Thursday, 25 February 2010

Mighty FROGs from little tadpoles grow

Last Saturday saw a healthy turnout of DDA members at the first day of the latest Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) Foreshore Recording and Observation Group (FROG) training course at UCL in central London. A second, practical day will follow in late March.

TDP aims to utilise the FROG to observe and record archaeological remains on the Thames foreshore from Teddington to Bexley. The result will be a longitudinal study that it is hoped will survive the funded TDP (due to end in September 2011).

Saturday saw the eager attendees given a sound grounding in the work of the TDP and the practical aspects of FROG's activities.

After Nathalie Cohen gave an overview of the TDP and FROG, she explained the health and safety aspects of the work we were volunteering to be involved in. From rat-borne Weil's disease to blister inducing Giant Hog Weed to discarded syringes, the list felt endless. On a lighter note, the topic of debate suggested by Elliot Wragg was "Wellies or Boots?". Both having pros and cons when working on a muddy foreshore, it was easy to see why the considered opinion is evenly divided.

Lorna Richardson explained the role and importance of digital media in the project. From the usual social network suspects (Facebook, Twitter) through to imagery (Flickr, Vimeo) on to contributor based 'pedia (Riverpedia) and finally interactive spatial information database systems. All have a role to play. All the talk of citizen involvement in this session was of key interest to our technical guru, Roger. One of the results is this very blog entry!

In the final session of the morning, TDP Project Director Gus Milne gave an overview of the key zones and sites that will form the basis of 2010 season activity. Plenty of lively anecdotes and examples of the destruction caused by tidal wear and tear made this a fascinating session that many a lay person would have appreciated.

The afternoon saw attendees form four groups each of which attended three practical sessions:

1. timber analysis and recording (timber being defined as 'worked wood', I am now able to differentiate between work done by an axe and an adze - I even now know what an adze is!)

2. site recording (Chris, Roger and I - together with interloper Glenn Calderwood - cornered Guy in to being our leader for this session as we explored in fine detail the floor of the UCL south cloisters)

3. finds recognition (this helped attendees to make sense of all the priceless artefacts found when wandering the foreshore; a bonus was that the session's findings are equally applicable on dry land!)

A key point is that the aim of the FROG is to observe and record structures over time - certainly not to dig up and remove them so losing context and possible further discovery as the tide does its work. The finds recognition session explained how understanding what (and where) objects are found on the foreshore can help understand where structures may lie and what they may have been used for.

Aside from a full and informative TDP folder, we were each presented with a free, promotional TDP mug. A practical freebie that is different from the usual pen (although Chris would have appreciated the latter on Saturday!).

The session spawned (sorry!) a raft of educated and enthused tadpoles that after the practical day will become fully certified FROGs.

Richard, Theresa, Roger, Chris, Odette and I would like to thank Nathalie and her team (including our own Guy) for an extremely informative and interesting day.

More information of the activities of the TDP and FROG can be found at:

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