Thursday 21 August

Weather: clouds, sunny spells,breezy, dry and warm

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Phil Howard, Chris Hobbs, Philip Dean, Ursula Scott, David Scott, Alan Goodwin, Muriel Hardman, Jack Brierley, John Brierley, Mick James, Alison Coates, Howard Webber, Luke Gearing, Keeley Hale

Having slept on things that were worrying me yesterday, I’ve taken the radical decision of assigning much of the material left on top of recognisably archaeological contexts to the topsoil, context (1). This has come about because I am now convinced that I have allowed people to underdig through caution and because the dry weather has created apparent differences in colour, texture and consistence that are just not real. We’re not making progress because we’ve been tickling the topsoil in too many places.

So, I’ve set people to work at the north-western end to define the limits of (6), the slightly chalky deposit underlying (2). In places, there are remnants of topsoil masking (2), so we now know for certain that (2) is badly contaminated by material that was really in the topsoil, which confirms my original suspicion that the nineteenth- and twentieth-century finds from ‘(2)’ are actually from (1).

On the slope, Philip, Ursula and David are uncovering the chalky gravelly deposit that is increasingly looking like the material at the north-eastern end of the trench extension. Within the extension, Keeley has found an interface between this material and the stoneless clay to the north-west; to the south, Luke seems to have found a stoneless clay as well. This means that we seem to have a south-western limit to this material.

Having now planned out the site for Mick, it’s becoming rather clearer to me what is going on. The very broken up floor (2) overlies (6), a superficial deposit of chalk that may have originated as a thin scatter of chalk on top of an underlying floor, (7); to the south, there is an interface between (7) and (8), the stoneless clay that is in the south-western extension. This in turn has a relationship with the as yet unnumbered context that now covers much of the south-eastern side of the extension to the north-eastern edge of the main trench. This has an unclear relationship with the chalky material that runs down the slope into the bottom of the hollow way. It is in this area that the largest patches of underdug topsoil have been left. The very bottom of the hollow way may be topsoil or it may be the fill of a drainage gully: I’m still undecided. On the opposite slope, the metalling of the road, (12), is now almost clear.

Luke has been giving his opinions on the National Curriculum (“written by old men who want you to learn what they learned”, “so much of it has been proved wrong”) as well as communism today. Repetitive though it is, at least today he’s talking with adults who are able to correct him. Strange as it seems, it suspect I’ll miss this chatter when he’s not here next week.

I’m feeling rather happier about the site today, although I’m still concerned about the appallingly slow progress. It’s partly been the weather, but it’s also partly a reflection that we just haven’t had enough experienced people on many day and too many inexperienced. I wonder what happened to a number of the people who dug last year, like Mervyn, who were already experienced excavators and who would have really been able to make a difference this year. Still, we are programmed to be back in Church Field next year, so there’s no problem about not finishing the trench this year.

This afternoon, Mick is going to concentrate on getting the remainder of the topsoil off and, I hope, what is left of context (2). I’m going to try to call back around 4.30, but it will depend entirely on what is going on at the museum.

In the event, I wasn’t able to get away from the museum until after five.

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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 22 August 2008, in Fieldwork, Norton Church Field Dig 2008. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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