End of the first week
Sunday 31 July 2011
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Siân O’Neil, Greg Ford, Ernie Ford, Martin Jupp, Philip Dean, Mark Perks, Tony Driscoll, Christina Farley, Oscar Farley
Weather: hot and sunny; a few light clouds initially, clouding over by noon with the wind picking up strength over lunchtime but dropping back later
Oh dear! Having berated people yesterday for being late, today it was my turn… And Tony had emailed people yesterday to explain that he wouldn’t be in but no-one had picked it up in time. So apologies all round! Nick couldn’t be here as he’s got to go to Bournemouth to have a meeting with his exam board.
We have two teams of three working on the subsoil material over the outer ditch. Caoimhín discovered yesterday that the context description for (35) refers to a subsoil visible in section, whereas the deposit that’s being removed actually underlies it; it appears to be an earlier subsoil horizon and has been assigned context number (59). Christina has found our first sherd of stratified Impressed Ware, which will be contemporary with the formative henge phase.
I’ve written a list of priorities:
- Continue excavation of (59) to identify the outer ditch.
- Excavate one section of the inner ditch (aim to complete within the week).
- Establish the value of the TBM.
- Re-investigate the 20th-century ditch at the east end of Tr I (fill (22), cut ); consider a section across it in Tr IV north.
- I will give a 15 minute briefing on why excavators must record stratigraphic relationships on their context sheets and why they need to cross-reference everything to the context record.
- Begin the investigation of the bank structure in Tr IV north.
- Begin the investigation of the subsoil in Tr IV south (but only after points 2 and 4 are complete).
I think that it’s achievable, weather permitting. Setting targets like this may be inviting trouble but at the same time, it gives us a clear idea of where we’re going and something to aim for.
Excavating deposit (59), which appears to be a Late Neolithic fill in the outer ditch of the henge
The teams of three are working well with the finds recording régime. Caoimhín has asked them to swap roles every ten finds, to make sure that there is a regular rotation between diggers and finds recorders, which gives everyone a fair turn at doing everything. It is becoming quite streamlined and ought to mean the end of the end-of-day panic to lift everything.
I’ve been through the finds from (59) and there’s nothing that looks to be more recent than Neolithic in it. I suspect that we’re in the top of the outer ditch of the henge. Intriguingly, the finds include a large piece of daub, suggesting that there was once a structure nearby. Could the henge once have held a Durrington Walls style building?
By lunchtime, the temperature had reached 27°, which is not really suitable for heavy digging. People will need to take water breaks frequently this afternoon.
I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made this week, even if it doesn’t appear spectacular, with only two days of actual digging. But what we have achieved is really rather good:
- we have confirmation that the monument is a henge;
- we have located a secondary inner ditch, cut into the inside of the bank;
- we have located the outer ditch, the upper fill of which contains only Late Neolithic material, confirming the date of the monument;
- we have identified an entrance to the outer square enclosure in the geophysics, which our Trench IV happens to pass through!
- we have established an efficient(ish) procedure for 3D finds recording in the absence of an EDM;
- we have a clearer idea about the presence of a subsoil around the bank of the monument, which appears to have ceased forming in the later medieval period, to judge from the finds it contains.
That’s not a bad list for just a week’s work! It also shows that we ought to be able to achieve most, if not all of next week’s objectives.
As we approach 4 o’clock, it’s best not to excavate any more, as further finds will only slow us down. The temperature is really against us and people are clearly flagging in the heat. I’m also worried about sunburn: although I’ve had applications of sunblock, I can see red patches on my arms and I can feel some discomfort.