Another sunny day: Thursday 26 July 2012

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Ann Pegrum, Arlene Walker, Eden Walker, Ashley Tierney, Bernie Matthews, Claire Briginshaw, David Croft, Eleanor Betts, Jean Andrews, Jim Skipper, Kit Carstairs, Laura Slack, Martin Coard, Nigel Harper-Scott, Norman Norrington, Pauline Gimson, Rebecca Harrison, Sara Butler, Tony Driscoll, Ursula Scott, Ivor Davies, James Fish, Carl Phillips, Molly Baron (morning only), Amy Fisher (morning only), Izzy Gray

Weather: sunny, hot and dry with almost no breeze

Work is beginning on the henge itself today; at the moment, it involves trowelling back to remove the loose material on the surface. Given that there are finds already visible, they are being marked before trowelling starts to make sure that they aren’t missed or trowelled into the wrong position accidentally. There are a few fragments of bone that appear to be cooked, although they also look potentially human. I assume that, if it’s cooked, it’s not likely to be human, though, unless we have Neolithic cannibals…

At the southern end of the site (actually south-eastern, although I can’t get out of the habit of thinking of the slope as running approximately north to south), the line of the enclosure ditch is becoming clearer, particularly the eastern arm. We do need some overnight rain, though, to help make the difference between the colluvium and the ditch fill more visible, as this is where the remaining obscurities in the western arm occur. A few days ago, I could recognise a distinct kink in its line, where the alignment was changed to avoid the ring ditch to is north: this is no longer apparent, even though I know it to be there.

Excavation of the section across the ring ditch is now nearly complete. The slumped weathered chalk on both sides of the cut has obscured a more typical profile, with near vertical sides (I’d estimate about 75°). The fact that we have it on both sides suggests to me that there was an outer bank as well as a mound that came up to the very lip of the ditch. The volume of chalk that could have been extracted from the ditch cannot have been great (once excavation is complete, I should be able to estimate how much there was), so any mound built using it would not have been particularly large. I think that it may we have been a “saucer” type, with a low, broad central mound and external low bank.

Prehistoric ceramics are beginning to turn up inside the henge. There has been a large decorated sherd of what is probably Grooved Ware (or, less likely, Beaker pottery) and a sherd of shell-tempered ware. I had been getting concerned that the shell-tempered material we found last year might not be Neolithic and might really be Late Iron Age or Roman, but as this was from the top of the inner ditch, it has to be a Neolithic type.

We are a few people short today. Most of the areas that need to be worked on are fully staffed, so it’s not too much of a worry. We could perhaps do with a few more people on the henge, but the work that is keeping some occupied elsewhere on the site does need to be done and, the sooner these other areas have been finished, the sooner we can devote the whole team to the henge.

That said, the sheer quantity of finds from the henge means that work is ginding to a halt as the number of finds reaches 50. This represents the maximum that the survey team can deal with in a single batch without increasing the likelihood of making errors. Rather than have people waiting around for the finds to be dealt with, Caoimhín is diverting them to other tasks for the rest of the day. This will also mean that large numbers won’t be generated at the end of the day, causing delays in packing up.

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

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