Sunday 24 August

Weather: overcast and cool following overnight rain and early morning drizzle

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Tim Vickers, Oscar Farley, Christina Farley, Nigel Harper-Scott, Chris Hobbs, Philip Dean, Muriel Hardman, George Hunt, Tony Driscoll, Mick James, Bina de Wilde, Grace de Wilde, Evelyn de Wilde

Better conditions for digging!

Better conditions for digging!

Following the overnight rain, I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t be working this morning,especially since there was constant drizzle until ten o’clock. It was light enough to set up site and soon stopped. The rain has done wonders for what we can see on site. All the under-digging is horrible visible as extensive areas of greyer material (although, thankfully, most of it appears to be superficial), while in the bottom of the hollow way, the reason that Muriel and Chris were unable to get their separate bits of gully (15) aligned was that they were in fact digging different deposits. Chris was taking out the topsoil, which had formed very recently in a gully with a butt end virtually where he had stopped digging yesterday; Muriel, by contrast, was excavating the yellow-grey material underlying (9), which forms much of the base of the gully towards the north-west. Gully (15) itself was cut through (9) but its fill was indistinguishable from the topsoil, (1).

Roadside gully (15)

Roadside gully (15)

Mick and Tony have finished the plan of (9), so once that’s done, Philip can get started on excavating it in the one-metre section. Mick has also added the last bit of context (6) to the plan, so Christina is removing it. Chris has gone to get the ranging poles so that I can photograph gully (15) and as the cleaning over (7)/(8) comes to an end, so people are waiting for something to do (planning (7)/(8) is the next task).

After another shower of drizzle, the weather has suddenly turned warm and is much more pleasant. We’ve started removing the north-western end of deposit (7)/(8) and it feels as if we’re dealing with sensible archaeology. This is the deposit that Tony’s knife was in and it would be good to think that we’re back to the Early Modern period. I had a look at some medieval knife handles last night and I don’t think that the decoration is right for anything earlier than the sixteenth century. Still, it really needs an expert opinion.

Before lunch, Mick had a quick trowel at the south-eastern edge of the road metalling, (12), to see how it relates to the material to the south-east, (16). In places one appears to overlie the other, while elsewhere the situation appears reversed. A quick dig showed that it is a vertical interface. Given this, it is more reasonable to assume that a relatively solid road surface with a near-vertical edge was in place when a soil deposit formed against it than the other way round. He’s now taking out (16) in the metre-wide section.

To the north-west, Philip is removing (9) in the section. It’s quite thick towards the break of slope and it appears that the slope was much smoother before (9) formed. Although there is Roman material from the deposit (there’s a fragment of colour-coated pottery), there is also clinker from Kryn & Lahy, which we know post-dates 1915. This seems to confirm my interpretation that it derives from the underlying material, (14), through erosion in recent years. It is possible that the digging of gully (15) was what encouraged this deposit to form…

An early seventeenth-century rose farthing

An early seventeenth-century rose farthing

At the north-western end of the trench, the excavation of (7)/(8) is under way. Almost immediately after lunch, Muriel found a rose farthing. It’s in slightly fragile condition, but ought to conserve well. We’re probably looking at a date in the early seventeenth century. This isn’t contradicted by the other finds from the deposit so far, apart from a sherd of nineteenth-century glazed ware that is probably intrusive.

Mick has virtually finished removing (16). The deposit beneath it clearly continues under (12) and as that continues under the deposit beneath (9), it will be a while before we are able to deal with it. That end of the trench is therefore effectively finished until these other deposits can be removed.

The depth of (7)/(8) appears quite variable. In the northern corner, it is quite thick (perhaps as much as 100 mm in places), but in others it’s very shallow (as little as 10 mm in places). This is nothing to do with over-digging (or underdigging) the overlying deposit (6): there are places where the underlying deposit can be seen to be dipping down quite dramatically.

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

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