Bective excavations Blog


Day 5 – Abbot Augustine cuts ceremonial first sod at Bective
July 12, 2009, 11:28 am
Filed under: Archaeology Ireland

Cistercian monk and abbot of New Mellifont made a visit to the excavation to cut the ceremonial first sod. In a blessing ceremony that brought the thousand years of cistercian heritage into the present, Father Augustine prayed with the IAFS team for a successful excavation. The abbot had tea with with students and talked about the life of a cistercian monk today. Joanna Leigh came to the site to conduct a geophysical survey of the Abbey precincts. By lunch time, she had produced some very exciting results; stunning new evidence for the missing south range which extends beyond the boundary wall. Meanwhile, home on the grange, more stones but a hint of the medieval layers that lie below. Another tile fragment, which may have writing on it, and many pieces of medieval pottery. On Monday we should be on the exciting stratified layers at last.

 

Father Augustine, Abbot of New Mellifont Abbey, turns the ceremonial first sod.

Father Augustine, Abbot of New Mellifont Abbey, turns the ceremonial first sod.

 

Father Augustine and the Irish Archaeological Field School.

Father Augustine and the Irish Archaeological Field School.

 

Father Augustine at tea on the site. He inspects a floor tile.

Father Augustine at tea on the site. He inspects a floor tile.

 

 

 

Joanna Leigh shows IAFS student Joanna Kavanagh the intricacies of geophysical survey.

Joanna Leigh shows IAFS student Joanna Kavanagh the intricacies of geophysical survey.

 

Preliminary results of the geophysical survey.

Preliminary results of the geophysical survey.



Day 4 – Flagstones and fieldwork
July 9, 2009, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Archaeology Ireland

The cows paid a visit to the site and left something to remember them by. Coming to the bottom of the stony layer there are hints of great things ahead- a flagged surface and charcoal spread. Some nice pieces of Leinster cooking ware came from the cutting today. The first of our VIP visitors arrived on site. David Sweetman of medieval Castles fame was immediately put to work identifying pottery-We have some early Thirteenth century ware! Spent the afternoon on fieldwork-Eavan gave us a splendid tour of Mellifont abbey, motherhouse to Bective. Mandy provided a lively presentation of the results of her pioneering excavation of a grange at Staleen, near Newgrange on the booth of her car. Tomorrow we have an exciting day ahead-we begin a programme of geo-physical survey in order to identify the footprint of the south range. It doesn’t get any better than this…

 

Our first distinguised visitor. Castle expert David Sweetman, former Chief Archaeologist of Ireland, inspects the site with co-director Matthew Stout.

Our first distinguished visitor. Castle expert David Sweetman, former Chief Archaeologist of Ireland, inspects the site with co-director Matthew Stout.

 

Tea on site, day 4.

Tea on site, day 4.

 

 

Car conference. Mandy Stephens tells us all about her excavation of a Cistercian grange at Staleen, County Meath.

Car conference. Mandy Stephens tells us all about her excavation of a Cistercian grange at Staleen, County Meath.

 

The IAFS participants visit Ireland's first Cistercian Abbey at Mellifont. They got a great tour from OPW guide Eibhlin.

The IAFS participants visit Ireland's first Cistercian Abbey at Mellifont. They got a great tour from OPW guide Eibhlin.



Day 3 – When cows go bad (and another medieval tile)
July 8, 2009, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Archaeology Ireland

Our morning began with an impromptu session of yoga led by Shannon to get us ready for a new day. We opened up a new cutting across the bank of the enclosure to see if we could find the construction ditch. IAFS students completed the planning of the stony layer and learned how to take levels. In all three cuttings, we began to remove the stoney layer. The fruit of our labour was a beautiful medieval floor tile. Later in the day we had to defend our cuttings from a herd of Meath cows. We hope to find the ditch tomorrow, cows willing!

Shannon Pate from Newport, California shows her first plan.

Shannon Pate from Newport, California shows her first plan.

Close up of medieval tile

Erica Peron of Portland, Oregon shows the tile she has just discovered.

Erica Peron of Portland, Oregon shows the tile she has just discovered.

  

Co-Director Geraldine Stout caught thinking about the site.

Co-Director Geraldine Stout caught thinking about the site.

 



Day 2 – The stony floor
July 7, 2009, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Archaeology Ireland

Over night update – Our tile expert Kieran Campbell tells us that yesterdays find was a sixteenth-century relief impressed tile.  This tile was on the floor  of Bective  abbey  when King Henry VIII  dissolved it in  1537.

This morning we put our spades aside and started trowelling a stony surface that was uncovered under the sod. Who laid this stone and gravel surface we’ve yet to find out. This may simply be the ground surface of a  paddock behind a cottage that we know once stood on the site.  There is a rough line of  larger flagstones emerging that may be the foundations of a wall or building. Fragments of thirteenth and seventeenth century pottery were found in the soil that covered it  making it difficult to date at this stage.We have started to plan the flagstone surface with the Irish Archaeological Field School students. It was clean enough to photograph this afternoon. Sarah found a concentration of  punctured slate roof tiles probably from the demolished cottage. Craig got a nice buckle. Tomorrow we start removing the stony layer and expose the ‘wall’.

 

Trowelling begins on the stony surface just below the sod

Trowelling begins on the stony surface just below the sod

Mark+Derek

Mark and Derek discuss the finer points of surveying



What a great day!
July 6, 2009, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Archaeology Ireland

Well it’s begun. After a quick circuit of the abbey,  in the words of Chairman Mao  ‘we put down our luggage and started the machinery’. The heavy work of de-sodding was instantly rewarded with Stephanie’s discovery  of a medieval floor tile on top of what seems to be a paved floor. Mark won the pogo jumping competition.  Already we are onto medieval layers. A very satisfying day all round.

The group at work on the first day of the excavation.

The group at work on the first day of the excavation (Photo: Craig Downie).