The final week on site begins today

Wednesday 24 August 2011

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, David Sims, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Pauline Gimson, Lisa Waldock, Christina Farley, Philip Dean, Nigel Harper-Scott, Oscar Farley, Siân O’Neill, Greg Ford, Christl Squires, Jon Goodwyn, Tony Driscoll, Laurie Elvin, Sid Rowe, Ursula Scott, Maddy Turner, Bianca San Martin

Weather: grey, overcast and damp

Having been away on Sunday, I feel slightly out of touch with site, but it has not changed hugely. The turf deposit in the inner ditch has now been removed completely, while the western edge has been clearly defined, making the feature more obviously a ditch. Over the outer ditch, (59) is being removed in spits and has as many finds as (35). The packing in the central posthole turned out to be just a shapeless lump of chalk, not a carved representation of the Neolithic deity of the River Ivel. Shame! In Trench I, the removal of (75) has exposed a new deposit beneath and is giving us our first real glimpse of the henge bank, which could survive to a reasonable height in this area.

Because I was not on site on Sunday, I haven’t written a list of priorities for this week. As it’s the final week of excavation, they are slightly different from previous weeks:

  1. complete the excavation of the inner ditch;
  2. define the outer ditch beneath (59);
  3. complete the excavation of the central posthole;
  4. ensure that all records are completed (especially with regard to stratigraphic relationships) and cross-referenced as far as possible;
  5. draw the sections of Trench I;
  6. complete a working version of the site matrix, covering both trenches;
  7. finish all cleaning and recording by 3 o’clock on Sunday afternoon to leave time to lay the geotextile.

What we must not do this week is to enter a “winding down” frame of mind. To complete the excavation of the two discrete features, we need to maintain the pace of previous weeks. Indeed, if we are to define the outer ditch at all, the pace at the western end of Trench I needs to increase. It turns out that (59) is above (96), rather than the reverse.

We still appear to be getting only Neolithic ceramics; I have seen only one sherd that I would consider to be of Beaker pottery and I’m not entirely convinced of that, as it could be Grooved Ware. The henge is clearly an early type, as I had suspected from its morphology. The presence of a berm between the bank and outer ditch is unexpected and I can’t think of any other henges with a similar feature (not that I am exactly an expert on henges!). This irregular feature could be another indication of an early date. It suggests to me that the berm acts as an arena for activities, perhaps for those not allowed inside the bank or for things considered inappropriate inside it. It is notable that the ceramics from the colluvium outside the henge are almost all Impressed Ware types, with very few examples inside it. Again, this suggests to me different groups or activities using the two spaces. This reminds me very much of Julian Thomas’s suggestion that Impressed Wares and Grooved Ware were used by different (and possibly mutually antagonistic) social groups.

The inner ditch is still producing a lot of finds; it is still mostly animal bone and lithics.

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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 24 August 2011, in Fieldwork, Stapleton's Field Dig 2011. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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