Bective excavations Blog

Day 18 – Down the drain!
July 27, 2011, 11:00 pm
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A day is a long time in ‘archaeology’ particularly when you are on the final countdown. Catriona Devane has been working tirelessly on the registration and storage of this season’s finds and everything is up to date. This involves cleaning, form filling and data entering on computer. Good job Catriona!. The excitement mounted in the extension Cutting H with the exposure by Nóra Stout of a beautifully constructed stone drain containing a wealth of material. This had a stone paved floor and masonry walls. The fill was full of pottery, nails, a conch shell, bronze object and oyster shells. The flue was emptied by Laura Claffey and produced a basin of pottery, animal bones, fish bones and a possible piece of textile rope. The riddle was working overtime under the control of Rachel Barrett and Claire Breen. We had a wonderful visit from a number of youth groups from Simonstown and Trim including Coisceimeanna. Paula and Donal were their guides for the day and enthralled them with stories of Bective’s past. They were very interested and asked lots of  questions. They also helped Katie Lesley find her shoes! We had many visitors in the day including Con Manning and Ann Lynch from the National Monuments Service.

Catriona at work with yesterday's finds.

Single-handedly, Catriona manages to keep up with the avalanche of finds from the excavation.

All work and no play… Noel and Oisín show off their hurling skills during lunch break. Rumour has it that Oisín will play for St Pats in the new year.

A youth group from Trim are shown around the excavation by Paula and Nóra.

Spellbound! Paula explains the intricacies of archaeology.

Like the Pied Piper, Katie leads the Trim children dancing through the Abbey fields.

Emmet and Nóra admire the newly-discovered drain in Cutting H.

Archaeology can be cruel. Only yesterday Sadhbh and Noel were the talk of the excavation with their silver coin and curved chamber. Today they were yesterday's news.

Feature envy! Sadhbh looks on at the drain excavators.

Gor, what a scorcher! Rachel, Clare, Laura and Susan enjoying the shade on this fantastic day.


Susan Lyons’ Archaeobotanical Diary
July 26, 2011, 10:36 pm
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Soil sample processing is on-going at Bective Abbey and everyone is having a go at the on-site sieving. We are sieving the samples using the effective technique of floatation. This is where the sample is added to a bucket of water, agitated by hand to break up the soil to release any charred material, such as charcoal, cereal grain and other botanical surprises. This charred material is light in density and will float to the top, allowing us to pour it through a bank of sieves. Once dry, the material is identified and analysed. Lorraine Foley shows us how it’s done.

Charcoal identification is also being carried out from some of the samples. So far ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and oak (Quercus sp.) have been identified from the kiln samples.  Ash and oak are both species which are suitable for building, perhaps they were used in constructing the kiln itself. Whether fresh or dry, ash is considered very good firewood and its charcoal is highly regarded. Similarly, oak produces good long lasting fuel and is commonly found in features associated with industrial activities, such as kilning and metalworking.

Lorraine Foley at work in the environmental lab.

Cross section of ash.

Cross section of oak.

Day 17 – Things are heating up in Cutting H
July 26, 2011, 10:10 pm
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Things always heat up on the last day/ s of an excavation season and the Bective Abbey Project is no exception. The directors were dizzy after a day of call ups to examine new features and exciting finds. We have yet another flue associated with last years kiln; a chamber with a curving wall that produced a 13th century Penny (well done, Noel!), an impressive section of wall with its footing and a thick charcoal and ash spread and a piece of carved column (Well done, George!). In the midst of all this excitement we had a visit from the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society and our old friend Tommy Coogan.

George Knight with is freshly-discovered piece of window molding.

Tommy Coogan (second from left) with his daughter Arlene (left), Rory and Stephanie. Tommy built the riddle seen in this picture. It has served us well at Knowth Site M and here on the Bective Abbey Project.

Members of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society visited Bective to view the excavations. Here they are seen presenting Geraldine with copy of their journal, Riocht Na Midhe.


At the end of Day 17 we had a range of new walls and discoveries. The curved (bottom right) produced a silver penny possibly from the 13th century. A new series of walls and burnt material can be seen at the top right of the photo.

Day 16 – All hands on deck
July 26, 2011, 9:51 pm
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Excavation continued in Cutting H and its extension Cutting L. There was a steady buzz of work with most of the team concentrated in this area. Cutting M was opened to the west of the garden Cutting, to look for the garden wall. It was finished by the end of the day butalas, no wall. We had some extra help drafted, Peter Lacey  and the young Rory Blunts who helped with the riddle. Some of the students headed off to Newgrange for some podcasting.

Peter Lacey contemplates the meaning of Cutting H.

Oisín and Eoin, sons of Rory Blunt, hand over the discoveries from the riddle to Noel Carey.

Day 15 – Cuttings J and K finished, H extended
July 24, 2011, 10:34 am
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There was a great buzz on the site today with the completion of excavation in Cuttings J and K and homing in on Cutting H. The  planners moved in to the excavated  Cuttings which have had their sections recorded and features planned. Excavation of Cutting J has shown that the post-pad building did not extend further west and may have supported  an open-sided  structure. Cutting K revealed further evidence for a medieval garden and an outer precinct wall. Further excavation of the stone structures in Cutting H indicates a sequence of building where the robber trench wall is older than the ‘turret’. We have extended Cutting H to expose the other side of the ‘turret’ with the valued help of George and his son Georgie Knight. We have also located a new Cutting west of the garden cutting to see how far the precinct wall extends.

Work continues on the tower and walls in Cutting H.

Cutting J after excavations. The shallow pit can be seen top left.

Cutting K after excavation. The precinct (and or garden) wall crosses the cutting from east to west. The garden soil north of the wall is over a metre thick.

With Cuttings K and J completed the team focussed its attention on the buildings in Cutting H. George and Georgie Knight worked on the eastern extension to the cutting.

Stephanie and Siobhán at work on the section in Cutting K.

Helen and Donal wash bones.

Michael, a transition year student from Castleknock College , cuts the cake marking his farewell. He seems to have enjoyed his week on the excavation.

Day 14 – Tour de force
July 21, 2011, 6:28 pm
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It was a grey day, but the morning was dry. The team worked away polishing off their respective cuttings. Susan, Bective’s in-house environmentalist, developed a scientific and statistically viable sampling strategy for the charcoal layer in Cutting H. After lunch, some of the team went on a tour of two archaeological excavations. The first stop was to the Black Friary dig which is run by Fin O’Carroll. Then the team went over to Rosnaree where Conor Brady is excavating beside the River Boyne. Those who stayed behind drew sections and did some trowelling. The highlight of the day was a visit by Joe McCormick, father of Siobhán, one of the youngest members of the excavation team. Joe, who was also accompanied by his son Jonathan, drums for top Drogheda band Slowfoot. Slowfoot just played a gig with Sam Shepard at the Flatlake Festival in county Monaghan.

Susan (right) puts her sampling strategy into action.

Fin O'Carroll (right) shows the Bective Abbey excavation team around Black Friary.

Archaeologist Conor Brady from Dundalk Institute of Technology (third from right) and archaeologist Matt Seaver (right) shows the team around the excavations at Rossnaree.

Day 13 – The square turret, special visitors
July 20, 2011, 9:39 pm
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The stone collapse in Cutting J has been planned and excavated. While it produced a lot of bone and some pottery, the team were disappointed with the contents of this mysterious feature. The stones filled a pit of enigmatic purpose. In Cutting H Jordan and Rory worked on the interior of the tower and the evidence suggests that this is the foundation remains of a square turret which is faced with mortared stone on the exterior and stone packed in the middle. Rory took some measurements to compare with other turrets at the abbey and it is much larger. Some fine pieces of window moulding with glazing bar holes were found in the Cutting by Noel and Rob. After lunch we had a nice visit from fellow diggers from Black Friary, Trim.

The stone spread of mystery (JF06) did not make history. The large stones filled a shallow pit.

Jordan (left) and Rory continued the fine work of Arlene and Edgar in excavating the interior of the tower.

Geraldine (right) shows the results of the Bective Abbey Project to the excavation team from Black Friary,Trim.