West Stow- Autopsy of the sunken house

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Anglo Saxon House

The sunken house at West Stow

Background

A reconstructed Anglo-Saxon sunken house  built with techniques believed to be correct 40 years ago when the Anglo-Saxon Village was first created on the site of a major archaeological excavation reached the end of its life in 2015 and needed to be dismantled for the sake of health and safety. All current archaeological knowledge suggests that when Anglo-Saxon buildings reached this level of natural decay, they were dismantled and such materials that could be recycled were applied to other buildings.

The project

West Stow was  given funding from the Heritage Lottery Young Roots fund to work with young people (aged 11-25) and professional archaeologists to systematically dismantle the house and excavate the pit that remains.

Between October 2015 and April 2016 a group of 17 young people worked together on this project and this blog recorded what they did at each stage.

You can watch a video they created as part of the project here

 

A stormy last day

Plans had to change a little on Easter Monday thanks to very wet and windy weather! It was decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea to use a gazebo as planned to set up and show visitors finds from the dig and photographs from the whole project so everything happened in the Education Room which was warm and dry.

Rosie gave a brief talk to everyone talking about the range of skills that the young people had learned throughout the project and thanking the many people who had helped them.

Rosie talking to visitors

Rosie talking to visitors

Lance from West Stow chatted about the project and about the film that the young people had made which will be shown in the Museum at West Stow. The film was then shown to assembled parents, grandparents, friends, and visitors for the first time.

The film premier

The film premier

After the film the Young Roots team members showed visitors the results of the project.

April showing one of the many drawings made during the project

April showing one of the many drawings made during the project

As the rain had stopped we moved up to the village to take some photographs

Everyone had to get used to cameras!

Everyone had to get used to cameras!

The Young Roots team with some of the people who have worked with them

The Young Roots team with some of the people who have worked with them

Some of the team

Some of the team

Welly boots and nail varnish

By Clementine Tuffrey

Today we observed the film that we had made in half term. Then we sought problems, like welly boots and nail varnish, and wrote them down in a document for Jack to fix. We looked at different grades, and voted which ones we preferred. Grade 3 won, with 3 against 1. Then Chris public relations expert, came in to talk to us about what we could do to make the article that he had written better. Then we split into two groups and one wrote out a set of notes while the other prepared photos. After lunch we went outside to burn off Trebor Soft Mints. When we got in again, we planned the event which will occur on Easter Monday.

Planning a launch

By Ben, Clementine and Tom

Today we planned for the event on Easter Monday, and we had someone helping us named Chris Morris, who is an expert in public relations. He showed us the inverted pyramid of newspapers. Then we looked at some older newspaper prints of the SFB project. Then Lance, the manager of West Stow, came in and talked to us about the event, The Brecks Fest.

 

Chris directing us for a photo

Chris directing us for a photo

This afternoon we split into two groups. One planned the area of the gazebo for the event, and the other designed some VIP invitations.

The final arrangement for a photo to go with a press release

The final arrangement for a photo to go with a press release

Adding in the detail

By Clementine Tuffrey

This morning we were filming a scene that took Ben about 2 hours to open a door, grab a spear, grab some bread and walk out again. The whole scene is probably 30 seconds long.

One of many angles we used to film Ben unlocking a door

One of many angles we used to film Ben unlocking a door

When we had finally finished the filming, we ate an early lunch then got out filming again. We filmed a deer stalking scene, with Ben and Conan stalking a deer. I was filming with Jack, our guy-who-helps-us-film person.

Clemmie and Jack-who-helps-us film setting up to film the deer stalking

Clemmie and Jack-our guy-who-helps-us film setting up to film the deer stalking

The deer will be computer generated, so we didn’t actually have to get a deer and stalk it. Although we did see a muntjac deer while we were searching for the right place to film the scene. When we had finished filming the scene with the deer, we filmed the archaeological scene, with Pippa finding the comb we dropped yesterday. I did the sound for that. The film will be shown on Easter Monday, when there will be an event for the happening.

'Pippa 'finding'a bone comb

‘Pippa ‘finding’a bone comb

Patience needed……….

By Conan Barja-Lock

Today we have been really busy filming for the short film. We have filmed loads of scenes, and, like yesterday, each scene took ages to film.

Getting ready to film a scene

Getting ready to film a scene

The whole film will be about 3-5 minutes, and we are only about half way through recording, however it has already taken about 4 and a half hours to record. We got to dress up as Anglo-Saxons to make sure the film looked correct, but the clothes are quite itchy. You do get used to it though.

A smoky scene in the hall wearing itchy clothes!

A smoky scene in the hall wearing itchy clothes!

 

Tomorrow we will be finishing the recording. We were also having to make sure that each scene links, so that the film will start at the museum, and end at the museum.

Lights, camera, action!

By Conan and April

We are all set and ready for filming tomorrow. Planning every scene, we took in to account all the camera angles and different types of shots to make it as interesting as possible for the audience. Finally we got a chance to film the first scenes of our film; Jack taught us how to operate the camera, sound and lighting equipment properly which we all got a chance to try out.

Jack showing us how to use the camera and sound equipment

Jack showing us how to use the camera and sound equipment

We are all looking forward to tomorrow, when we are going to be fully costumed, to produce the best re-enactment video. During today we learned how to create a storyboard for a historical video. Looking forward to the next few days when we will be filming.

Rosie being filmed from lots of different angles looking at objects in the musuems

Rosie being filmed from lots of different angles looking at objects in the musuems

 

A LOT of photographs to look through!

By Conan Barja-Lock

Looking through the hundreds of photographs we took

Looking through the hundreds of photographs we took

Today we have had lots of fun with Rik Hoggett, while he was explaining to us how he wanted our part of the new guide book for West Stow to be. He gave us lots of useful tips and information, to make sure that it engaged the audience, and portrayed our message well. We have also been choosing a few photographs to go along with our allocated part of the guide book. Firstly, we had a look at our over 1000 pictures, then, we chose 42 of those that we thought were quite good, then we chose 5  of those that were truly capital, and those 5 are the 5 that we are going to use (counting on the fact that we have enough space)!

We have also had a go at editing those photographs using Adobe Photoshop. Our part of the new guide book is also written up, and is 5 paragraphs long (about 500 words). However, it is only the second draft, and will possibly need to be updated before it is published.

Writing our guidebook section

Writing our guidebook section

Telling the story

By Ben, Clemmie, Conan and Rosie

Preparations for our section of the guide book of the Sunken House excavation are going well.

Putting together a presentation to show Ian Alister

Putting together a presentation to show Ian Alister

We’ve bought together all the results from the excavation with help from Rob, the archaeologist, and presented it to Ian Alister, one of the original House builders.

Ian showed us the site diary

Ian showed us the site diary

Ian bought in some photographs and the diary that the team wrote every day when they were building the house.

Tomorrow we are hoping to write part of the guide book and continue with our interpretations, ready for the final presentation at Easter.

This is all that is left of the house.

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A soggy, but fun day, digging

By Rosa Dunkley

Today we prepared the pit, and began uncovering the layers with trowels and taking the excess material to sieve for finds.

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We then collected a finds tray and detected the spoil pile for any missed finds using a metal detector. We discovered a hearth and a patch of charcoal, and a total of 68p. Some of us drew specific timber beams by a scale of 1.10.

We were also visited by Martin, an original builder of the houses who was fascinated by our archaeological finds. It was great fun regardless of the weather!

Martin and Lucy visited the site- Martin was one of the people who built the house

Martin and Lucy visited the site- Martin was one of the people who built the house

The team digging in the rain

The team digging in the rain

We complete the jigsaw

By Lizzie Harvey

Today’s rainy clouds marked the last day of our half-term dismantling period.  We were mainly finishing off work from yesterday, photographing and sketching the last of the numerous beams and filming little scenes around the village. However, in the afternoon, after it stopped raining (well mostly stopped), we set about the arduous task of recreating the house out of the often broken pieces of timber by placing them on the ground. It seemed simple enough.  Our labelling system that we created on Monday and Tuesday should have been an easy guide to follow but we soon found that this wasn’t the case; some of the labels had fallen off their designated beam, some pieces hadn’t been labelled as they were hidden in the thatch and some pieces were missing, presumably after being taken away with the roof. Despite these difficulties, by the end of the day with a lot of hard work and guessing, we managed to complete the house in a reasonably accurate manner with only a few pieces left out- a feat I think we’re all quite proud of.

I think I speak for everyone involved in this project when I say that this week has taught us lots about archaeology and Anglo Saxon buildings. We’re incredibly grateful to all the adults who have put their time and effort into making this week interesting and enjoyable and feel that we have learnt a lot of practical skills that we can use later in our no doubt blossoming careers in archaeology. We thank Pippa and Rob in particular for their time spent working with us and for the many hours they will presumably work after this with the digitalisation of our work.

Tom  checking the east wall

Tom checking the east wall

The west wall

The west wall

The house laid out

The house laid out

A tired and wet but proud team

A tired and wet but proud team