Saturday 28 July 2012: still warm and sunny

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Bernie Matthews, Chris Hobbs, David Sims, Emily Abrehart, John Stanford, Frankie Saxton, Greg Ford, Jane Males, Jane Williams, Jean Andrews, Karen Leiper, Keeley Hale, Kit Carstairs, Liz Hart, Nigel Harper-Scott, Pauline Gimson, Rebecca Harrison, Richard Phillips, Tony Driscoll, Chris Gate, Julie Martin, James Fish, Izzy Gray, Connie Andrews (to 2.15 pm)

Weather: dry, warm, sunny with occasional cloud, becoming cloudier during the morning, light breeze; more and thicker cloud developing during the afternoon, with more frequent grey cloud

The rain we were supposed to get yesterday never arrived, so the ground is as dry as ever and things that were visible yesterday are once again obscured by dust and lack of contrast. Nevertheless, it is clear that there is very little left to do on the outer enclosure ditch and I really hope that we can have it planned and four sections across it laid out by the end of today. If things go really well, I would like excavation to begin on at least one of the sections.The ring ditch section, [144], is getting deeper and it is evident that slumped material on the edges has been dug out of sequence in one place; this isn’t a disaster, as none of the deposits has been finds rich and we can see the correct sequence in the section. In the sondage, (21) is still being removed, although parts of (153) beneath it are beginning to show up, suggesting that there is not too much more to remove. Cleaning the henge is aslo continuing and the complexity of deposits within it is becoming obvious. There appear to be potential stakeholes under the bank; there are discrete areas of in situ burning; there are numerous finds throughout the fills.

The henge is about half cleaned and, in the dryness, it is impossible to see the line of the inner ditch properly. In some places, it is overlain by remnants of the ploughsoil and spread bank material; the possible south-eastern terminal is the only part I am even vaguely confident that I can see. The number of finds within the henge fills is still high, with lithics, bone and pottery turning up just about everywhere.

I am becoming happier with the idea that the outer enclosure is prehistoric, perhaps Middle Iron Age. Cleaning over it has produced no obviously medieval or later material and the only thing suggesting that it might be more recent than prehistoric is the iron object embedded in the western branch. However, until this has been excavated (and one of the sections across the ditch will be put at this point), I am speculating that it could be a piece of relatively recent farm equipment that has been intruded into the ditch fill during ploughing. I suppose that it could even turn out to be Iron Age in date (after all, there was a La Tène II cauldron rim in an Iron Age ditch at Blackhorse Road, not a million miles from here!).

The weather has become cooler and there is now more cloud than empty sky, with most of the cloud grey and apparently rain bearing. The front bringing the change in the weather has evidently passed over us. If we have a downpour tonight, I will be very grateful. The features that appear to be either under or within the henge bank have never been seen in damp conditions, which would help a lot with trying to interpret them.

Sherd of impressed ware

A large sherd of impressed ware from the interior of the henge

During the day, the survey team have taken measurements on the three legs of the pylon in Stapleton’s Field that are visible from the Total Station position. This helps give us a double-check on the accuracy of our fixed points on site (which have superseded the old site grid by giving us a direct link to the Ordnance Survey’s National Grid reference system (rather than the National Grid that the pylon serves). Pauline also located a second nail marking the position of one of last year’s grid pegs, giving us two fixed points from 2011. We will now be able to transform the coordinates from 2010 into National Grid references using a simple formula in a spreadsheet, giving us a single system for all the work on the site.

The large piece of Grooved Ware (which may even be a complete vessel!) has been cleaned to show people on site what to expect from the henge. While they were queuing up to look, a large sherd of Impresssed Ware turned up nearby as well as another sherd of Neolithic pot next to the Grooved Ware. Both sets of pottery appear to derive from limited contexts that are suggestive of structured deposits. We need to be vigilant for other evidence, such as animal bone, carved chalk and special lithcs. Things are becoming exciting now that we are on the henge.

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

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