Undergraduate fieldwork bursaries 2016 - Del Pickup at the Poulton Research Project
The Department of Archaeology offers its undergraduate students fieldwork bursaries to help fund their participation in archaeological fieldwork or work experience within the heritage sector. Successful applicants report back to the department about their experience. In his own words, part-time BA Archaeology with Employment Experience student Del Pickup writes about his experiences on the Poulton Research Project.
The Poulton Research project is a multi-period archaeological landscape in the Cheshire Hinterland, located above the flood plains of the river Dee and with evidence for human activity from the Mesolithic through to the medieval. The landscape has been very well preserved having been the location of a Cistercian Abbey and therefore protected from development. Excavations to date have identified a medieval chapel linked to the abbey, together with a substantial graveyard, as well as evidence of Roman occupation including the remains of buildings and field boundaries. However the most significant discovery has been evidence of a substantial Iron Age community.
This was my second summer at Poulton, having been previously spent two weeks there in 2015. That year I spent a week excavating a Roman gulley crammed with incredible finds, and a week recording and excavating human remains in the medieval graveyard. This year I was back for the Iron Age, having fallen in love with the finds-rich site in the previous year. This is truly proving to be a ground-breaking site that will rewrite the Iron Age history books and it is very exciting to be part of it.
I spent most of my two weeks this year excavating Iron Age Roundhouse gulleys. Although not as rich in finds as last year’s Roman gulley, I was overjoyed to excavate my first piece of Iron Age VCP (Very Course Pottery) typical of the region but of which very little had been found in Cheshire until Poulton. I also excavated fragments of Iron bloomery slag of varying qualities, and learned a great deal about identifying slag from the site supervisors. Some very substantial animal bone was also discovered in the gulleys, as well as a great deal of fire-cracked stone indicative of Iron Age domestic activity.
I took some time out from the trowel and mattock work to get my hand in with recording features. Elsewhere in the trench a Roman ditch had been excavated that had been later reused to lay medieval drainage pipes. I spent the whole day on recording techniques including use of a dumpy level, drawing sections and drawing plans. It was very useful experience to be involved with the site supervisor discussing and identifying contexts.
I have learned a great deal about the British Iron Age, and my enthusiasm for this site and its potential has grown so much that I hope to return regularly as a volunteer whenever time and finances allow.