Final week of the dig

Wednesday 26 August

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Pauline Gimson, Alan Goodwin, Lisa Waldock, Muriel Hardman, Mick James, Philip Dean, George Hunt, Owain James, Keeley Hale, Tony Driscoll, Jim Skipper, Christl Squires, Louise Pateman

Weather: cloudy and dry following overnight rain and early morning drizzle, with sunny spells by noon, clouding over again during the afternoon

Today is almost perfect digging: the light is good, the moisture content of the soil is just right and it’s a reasonable temperature. Colour differences are showing beautifully.

Almost everyone is working on the removal of (21), which is coming down onto (22) to the south-east and a different but still lighter colour further north-west from there. Where Keeley is working, on the edge of (22), it has an almost vertical break to the south-east, as if it’s been cut through by a feature. In this location, I suspect a roadside ditch.

Tony and Nigel are repairing the fence from another break-in by cattle. This time, they had deposited a cow pat by the gate but seem not to have trampled the site, which is a relief.

Visitors from the Museums Service

Visitors from the Museums Service

Complex road surfaces

Complex road surfaces

Mick and Owain are working on the road surfaces at the extreme south-east of the site. Mick is coming down onto the same orange gravel that he exposed last week, (23). This seems to correspond to a new deposit being exposed on the north-western side of the hollow way by Tony, (30). This appears to be overlain by (14), but I can’t be sure yet. It’s certainly earlier than the poorly preserved surface (29), which lay beneath surface (20). I suspect that (29) corresponds to (12) on the opposite side of the hollow way. The sequence on the south-eastern side seems to be (12), a chalky surface, overlying the gravel (23), which seals a loose cobbled surface, (24), which in turn seals a compact chalk surface, (25).

We have finally found a structure! Well, not a structure as such but a proper clay floor surface, (27), in the extreme western corner of the trench. On Sunday, I found that (21) was coming down onto a rising clay deposit with a rather straight edge; Philip cleaned the south-eastern side of the area and found a straight edge at right angles to the first. There’s currently no sign of foundations, so I assume that it’s a floor belonging to a relatively flimsy timber-framed structure.

A mystery potsherd: is it prehistoric or Saxon?

A mystery potsherd: is it prehistoric or Saxon?

By lunchtime, the wind and sun had dried out the surface, so it was necessary to get the hose out. It helped the visitors from the Museums Service to see the colour differences in the soil. They seemed impressed with the site and were excited by some of the finds. One that has grabbed my attention is a piece of thick pottery from (21), found by George. It feels prehistoric (it’s very soft and ‘soapy’ in texture, hand made with roughly incised decoration on the outer surface) but resembles no prehistoric pottery that I’m familiar with. I wonder if it could be Pagan Saxon…

A late third-century Roman minimissimus

A late third-century Roman minimissimus

Just after the visitors left, Muriel found a bronze minimissimus. It’s only the second time I’ve ever seen one of these late Roman coins, although it’s at the larger end of the size range. Although some once claimed that minimissimi were of fifth-century (or even later) date, they date from the 280s and 290s, a period when the money supply to Britain had effectively dried up in the aftermath of the fall of the Gallic Empire of Postumus.


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

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