End of the third week on site

Sunday 23 August

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Mervyn Evans, Keeley Hale, Nigel Harper-Scott, Mike Spencer, Lorna Boyd-Bell, Barbara Crombie (a.m. only), Tony Driscoll, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford (not digging)

Weather: sunny, dry, very light cirrus cloud and lots of vapour trails initially, with occasional small cumulus by lunchtime and becoming more hot and humid

We’re very thin on the ground today, with only seven people on site at the start (there are eleven names booked in on the list) and nobody to wash finds. The finds washing isn’t really an issue, but the small number of diggers is worrying, when we still have an awful lot to do. The bullocks (which, we’ve noticed, include at least one cow) are standing on the spoilheap outside the site, looking in with worryingly defiant expressions. And my webbook has died, so I can’t post updates to the blog during the day. But then, how many people are reading it during working hours?

A very quiet day on site!

A very quiet day on site!

We will be concentrating on (21) today, with Tony and Nigel working at getting off (20) and the remnants of (14) beneath it. Ernie arrived around 10.40, so the site no longer looks too bad. There are only four bags of unprocessed finds, two of them containing very little, so a day without processing probably won’t harm us!

Because it’s such a quiet day, I’ve been able to do half an hour’s digging! If nothing else, it gives me a bit more of an insight into the deposit. The main characteristic of (21) that distinguishes it from (14) is the relative lack of Romano-British material and the fact that there are no stones sticking up in it: they are all laid naturally, demonstrating that this is not a dumped deposit. It’s also rather more clayey than (14), with patches of considerably stiffer material.

We’ve reached a point where the lack of rain since Thursday is once again making it necessary to soak at regular intervals. I gave it ten minutes at teabreak and there was a little standing water on the surface after then (presumably more evidence that (21) is more clayey, as half an hours’ soaking of (14) did not make puddles). It’s sunny and slightly breezy, so the surface water ought to evaporate quite rapidly.

A puddingstone quern fragment, made from the rarest stone on earth!

A puddingstone quern fragment, made from the rarest stone on earth!

I’m beginning to wonder what I ought to say to next week’s visitors. We have three lots coming: a group of colleagues from North Hertfordshire District Council on Wednesday afternoon, special invitations to the local great and good on Thursday evening and North Hertfordshire Archaeological Society on Friday afternoon. I feel that I don’t have much to say, and we haven’t got many of the pretty types of finds that we had last year. I’m sure that I’ll be able to keep talking for half an hour or more: I’m rarely stuck for words…

I think that it’s going to be very warm this afternoon, despite the breeze. It feels already to be in the mid 20s and the lack of cloud means that it’s bound to get hotter. I may well arrange to pack up half an hour early if it becomes ridiculously hot.

Keeley is exposing the south-eastern edge of (22), the much lighter, yellowish clayey material underlying (21). It drops away sharply to the south-east and looks very like a natural subsoil or drift deposit cut by a ditch. It’s unexpected to see natural so high up (it’s roughly level with the modern ground surface on the opposite side of the hollow way), but it’s not impossible that we have located the top of the clayey drift.

On the north-western bit of road surface, where Nigel has been removing (20), he’s come down onto a soily deposit that at first I identified with (14), but now I’m not so sure. It’s best to give it a new number, (28); in turn, it seals what appears to be an earlier road surface, (29). I suspect that (29) or an even earlier surface will be what seals (14).

More road surfaces are appearing north-west of the hollow way

More road surfaces are appearing north-west of the hollow way

Where Keeley is exposing the edge of (22), there’s a short stretch where it drops away almost vertically, as if there’s a ditch cut through it whose south-eastern edge we can’t see. A short distance into the trench, there’s then a subrectangular indentation, as if there’s a pit cut through it. I have a suspicion that I’m inventing features where none exist, just because I want them. I’m also convinced that I’ve seen a deposit just like this before, but can’t remember where. Was there something like it in the 2007 trench to the west or was it something from Green Lane in 1988? Either way, it really makes me think it’s natural and not archaeological.

People are really flagging in the heat and I’m not surprised. It was 25° at lunchtime and is obviously much hotter now. We’ll have afternoon teabreak at 3.15 and pack up: this really isn’t the weather for heavy work and as I’m the only one being paid, I can’t expect people to make themselves ill on behalf of the project.

Right at the end of the day, there were two good finds. Ernie found a pierced copper alloy tag in (21), while Keeley found a tessera made from tile.

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

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