31.7.14 – Week 4 Day 4

Arrived at site today just in time for the gyrocopter man’s second run…missed the first but Norman may send me some more pictures tomorrow..  gyrocopter man is Greg, Australian, and runs his own company from Ashton-in-Makerfield.. Vicky got to help him and they wear headsets through which they can see the ground as if they were up there in the ‘dragonfly’… in the second picture spot the take off – if you didn’t know already you can usually enlarge the picture by tapping/clicking on it..

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DSC_0628..DSC_0630DSC_0631 here is Greg with Norman looking at the results…I should be able to bring you a few in the next day or two.  Greg says that he took images from 8 compass points at an oblique angle, then did shots straight down, then the whole area, then the three trenches: 6; 1; 2.  Vicky said that looking through the headset was an amazing experience, quite brilliant, and virtually indescribable.

But there was archaeology going on as well, and here’s a quote from John on what’s happening in Trench 1: ‘Recording, recording, recording, recording and recording!’

DSC_0659 here’s John, getting praise from archaeologists on the high quality of his recording, and as this is his last day here’s his drawing as well.DSC_0658

and here’s Samantha with her drawing of the East Gate post-holes….DSC_0632….DSC_0633GetAttachment..and here she is actually drawing it (Sonia’s photo)

Just wait till you see those post-holes a bit closer up!  But first the road further E

(so Trench 6) …DSC_0635 –  Vicky’s going to have sleep deprivation over this she reckons… for it’s looking like there’s two road surfaces here, the one with the larger flatter stones going under the other one that we’re well used to seeing now… and part of it is delineated with the space?  It’s possible that this part on the bottom right of the picture is the standing for the tower I mentioned yesterday…


GetAttachment…Cliff doing a fab job trowelling this majorly interesting feature!  (Sonia’s photo)

And now the wonderful post-hole…


… with Marc, who excavated it – and what you can see here is Bruton’s top wide cut looking for the post-hole, then the bedrock – the flat stone shelf, then the cut through it by the Romans.  Bruton didn’t get down this far, we know because his fills can be recognized now, but you’re looking at the base of the post-hole and at the bottom of it was wood in the clay layer, just as in the clay layer at the bottom of the ditch in Trench 1.

In this bucket is the wood in the clay/mud – trust me it’s really there…


And look who’s back in Trench 2 – yes,DSC_0649..it’s Rachel!DSC_0652..and here’s Marija, with my Neolithic structure, and Margaret with a very odd clay feature… sadly she can’t be back tomorrow to finish it..

…………………. DSC_0653DSC_0647..these are Sonia’s legs, she’s had a day of it with the hard-packed surface to the left, but getting in there now, and there’s the semi-concrete surface to the right, looking so like a Neolithic house floor (Ancient Near East).

Also this morning…..

GetAttachment ..we had a visit from HLF personnel Nick Herepath and Elise Turner, and also from Andrew Davidson, Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments.  We really hope that they liked what they found!

Good night then, until tomorrow, when we shall be parting, such sweet sorrow. (Apologies to Will).

But I won’t be leaving you for long, for I’ll keep you up to date for years to come!!

Yours, Bloggerina

30.7.14 – Week 4 Day 3

Doing this blog job feels a bit like panning for gold…. and every day I find some for you, even if very tiny!

But no need to look hard today for first up was the gold nugget training workshop with Ruth Leary, Roman pottery expert. We had a very interesting talk indeed followed by a session on how to record pottery finds… sorting/identifying/measuring/ and so on.  I’m pretty confident that everyone there thoroughly enjoyed it.  Thanks ever so much Ruth and we hope to see you again soon.



Here is our mystery object…DSC_0527…having just had its drop of lemon juice administered, by me, for the ‘weak acid solution’ test – if it fizzed the inclusions would be x, or y, … if it didn’t fizz they would probably be z…. where z is fuel-ash slag. It didn’t fizz – so the answer is that the inclusions in the pottery are probably fuel-ash slag! ….which makes it possible Pre-Roman, but nothing definite yet, maybe more tests later.  By the way just out of interest did you know that Pre-Pottery Neolithic people in Ancient Near East put such mixtures into lime plaster to temper it?  And that the fuel-ash could have been from a variety of sources including sacrificial feasting?


Fantastic piece of pottery though?  Incidentally this came from our test-pitting in Ella’s garden and I must tell you that she’s fallen downstairs top to bottom and is badly bruised, but nothing broken thankfully.  I’m putting the photo of her here again so that you can think of her.



Back at the museum – Carol showed us some of the archive from previous digs at Castleshaw as well as related donations from the area and we have now our second mystery object….DSC_0531

..this is it being put together from the several pieces that it is now… DSC_0532..and here is how it would look if intact –


– any ideas?  It’s white like quartz inside and is quite marble-ized on the outside, cool, smooth and shiny.  It has a hole in the top.  Answers on message pad here please!

Now up to Castleshaw for lunch and here’s the promised picture of the piece of Samian found by Sue last night….DSC_0546

 Trench 6 is the happening place today, and it was being supervised by Sarah… who came back to see us because she likes it up here!  DSC_0555… And her band of workers were doing good stuff – Marc losing himself in posthole – chairman staring at ground – another posthole being excavated….

.DSC_0550DSC_0554DSC_0551… and look below at the jutting out bit of Via Praetoria – now looking like another road shooting off to the North…though Sarah thinks it may well be a hard-standing place in front of an East Gate tower.  Not sure whether we would have time or permission to find out.


DSC_0560 here’s the other side of the road looking even more as though it swerves off, at least in one phase, over to the right.. and the feature at the other corner of Trench 6 is looking much like the terminus of the looked-for ditch.


And I can tell you that the finds tray from this context, collected by Linda and Alison, is looking full of very interesting ditch fill.

Here’s the best bit though – half a melon bead!  This one is verging dark green from turquoise and not sure if glass, paste, faience, or ceramic. Excavated by Linda, lucky Linda.



Day 4 awaits!  B

By the way if anyone has emailed me on the bloggerina@castleshawarchaeology.co.uk address it hasn’t got here – someone did and it didn’t arrive – write again with message to the page if possible   B



29.7.14 – Week 4 Day 2

Bits of this and that today – with one major change – it was cloudy and it rained!

This is Ruth Leary, the pottery expert, who came as preparation for a training morning tomorrow – DSC_0485 – here and below she’s looking at the mystery object… but no solution yet – in fact the pot needs a ‘weak acid’ solution test and will probably be having it as we speak.  More news hopefully tomorrow.

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Ruth looked through all our pottery finds, below she’s looking at the mortaria piece found yesterday and at some of the Samian ware.

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Then the press arrived (Oldham Advertiser) and here’s Sue having her picture taken holding the flint tool she excavated in the first week.  Of all the flint found in these weeks it’s the only one that at the moment can definitely be said to be a tool…

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As for the digging – at the East end of Trench 6 it’s beginning to look like the direction of the road has been changed at some point


… the sandier bits are where the road has been robbed out and the line of the road veers away to the right as you can see.

Marc has been working up at the post-hole end… more on that tomorrow –  this picture tells you is how much more comfortable digging has been today = cool/wet/happy


In Trench 1 John says the cleaning up went well and they have a good set of photographs for the record – now excavating some of the features… and right at the end of the day Sue found the biggest piece of Samian we have excavated to date – picture tomorrow.

The ditch in Trench 7 is now being clarified, but, as mystical as ever, Trench 2 is still giving us things to think about.

DSC_0504          DSC_0512

Here Vicky is showing a part that needs trowelling back in association with two areas of burning just where they’re standing that are different from one another… and there’s one of the burnt areas near the stone going under the surface – a surface that looks a little bit like concrete/terrazzo.

DSC_0507 – you can see the length of this ‘terrazzo’ feature stretching in front of where Jacqui is standing, and at the other end is a distinct pavement-like feature – just below the edge of the boots…


DSC_0510   DSC_0515

The tray contains pieces of mortaria as well as raindrops – the other picture is of my favourite hearth, now with samples taken from it and already looking like it contains organic residue …. both things lead Vicky and Jacqui to think that this area may be the kitchen area, and this would be of the Commandant’s house, said to be situated in this part of the first fort.

That’s all for today, stay tuned…back tomorrow!  B

28.7.2014 – Week 4 Day 1

Well here we are in the last week!  Seems to have gone fast but at the same time longer than three weeks ….. still lots of diggers raring to go every day even in the blazing temperatures we’ve been having…Trench 1 pretty well full of them today –


In fact Trench 1 has been having its big clean-up ready for photographs – but still a couple of features emerging which I’ll tell you about tomorrow.  Here’s the bit where the ‘portico’ stands with a service road at one side of it and the intervallum at the other, I know you’ll agree that it’s looking wonderful!


Just a bit further up, near where Sue is trowelling…and believe me she’s v hot and v dusty.. looks a bit like a chimney sweep under that hair- DSC_0473…a great piece of probably mortarium has been excavated……here’s John holding it so that you can see the profile and rim…


and here’s another view…DSC_0477

Over in Trench 2 Vicky and Sonia were finally getting to grips with working out the Thompson trenches and relationships between features.  Vicky says it’s done, all down to Sonia’s magic touch!  DSC_0464

So here’s one of the questions re Thompson’s trench cleared up –DSC_0468

and here’s another, running right under the surface as you can clearly see..


and under the hard-standing surface mentioned last week is ?- look on the right-hand side of the photo and you’ll see a flat stone disappearing?  How exciting is that!? DSC_0466

Sonia and Vicky think that the feature is general industrial activity some time after the big fort is closed, but attached to the fortlet… ?  Do we have time to find out?

Anyhow… just as I arrived at Trench 2 this afternoon they were measuring, as in this photo…….DSC_0463

to ascertain the findspot for – guess what – yes, another melon bead!

And here it is – DSC_0481

It’s been a busy organizing day in the finds cabin –   here’s the melon bead sitting waiting to be filed in its rightful place – DSC_0482

and after that everything is ready for Ruth Leary, who’ll be visiting tomorrow to tell us more about the other pottery that we have.  We have a piece of mystery pot (that I’ll show you tomorrow) and we’re hoping that Ruth can tell us all about it …..can’t wait!


Iam non erit vobis in cibum amicitia  (friends, it’s time for food)


25.7.14 – Week 3 Day 5

Hello again! and first some catch up photos from the site yesterday courtesy of Norman Redhead… this is Felicity Wild checking out our possible Samian ware from the three weeks we’ve been here… with, right to left, – Sonia, Vicky, Margaret, (Felicity), Jacqui, Sue and Paul.  Wish I’d been there.

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Here’s a nice one of Felicity and John Peter Wild standing by the Via Praetoria as it goes through the East Gate…for those who don’t know, JP Wild is the famous Romanist from University of Manchester..Castleshaw240714 (27)Castleshaw240714 (35) ..this is Steve and Kevin finding the rampart ditch in Trench 7….and below Sarah-Jane is digging the Gateway post-hole in Trench 6, deeper and deeper….

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Today…. we have Trench 2 – with a lovely floor being trowelled by Sue –

before morning break…DSC_0425


and after  lunch…..DSC_0444

Here’s the fine hearth, I did show it you the other day but you can never have too many pictures of such a hearth..


Sarah and Vicky talking archaeology…DSC_0431

And on to Trench 7, where you can see the nice little structure at the interior of the rampart.  John says in his Friday afternoon tour that the Romans would have built certain of their structures away from the wooden buildings – for example blacksmith’s shop, or bread ovens, to minimize fire risk – and a good place would be behind or cut into the rampart.  This is possibly one such thing. May be more info on this next week.


Trench 6 has had 2 things going on this week: first the defining of the ramparts and second the excavation of the pits of the post-holes that supported the Gateway structures and canopies. They’ve been getting deeper all week as you will have seen and here’s Vicky, now able to hide in one.


Much intricate work has been going on in Trench 1 and here’s a flavour of it, revealing more of what Thompson found and excavated, what he found and partially excavated and what he left alone. In this image you can see a service road excavated by Thompson, and almost the start of the intervallum at the bottom of the picture, plus a post hole in between………  DSC_0478

Also Trench 1 has certainly given up the find of the day and probably of the week – given up in fact to Mavis, pictured here holding the wonderful melon bead…

DSC_0448 Mavis, from Perth, Australia and is due to go back next week, was over the moon with her find, and so she should be.DSC_0449   DSC_0452



Here’s Mavis above looking very pleased with herself….

That’s me done for this week then blog-followers, my next task is in this glass and is coloured deep red.  Thanks so much for the flowers Anne, even if they were for Sonia!  Here they are in the background looking v pretty.


Have a great weekend!  B


Training Day 2

Sorry to say that there’s no dig diary today … demands from my other job this morning meant I couldn’t go to site and it was the Samian pottery workshop this afternoon – given by Samian expert Felicity Wild.

The word Samian, used to refer to the red/brown pottery that we associate so strongly with the Roman period, may come from Pliny who talked about the beautiful pottery of Samos, but no one knows what the Romans called it.  In the 1st century AD it comes mostly from La Graufesenque, S Gaul; in the 2nd century from Lezoux in Central Gaul and in the late 2nd and onwards from E Gaul.  For any pieces that are recognizable from Castleshaw we would be looking at the first two regions.

Samian is made in a mould, the inside carved out for the pattern and style, then the clay pressed inside….here’s a piece of such a mould –


The pottery would easily come out of the mould as it would have shrunk a little and would then be dipped in slip.  Fingermarks are commonly found on Samian because of this, and also potters used to make their mark in more formal ways, i.e. with their names.  One of the most prolific potters’ names, found more than any other, is CINNAMUS… As that is so common I wonder if it’s almost like a factory name like say MOORCROFT..?  Just a thought.  But here’s a piece that Felicity showed us with a stamp in it…. is it CINNAMUS?  Not sure…and I don’t think you can tell from the photo?  Let me know if you can…


By the way that note on the pad doesn’t mean it’s Cheshire Plain Ware – it means that some of the sherds we’ve found at Castleshaw may be that – not Samian.

Here’s some of the group identifying pieces…

…..DSC_0400… DSC_0398DSC_0412 …..DSC_0417

…………..DSC_0401  DSC_0418

The sherds in the last photo above were all found at Manchester.

DSC_0403  Here’s Felicity giving of her expertise.. and here she is below showing us how to make a rubbing with powdered graphite.


The time went all too quickly but Felicity gave us a really interesting glimpse into a vast area of study. There’s one thing we’re sure of though – we’ll never be able to get any rubbings of our little bits of Samian at Castleshaw – it would break up at the first hint of pressure!

Back tomorrow!


23.7.14 – Week 3 Day 3

I’m taking you straight to Trench 7 today – you can see the end of the turf wall-base of the ramparts, then beyond it the stone feature (that you saw only the top of earlier in the week) is now exposed as shown below. And it looks very interesting indeed…given that it’s inside the ramparts but up against them really and in two parts – could it be the base for a platform which might allow the soldiers a view over/through to the East.. or other?  any interesting ideas send them through – bloggerina@castleshawarchaeology.co.uk…

but I’ll get the official view tomorrow!


On to Trench 6 and the road cleaning goes on – chances are says Vicky quite high that people-traffic along the road, along with the little grooves in between the stones, may mean that many small items could be lodged down those…. if they’re there we should find them… and here’s Annaruth giving it a go – just so that you know she’s doing her Duke of Edinburgh award and completing 4 days of varied work here as part of that. DSC_0364

At the Gateway the post-holes are developing wonderfully well – here’s the one from yesterday that showed that the Bruton/Andrew/Lees team didn’t excavate deeply into the post-holes and you can see how far Jenny is down there now – and in the second picture of her working she’s going yet wider as it seems that the edge is further out…



Marc is investigating the post-hole at the S side of the Gateway …….but finding the edge is proving difficult ….


Here’s the other central one, that Anne’s been doing, and by the end of the afternoon she was moving the stones away…and wanted a picture of how the post-hole looked before that – here it is Anne, sorry to the person who’s legs are in the picture – and here’s Anne herself looking for something in the empty bucket….

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Trench 2 is still being very interesting! And it’s now being looked after by Sarah…


..also helping John doing his levelling…DSC_0372…and here’s his finished drawing –DSC_0387

Below Sarah, Sue and Jacqui are working out relationships and contexts in Trench 2

DSC_0376..and here’s the probable find of the day, a beautiful blue glass bead found by eagle-eyed Jacqui in a post-hole fill….

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This is Margaret looking at the confusion of Thompson’s trenches showing up in Trench 2………..


and here’s how the Thompson’s Beaker pit looks now – still with the mysterious organic patches and an interesting stone, looking like a floor – but no trace of any kind of Beaker pottery….


Speaking of floors here is one (below), or a likely one anyhow, just at the end of Thompson’s trench on E side of Trench 2… looking like a lovely hard-packed surface, easy to walk on, unlike, of course, the roads.  With this image of the floor is a lovely one of a hearth, just a bit further to the N, worth showing you, for it seems as perfect an example of a hearth in a floor that I’ve seen!

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Must show you the picture of Rob, finished now with his education archaeology duties, and for all you children who came up to excavate at the site and had some teaching from him – we made him work hard too although he does look a little bit like he’s resting here!  He’s finding the natural surface under Thompson’s trench in Trench 1, in between one of the cut through service roads.


Below is what’s going on at the intervallum area of Trench 1 – the drainage ditches are found! One was excavated by Thompson, one is untouched by him.  The undisturbed archaeology shows that the re-excavation and evaluation of the previously dug trenches is completely worthwhile – there’s still valuable information to be found and interpreted.

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Finally we had a site visit today from Ken Bennett from the Oldham Chron and Aimee Howarth from the Saddleworth Independent. And here they are –


Hope you enjoyed your visit!

Post script to Ted Platt – Sorry no photo of you Ted!  didn’t find you in the trenches… but if you’re back another day I surely will.


22.7.14 – Week 3 Day 2

 Geo-phyzz days – in the wet, and in the dry

First – the wettest Saturday you could have and still continue – and it was the day of the Bradford GSB team’s offer to test their new (expensive) equipment on a survey of the challenging N side of the fort outside the ramparts.  (Pictures of the wet Saturday by Phil Barrett)

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Setting up..

DSC_0349 - Copy

Beginning the challenge….

………..DSC_0396….DSC_0375 - Copy…Ending the challenge…

Contrary to what you might believe from Facebook the water did penetrate some of their equipment but they didn’t use or wreck their very expensive new machine – much too wet and much too risky – but they have said they’ll come back another day!  It’s a great opportunity for us to have a team such as this working with us and watch this space for more news.

Tameside Archaeological Society (TAS) were also with us in the rain and brought some results of their surveys over the past weeks.  It’s incredibly difficult terrain for their equipment, but still there are clear results to see and interpret…although you can’t see the results on this photo at least you get a good impression of the wet and how happy they are with their findings!

…….DSC_0402 John and Greta with the printouts

Today we were very pleased to have TAS back again to give us a workshop on resistivity and magnetometry geophysical surveying… this time on one of the hottest days that you could have and still continue!

DSC_0579….Setting up,

measuring out the grids…

 DSC_0591  DSC_0589

DSC_0601 ..John getting ready to go with the resistivity survey..

The picture below is taken from the boards at the site of the fortlet – the part that’s being surveyed in the workshop is predominantly the Commander’s quarters – i.e. the building with the red roof…


Here’s Jasmine having a go….




Stephanie…….DSC_0612DSC_0618  and Edwin

Then we had a swap round and Keith explained magnetometry to this group…



but it was not actually possible to do the survey as it can’t be done by anyone wearing metal of any kind, unless it’s titanium…

Meanwhile back in the trenches – Trench 2 was being cleaned this afternoon for detailed photos tomorrow – it has some lovely photogenic post-holes as you can see below –

DSC_0593… and also an enigmatic black feature in Thompson’s pit ….


One of the post-holes in Trench 6 – where you saw Terry digging yesterday – has revealed more stone packing and a Roman layer, previously undisturbed by the Bruton/Andrew/Lees team – shown by the lack of the usual debris from that era. Jenny is digging it now and all are hoping that the bottom of the post-hole can be reached, and best of all with a Roman deposit at the base.

DSC_0627 Here’s Jenny…

…and here’s a little further along the road, where the blacker surface around the jutting out stone feature is not drying out like the other surfaces, possibly signalling the terminus of the ditch by the ramparts –


DSC_0623 Here’s Sue pretending to be a Roman seller of wares by the roadside… actually she’s minding some of the nicer finds that we laid out for today’s group of visitors – a group of trainees from Jubilee Colliery HLF Community Excavation.

And finally –DSC_0633……….there’s drawing going on!  This is John doing his drawing of the Via Principalis where it’s been revealed as cut through by Thompson at the W end of Trench 1.

Cras autem reverteris, Bloggeria (tomorrow Bloggeria will return)


21.7.14 Week 3 Day 1

Well here I am after all – managed to do it on my small computer – I fear that the big one is in some trouble!

~ Anyhow, today’s dig starts with Kirsty who is also an archaeologist with CfAA and the finds specialist… she did a preparatory assessment of all the finds, clarifying/ adding information as she went. I’m happy to say that the brooch that may have been a coin is now a brooch again, and she showed me in the magnifier a lovely ring of something green- coloured on it.  Can’t photograph that image for you – we don’t have the technology on site! but will show you the chunk of metal tomorrow.  Our prehistoric pot cum shale is possibly a bit of both – that’s so cool… and we may have a transitional piece of pot…Iron Age Late Pre-Roman… even cooler!  Yes it’s that one Norman.

Here she is at work..DSC_0530

DSC_0531 and giving you a smile and a hello!

Our beautiful sod-wall in Trench 7 was extended a little today by Steve, here’s a picture from Friday –


and here it is now taken further along to what Steve says is thought to be the end, just where he’s trowelling….


Here’s one of the lovely post-holes in Trench 6, at the Gateway – a little bit more cleaned up since you last saw it…. DSC_0541

and here’s Terry sat in the other one….DSC_0543

The image below is the bit that under his leg as you see above… it’s a very robust piece of stone, the packing fill still wedged into the space for the post.  The next question for Terry to solve is what’s underneath it.

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Couldn’t resist showing you another picture of the road surface in the area of the entrance to the Gateway, a lot tidier now and looking quite magnificent.

………………… DSC_0545


And so to Trench 1

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This is Paul and Edwin, Edwin is an archaeology student, investigating the beginning of the interior of the ramparts with the aim of finding where the fill stops and the natural starts. There’s two archaeological features in there, although no certainty yet what they are – one part of one of them is showing at the top of the picture (the one with just the trench) above.

Further along, Jacob and Ben were trowelling the levels for signs of construction slots or other, and there may be a post hole in that section, more tomorrow.  Jacob is just graduated in Ancient History and Ben is from Droylsden, a first year student in Ancient History.  When you add Sonia in there with her MPhil then it’s a very educated trench!


Meanwhile Sonia is finding a possible linear construction slot – there’s a possible association with the hearth that you can see at the top right hand corner of the image below, and a possible similar feature at the other side.


One of the roads in Thompson’s trench runs along the bottom edge of the photo and it’s possible that the feature shown is a roadside building of some sort.  It’s easy to imagine it as a type of portico fronting on to the road, and the hearth as a small cooking facility, or part of a much bigger undertaking.  Sonia has found more grey-ware today in this feature.

And finally the wondrous Trench 2 – with more confusing things happening today, but here’s a picture of Sue at the end of the day looking for all the world like she’s just out for a sunny day stroll.  Here’s the road though, and yes she’s been cleaning that up all day long!

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As it seems a short blog today, and I made you wait for it, I’ve added in a few bonus bites from the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit who dug here in the eighties.

GMAU 1987 revealing the Principia  here’s the Via Principia just for a comparison… and, in case you were thinking how hot it’s been for the dig, it could be worse!  Here’s a site visit in 1986…..

…………GMAU school visit winter 1986

And here’s a Roman Legionary watching over them as they dig… sure, he could be watching over us too?

………….Roman Legionary ghost watching the dig

All photos from the GMAU archive courtesy of Norman Redhead at GMAAS.

That’s all for now, but I’m not going into that room where the other computer is – by now there’ll be tendrils coming out of it – the kind that get you round the neck……

Tomorrow it’s Tameside Archaeological Training Day!

Your Bloggeria