Saturday 4 August

Weather overcast with sunny intervals, becoming sunny and cloudless

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Chris Appleyard, Frankie Saxton, Charlotte Cade, Greg Ford, Chris Hobbs, Mick James

The north wall of the barn

The north wall of the barn at the edge of the trench

We have started by removing the remaining elements of context (5) and defining wall (7) more clearly at the north-western end of the trench. Work continues on the removal of (1)/(2) at the south-eastern end. With just six people digging on the site, it looks as if we’re in for a quiet but probably productive day.

Frankie has solved the puzzle of the faeces-like material found in (5) yesterday. While trowelling, she inadvertantly snapped another of these ‘faeces’, which proved to be hollow and to contain a dormant dung beetle. Examination of the original piece showed that it, too, was hollow and contained a sleepy beetle. These insects presumably live on the cow pats across the field and burrow down to below the root line; I will check a refence book on entomology to see if this surmise is likely.

A plastic ball

A plastic ball

Mick has found a small red plastic ball (it does not appear to be pierced like a bead), which looks very 1960s or, at the latest, early 1970s, in (1)/(2); there is something very familiar about it, as if I had a game with similar balls in it as a child, perhaps a bagatelle. This seems too recent for the formation of a deposit cut by harrow marks potentiallly created in the 1940s, so either the guessed date of the marks is wrong or the ball is intrusive. Given its size and the presence of worms, an ants’ nest and burrowing beetles on the site, it seems reasonable to suspect that it is intrusive rather than to suggest that the field was cultivated in the 1960s or later.

The clouds are moving rapidly this morning and we seem to be getting more frequent sunny moments. I wouldn’t be surprised if the sky’s clear this afternoon.

As expected, it’s turned out that (1)/(2) does indeed overlie (4), which is very distinctive and clayey in comparison. However, (4), as it now appears when freshly trowelled, is not the same as the material underlying (5), which will need a new context number. Although it was visible as a colour change on Thursday, (6) is no longer apparent as something distinct from (1)/(2), so it may simply be a part of it that was drying slightly differently during planning.

The sky is now almost free from clouds and it’s getting warmer. Frankie is suffering in the heat and needs to rest. Muriel is coming out later and I think it would not be good for her to work in the heat of the sun if she’s still feeling under the weather.

I have drafted a press release to send to The Comet, which I’ve emailed to Muriel. We will be choosing photographs at lunchtime. I also emailed Bob Lancaster a list of those I feel need to be invited specifically to our open evening on 23 August; Mick has sent contact details for the person who did the geophysics on 20 April.

Everyone else went to The Three Horseshoes at lunchtime, while I stayed to keep an eye on the site equipment. There is very little activity around here, other than through traffic on Norton Road, but it’s best to be cautious.

The photographs on Muriel’s computer are at 640 × 480 resolution, which is too small to send to The Comet with the press release. I’ll sort a couple out that I have taken at 5 Mpixel resolution.

Frankie has found another of the dung beetle ‘cases’, this time containing a larva. It looks as if they are the cocoons of dung beetles, so the outer casing really is dung after all; the ‘sleepy’ beetles are perhaps individuals whose metamorphosis is not yet complete.

Wall (7) does not appear to run the full width of the trench. Chris has been trowelling towards the north-western corner and is merely exposing the rubbly deposit that underlies (5), to which a new context number, (9), has been assigned. The foundations are now very distinct towards the centre of this end of the trench, although there is still some cleaning to do to the south-eastern end. We will shortly be in a position to level the new deposit and begin work on it, at least towards the north-east.

A provisional Harris matrix for the site

A provisional Harris matrix for the site

It is now possible to work out a provisional matrix:

The levels below (4) are entirely speculative and I have not included (6) as it is not clear what its relationships are to other deposits (or even if it really exists). As (9) dates from around 1930 and the foundations may be several centuries older, there is probably a lot of activity to place between it and (7).

The team has now removed just about all of (5), while Chris is defining foundations (7) with a brush, ready for photography and planning. Once none of (5) is left, we can remove (4) to expose all (?) of (9). Mick and Chris are doing a sketch plan of (8) before removing more of (1)/(2) at the south-western end of the trench. It is coming down onto a new context, probably the former yard surface as it is composed of compacted cobbles, quite rapidly.

I decided to finish at 4.00 as everyone was becoming dehydrated.

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About Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

I'm the Archaeology Officer for North Hertfordshire District Council Museum Service. I was born and brought up in Letchworth Garden City, so I have a life-long connection with the area.

Posted on 4 August 2007, in Fieldwork, Norton Church Field Dig 2007. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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