One of the most amazing things I love about research is that you are constantly learning, constantly exploring and driving forward understanding. I am so pleased to share a recent publication entitled Unique chemical parameters and microbial activity lead to increased archaeological preservation at the Roman frontier site of Vindolanda UK https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-94853-7/metrics
The paper is open access and free to read, from scientific reports and here are five reasons why you should:-
Microbes are fascinating and we understand so little about how they impact on preservation on artefacts
Inorganic analysis – such as metals, play a huge part in the activity of microbes and thus preservation
The diversity of microbes change depending on archaeological context.. and guess what this will impact on preservation
The graphs are really cool
It shows we need to understand the chemical and microbiological environment to understand our management practices for the future..
You may have seen recently some talk about the reintroduction of certain animals into the UK. There are a few animals you might never have realised were native to the UK, such as lynx and bears, the white-tailed eagle, and the ridiculously cute pine marten (seriously, look at them!). Well, we’ve just started work on a project alongside our Ecology and Environmental friends at Teesside for the Forestry Commission investigating a new beaver enclosure!
A beaver’s paradise
Within just a year, what started as a small stream passing through the private woodlands has now become home to two beavers, their four new-born kits (yeah, I wish they were called babe-eavers too) and this massive pond teeming with new aquatic life! And to think, you used to be able to stroll through here without needing overalls and a raft just a year ago…
Why do we give a dam?
Beavers have a pretty well-known habit of building dams. Did you know that a major reason for this is winter survival? The deep water behind the dam doesn’t freeze the whole depth, allowing the beavers to anchor a food source at the bottom of the water and survive the winter. When building the dams, the beavers scurry around the environment selecting the juiciest of trees and have a little nibble. Okay, more like a feast. As they munch on the bark, the trees eventually give way and topple over. Sometimes these are left in place for a while, sometimes they’re broken down and moved elsewhere, generally somewhere that would be a good place to fill up with water. These branches accumulate, slowing down the movement of water and creating a sort of reservoir. Eventually, this forms a series of dams that can reach several meters high, filling up with water. This water is amazing for the ecosystem, providing a good quality environment for many sensitive plants and animals whilst also potentially improving flood control. When we visited this week, there were frogs everywhere, you had to play leapfrog around them! Frogs are fantastic for the environment, so we certainly want lots and lots of lil’ froggos bopping around.
Time for Change, Time for TUBA!
Hold up, conservation… beavers… ok ok, so why were TUBA there? Part of TUBAs research involves recording and visualising the environment, and exploring ways to show this information to the public and improve learning without disrupting the beavers. Whilst it’s early days and we’re limited on what we can show and tell you right now (I mean, we did only just complete our first recording session), we’re so looking forward to show some awesome applications of digital technology to the environment and sustainability.
That’s all for now, but keep an eye open for some more updates on this project in the coming months, whether through the blog or our new Twitter page @TUBArch. Until next time!
Last week, TUBA had the fantastic opportunity to place our research directly in the public’s hands and show them just what happens behind the scenes at Vindolanda Museum. As you may well already know, I’m a tad passionate about breaking down barriers in museum, unlocking the display cabinets and allowing people to make their own discoveries. And so, we showed all the hard work we’ve put in to 3D scanning and printing – perfect for allowing these discoveries!
After a few too many weeks of preparing 3D scans and printing models (sorry to those suffering PTSD after my printer harassment!), we finally produced quite the little display of heads shoved onto pikes. C’mon, admit it, you’re just as impressed as we are!
all photos were taken with express permission, but please get in contact if you want them removed.
The whole aim of this workshop was to really gauge “what’s the point, the impact?”. Visitors progressed through three zones. First, they swiped through the iPads, formulating some ideas as to what really happened to the range of heads. After, they handled the printed models, allowing them to contextualise much of this digitised information. This was key – it’s really, really, difficult explaining the dips in the human head caused by forcing onto the pike without feeling them, otherwise you beg the question “which dip? Ketchup, guac, garlic mayo?”.
Finally, visitors finished with a miniature archery range, really shooting home with how amazing Roman archers were (or rather, how abysmally terrible we are now). Sometimes visitors had pretty great aim with the little dinky bows:
And other times… it looked like the museum was under attack!
Before visitors continued their exploration through the museum, they voted on what they enjoyed the most. Digital models? Printed models? Or, the original museum display? Clearly we evoked some excitement here because some visitors bragged to other people that they absolutely must come to our exhibit!
Yes, I know what (some) of you are thinking. What are the results?! Now now, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here, there’s a while before we can release those. But for now, here are some juicy quotes, which also make up for the lack of visitor photos because we were SO BUSY:
“I’m just stopping on a whistle stop tour, what’s all this?” – 30 minutes later – “my mind is BLOWN”
Jessie James, aged 32
“Can we eat it? [the plastic cow target]… aw, well can I shoot my brother instead?”
Hannibella, aged 6
“Aw jeez Rhys, aw jeez, I dunno, doesn’t this seem a little barbaric of the Romans? I dunno, aw jeez”
Morty, aged 14
So, was this a success? Yes! Did anything break? Not at all! Will we continue to push 3D imaging and printing forward? Absolutely! Wink wink nudge nudge to anyone fancying our 3D work for yourselves..!
Looks like we’ve had the best way to close off a summer of research!