Friday, December 16, 2005

Postal Archaeology - Part One

This was an 'academic exercise' provoked by discussion on the CHAT discussion list. This followed a posting about a bit on our other blog about recording graffiti in Stourbridge. The study has been presented in the conventional form of one of our archaeological reports.


This project was managed by Paul Belford. Fieldwork was undertaken by Emma Dwyer and Simon Roper and the report was written by Emma Dwyer. A copy of this report and all photographs will be archived with Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.


Photo 1 - The parcel, as it arrived in the Ironbridge Archaeology office

On the 15th December 2005 Ironbridge Archaeology undertook an archaeological excavation of a parcel received at the Ironbridge Archaeology offices, on the above date. The parcel was most recently located at Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SJ 6675 0475.

Project Background

Ironbridge Archaeology decided to undertake stratigraphic excavation of the parcel in order to better understand its origins and the nature of its contents.


The most suitable method of excavation of the parcel was considered to be by scalpel. The primary record comprised an extensive series of digital photos taken with a 5 mega-pixel digital camera; this was used to record the process of excavation and any archaeological features and artefacts encountered during this process. All features were assigned context numbers and would have been recorded on pro-forma recording sheets and field drawings at 1:10/1:20 scale on drawing film if we'd been bothered.


The results can be split into two parts.

a) Recording of the external features of the parcel, and its opening, followed by
b) Recording of the contents.

The first two layers to be recorded were an adhesive label, on which the address of the archaeology unit was printed <1001> and a clear cellophane envelope on which was printed 'Documents Enclosed' <1002>. Contained within <1002> was a white sheet of paper <1003> measuring 297x210mm; comparison with similar artefacts held within the Ironbridge Gorge Museum suggested that this served the function of a dispatch note.

Photo 2 - The dispatch note

Contexts <1001> and <1002> were both overlying a layer of clear sellotape (1004) which in turn overlay brown parcel tape (1006) the cardboard box <1008> and an adhesive paper label attributing the contents of the box to a manufacturing establishment in California <1005>. Beneath the sellotape (1004) but overlying the brown parcel tape (1006) and cardboard box <1008> another adhesive paper label gave the address of a delivery depot in Daventry.

Photo 3 - Simon begins excavation

The decision was taken to access the deposits within the box directly, as the stratigraphic relationship between the features on the exterior of the box had been straightforward to ascertain, and did not warrant further investigation.

Photo 4 - The contents of the parcel in situ

The parcel was opened, revealing a single mixed deposit of inflated cellophane packaging and cardboard boxes (1009)

Photo 5 - The assemblage


Examination of deposit (1009) revealed some exciting new illustration software (hurrah!). The software had travelled from where it was manufactured in California, all the way to Shropshire...via Daventry. On contacting the museum IT department it transpired that we were not the intended recipients of the parcel (oh).


Blogger mgibs17 said...

Well, it’s amazing. The miracle has been done. Hat’s off. Well done, as we know that “hard work always pays off”, after a long struggle with sincere effort it’s done.
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