Bective excavations Blog

Day 19 – Medieval Window Jamb Found!
July 29, 2010, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As the final layers are peeled from cutting 2 (the cutting with the post pad and the corn drying kiln) a chamfered stone with a glazing bar-hole was found in a pit. This discovery coincided with the arrival on the site of Loreto Guinan, the Heritage Officer of Meath County Council. Large ceramic strap handles were found by Flann and Clive who came to give us a dig out in our next to last day. Oisin and Cormac did some sieving of the last deposits and found a worked flint blade, pottery and animal bones. The last bit of planning is almost completed and the section are well on the way. Other visitors on the site today included James Nugent and his grandson Joel, who also helped with sieving.

In the afternoon, most of the team went on their weekly field trip to Fore Abbey. Today’s trip was led by Kevin O’Brien of the Office of Public Works. Thank you Kevin for sharing your vast knowledge with the team. The remainder of the crew stayed late to finish off the cuttings. Tomorrow is our last day.

Loreto and Conal examine the window jamb just minutes after its discovery.

James Nugent and Joel are hard at work on the 'riddle'.

Nora and Sadhbh assist Joanne with the geophysical survey.

The team gather around to bid Clare and Neil a fond farewell. Clare will be heading back to Australia soon. Fair Dinkums and thanks to both for all their hard work.

Neil and Clare cut their farewell cake. Mascot Sophie hopes to get her share.

Flann and Clive (left and right) with Cormac and Oisin (hidden) do some vigorous riddling.


Day 18 – Corn Drying Kiln Discovered
July 29, 2010, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Everything comes up at the end of an excavation. Leo Swan used to say that we should only excavate the baulks. A day after our discovery of the flue-like features in cutting 4, their function was established by finds in cutting 2. Today we got the head of a corn drying kiln and our instant environmental analysts turned up great quantities of charred grain. Geophysical survey resumed today when Joanne Leigh identified buried evidence for the east end of the abbey church.

We had visits from Raghnall O Floinn (of the National Museum of Ireland) and his daughter Sorca. Raghnall identified one of our tiles as depicting a Tudor Rose. A late and rare type of tile. He was also excited and delighted to view our Leinster Cooking ware. Una and Con Manning (Senior Archaeologist with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government) made his annual visit to the site. Kate Sweetman and Hugh McElveen and his family also toured the cuttings. Rachel Barrett, Laura Claffey and Clare Breen (all of the National Monuments) visited the site in the morning and Rachel stayed behind to help us with the sections.

John celebrated his second birthday on the site (not that he is two years old, he just has been at Bective for his last two birthdays. Peadar left us, leaving a large gap in the excavation team.

That night the last of the Tara Lecture Series was given by Michael Potterton. This series was so successful that co-directors arrived too late to get into the hall. However, many members of the team were on time and enjoyed a superb lecture. Congratulation to Michael and Clare Tuffy and staff for organising such a fantastic series of talks.

The head of the corn drying kiln found in cutting 2.

Master troweler Ann Marie revealing the flue-like structures in cutting 4.

Bone specialist Alan Russell, Una, Con, Matthew examine the geophysical survey as carried out by Joanna.

Sorca, Raghnall, Jessi and Lucas.

Conal with Hazel and Lynn Magee (a first cousin once removed of Geraldine).

John celebrates his birthday by blowing out imaginary candles.

John and Peadar cut their birthday/farewell cake.

Day 17 – Domestic Turns Industrial
July 27, 2010, 10:10 pm
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A day is a long time in archaeology. In the last twenty-four hours our ‘infirmary’ has turned into an industrial zone.  We uncovered two parallel flue-like trenches with intense burnt deposits. Early sampling has detected apple seeds and burnt cereal. We have some bronze waste, charcoal and ash. It is very difficult to interpret. We are hopeful that the site will produce some form of waste from this industrial activity to give us an indication of what when on here. The environmental lab found evidence for worked wood, perhaps a destroyed wattle structure? Finds from these levels include local and imported pottery. One sherd strikes one of us as being Mediterranean. Specialists will be called in over the winter to interpret these finds.

In the afternoon we had a flurry of VIP visitors. Dr Ann Lynch from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Ronan Swan, National Roads Authority and Dr Patrick F. Wallace, Director of the National Museum of Ireland all came to inspect the project. Refreshments at Crockett’s followed.

Cutting 1 showing the intense burning.

Worked wood recovered by our environmental team.

Post pad in cutting 2.

Ronan Swan, Ann Lynch and Patrick Wallace inspect the site.

Day 16 – Industrial Activity?
July 26, 2010, 10:50 pm
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As we neared the bottom of cutting 4 things got really exciting. We found a depression with large stones lining its sides. This was sitting on undisturbed boulder clay and was filled with huge amounts of burnt material. Could some type of industrial activity have taken place in our building? The neighbouring cutting is also producing areas of intense burning. Hopefully all will be revealed in the next few days.

As alway, distinguished visitors came to call. We had the Condon/Conaghy family, the parents of Elisa Alonzi and Kathleen Walkup from Mill College near San Francisco. Weatherwise it was one of the best days on the site. Let’s hope it stays fine for us.

Rob and Helen near the bottom of the rich deposits at the eastern end of the long cutting 3.

Peadar and John erect a barrier fence in the interests of health and safety.

Kathleen Walkup straightens the section face in cutting 2.

Matthew (left) excavates the last remnants of burnt material from the stone-lined depression in cutting 4.

Day 15 – A Busy Day on the Site
July 26, 2010, 10:36 pm
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Good weather allowed us to make some real progress on all fronts through the day. Kevin O’Brien and Elisa were busy with the architectural survey of the cloister. The long cutting 3 is almost bottomed. Large spreads of medieval charcoal and ash are spreading through cuttings 1 and 2. Lucas found the most exciting find of the day; part of the twisted lead surrounds for a stained glass window. Infirmaries in Cistercian Abbeys were like churches and this could help establish the true nature of the building we are excavating in cuttings 1, 2  and 4.

We had a welcome visit from Oliver Usher, a direct descendent of the Ushers who are associated with Balsoon House across the river from Bective Abbey. The church at Balsoon was part of the Bective Estate in the 16th century. Oliver kindly gave us a brief talk on the Ushers and showed the team some very old books on the family’s history. Ciaran, who worked so hard on the site for the first two weeks, visited s again with his family. Later in the afternoon, journalist Sandra O’Connell visited us with her family.

Surveying on the site.

Lucas with the leading from a stained glass window; the find of the day!

Oliver Usher (left) and Ciaran with his family.

Oliver Usher gives us a short presentation on the Usher family

We bid a sad farewell to Aine, Donal, Erin and Ben.

Journalist Sandra O'Connell with her family and site co-director Matthew Stout.

Day 14 – The Drogheda Boat
July 22, 2010, 9:53 pm
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The weather was dry on the site this morning and good progress was made in all the cuttings. After lunch the team had a treat in store for them; a visit to the Drogheda Boat. This boat dates from the 16th century and is perhaps the first archaeological excavation of a shipwreck in Ireland. Holger Schweitzer told us about the initial discovery, how each piece of timber was recorded and the model he has produced from the excavation and analysis. This work was undertaken by the Underwater Archaeology Unit of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The team got to see the remains of the actual boat and a dugout canoe recently discovered in the Boyne River.

Holger Schweitzer presents the results of the excavation of the Drogheda Boat.

The excavation team on their weekly fieldtrip to the Drogheda Boat.

Holger Schweitzer with a ship's timber.

As large as the Bective Excavation team is, they could have all fit into the Drogheda Boat.

Day 13 – Seafood Supper
July 22, 2010, 9:39 pm
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It rained a lot today. Yes, even in July it rains in Ireland. But many soldiered on through the damp morning. Things cleared up in the afternoon and work continued in the flooded cuttings where possible. Large quantities of household waste and remains of seafood suppers were found in the long cutting 3. The were found within what we believe to be the monastic garden.

Some of the IAFS students attended both Tara lecture scheduled for that evening, one by Conor Newman on Tara and the other on Meath in c.1210. The turnout at O’Connors after the lectures was down somewhat, but Geraldine, Will and Nóra flew the flag for the excavation team.

Seafood Supper! Medieval household deposits from the long cutting 3 in the Monastic Gardens.