Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ironbridge Archaeology Van (vi)

John Schofield has sent a second interim report on the excavation of the Van which is now ongoing in Bristol...

The Van – work continues
Conceptually things have changed at the van – we no longer think of our van as a van, but as an archaeological site, with structures, deposits, features, contexts, finds and so on. And this reflects the fact that our procedures, our close attention to detail and the dialogue and language we use are similar to those on any archaeological site. But there are differences. For instance how we describe things (engine and body parts for instance) involves constantly referring to our Haynes manual, which also instructs us in the order of our excavation - though Haynes assumes the vehicle will be reassembled, and as ours’ won’t be we can treat some parts with a heavier hand.

What else? Fingerprints appear to be widespread in the cab and outside it, but less so in the back. Some mysterious chips on the offside front widow ledge have defied explanation to date (see picture below). Artefacts beneath the wooden panelling in the rear and the rubber mat in the cab include part of a confetti box, lots of screws, some raw plugs, wire, a crushed walnut, rolled quality street wrappers, a small sherd of seventeenth century slipware, some slag, a piece of coral and a Victorian threepenny bit (see picture below). All of the various pens and pencils we found were around and underneath the driver’s seat, and numerous bits of paper from hole punching were all immediately behind the passenger seat. In the engine a number of parts are pristine – the air filter for example. Other parts are very worn and some damaged.

The list of unanswered questions is getting longer. Anna returns to site tomorrow (Wednesday) to work in the laboratory; Greg continues to film progress and interview visitors – archaeologists like Mick Worthington and others who pass us on their way to lunch; and Cassie and I continue with the excavation, recording and interpreting as we go. We are conscious that this project has caused a mixed reaction, and for us that’s a clear justification for what we’re doing – it’s creating dialogue and debate about the very nature and scope of contemporary archaeology, as in archaeology of the familiar, and archaeological practice today.

Chips and fingerprints on driver’s door

Clearing deposit on nearside sliding door step

Finds from the cab floor


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