Trench opening day has arrived, digger on site, two trenches open, two trenches to go
After a belated delay due to vandalism, our security cabin and loo finally arrives. For practical delivery reasons the cabin is some 800 metres from the excavations, volunteers in need of the facilities please note.
The cabin can be seen at the entrance to Newsham Grange Farm. Please be aware the farm is a working arable farm in the middle of the harvest, the grain store is adjacent to our cabin, and all the hardstanding is used as a turning circle and loading area for a succession of 30 tonne grain lorries, arriving and departing throughout the day. Drivers must park well before the farm entrance on the grass verges etc and walk upto the cabin, please bear in mind that these lorries are wide, as are the tractors, trailers and combines that may use the road, so park as far onto the verge as possible. We are guests on Brians farm at his busiest time of the year, please try to avoid inconveniencing him, his workers and contractors.
Amateur archaeology has a long and honourable tradition in archaeological research, yet despite its history, in recent decades the term amateur within the archaeological community, has deliberately been devalued from honourable unpaid endeavour, to a derogatory meaning of low quality.
The change happened in parallel with the professionalism of archaeology some 30 years ago, and the intervening years have been a perpetual rearguard action to maintain our independence of spirit, mind and action. Many reclassified themselves as independent archaeologists, and professional archaeology created their own new label of community archaeology and community archaeologist, to provide supervised investigation of mundane sites of little research value whilst handily giving paid employment to professional supervisors. Many of us, the intransigent, the stroppy, the boneheaded have held out, defended our amateur status and it honourable tradition by continuing to carry out out original research seeking new explanations, free of the closed mind of the herd mentality of the archaeological community, with the intention of taking the sum of our knowledge forward in a positive and valued way.
in November 2013 I attended a day conference at York celebrating 150 Years Of Roman Yorkshire, held by the Yorkshire Archaeological Society. In his summing up Professor Martin MIllet made a striking statement, he said that effectively the money has run out for archaeology, local archaeological units are closing, universities are scaling back, developer funding is drying up, and that the baton will have to be handed back to the local societies.
Those pesky amateurs will have to get their act together again, because it seems nobody else can or will.
On the 13th December 2014, I gave a talk at Thornton le Street as part of a series of talks promoting current and proposed research into the Roman Roads of North Yorkshire.
My talk was the last in the first series of four which had all been well attended. My talk to my surprise got over 70 people paying to attend, suggesting the potential for amateur archaeological endeavour in North Yorkshire is waiting to be tapped.
The talks were organised by John Sheehan, well known to the archaeological community in the region, and who has been leading a proposal to carry out investigations into potential Roman archaeology along the alignment of Cades Road ( Margary 80a), on its route through the Thirsk/ Northallerton area.
Fieldwork and geophysical survey are on the cards in the next few months, as are a further series of talks, anybody who might be interested in attending or taking part, can contact John at:
Amateur archaeological endeavour in the post 1990 PPG16 world has to some degree been conditioned by developer funded archaeology into the mindset that useful amateur archaeology can only be undertaken either as a subset of a funded project, or by establishing an independent funding stream before a trowel is dusted off. With archaeology now subject to the same austerity as everybody else, we have to relearn the art of making do and mending.
Having spent many years acquiring the techniques of geophysical survey, I had developed a certain level of expertise, especially in the use of open source software to carry out analysis of survey data.
A couple of years ago I was approached by a community archaeological project at Hinderwell, nr Whitby. They had acquired a magnetometer and resistivity meter through grant funding, but despite paying substantial sums for training, had been unable to get consistent and ongoing support in the techniques of geophysical survey. Now with their funding ending, they were between a rock and a hard place, instruments worth £20,000, and a lack of expertise in how to use them, or process the data.
After an initial paid series of workshops, getting them upto speed on survey techniques, and introducing them to Snuffler the open source software, I came to an informal arrangement to offer my ongoing services for free, in return they would allow me the use of their instruments to carry out work on my own site.
The Mid Tees Research Project is a direct result of the generosity of Anthea Ellis and the management team at the Jet Coast Development Trust, in agreeing me extended use of their equipment, whilst in return I would ensure that their fieldwork group is fully supported in carrying out their own geophysical research and analysis.
A classic example of quid pro quo, and in my opinion, the only way forward for research archaeology, namely the sharing of scarce resources, whether human or technical.
Welcome to the Mid Tees Research Project website.
Thank you for your patience.
If you have been watching the site over the last year, it has been a long time coming, but we are now at the beginning of the process of populating the website and ironing out the glitches. We have been playing about with the format attempting to come up with a simple and easily accessible style without all the bells and whistles, while remaining informative. We think we have made it as simple and easy to use as possible, but please let us know if there are any annoying elements.
The site can be broken down into basically three sections.
1. The Blog
This is the front page and will be the window into what is going on within the project, with regular comments and updates about work within the site and information on fieldwork opportunities as they arise, together with news on the work of other amateurs (and professionals) working in the wider region.
2. Open Archive.
This will be publishing portal for any projects working within the MTRP. It will also hopefully become the portal for online publication of material from historical research carried in the Mid Tees Valley that may or may not have been published in hard copy. In order to disseminate data to the widest possible audience for consideration, we consider it more important that data is made available for research, even in its raw form, rather than it remaining hidden from view for the sake of a controversial crossed ‘T’ or a questionable ‘I’ dotted.
We are not precious about our project, we welcome useful information from wherever it comes, and are happy to give it a platform. Material will be identified as being published, unpublished though subjected to peer review, or raw research and fieldwork data. If you have done research, found anything interesting, drop me an email and lets’s spread the knowledge.
3. Research Archive.
This archive will be password protected, and be available to project teams working independently within the site to co-ordinate their activities. It will be the repository of a Site Diary, Aerial Photography imagery, mapping and GIS material, LIDAR images, geophysical survey plots and data, and the rolling results of work in progress. Temporary access may be given to bona fide researchers from outside the project who establish their credentials.
That’s the basic outline of the site, it may change as we move forward, but hopefully not too much, please be patient as we I will try and keep you amused or annoyed with my witterings on the blog.
This section on the blog will include potted bio’s of our project management and specialists.
It is also a call to arms!
Are you are looking for an interesting multi-period site that fits your research plans, currently unknown to archaeology.
Are you a free thinker?
Do you embrace our ethos?
Are you unencumbered by establishment group think?
If you fit these criteria, and have archaeological skills or specialisms you are prepared to offer to the project freely and willingly in return, then it is time you gave us a call. Whether you are an amateur ‘ dabbling about’ on weekends, an undergrad or post-grad irritated at the lack of opportunity to work on new sites, or even a professional earning a crust from archaeology, then this this project offers you all a major opportunity to make a statement in archaeology. That is of course if you are prepared to put the time in.
The Mid Tees Research Project is an amateur research project set up to reflect the lessons learnt in the 1990’s with its predecessor the Mid Tees Project. The earlier project organically developed using the traditional hierarchial structure common to archaeology, with a single project leader driving the project, his project.
Unfortunately as the leader of the original project work took me away from archaeology and the active fieldwork group sadly dispersed. It’s legacy of course was a group of former members who went on to work and develop their skills on sites throughout the region during the intervening years, some of whom were the first people I approached to come on board the Mid Tees Research Project.
When returning to archaeology, I was determined that a key element of the project was avoiding the fragile hierarchial structure that had failed in the past when one individual moved on. I therefore made an early decision to establish the project, and the major site at the heart of it as a co-operative project. I then willingly handed over my years of research to a core group of like minded amateurs, with the intention that the research could be used to take forward ideas independently, whilst allowing me to continue to focus on my own area of specialisms, all under the umbrella of the project.