Thursday, 29 August 2013

And we're off...

Today is our third day on site, and we're into the swing of the dig. On the first day, we removed the turf from the excavation area. On many archaeological excavations, this stage is carried out using a mechanical excavator, but due to the sensitive nature of the site and the potential for the presence of human remains, we're doing it all by hand.

Our volunteers begin the de-turfing under the supervision of Archaeologist Ruth Humphreys

On Day 2, we began to dig down through the topsoil to expose the sandy orange subsoil beneath.
Removing the topsoil

There's a wide variety of finds coming out of the topsoil, from fragments of decorative iron railing that once would have circled tombs and pieces of broken headstones, to Victorian pottery and a 17th century coin. Inevitably, given that the site is a former graveyard, we're finding fragments of 'disarticulated' (loose) human bone, which have been moved around in the soil by burrowing animals and landscaping. The human remains are kept aside from the rest of the finds, and will be re-buried on the site once the excavation is finished.

Headstone fragment discovered within the area of the rockery

Many people have asked us about GSB Prospection's geophysical survey, which provided the target for this dig. Below is a plan showing the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) response in relation to the church, with our excavation area marked. The red splodges indicate solid materials, which we hope may correspond to the locations of buried remains of walls belonging to an early building on the site. Is it the Saxon Minster? Watch this space!

The geophysical survey by GSB Prospection: this plan shows GPR response at a depth of 1.3m below ground level

Rob Hedge

Monday, 19 August 2013

Welcome to the #DigMinster Blog

Between 27th August and 21st September, an intrepid band of volunteers will be getting their hands dirty in the latest phase of the Kidderminster Civic Society's 'Historic Kidderminster Project'. They'll be carrying out an archaeological excavation within St Mary's Churchyard, in an attempt to shed new light on Kidderminster's history.

The volunteers will be led by professional archaeologists from Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service. Those of you who followed the progress of our #DigBromsgrove excavation will be pleased/dismayed to learn that once again, the team will comprise site chief Richard Bradley, alongside glamorous assistants/minions Ruth Humphreys and Rob Hedge. Tom Vaughan is pulling the strings and masterminding the whole operation, and Justin Hughes will be leading school visits and open days.

Background to the project
As part of the Historic Kidderminster Project, funded between 2006-8 by the Local Heritage Initiative, a geophysical survey of St Mary's churchyard was carried out by GSB Prospection. A copy of the report is available here: (PDF 10mb). The survey was intended to determine whether any evidence could be found of the remains of the Saxon 'minster' that gave the town its name. The minster is thought to have been located in the area around the existing church: for an excellent summary of the evidence for its location, see this piece by Nigel Gilbert (PDF 22kb), the Historic Kidderminster Project Leader.

The geophysical survey detected a large anomaly to the north of the present church, which appears to be the remains of a building. A desk-based assessment (available here: PDF 600kb) subsequently carried out by Emma Hancox concluded that any such remains are highly likely to be medieval or earlier.

The excavation is taking place thanks to a further grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of almost £50,000.

Archive & Archaeology Service Manager Victoria Bryant and Project Managers Tom Vaughan and Derek Hurst, planning the excavation

Find out more
Open days will be held on the 7th and 14th September. Visitors will get the chance to see the excavation in progress, find out more about the project and view some of the artefacts recovered. We'll be updating this blog regularly with our progress. Photos from the site will be posted on our Flickr page, and you can keep track of our live news and updates via our Twitter account. Search for the hashtag #DigMinster to keep up-to-date with the news across all our platforms.

Rob Hedge