Wednesday July 18th – More Dendrochronology and Mick Aston

Wednesday morning we headed out fairly early, back in the direction of the church in Puxton. We stopped at Mick Aston’s house first, and this was quite the experience. He’s a prominent English archaeologist, and any quirks you’ve ever associated with an absent-minded professor apply to this one. His house was strewn with papers everywhere, books piled on books, and his kitchen table was covered in newspapers that had the potshards from a recent dig drying on them after having been washed.

So we had a cup of coffee and he asked me what I’m doing here and he showed me some of the things he’d recently dug up, including a 13th century clay pipe, which was pretty darn cool. And then we went upstairs into his attic office which had even MORE bags and bags of numbered and catalogued potshards. It was pretty surreal…mostly because the museum person in my is wondering what in the world is going to happen to all that stuff.

So then Mick and his partner Teresa followed us  to Puxton church in their car, and we met up with Dendro Guy (Michael Worthington) again. Mick and Michael have worked together a lot in the past. Michael has an archaeological background, too…and did traditional archaeology long before he switched over to specializing in dendrochronology. They joked and said Michael went from “Mick the Dig” to “Mick the Twig”. 🙂 So we met up at Puxton and Michael took some samples from the old wooden pews, which Dr R suspects are about 12th century. Below are two photos, one of the samples once they’ve been removed from the drill-bit and labeled, and one of Michael and Dr. R taking a sample from a pew.

And then we headed back towards Holcombe church, but stopped at a pub inbetween for lunch. After lunch Michael left to go on to Cameley to take more samples there, and Mick came with us to Holcombe to look at some of the survey techniques they’re doing there. The RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) people were there again, working on some of the stones in the graveyard, but more importantly on an Anglo Saxon carving that is on the side of the archway leading into the porch of the church. The carving itself is cut off, and it’s obvious that the stone was reused when this arch was made…but the carving was set in upside down which makes it all the more interesting. But what RTI allows you to do, is see things from angles of light that aren’t possible with the naked eye. Essentially, you take a series of 50 or so photos, during which the camera is in a fixed position, but for each photo the light is coming from a different point. The photos are then loaded into special software that compiles it all together, and allows you to manipulate the lighting on the screen so that it’s easier to read the worn away text. In this photo you see Nicole, from a project called “Re-reading the British Memorial”, Dr. Rushton in the middle and Mick Aston on the right, looking at the RTI version of the Anglo Saxon carving.

We spent about two hours at Holcombe, and then headed back home. We had rice and beans for dinner and then I went to bed fairly early after Skyping with Mom and Mike. Too many Michaels, Mikes and Micks in one post! 🙂

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