The last day of excavation

Saturday 29 August

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keeley Hale, Pauline Gimson (a.m. only), Nigel Harper-Scott, Ernie Ford, Phil Thomas, Chris Hobbs, Tony Driscoll, Jon Goodwyn, Julie Goodwyn, Karen Leiper, Christl Squires

Weather: sunny, light clouds, slightly breezy, dry

Today is our last chance to make new discoveries. We’re getting rid of (21) and Keeley has taken a 10 litre sample from it, towards the centre of the trench. It’s unclear how much more of it is left at the north-western end of the trench, but if the clay lumps are the remains of cob walling, it could be fairly thick.

Evidence for structures?

Evidence for structures?

Where Nigel is working, it looks as if (14) runs under the loose chalk gravel surface he’s starting to expose. If this is the case, it means that only two of the road surfaces are post-medieval in date, unless some have been completely eroded from this side of the hollow. Tony is working on the opposite side of the hollow as I want to get the full width of the road at this level properly defined and planned before we backfill.

Another piece of probable Roman flue tile has turned up in (21), just by the break of slope. This is close to where George found the large piece on the last day of digging last year. It’s presumably pure coincidence, of course.

Most of (21) is now off, I think. More and more lumps of clayey material are turning up towards the south-western side of the trench, around the floor, (27). This really helps to confirm Gil’s suggestion that we’re looking at cob walling that has been pushed over and left to weather. Chris and Keeley are planning the north-western end of the trench now, which will serve as the final record of where we are. Nevertheless, I still want to put a narrow slot through the still unnumbered deposit beneath (21), just to see if we can recover any dating material and to find out if a wall really does underlie and explain the near vertical edge to the north-west.

Chris has pointed out that the angle of one of the lumps of clay is exactly the same and in the same place as a harder lump he had at a higher level that we otherwise ignored. That was clearly the wrong decision in retrospect!

It now feels very much like the winding down hours of the dig. The final plans are being drawn and there is nothing major being discovered. I was wrong about the foundations turning up on Saturday afternoon: there are too few people on site to do much really vigorous excavation.

The finds that have been coming out during the last few days all look very much High medieval rather than late, although this needs to be confirmed by a specialist. If it is the case, it makes it look as if desertion in this part of the village was contemporary with the evidence for desertion found at St Nicholas’s School in 1997, which occurred in the first half of the fourteenth century.

Digging has now come to an end and we haven’t made any shocking or even interesting discoveries that overturn what we thought we knew this morning. No foundations have turned up, there are still patches of (21) left in place and we haven’t fully exposed the south-eastern side of road surface (23)… But that doesn’t matter. The last fifteen minutes will be spent getting levels and making sure that our records are all up to date. Then we return in the morning to put down the geotextile before the mechanical digger arrives around 10.30.

No more digging

No more digging

The end of an excavation is always a sad affair and rarely a cause for celebration. But at least this year, I feel that we have achieved at least some of our aims for this trench and have understood something of the development of this site over the past seven hundred years or so. Perhaps, one day, we will have another go at this trench, but that’s not currently the intention for the 2010 season, when we ought to be investigating the Bronze Age remains in Top Field.

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

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