York archaeologists "overwhelmed" by public response as dig reveals vast array of artefacts

By Ben Miller | 02 October 2014

Archaeologists have praised the public after discovering artefacts from across the centuries in York

A photo of a shard of pottery being held by a hand
A window fragment from the rubble of an 18th century building found as part of the Hidden Guildhall project in York© aocarchaeology.com
Intricately-carved sections of medieval windows which could hint at the lost friary beneath York Guildhall are being examined by archaeologists who have made discoveries ranging from the Roman period to the 1940s during a summer-long excavation.

A wall plaster adorned with floral motives and animals, described as “beautiful” by an archaeological team who said they were “overwhelmed” by the response of an intrigued public, accompanied two sections of wall at a depth of two metres, thought to represent the friary buildings.

A photo of a man standing on a large brown archaeological site
The demolition material track© aocarchaeology.com
A former water gate would have provided river access to the site, while two trenches revealed an early 19th century garden with a plaster pathway snaking towards the river wall.

A trackway full of bricks, worked stone and plaster would have been built almost exactly 300 years ago.

“Now that the excavation work has been completed, we need to attempt to understand the date, form and function of the remains that we have uncovered,” said Mitchell Pollington, of leaders AOC, who plan to clean, identify and catalogue all the material.

“We always thought that there would be a great deal of interest in this site, but we couldn’t have anticipated the numbers of people that wanted to get involved.

“The enthusiasm and hard work of the volunteers has been amazing. Many of them could easily go on to a career in archaeology.”

The popularity of the project and the size of the site meant places on the team had to be limited, but organisers hope to involve more would-be excavators in researching the vast number of artefacts.

“Community support has provided us with a unique opportunity to gain a much better understanding of this key historical area of York,” said Sonja Crisp, of the City of York Council.

“The archaeological dig has unearthed artefacts dating back to the Roman era and a number of important historic artefacts which provides us with a significant insight into York’s 2,000 year-old history.”

The Young Archaeologists’ Club took over the site for a day.

“The children especially had a wonderful time,” said Tara-Jane Sutcliffe, of the group.

“They loved the opportunity to take part in an excavation and clean finds.”

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A photo of a group of people standing on a brown archaeological site in high-visibility
The excavation team on the trackway during the first week of the excavation in August© aocarchaeology.com
A photo of a group of people dotted around an archaeological site next to a tent
A river wall and tree bole corresponded to their positions on an 1852 Ordnance Survey map© aocarchaeology.com
A photo of a group of people dotted around an archaeological site carrying out a dig
A clay pipe and an exquisite glass stem were among the discoveries© aocarchaeology.com
A photo of a group of people dotted around a brown archaeological site
Plaster from the trackway contained a pattern of vines© aocarchaeology.com
A photo of a group of people dotted around a brown archaeological site
The trackway could have been an access route and a property boundary© aocarchaeology.com
More from Culture24's Archaeology section:

Archaeologists find 'lost' medieval village full of pottery, coins and bones in Scottish Borders

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Archaeologists in York appeal for memories of 1940s buildings at medieval Guildhall
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