Friday 13 July; removing topsoil
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Arlene Walker, Bernie Matthews, Emily Abrehart, Frances Bourne, Jack Ryan, Jordan Charalambous, Nadia Musaid, Navid Tomlinson, Norman Norrington, Oliver Sharman, Rachel Mills, Rebecca Harrison, Sami Yusuf, Sid Rowe, Steve Warner, Tz-ling Lai, Izzy Gray, Ewan Chipping
Weather: overcast, breezy, cool (for July)
Today, I hope to have most of the topsoil patches left after stripping fully removed. There is one team working on the western edge of the site, where it overlies colluvium deposit (35); a second group is dealing with the little bits left around the edges of the overdug area where we are establishing a sondage, both inside and outside it.
We still don’t have last year’s records or the Munsell™ Color Chart. This will make doing any serious excavation difficult, even impossible. We can assign new context numbers but there will be a gap in the sequence to be filled later. Recording deposits is more of an issue. We began the project by using Munsell™ notation and we ought to remain consistent. I hope that the box with it, the records and (most worryingly of all, the Accident Book) can be found and brought to site as soon as possible.
Finds are being made in some numbers in the topsoil (already today we seem to have another hundred or so, and that’s after only an hour of digging). The new efficiency of the finds collection procedure means that I’ve only seen a couple so far, so I don’t actually know what is turning up. I need to get to grips with this, as it is impairing my ability to interpret what is being found, although I can’t see a resolution. If we had a site office, I’d be happy to get objects out if we had a site office, but, being Letchworth Garden City, there is always a breeze, which makes it too risky to contemplate.
I realised this morning that the only photographs I’ve taken have been with my ’phone (which actually has a higher resolution!). I’ve remedied this by taking a series of photographs from the tops of various spoilheaps. It has actually been good to get them this morning, as it rained overnight, leaving the soil damp, and the overcast light is very flat and good for general site photography.
Some of the topsoil cleaning is progressing quickly and some more slowly; it seems to be largely to do with how many finds there are. Towards the north-eastern corner, where the sondage is located, there are more than on the western edge. I can’t think of an archaeological reason why this should be the case. We do have the nineteenth- to mid twentieth-century field boundary and path (represented on site by ditch ) separating these areas, so I suppose that it might be a product of different agricultural régimes when the boundary was in use.
The terrace on the slope that is occupied by the henge is much better appreciated now that the topsoil has been stripped. Although the bank evidently runs downhill from the terrace, the enclosed area is on more-or-less flat ground. This makes me wonder if the bank is better preserved higher up the slope; it is certainly very poorly preserved down slope from the centre.
There have been no really spectacular finds (that I’ve seen) so far. It is obviously very early days still, although Phil Thomas found a nice sherd of grooved ware on the henge last weekend, which he rescued and will bring it in on Sunday. Perhaps when we are digging into the colluvium, we will find more of the interesting material.
The students have been a real bonus this year. I was a bit apprehensive about having so many on site after my bad experiences with feckless students at the amphitheatre in Chester, ten years or so ago. This lot are so completely different: they are motivated, reasonably experiences, interested in what they are doing and, above all, they are competent. I wish they were staying for the whole six weeks. I have especially to thank Rebecca Harrison, Rachel Mills, Navid Tomlinson and Ewan Chipping among the students as well as Christl and Caoimhín for staying late (until 5.30) on Wednesday to finish recording the finds.
Chris Hobbs, Alan Goodwin and Evelyn Goodwin came to visit the site mid afternoon. Alan and Evelyn won’t be digging, so this is an opportunity for them to see the site at an early stage.
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