End of the second week on site

Sunday 16 August

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Mervyn Evans, Christina Farley, Oscar Farley, Tony Driscoll, Nigel Harper-Scott, Russell Turburville, Nicky Blanchard, Philip Dean, Chris Hobbs, Keeley Hale, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford (not digging)

Weather: Sunny, a little light cloud, warm

The site is getting increasingly dry, so Chris and Keeley are sorting out the hose. We’ll give it a good soaking at morning tea-break, again at lunch-time and at afternoon tea-break. That way, we ought to be able to see the differences between (14) and the deposit(s) beneath it more clearly.

We also need to get all of (14) removed today, as we’re digging a deposit that was started last year and we’ll be half way through this year’s season by the end of today. Progress has been good this year but seems slow because we’ve had a single blanket deposit to remove. Let’s just hope that there is more varied archaeology beneath it!

Is there no bottom to deposit (14)?

Is there no bottom to deposit (14)?

Russell has come down onto what appears to be (14) or at least something very similar to it. At the north-eastern end of the trench extension, it’s at about the same level as the top of (14); the problem is that it seems to merge with the stony deposit I thought might be a “surface”. But at least we can now see (14) in the trench extension.

The material beneath (14) in the main trench is changing across the site. To the north, there is a grittier and stonier deposit; towards the centre, it’s sandier and less stony; on the slope, it seems more clayey. The edge of the grittier deposit corresponds roughly with the edges of a number of deposits at a higher level; this is also the southern edge of the platform, so it perhaps reflects something in the underlying archaeology.

After soaking the site, not only are colour changes visible but it’s also easier to dig. The water has actually been absorbed by the deposit, presumably because it’s less clayey than the deposits encountered last year. It’s also easier for Russell to plan the south-western extension and it does make it clear that the linear patch containing larger stones is quite different from the rest, which I’m convinced is actually (14).

After lunch, things continued much as in the morning, making slow progress. Deposit (14) is still going down in the northern corner of the site, which is proving to be the deepest part of the deposit. On the slope, it is cleaning off onto a yellowish sandy deposit. The grittier and stonier deposit at the top of the slope is also much more compact than (14), making it relatively easy to identify. Nicky had a nice handle and part of the rim of a thirteenth- or fourteenth-century cistern, a large ceramic water holder used for washing hands at the dinner table.

A late medieval cistern handle

A late medieval cistern handle

As parts of the site become clear of (14), space for working is getting limited. Christina is removing (16) at the south-eastern corner of the site, completing what Mick and Owain started on Thursday. It seems quite a straightforward sequence down here.

As we come to the half way stage in this season’s excavation, it’s worth reflecting on what this site has told us about the archaeology of Norton and what its potential is either to yield more information or to pose new research questions should we return to it on another occasion. The most surprising aspect of the site to me has been the depth of deposits overlying the presumed medieval structure(s). Had we opted to remove them by machine, the task would have been much quicker but we wouldn’t have had such a clear understanding of the post-occupation formation processes. In particular, we wouldn’t have appreciated the dumped nature of (14) and we wouldn’t have recognised the quantities of residual Romano-British pottery or its localised distribution.

It’s also come a quite a surprise that a reasonably prominent evident building platform can have such a depth of deposits over the foundations. At least, I am continuing to assume that it is a building platform and not some other feature (for which no archaeological evidence has yet been found to suggest how it formed).

It is also interesting to compare the material from this site with that from Green Lane, where occupation ended perhaps two or three centuries earlier than here. We have late medieval types, obviously, but the residual High Medieval pottery seems more restricted in fabrics represented, although I say this before a specialist has looked at it.

All in all, I’m much happier with the project this year than I was last year, and it’s largely to do with the weather!

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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 16 August 2009, in Fieldwork, Norton Church Field Dig 2009. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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