Today (18th July) was local school pupil Guy’s last day of volunteering at Roman Circus House on his work experience placement. Guy is fourteen and he is a pupil at the Philip Morant School, where history is one of his subjects; last week he had been on a school trip to the historic Normandy beaches.
Guy spent most of this week processing finds from the Trust’s excavation of our site in the Williams & Griffin store in the High Street at Colchester, and some from our site at the opposite end of the High Street, at no 97. The processing involves washing all kinds of finds, ranging from Roman ceramic building materials, and post-Roman pottery fragments, to fragments of animal bone, and then marking each item with an individual code. The finds then have to be bagged up again, packed into crates and carried across to our storage building for storage until they are studied and reported on. Guy worked in the processing room with some of the Trust’s archaeology volunteers (Sarah, Brenda, Graham and Hilary).
As a bit of a treat, Guy got to excavate out the contents of a post-medieval kitchen/storage jar, with black glaze on the interior, from the Williams & Griffin site. He systematically removed all the soil from the jar, and was able to retrieve some fish bones from the soil. The jar is similar to six 17th-century jars which the Trust excavated on a site at Middleborough in Colchester in 1978. Those jars had all been buried upright, apparently with their rims at floor-level; five of them were found in service rooms at the rear of the building, and one was in the backyard. Interestingly, the jar which Guy excavated out is distorted in form and it was, therefore, a low-quality, imperfect vessel (a waster). Four of the six jars showed evidence of wear and two were wasters. The fish bones which Guy excavated from the jar are also interesting, as the contents of the six jars were examined but produced no evidence. Post-Roman pottery specialist John Cotter suggested that the jars had been used for the cold storage of food items such as dairy products, and it looks as though the jar which Guy excavated out might have been used to store fish, in a 17th-century household in Colchester High Street.
Guy enjoyed his guided tour of the Roman circus site and our circus centre, which was led by Trust archaeologist Steve Benfield; he also went on a special guided tour of the new displays at Colchester Castle Museum, which Dr Paul Sealey provided for Trust employees and volunteers. Guy said that he enjoyed his week at the Trust, and that it was good fun!
Many thanks to Guy for his help this week, and for being such a good interviewee, and thanks to all our volunteers, as always.
The images show Guy processing finds from our Williams & Griffin site at Roman Circus House today, and the kitchen/storage jar enclosed in a plastic washing-up bowl.