One of my students :’) from Castleton has kindly written a contribution to the blog for their time spend abroad this summer in Mammendorf, Germany, its a damn interesting site so have a look
This summer I was lucky enough to take part in a Grampus Heritage European Archaeology Skills Exchange (EASE) placement. There were many to apply for throughout Europe but Germany was my first choice, and I think we were very lucky indeed! We arrived on Monday evening to Magdeburg south west of Berlin and were picked up and taken to work at 0700 Tuesday morning.
The site we were working at was a quarry about 20km away at a small village called Mammendorf, this area of Sachsen-Anahlt has huge amounts of archaeology and this site was no exception!
The archaeologist in charge Kerstin Kühne up until around 2 months prior was working on the site alone, until she asked for an assistant, Ingmar and a minidigger driver Jens, by the time we left 66,000sqm had been excavated!
The site and the area had been occupied since the Neolithic, and every metre of topsoil stripped back revealed more rubbish pits for us to excavate, this was what we did primarily for the 6 weeks, speed archaeology, we recorded each pit with the total station, cut a section with the mini-digger whilst checking the spoil, took photographs and filled in context sheets, and then took the remaining half out with the digger and again checking the spoil as we went along. It seemed horrifying, but with a three man team and only three months, there was no other way to get as much done as they could, and the 6 extra pairs of hands certainly increased the speed of operations.
Our training dig at Castleton was an introduction to working in the pouring rain and very few finds, well this turned out to be the opposite; 35 degrees C, desert like, and had more finds than you could shake a spade at.
The pits held much the same, broken Late bronze and early Iron age pottery, animal bones (Knochen) and the odd bit of human jaw bones! We designated these the Mammendorf Cannibals, although nothing of the sort, the theory is they are where Iron age pits have hit the earlier burials, and just chucked them back in with the waste. All of this in the first week, and for people so new to archaeology, it was quite a learning curve but amazing too!
The weather meant come the second week, we were ready to start on excavating the burials, we thought there were one or two, but it should have come as no surprise that by the time we left we were on 14 and counting, it was quite a privilege to be the first to see these bodies since they were buried some 3000 years ago, we had unearthed 3 different cultures whilst there, determined by the orientation of their burials, several of them contained cups near their heads. Sadly some were damaged by the “bagger” stripping back the topsoil for the quarry, and several of them were child burials. There was something very scary about excavating your first burial…I was terrified of breaking something, however we had an Anthropologist on the placement with us, who put our minds at ease when she said “don’t worry, they won’t break if they’re not already broken, get stuck in!”
Other winning finds were a flint arrowhead, flint knife and a Bronze Swan neck needle!
Of course it wasn’t all work, evenings and weekends some of us took full advantage of the price of beer and the chance to sit outdoors in Magdeburg and watch the world go by. Others (like me) made the most of the food…who doesn’t need wurst and cake the size of your head for a euro from every street corner?! “I’d like one of each bitte!”
We also explored the local area, using the month tram ticket we were provided, went swimming and had to call the police as two of the group found a bit of more recent human skull on a sand spit in the lake! We also made the hour trip to the Halle state museum for prehistory. This houses the famous Nebra Sky Disc and we had an English speaking guide to take us around.
That said some of us spoke no German at all when we arrived, on leaving we could do useful things like order a large beer, ask for the same again, buy cake, name archaeological tools, swear proficiently and find our way around in German with only a few funny looks!
Sadly the time flew past far too quickly and our six weeks were up, we said sad farewells to the quarry workers, and particularly Kerstin, Ingmar and Jens who had really looked after us during our stay. The skills we’ve all gained, and the experience are worth so much, I’d highly recommend anyone apply for a place, it was very sad to leave, but excellent to get home to a house of my own. If anything a dusty sunburnt six weeks have made me more excited to start my second year of Uni…now where did I put my hat….
Thanks Linden, awesome dig by the sounds of it and thanks for the blog!
Keep and eye out for pictures of Stone Axes among other things. And of course… Keep diggin’!
As the title suggests this years Brodsworth Project was an excellent year! First of all, a massive thanks to all the students from Sheffield, Hull and Cardiff and local volunteers who came and worked with us! Not possible without y’all so cheers for all your work, hugely appreciated by all of the Project Managers and Supervisors. It was also a pleasure for me working with Elmet Archaeology for the first time - no doubt Ill see you all again in the future!
This year was primarily concerned with investigating a double ditched enclosure (pictured in the last post) which had some interesting and some less interesting finds. Various stages of occupation certainly made the feature difficult to deduce. Speaking primarily from the trench I was working on, the double ditched enclosure seemed a later stage than the adjoining ditch, based on a few finds from the single adjoining ditch fill being later and the variety of fills in parts of the single ditch. The double ditch seems to have been filled naturally at a later period, but to say when would be a far stretch.
The most exciting find was most definitely a worked neolithic stone axe which was accidently found on part of the trackway around the edge of the field?! Never the less, and interesting and intriguing find and opens up a whole new part of the pre-historic landscape to be investigated. (Ill get a photo posted at some point cos it is gorgeous)
As for the Project, its actually still on going for the rest of the week, just I am no longer working there! So this is a brief post for 3 weeks of project but as I was just one supervisor and was mainly concerned with one trench, that’s all I really have to say on it! Another great year, and I look forward to working there again next year.
Still waiting on the Italy post from JB but he’s a busy boy with his Masters and so on, so we’ll let him off… Also been told LW from Castleton is keen to write a piece on her time Germany so we’re a lucky bunch! As for me, I’m now working commercially so will be posting brief little updates on what I’m doing as and when I get the time.
Keep on Diggin’,