray film to different degrees of light and dark. This was a useful tool for knowing which fragments of metal went with which vessel. They also help guide the conservator when cleaning heavily corroded metal such as the iron fittings associated with the wooden box.

Metal vessels are usually shaped by ‘raising’ – hammering to shape over curved anvils, starting from a flat sheet of metal and hammering in even concentric lines until the desired shape is achieved. Rows of hammer marks can be seen on many of the x-rayed fragments – this allowed us to be sure that we were orienting pieces of the jigsaw in the correct direction when we were looking for joining fragments

X-ray Flourescence:

XRF is a non-destructive analytical techniques which was used to identify the specific metal alloys, enamel, and mystery ‘white lining/residue’. This is a surface technique, and therefore only gives us a general understanding about the materials used – corrosion effects may cause different concentrations of alloy components to appear at the surface than when first made. XRF analysis was undertaken by David Dungworth at the English Heritage Ancient Monuments Laboratory, Portsmouth. The copper alloy bowls appear to all be made of a similar bronze alloy – yet they have different surface corrosion colourations – perhaps this is due to the different methods of manufacture and uses the bowls were put to.

Soil Sample Sorting:

Children attending ‘Archaeological Detectives’ courses at AMTeC for Medway Council’s Children’s University have sorted the various material found in the soil excavated from the amphora and the plough disturbed pit containing the wooden box. They discovered fragments of a decorated glass vessel, charcoal and cremated bone, a tooth, more metal vessel pieces and fragments of iron. Trevor Anderson, an archeo-osteologist tutored the children and identified the bone and tooth remains – he said there wasn’t enough cremated material to have come from one burial: it is likely to have been dragged into the amphora by a plough… perhaps what was found in the amphora had once been associated with the wooden container and rich metal vessels?

Experimental Archaeology:

The striated lines, beautiful patina, and smooth density of the large bowl on display point to it having been manufactured or at least burnished on a lathe. A central dimple in the base also indicates that it has been on a lathe. A local silver smith, Ray Walton, demonstrated the technique – the spun object was then examined by microscope and X-radiography for comparison to the ancient finds.

The scientific analysis of this exciting burial group is still ongoing… results will be posted as they come in:

  • XRD (X-ray Diffraction):
    Ian Slipper and David Wray at the Earth Sciences Dept. of Greenwich University, Chatham are looking at the specific crystal structure of the mysterious white deposits which seem to line the inside of one of the bronze vessels. Perhaps this is limescale, and the bowl had been used repeatedly for boiling water – sample of modern limescale will be analysed in comparison.

  • Jacqui Watson at the English Heritage Ancient Monuments Laboratory, Portsmouth is studying the minerally preserved wood to try and further identify the type of wooden box. She is also examining the fragments of decayed wood found near the jug to try and determine if they are staves from a wooden bucket.

  • Organic Residue analysis will be carried out on samples taken from the amphora and metal bowl with mysterious white deposits, in hopes of identifyi