Excavation begins

Saturday 30 July 2011

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Zoe Ó Coileáin, Nick Smith, Greg Ford, Ernie Ford, Philip Dean, Chris Hobbs, Mark Perks, Martin Jupp, Christl Squires

Weather: dry, cloudy with rare patches of blue sky, becoming sunny with light cloud by lunchtime

A late start because more people were late than on time; there’s still no sign of Tony, who hasn’t said that he wouldn’t be in. Nick is continuing with the plan of Tr IV, while Zoe is planning Tr I (but without reference to last year’s plans). Everyone else is excavating in the position of the outer ditch, deposit (35). Almost straight away, Chris found a Roman coin, which is the second from this area. I have a suspicion that we can’t actually see the ditch and that it’s covered by a subsoil.

Lots of finds

Lots of finds, marked by the blue flages

Caoimhín is going through last year’s context records. They are in an awful state and would have been even worse if I’d not made people fill in what they could last September. What’s particularly galling is that contexts not recorded in section aren’t always on plan and the majority don’t have any stratigraphic relationships recorded (not even wrong ones). Things will have to be kept tighter this year!

In the small area where the excavation of (35) is going on, there is already a large number of finds. They include lithics, ceramics (at least some of which seem to be prehistoric, although others are Roman) and the Roman coin. If this is a ditch fill, it shows that it was continuing to silt into the first millennium AD. That would suggest that it’s a rather substantial feature. On the other hand, it’s directly overlying the natural chalk with no sign of a cut, which makes me think that it’s more likely to have developed as a subsoil.

By lunchtime, most of (35) left by the machine beyond the edge of last year’s Trench I has been removed, leaving a lot of finds to be recorded. Once we’re finished with planning in this trench, the non-digging person in a team of three will become responsible for dealing with the finds. This will speed up the whole process of 3D recording, which got so out of hand last year.

A plough rut running into the henge bank

A plough rut newly discovered by Nick that runs into the henge bank: this is why there is no longer a visible earthwork!

Caoimhín has come up with a good suggestion for the TBM. Rather than measure from the head of the nail or the top of the post, we will be taking the backsight from the soil surface on the site north side of the base of the peg. This way, it won’t matter if the peg is knocked or the nail is disturbed.

The number of finds in (35) is huge. This may well be a reflection of its status as a (probable) subsoil, in that it incorporates a variety of material possibly introduced by medieval ploughing. As we get into ditch deposits, I’m confident that the number of finds will decrease. Quite how this may work with the deposits in the centre of the henge, I don’t know.

Overall, I’m fairly happy with progress. I was irritated by the late start this morning, as we didn’t actually start doing anything until 11 a.m., but it’s a Saturday and people are giving up their free time to be here, so I ought not to complain. Once excavation was under way, it progressed at a reasonable pace (considering the dryness of the soil) and recording the finds was quicker than last year. This is a process that I’m sure will speed up as people become more accustomed to the system.

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Posted on 30 July 2011, in Fieldwork, Stapleton's Field Dig 2011. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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