The Mingary Castle restoration blog was written by Jon Haylett, who lives in the local village of Kilchoan. Now that restoration is almost complete Holly and Chris Bull will take over to report on bringing the Castle back to life.
Wednesday, 17 July 2013
Learning the Art of Archaeology - 2
The next thing we had to learn was how to complete a 'context record'. A 'context' is a deposit which can be described using factors such as composition, compaction, colour, inclusions and finds. The context which we had to describe was the very distinctive layer which we had removed from above the cobbles in the main courtyard.
The record is made on a standardised sheet. The site code, 2016, is Mingary Castle, the courtyard is Area 9, the 'trench' is the whole of the courtyard, and the context number is unique to that deposit. It was a 'deposit' rather than a 'cut' or a 'structure', so we had to describe the seven factors which identified this particular deposit.
For each 'Area' of the castle, a Harris Matrix is then completed, using the context numbers, in such a way as to show the relationships between each deposit. So, in this example, 401 (the soil profile) is above 409, which is above 403; but then things get complicated, since 421, 411 and 415 are roughly the same age but are found in different places within the Area.
As if an archaeologist's life isn't complicated enough, every find has to be bagged up, numbered, recorded, taken back to the office, sent to an expert, cleaned, conserved, described, dated and then put carefully away. Here, Lara Ferrarotti holds a pottery spout which she found near the sea gate.
The invention of the digital camera must have been both a boon and a nightmare to the poor archaeologist. On the one hand, they enable frequent, accurate records of everything to be made. On the other hand, every picture has to be recorded in detail on a special sheet.
I'm quite sure I have missed out some of the things we've been shown, and we certainly haven't been back to Addyman Archaeology's office where everything - everything - has to be transferred to computer. They have employees who tend to stay at the office to do this, they draft in extra people if things get heavy, but sometimes the archaeologists in the field have to go back and do this job themselves.
Once again, many thanks to Tom Addyman, Ross Cameron and the team for giving so very generously with their time. We volunteers learnt a huge amount in a very short time, and sincerely hope that a little of what was did was of use to them.