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“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you\'d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”
by Steven Weinberg

Another good digging day

Saturday 6 August 2011

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keeley Hale, Martin Jupp, Oscar Farley, James Naufal-Power, Greg Ford, Ernie Ford, Chris Hobbs, Tony Driscoll, Nigel Harper-Scott, Christina Farley, Mervyn Evans, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Julie Goodwyn, Louise Pateman

Weather: overcast, dry, slightly breezy and much cooler than the last few days; by lunchtime, there were occasional spits of rain, but nothing of any consequence

It’s another good digging day, although the site is drying out. There seems to have been a bit of confusion yesterday with finds numbers, owing to a simple error that has proved easy to correct. Caoimhín is encouraging people to follow a standard pattern for recording finds (object record, co-ordinates, level) to avoid the type of hold-up that happened at the end of yesterday.

Today, we’ve been joined by James, the pupil at St Christopher’s School, Letchworth Garden City, who found a very fine barbed-and-tanged arrowhead a few weeks ago. He’s already fround some lithics, bone and an animal tooth (cow?), which is good. He told The Comet that he wants to be an archaeologist when he grows up, so this is a good start for him.

Although I was expecting the number of finds to drop significantly once we were into prehistoric deposits, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The fill of the inner ditch, (31), is producing a lot of (mostly small) animal bone.

It appears that the team excavating subsoil (39) at the west end of Trench I have managed to shift only four buckets of soil this morning. They are going as quickly as they can, so it’s a question now of deciding how much can be achieved in this area by the end of tomorrow. There does not appear to be a way of making the excavation of this deposit any faster, which we just have to accept.

The spots of rain at the start of lunch did not develop into anything serious and by 2 o’clock, there were small patches of blue sky visible. The breeze is slightly irritating, as it makes dealing with paperwork difficult as well as making open air finds processing more risky. Nevertheless, conditions for digging are otherwise excellent.

At the base of (31), Chris has found a group of flints, bone and burnt soil. It appears to be within the inner ditch. If that is the case, then it suggests that there were similar activities taking place before and after the inner ditch was cut. Is this continuity of ritual practice? On the opposite (south) side, Ernie has found what appears to be a new context, which may be the fill of a cut (perhaps one of the pits/postholes visible on aerial photographs and geophysics).

I’ve done a rapid attempt at an overlay of our trenches on the geophysical survey plot. It’s not accurate, but probably close enough. It indicates a berm of around 6 metres beween the bank and outer ditch; a possible gap in the outer ditch to the east, which the southern end of Trench IV passes through; the outer square enclosure lies some two metres beyond the southern end of Trench IV; the outer ditch on the north-east side lies largely outside the east end of Trench I; the inner ditch is where I think it is and has a break on the east, lining up with the possible break in the outer ditch (which may suggest a gap ought to exist in the bank at this point); there appears to be a rectangular group of four pits outside the break in the inner bank. This all seems very encouraging, with a couple of slight worries. The bank is very thick (up to 10 metres) and reminds me more of some later henges (such as Mayburgh, Cumbria). The outer ditch seems an awfully long way outside the bank; as far as I recall, formative henges do not usually have a berm between bank and outer ditch. This site becomes more confusing the more I learn about it!

Filed under: Fieldwork, Stapleton’s Field Dig 2011

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