A2 Road Widening: some photography, design work & 3D recording

March 5, 2010

I worked in the Graphics Office of Oxford Archaeology from Spring 2002 to Christmas 2008 and worked on some wonderful jobs while I was there. Throughout 2007 & 8 I was lucky enough to be senior illustrator on the A2 road widening project in Kent. This involved taking the photographs, working on maps, digitising site plans and sections and finally designing the popular publication with the Highways Agency as client. Had I stayed in Oxford I would have worked on the monograph too, but someone else has to deal with that monster now.

Now this doesn’t sound exciting in the least, and wasn’t. The vast majority of the project looked like the picture above: a featureless wilderness (the archaeologists would really question me on that, I have no doubt). That was until an enormous Roman square grave was uncovered, followed quite quickly by two others, each containing WONDERFUL things.

Now, while archaeology is NOT a treasure hunt, OF COARSE we get excited when treasure pits like this come out of the ground, especially when they’re utterly unexpected. Off I went to Kent to photograph the event.

I was there to take site photographs that could be used in the publications and the website etc, but it was the least photogenic site I have ever seen: big roads & ugly buildings. It was also January when the first grave was uncovered which certainly did not help. The image above sums up the general atmosphere at that time.

The large Roman grave was protected from the weather by a tarpaulin marquee which made my job even more difficult. It was rainy and windy and grey and cold. We actually had to leave site one day because the wind was so bad: it had blown one of the store cabins right across an access road. The second and third graves were much more fun though.

(this is the second grave found):

© Oxford Archaeology

Excitingly, while I wasn’t photographing I was allowed to help excavate this burial. I worked on the area with the patina (the pan thing) and surrounding dishes, but I don’t have any informal site photographs to post unfortunately, which is a shame. I spent a few weeks here and there on site and later working with the conservator, Dana Goodburn-Brown (pictured in the middle above) at her studio. She is an amazing woman: here’s the blog of one of her current projects: Anglo-Saxon CSI

I was at her studio for a few weeks to photograph the finds formerly and also to do the 3D recording of the position of artefacts in CAD as and when they were exposed from soil blocks. These contained complex arrays of objects and were lifted intact from site to be excavated more minutely indoors. This included the “table” (as far as I know the actual nature of the object is still in dispute) seen in one of the layouts below which was known only from the arrangement of copper pins suspended in the soil, the wood having long since disappeared.

I am not the right person to be describing these objects, and I’m not even going to try to convince you that I know any more about them than anyone would after they’ve read the popular publication. That would be deeply disingenuous. Instead, here are the page layouts with their mixture of site & artefact photographs.

I have kept the layouts complete, which makes them very small, but if I get even a single request I’ll try and find a way of linking them to the full-sized pages, so the text can be read. After my personal computer died last year all I have left of these are hard copies which I have scanned in, so apologies for the low quality of these page layouts.

This is not a post about archaeology. This is a post about OBJECTS and my own personal role in their discovery. I would love to pepper this post with the photographs of all the gorgeous Roman brooches, patinas, bowls, dishes, make-up paraphernalia, ewers (etc) but as I said I don’t have these images anymore (most of my personal back-catalogue was lost when my home computer died), except in my hard copy of the pop pub. Maybe I’ll spend a day at OA finding and recompiling my old portfolio some time.

Even if this is the only post of mine you’ve seen, it should be pretty obvious that one of the primary functions of this blog is to provide me with a place where I can display my photographs, design work, hobbies and interests: an online CV essentially. When I come to applying for jobs, I will link to this blog. This is because ALL of my skills are in some way visual and it makes little sense to try and convey this in a couple of sides of A4 in a job application. This is what I hope to get out of this.

What I am trying to explain is the very self-centred nature of this blog. If you go away thinking I’m some sort of narcissistic arse, then I failed. Or alternatively maybe I just am. With that thought in mind, I’ll end here. Thank you again :-)

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