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“The Road of Excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom”
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Muddy on site, but good digging conditions

Friday 5 August 2011

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Tony Driscoll, Siân O’Neill, Sophia Brookes, Alice Brookes, Ann Pegrum, Mervyn Evans, David Sims, Sid Rowe, Lisa Waldock, Nigel Harper-Scott, William Peters, Chris Hobbs, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Pauline Gimson, David Croft, Nick Smith, Keeley Hale, Jim Skipper

Weather: overcast, dry but humid; cooler than Wednesday (thank goodness!); more sunny by lunchtime

We have a big digging team today, everything was on site by 10 o’clock and digging conditions are almost perfect. I’m happy We have two teams of three carrying on the excavation of (35), a team working on the inner ditch (west), fill (32), a team on the subsoil abutting the bank in Trench IV north to define the bank more thoroughly and a team finishing the twentieth-century ditch, [40]. Today promises to be a good one!

I’ve asked the team on the inner ditch to consider sampling large pieces of bone and carbonised wood for radiocarbon dating. As soon as I mentioned this, Chris found a large fragment of burnt bone on the interface between the ditch fill and the deposit through which the ditch had been cut, which is just about perfect. I’ve mentioned to the team digging (35) that when they are in the underlying deposit, (59), they should do the same.

Planning Trench IV is almost complete. This is reasonably straightforward and involves assigning new context numbers. Trench I will be more complicated as context numbers were assigned last year, while this year we can actually define more (we’ve already had twice as long on site as we did last year!). I think that this will be an interesting exercise, as the new plans have been drawn without consulting last year’s.

William has found an interesting piece of ceramic in the subsoil in Tr IV north, (75). It’s handmade but hard fired, with visible quartz grains. It doesn’t resemble any fabric with which I am familiar apart from the sandy types of sub-Roman wares found at Baldock and Pirton. Given our proximity to Baldock, that is hardly surprising; as it’s in a subsoil that may well derive from colluvium from the hill to the north, it could be something to do with the Romano-British farmstead we found in Trenches II and III last year.

The 3D finds recording seems to be going reasonably well, although perhaps not as well as on Sunday. In the certainly prehistoric deposits, the number of finds is lower than in the subsoil deposits, which suggests that less time will be spent on dealing with recording.

At lunchtime, Caoimhín filmed another video diary, with me explaining what we’ve achieved since last Friday. We have got a remarkable and extremely complex site. My almost daily fears that it is really ‘only’ a burial mound are being dispelled as I understand just how complex the activities going on in the interior of the henge actually were. What looked to be a chalk mound in the centre is no such thing: we have individual dumps of chalk separated by soil deposits that do not form a mound as such.

William and Nigel are about to start excavating a section through (56), the fill of linear cut [55]. I’ve been assuming that it’s the same feature as the twentieth-century ditch [40] in Trench I, but we do need to demonstrate that. A 0.5 m long section ought to yield enough finds to demonstrate its date. It turned out to be so shallow that the 0.5 m section trowelled away in under a minute and contained no finds; it may be necessary to remove all the material we can see and even then, there’s a good chance that there will be no finds.

As it’s become sunnier, the finds processors have been asked not to wash any more ceramics. Although most sherds seem reasonably solid, I’m worried that, being prehistoric, they may not be as robust as they first appear and could disintegrate.

Norton Community Archaeology Group now has its own channel on Vimeo, where we will be posting video diaries and other video clips to keep people updated on our progress in the field.

Filed under: Fieldwork, Stapleton’s Field Dig 2011

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