Cleaning the trenches

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Chris Turner, Neil Hassall, Keeley Hale, Phil Thomas, Pauline Gimson, Greg Ford, Tony Driscoll, Mark Perks, Mervyn Evans, Mick James, Sid Rowe, Nigel Harper-Scott, Ernie Ford, Christl Squires, Howard Webber, Lorna Holding

Weather: sunny, light cloud, slight breeze; clouding over by lunchtime

The soil is much dryer today, despite overnight rain. We’ve begun cleaning inside Trenches II and III, initially by shovel-scraping. We ought to have both trenches being trowelled by morning teabreak, which could mean photography and planning during the afternoon and perhaps even excavation before the end of the day.

I want to get these two trenches knocked on the head as quickly as possible (and certainly by Sunday) so that we can concentrate maximum resources on Trench I next week. Trench I is looking extremely complex now. The inner ditch appears to be cut through the redeposited chalk of the bank, making it secondary to the development of the henge. Chris has pointed out that the possible cremation burial lies beneath redeposited chalk; he suggests that it predates (or is contemporary with the construction of the bank), although I wonder if it’s beneath material slumped or ploughed out from the bank. Time will tell. The area in the centre also appears to have more going on than is suggested by the aerial photographs or geophysics: I hesitate to use the term, but it looks like an occupation/activity deposit.

A view across the henge, looking north-east

A view across the henge, looking north-east

I talk a walk down the hill (south) from the probable henge site and found a scatter of nine pieces of Bronze Age looking débitage all within about five metres. I wonder if we have a flint processing site down there. The site is clearly very extensive and may ultimately link up with Blackhorse Road, which I have previously imagined to be a separate site entirely.

After lunch, I took a look at the pottery from Trench III, which Mervyn thought might be prehistoric. Unfortunately, it is Romano-British. Mick has sieved a piece of Roman flagon handle from topsoil over one of the ditches in Trench II and, quite coincidentally, Phil came up with another in Trench I. It’s possible, I suppose, that the enclosure and ditches in the northern part of the site belong to a Roman farmstead and have nothing to do with the Bronze Age site. I’m still inclined to view them as all contemporary, though, and to see the trackway and associated enclosures as specifically connected with the henge.

The possible field ditch in Trench III

The possible field ditch in Trench III

We need to establish temporary bench marks for the site. There’s nothing suitable in the field that we could use, so we are going to have to put in wooden posts to use as reference points. We will also need two separate TBMs, as the only place visible from all three trenches is too high to be usable for Trench I. It’s becoming more urgent now that we’re about to start excavating features that will produce finds (all of which will be recorded in three dimensions).

Towards the end of the day, Sid Rowe found a small copper alloy tag whilst sieving topsoil from the north-eastern end of Trench II. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it looks very like a piece of Roman military equipment (something for tying a leather lace around as a fastening, perhaps).

A copper alloy tag from Trench II

A copper alloy tag from Trench II


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 19 August 2010, in Fieldwork, Stapleton's Field Dig 2010. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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