Monday, 10 June 2013

The Archaeology of Christ Church

Ralph Agas' panorama of Oxford showing the outline of the foundations for Wolsey's chapel which would have completed the north side of Tom Quad

Regular attendees to the Oxford Experience may remember a few years ago when Peckwater Quad was cut about with deep trenches for new services.  Naturally, when anyone digs in an area as important as Christ Church, there has to be an archaeological investigation.

The Magazine "Current Archaeology" has just published a short article on the results of excavations that took place within Christ Church over the last ten years.

The excavations produced some impressive results: burials from the minster church of St
Frideswide (now the cathedral); a garderobe, or latrine to the west of the church which was probably there for pilgrims visiting the tomb of St Frideswide; evidence of medieval streets that disappeared as the college expanded; foundations from some of the halls that served as halls of residence for the medieval students and evidence of Cardinal Wolsey's original plans for the college, that were changed when Henry VIII took charge.

The finds from these excavations give an interesting glimpse of studies at the medieval university, including an as yet unidentified scientific instrument, and a large collection of glass and pottery from distilling implements.  This is the earliest find of such objects in Britain, dating to the mid-14th century, and it is also the second largest of such finds.

Some of this pottery and glassware had been subjected to intense heat and the internal glaze had been partly corroded by strongly acidic or corrosive substances, suggesting that they may have been used in the pursuit of the study of alchemy.

You can find out more about this issue of Current archaeology here...  

The garderobe, or latrine west of the church

Foundations of one of the medieval halls of residence

Drawing of the unknown scientific instrument and what is possibly a set of scales

Some of the medieval glassware

Some of the medieval pottery

Images from Current Archaeology

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