Teesside Archaeology Excavation At Preston Park

18 May

For the past few days I have been on site volunteering for Tees Archaeology on one of their annual excavations at Preston Park Hall & Museum, near Stockton-on-Tees.  The excavation is continuing until a week Friday, so it is only a short two week run.

Preston Park Hall

The excavation is hoping to uncover the  original boundary lines, ditches and the partition distances of the heated greenhouses of the Preston Hall Kitchen Garden dating from 1857.  This information will then be passed on to those who are redesigning the kitchen garden ahead of renovation next year.

Preston hall was built between AD 1820-1825 by David Burton Fowler, and during the latter part of the 19th century ownership passed to Sir Robert Ropner.  Initially the Hall faced South across the River Tees but was later re-fronted to face the North side, possibly due to encroaching views from the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

At the site I am the finds processor; so I’m helping to clean the artefacts from the numerous trenches, mark and bag them for future study.  Its good to be back out in the open, and at the heart of a dig again after a long absence of  nearly 3 years from taking an active part in an excavation.

The material and artefacts themselves are typical of what you would normally find on such a site- clay ceramic pipes, ceramic building material, butchered animal remains, the odd marble, slag waste and numerous brick & slate tiles.  There are also numerous willow pottery fragments being found.  Interestingly the diggers have uncovered an articulated sheep skeleton, with other possible animals underneath near the centre of the garden.  So far the diggers have also uncovered two medieval pottery fragments.

Willow Pottery

There are a number of events still to come in 2011 from Tees Archaeology so if you are in the area or interested please don’t hesitate to come along and join in.  In this day and age it is important that we support our local archaeological units throughout a time of harsh cuts that threaten our shared heritage.

15 Responses to “Teesside Archaeology Excavation At Preston Park”

  1. confusedious May 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Sounds fun! Reminds me of the digs I used to assist an archaeologist here in Australia with when I was a high school student. Similar time period, we mostly worked on early farmhouses and colonial homes in Western Australia.

    Keep up the great osteology posts by the way!

    • These Bones Of Mine May 20, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

      Hey Confusedious, thanks for the comment! I certainly will keep it up. Ah sounds like fun in western Australia. The skeleton wasnt a dog, it was a sheep- had the joy of cleaning it all today! Only the head is missing from the skeleton. So could possibly be a sheep/goat but im certain its sheep!

  2. confusedious May 21, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    Oh and an update; I recently traveled to ANU to visit the coordinator of my prospective post-grad course and was informed that the recommendation of my acceptance had been processed. So I’ll be off to start my Master of biological anthropology in July. One of my teachers will be Prof Colin Groves, part of the duo that discovered/described Homo ergaster.

    • These Bones Of Mine May 21, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

      That is fantastic, well done! Is that a research Masters? I had a quick look on your blog yesterday, really impressed. I shall be reading more soon.

      • confusedious May 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

        It’s a combination of coursework and research. I need to do a year or so of classes before research to get me up to speed with the specifics of BioAnth as my undergraduate degree was in biomedical and biological science and was quite general.

        At current I’m reading up on studies relating to tuberculosis and its coevolution. The molecular data seems to point away from it being a livestock zoonosis contrary to what many have thought in the past. A paper I read not long ago on how frequencies of alleles associated with TB resistance can be positively correlated with the length of time a given centre has been urbanised has gotten me thinking. I’m wondering whether it would be possible to use the frequency of alleles associated with resistance to diseases endemic to urban centres to identify groups that dispersed after a historic ‘collapse’ in the Jared Diamond sense of the word.

  3. These Bones Of Mine May 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Ah, I wish I had two years in the MSc in September, could do with doing some bio molecular modules.

    That sounds particularly interesting, what is the article you are reading? Is it Old World focused, or New World, or a mixture? A comparison of later sites could be cool too.

    • confusedious May 23, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

      The articles are in these two blog posts:

      The article focused on the old world, I’d happily email the article to you if you’d like.

      I’m more interested in Old World based work like that above but the New World may be a more convenient focus for studies related to population dispersal after urban collapse, mostly because we already have decent data on when/how the Mayan and other urbanised mesoamerican cultures went to pieces. Also because the dispersal is somewhat neater than the mixed bag that is the Old World. That being said, Spanish genetic influence would screw up a lot of studies like these. Of course TB wouldn’t be as useful in New World studies but any disease endemic to urban centres with evidence of increased frequencies of resistance alleles would do, especially if it were for a pathogen not experienced by Europeans prior to settlement (cleaner data).

      • These Bones Of Mine May 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

        Cheers for the links man, I’ll check them in a minute. Yes please send the article over if its easy for you to do so.

        I meant to half write the next post tonight but I’m too tired! Genetics isn’t my strong point at all but I’m happy to be educated.

        The last I heard, TB was brought over by the Spanish to the Americas, is that right? I may be getting mixed up.

  4. confusedious May 24, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    The TB we are familiar with in the Western world was brought over to the New World by the Spanish, yes. Interestingly however, evidence of TB in mummies that predate Spanish arrival has been found. I would wager that it was a home grown variety of the disease (not in the literal sense) that most likely travelled into the New World with human populations during that particular great migration. My feeling is that TB is an exceedingly ancient human pathogen that most likely was around in one form or another even in our non-anatomically modern ancestors. I think it’s a safe bet to say it is only a matter of time before we find pre-animal domestication remains that prove this. The molecular evidence certainly points in this direction.

    What would be the best way to send you that article?

    • These Bones Of Mine May 24, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

      please send the article to thesebonesofmine at hotmail.com ! Thank you.

      I’d be very interested to see if your hunch is correct. Do the articles, or do you know of any research or data that shows a geographic ‘map’ of the earliest dates of TB in human bio-molecular/skeletal samples? I’d wonder if these would follow the beginning of domestication on an intense scale and urbanisation; ie the fertile crescent, Mesopotamia etc.

      On another note to do with it going further back into time, if evidence where ever found, I’d be interested to see any correlation to do with neanderthal and AMH with regards to the closeness of animals (in differing hunting patterns)and the zooarchaeological evidence. ie the throwing spears compared to the ‘get up close and wound/hunt’ view of neanderthal hunting. On this point though, I may be out of the times with regards to differing geo/chronological patterns and shifts. This could open up a whole raft of questions.

  5. confusedious May 28, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Great links. Thanks! I can’t believe they let a potentially infectious smallpox scab be kept for public viewing! I don’t even know what to say about how mad that is. The article on molecular clock data for variola type viruses was quite interesting. I’m going to have to do more reading on viral infection, I will admit that I’ve done little in depth work relating to viral infection. In fact I spent more time on how viruses can be used to insert GM sequences in gene therapy. I think I need to find a good paleopathology text that gives a run down on the manifestations of such diseases in bone remains.

    Perhaps we could do something of an exchange? You mentioned myself writing a piece on human evolution, perhaps you could do one for my site about how disease presents itself in bone remains? Or another topic of your choosing should that not suit you. No due date or anything of course, mine might be a while as I’ve got exams in a few weeks.

    • These Bones Of Mine May 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

      No problems man, also I’d check out John Hawk’s weblog (http://johnhawks.net/weblog) if you haven’t seen it already? He is a palaeoanthropologist from Wisconsin University who specialises in genetics from hominids.

      I’d be more then happy to write a entry on how disease presents itself on disease. I have two textbooks on disease in human bone and how it presents. I recommend Roberts & Manchester’s ‘The Archaeology of Disease’ 2005 (or late editions) because pretty much everyone uses it at undergrad/grad level in the UK.

      For a more depth book I’d highly recommend Waldron’s ‘Palaeopathology’ part of the Cambridge Manuals In Archaeology series, 2009, because he also gives a variety of differential diagnosis which could be applied, and he uses ‘operational definitions’ on how to class bone landmarks to certain diseases. He also discusses the aetiology of disease, and its key features as well. I haven’t started the manual properly yet (just dived in and read the first chapter) but it is pretty damn useful. Also at the end he has a chapter on epidemiology which is key to giving skeletal presentations of disease a context in population studies.

  6. confusedious May 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Oh yes I’m a regular at the John Hawks weblog, he’s a big inspiration for me. I actually had a bit of a fanboy moment a few months back when he twittered in reply to something I’d mentioned him on! Haha.

    Thanks for the book recommendations, I’ll see if I can amazon them or newer editions if they are around.

    • These Bones Of Mine September 25, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

      It would be fantastic to see him speak. How is your research going? I have finished the MSc! Scary times.

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