Finally excavating on the “henge” site

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keeley Hale, Phil Thomas, Pauline Gimson, Tim Vickers, Chris Hobbs, Greg Ford, Clifford Marshall, Mark Perks, Nigel Harper-Scott, Tony Driscoll, Philip Dean, David Croft, Ursula Scott, Ernie Ford, Mervyn Evans, Christl Squires, Lydia Howe, Howard Webber, Ann Lake, Mary Wood, David Gimson, Christina Farley, Oscar Farley

Weather: cloudy and windy following 40 hours of rain

We have plenty of people today, so I’m making everyone work in Trench I. Trenches II and III are partly waterlogged, so we wouldn’t be able to do much in them anyway, but we do need to get some better (stratified) dating material from this trench. I’ve got Tim, Keeley, Tony and Nigel recording the sections, while just about everyone else is cleaning the tops of features in the “henge”. Chris and Pauline are doing proper excavation, examining the outer ditch, while Christl and Mary are working with the finds. At some point BBC Look East will be turning up, so I’m feeling just a little frantic.

I’m also a bit concerned about the status of the monument. After a week’s weathering, the south facing section could now be interpreted as a central turf stack with a layer of chalk, another layer of turf and a final, thicker layer of chalk on top. However, this would make a barrow 40 m in diameter with a 10 m wide ditch, which is quite improbable. It also then fails to explain the inner ditch, the number of finds and the appearance of the monument on the aerial photographs and geophysics. Still, we can’t entirely rule out a huge barrow.

Very bizarrely, the ditch belonging to the square enclosure is producing medieval material. It’s stratified well below the level of the plough, so it’s not intrusive, and the ditch is much too small to have been silting up over millennia. The outer ditch of the “henge” is also producing later material (mostly Romano-British, including a fourth-century coin), but given its size and presumed depth, it’s unsurprising that it was still silting two millennia or more after being dug.

The BBC reporter has turned up and so far isn’t really disrupting things as she’s talking to Chris Hobbs at the moment. The trench looks busy and has cleaned up beautifully. Depending on what they film, it could look really nice! Half an hour in and I have still not been interrupted, which suits me! Eventually, time became pressing (I needed to egt off to pick up the EDM that The Heritage Network has kindly agreed to lend me) and I did the interview in a bit more of a rush than I’d have liked. It goes out this evening (barring a sudden big story).

Recording individual finds in 3D is proving terribly time consuming, although it will be worth it in the long run. Because the outer ditch is so huge and was filling up over millennia, being able to see the positions of chronologically diagnostic objects through relatively undifferentiated fills will help us understand the processes of silting more thoroughly. Some of the finds are looking very interesting; we have what appears to be a fragment of a polished stone tool, a variety of pottery fabrics (all very Bronze Age looking with no sign of anything Neolithic like Peterborough type wares) and modern stuff only in modern features.

Today has been such a good day for digging (if a little windy) that it makes up very much for yesterday’s lack of progress. The damp soils are trowelling beautifully and differences are showing very clearly. I feel that we are making decent progress on the site, even if its interpretation still isn’t as certain as I’d like (although henge is the best hypothesis as it explains more of the observed features than any other).

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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 27 August 2010, in Fieldwork, Stapleton's Field Dig 2010. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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