Thursday 19 July 2012: back on site

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Ann Pegrum, Arlene Walker, Ashley Tierney, Bernie Matthews, Caroline Ranson, Chris Hobbs, Eleanor Betts, Jan Turner, Jane Cave, Jean Andrews, Jim Skipper, Jordan Charalampous, Liz Hart, Mick James, Muriel James, Navid Tomlinson, Oliver Sharman, Rachael Mills, SaraButler, Sid Rowe, Steve Watner, Tony Driscoll, Tom Foster, Tz-ling Lai, William Hurry, William Siddeley, Ivor Davies

Weather: grey clouds, sunny spells, breeze

Good digging weather today, so we ought to make decent progress. Mick, Muriel and Chris got the ring ditch (cut [144]) cleaned quickly, so it has already been photographed and is ready to plan. There are two fills ((145) and (146)) visible inside it. Once it’s planned, we can put a 1 m wide section through it to get sections perpendicular to the ditch; later, we can empty the entire width exposed in the spur.

The first sherds of prehistoric ceramics have been turning up today. Predictably enough, the ring ditch produced a piece of something nasty looking that is probably Bronze Age in date. In the sondage, there have been two pieces of Impressed Ware (although there were post-medieval tile and a Roman rim sherd nearby); from the topsoil on the western edge of the site, there is a sherd of something that appears to be Middle or Late Iron Age, although it’s difficult to tell while it is dirty.

There has apparently been some murmuring among the team about slow progress on site. For my part, I am happy with the progress being made: given the unusual nature of the site and its likely importance, we have to do it to the highest possible standards, even on areas of colluvium that might otherwise seem not worth the effort. We only ever get one chance to excavate a site!

Deposit (145) in the ring ditch proved to be very shallow and had been completely removed before lunch. Underneath it, in the centre of the ditch, a much chalkier deposit has been exposed. Finds are sparse, which is what one would expect from a ring ditch. It ought to be possible to calculate the volume of chalk and soil removed from the ditch in construction of the barrow when we know its depth; this will then allow us to calculate the approximate volume of the mound at its centre. At the moment, it looks as if the ditch is going to prove to be shallow, which would tend to minimse the size of the mound. Given that the ditch fills appear to contain a lot of chalk eroded from the barrow, it must surely have had a very narrow berm, if any; this might suggest that the mound was some sort of Middle Bronze Age (Wessex Culture) “fancy barrow”, perhaps a saucer barrow.

There are interesting differences emerging between the intrface between topsoil (60) and the underlying colluvium on the western and eastern sides of the site. To the west, the interface is fairly smooth, whereas to the east, the interface is much more uneven. Whether this is a result of different agricultural practices before the footpath was moved in the 1960s or has another explanation, I don’t know.

The range of finds turning up now that we have started excavating real archaeological deposits has increased no end. We now seem to have a bit of just about everything from Neolithic to Roman, at least in terms of ceramics. What we haven’t had this year is a Roman coin, although I will be shocked if none turn up. Of course, much more will be found when we are actually excavating henge deposits.

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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 19 July 2012, in Fieldwork, Stapleton's Field Dig 2012. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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