Saturday, July 05, 2008

Wyre Archaeology does the Grange Farm Platform: Part One

Yes. I know it's Saturday.
But we're supposed to be digging tomorrow (although the weather forecast doesn't look too clever) so I'm posting early this week just in case.
Now, take a look at this…

No…it’s not the Wyre Archaeology squad turning up for an excavation. It’s what the Wyre Archaeology squad turning up for an excavation were greeted by on June the 29th 2008.
This is fairly standard procedure for excavations. Stick a dumpy in a field with cows in it somewhere and within seconds, regardless of how large the field is, regardless of how far away the cows are, regardless of the numerous bear traps, illegal land mines and deadly lilia (if you don’t know what they are, go and look them up) that you plant around the site, they’ll all be gathered round, licking your spades, nibbling your metal detectors, pulling up your pegs and attempting to steal your beef and mustard butties.
That’s cannibalism! Not that they mind a spot of relative eating, so long as the mustard is English, and I can’t say that I blame them. If I was standing around a field with nothing better to do than chew grass and take large, steaming dumps all day, I’d probably be interested in the pre-packed lunches of a group of old fogies wearing cowboy hats, trying to look as though they know what they’re doing whilst setting up camp beneath the bushes.
However…I digress. This is supposed to be a posting about the first trench we sunk into the platform at the rear of Grange Farm in Stalmine…not about the nosy cows pictured above, who spent most of the day forcing George to do ‘panicking turkey’ impressions.
So, let’s have a bit of background to this dig then.
We’ve covered our theories about the Grange Farm platform somewhere in a previous posting, discussing the possibilities for it having originally housed a keeill, which might later have been pulled down to make way for an eleventh century watermill, which in turn was probably demolished and recycled into a cottage/hovel, which eventually came down too, leaving the platform free to play host to a shack and a gaggle of very fat chickens.
Whatever its origins, the platform still contained at least one building as late as the 1840s, as the first edition Ordnance Survey map overlaid on its modern counterpart below demonstrates.

Now that’s probably the same building that appears on Yates’s map of 1786. A building that had possibly been standing there for a long time before that as well.
It isn’t there now, of course.
And according to the aerial photographs taken in the 1940s it wasn’t there then.

Okay…so the general order in which archaeologists do things (leaving aside eating their butties, quaffing their brews, smoking their cigarettes and indulging in other essential matters) is to dispense with the more modern archaeology first before digging deeper in search of the ancient.
That’s why we decided to excavate this particular building first…well, that and the fact that we hadn’t surveyed the north end of the platform yet, where the watermill would have been located.
Accordingly, the first trench was opened in the spot we thought most likely for the building to have stood, as shown in the photograph below.

Let’s have some names. In the foreground on the left is Barbara (always enthusiastic and extremely handy with a trowel). Behind her is Ken. He’s not actually digging anything. He just fell over and couldn’t stand up again. Then, in the middle foreground, that’s Ed’s backside. Behind him, represented here by a kneecap, is Mick…I think. And behind Mick (I think) is George…taking a well deserved break from scaring off the cows. On the far right, taking photographs of the scene for later evidence in court, is Gary.
It was a good trench.
However, we completely missed the building, had to shut it down again and try somewhere else.
Second time lucky.
But because I’m in an awkward mood, I reckon I’ll bring this posting to a screeching halt right about there and leave our reader on a cliffhanger.


Fiona said...

There is nothing more reassuring than a group of budding archaeologists standing illegally on the edge of a trench looking bemused!

Jayne said...

Typical bloody male; leaving us readers hanging in wait for the next installment! :P

Brian Hughes said...


Except perhaps for a group of archaeologists on the edge of an illegal budding. Congrats on your D of E, by the way. Gold, eh? You can melt that down and it'll pay for next year's text books.


Even more typical is that the next installment, after a histrionic wait, is a total let down.

Fiona said...

Thanks Briain,

Melting it down is a waste of two years waiting to finally get it, since they lost my record book and many other things!

Brian Hughes said...


Don't forget to call his highness a quaffering old greek when you're picking it up, as a return favour for all the diplomatic gaffs he's made on behalf of Britain over the years.

JahTeh said...

Why don't you just get a volunteer in a cow suit to lead them away? I mean with your qualifications (broad arse one end, big nose the other) you'd be a natural. You could be hired out to other groups and end the financial strife you're in.
You should ask me for more ideas, I have lots of good ones involving you in strange animal suits or maybe that's just the dreams I've been having lately.

Brian Hughes said...

Broad Arse at one end, Big Nose at the other? That's no way to talk about the members of Wyre Archaeology. (I was actually going to add a couple of names then...but I've got to live with these people so it wouldn't have been a wise move.)

JahTeh said...

Oh and on the subject of problematic cattle Brian, I can offer one piece of advice. Never make eye contact with a herd of cows in a paddock, as this seems only to confuse them. They expect that we, with eyes too close together are predators while they, with doe-like peepers and a 180 degree view, are the prey. Prey never take their eyes off predator. So should you fix and maintain your gaze on a group of cows, they imagine some kind of weird role reversal is taking place which tends only to make them curiouser and curiouser and to move in closer and closer. This is of course quite intimidating. I walked for some miles with thirty or forty black Angus heifers breathing down my neck, almost literally and it was most disconcerting. Although had I never given them so much as a cursory glance they'd undoubtedly have ignored me too. This works quite well on all animals--people too I suppose. On the other hand, or, having said that, (as they say) eye contact with cows from the safety of one's vehicle is highly recommended as a balm for the soul, not so sure about people . . .

Wednesday, July 09, 2008 6:59:00 PM

This wonderful piece of cowcraft was left for you on my blog by Caroline who's not bad with horses either.

Brian Hughes said...

On the other hand, Witchy, you could just hide behind a bush and shout 'Is that the bloke from McDonald's over there? Yes...I'm sure it is. And he's got his electric stun gun with him...' until they all bugger off looking extremely worried.

Ozfemme said...

Look, the way my finances are at present, I'm prepared to don a cow suit and come over and do the scaring meself - for room and board (including booze, naturally.) I'm very well suited to the task, possessing as I do an enormous back end of gargantuan proportions and rather large brown eyes.

I'm just saying...


Brian Hughes said...


I'll have a word with Gary (our treasurer) and a rummage through the storeroom to see if we've any cow costumes left over from last year's pantomime.

Feral Beast said...

I hope you find all the buildings your looking for.

Brian Hughes said...

Mr. Beast,

So do I...although, with all the rain we keep having, it'll be classed as underwater archaeology.