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“The Road of Excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom”
by William Blake

Starting the second week’s digging

Wednesday 3 August 2011

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Pauline Gimson, Mervyn Evans, Nick Smith, Greg Ford, Maddy Turner, Sid Rowe, David Sims, Lisa Waldock, Siân O’Neill, Tony Driscoll, Philip Dean, Anne Pegrum

Weather: sunny, hot, a little hazy cloud, humid; clouding over during lunchtime with rain visible to the north and occasional rumbles of thunder, with a cooler breeze; broken cloud after lunch and warmer again

A glorious day, but not a good one for excavation; it’s so hot that it will be important for people to take regular breaks and drink plenty of water. We also got off to a bad start with a small number of people doing most of the carrying of equipment. This is completely unacceptable and I ought have no need to remind people about courtesy and general housekeeping when almost everyone has had the same nagging talk from me several times over many years! I can’t think of a reasonable sanction, though; tempting as it is to banish offenders from site, that’s too draconian. William sent me a text message yesterday to say that he wouldn’t make it in today.

Two teams are continuing with the excavation of (35) at the west end of Trench I, to ensure that (59) is fully exposed before we continue with it. The material turning up still appears to be entirely Late Neolithic, so we’re probably right at the base of (35).

David and Lisa are investigating the parts of twentieth-century ditch [40] that lay outside last year’s Trench I. There is not a huge amount to remove and the finds do not need to be recorded individually in three dimensions. This should give David an introduction to excavation before he moves on to more sensitive archaeology.

Tony and Philip are continuing to plan. This will be a great improvement on last year’s plans of Trench I, which were basic, to say the least. It will also be interesting to compare two versions of what are essentially the same plan! I’m certainly able to see more this year (even in these dry conditions) than I could last year.

Work is progressing very slowly on (35); although it’s now very hot (around 28°), nothing much has been achieved since around 11 a.m. and it’s now almost lunchtime. People will need to be jollied along despite the heat. Finds processing has stalled, as we can’t find the poles for the gazebo and I’m not prepared to have finds other than lithics drying in direct sunlight.

Over lunchtime, the weather changed completely. First, it became hazier, then cloudy and by 1.30 we could see black clouds to the north and hear the odd rumble of thunder. The breeze picked up and Caoimhín suggested that we pack away the records. By this time, we could see that it was pouring with rain over Stotfold or Biggleswade. This particular storm cloud is passing a mile or so to the north and there is a clear weather front almost directly overhead. What we don’t know is how many storm clouds are following this one and how far south the front might shift over the afternoon.

Caoimhín suggests that people should not take a break before all the finds have been fully recorded and located on plan. Given that all the finds recording had started well before the morning break, it’s difficult to understand how so much was still left to do by lunchtime. I seem to be having a real day of moaning!

David and Lisa have managed to empty the southern part of the fill left in ditch [40] and ought to be able to complete that northern part this afternoon. As expected, the finds are largely of twentieth-century date. Lisa had to leave early as the heat was making her feel sick and she has to be in work later; I hope it’s not sunstroke.

After the earlier weather scare, it has gone back to being largely sunny and is still very hot now that the breeze has dropped. It’s still 28°. I think that once the current finds have been recorded, I will let people pack up: it’s likely to be done by around 3.30.

Filed under: Fieldwork

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