A Natural History of the Bestiary by Wilma George, Yapp. W. B.

By Wilma George, Yapp. W. B.

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It is surprising how much basic topographical and historical information can be recovered from examining areas of ancient building fabric revealed in small-scale renovation, or from looking down the trenches for building footings, sewers and the like. A watching brief may, in fact, be the only way of looking below ground at some parts of the modern town, such as, for example, the main streets. In Gloucester, Patrick Garrod, Field Officer with the museum’s excavation unit, has spent over twenty years in watching-brief work, the value of which was summed up in the volume appropriately bearing his name— Garrod's Gloucester —as follows: Since 1973 the greater part of his time has been dedicated to the observation and recording of all ground disturbances, whether during building construction or the laying of service trenches.

Changes in river regime, for example, can be determined by the occurrence of micro-organisms preferring greater or lesser salinity. 6 The wonderful world of environmental archaeology: tenth-century fly puparia from the Lloyds Bank site, York (average length 8mm/c. ) (Photograph: York Archaeological Trust) and on patches of waste ground, the trees in the local woods and the birds that flew about in them. We must be aware, however, that, by and large, these surroundings were not entirely natural, but man-made or at least man-affected.

A survey of previous excavations is again a necessary starting point for assessing the survival of deposits in a town and the archaeological potential of particular sites. Ideally an ongoing process in every historic town should be the development of three-dimensional plans showing, first, the depth of archaeological deposits overall and in the major historical periods, and, second, the location of major disturbances. A good example is the maps of London in The Future of London's Past,13 which gave a stark indication of the extent of destruction of the city’s buried past, yet also revealed the archaeological potential of such areas as the Thames waterfront.

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