Last day in Stapleton’s Field

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Chris Turner, Tony Driscoll, Philip Dean, Mick James, Lydia Howe, Mervyn Evans, Chris Hobbs, Greg Ford, Ernie Ford, Phil Thomas, Mark Perks, Christl Squires, Mary Wood, Lorna Holding

Weather: overcast, windy; downpours at lunch time

A rimsherd of Grooved Ware from inside the henge

The wind is proving a real pain today; everything is blowing around and the forecast suggests that it will only get worse. If we had sunshine, it would be warmer, but it feels more like October than August at the moment.

As it’s the last day on the henge site, there are different priorities from earlier in the week. The first is to locate the trenches accurately following our unhappy experience with the GPS. Chris Turner and Tony are using the EDM lent to us by The Heritage Network to get the locations. Next, we need some environmental samples from deposits within the henge bank and the organic deposit that seems to be inside it. Then the recording needs to be completed; a large number of context records have been left blank, with people assuming that others have already completed them.

Storm clouds approaching

Impending disaster looms on the northern horizon © Christl Squires

The wind is making finds processing impossible. There has been a bit of a disaster with a couple of trays overturning and scattering the finds that were drying. A flint was relocated, but two potsherds are missing. A small piece of sandstone was found that was thought to resemble one of the potsherds, but we can’t be certain that it is one of them.

Just as it got to lunchtime, there was a sudden downpour, lasting for just a couple of minutes but enough to soak everyone. It appeared to be clearing up over the next few minutes, but shortly before two o’clock, a fresh downpour started. This one went on and on without letup. After twenty minutes or so of this punishment, everyone was soaked to the skin, cold and thoroughly miserable. It would have been cruel to expect anyone to carry on, so reluctantly we abandoned the site.

There is clearly unfinished business: context records have been left unfilled, finds have been left in the ground and we were not able to check that everything that needed doing has actually been done. However, human welfare must come before the archaeology, no matter how important that archaeology might be.

We have nevertheless achieved the primary aim of the project: the characterisation of the geophysical anomalies and features visible on aerial photographs. The “double ring ditch” is clearly no such thing and “henge” seems the best explanation for what is going on. The enclosure to the north is Romano-British, as are the field ditches that are probably associated with it. The trackway remains undated, but the three-sided rectilinear enclosure surrounding the “henge” is medieval, the most unexpected discovery of the project.

Over the coming weeks, I will  be writing a summary report on the discoveries, which I will make available from this blog. The site is clearly of considerable significance both at a local level and at a more regional scale. Those of us involved in the project have been very lucky and privileged to work on a site of such potential importance.


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 2010, in Fieldwork, Stapleton's Field Dig 2010. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Can’t you sneak back for an extra couple of days? Or have the trenches got to be backfilled immediately?

  2. I wish I could sneak back. It was supposed to be backfilled tomorrow (Tuesday), but I gather that it won’t actually happen for a few days. Unfortunately, I have other work commitments that prevent me from going back into the field!

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