The fourth week begins: Wednesday 1 August 2012

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Aimee Crossland, Bernie Matthews, Christl Squires, Claire Briginshaw, Dorien de Vries, Emma Winter, Frances Bourne, Frankie Saxton, Jacky Winter, Jean Andrews, Jim Skipper, Liz Hart, Mick James, Muriel James, Philip Dean, Sid Rowe, Steve Warner, Tony Driscoll, Tom Westrope, Ivor Davies, Izzy Gray, Jeremy Disley, Shona Nash

Weather: overcast, dry, slightly windy

Apart from the wind, this is good digging weather. The site looks good from the soakings it has receieved since Sunday and colour differences are showing up well. This is particularly noticeable inside the henge, where a pair of postholes that line up with the entrance are now showing very clearly. The “central” posthole that we partly investigated last year can now be seen to relate to these two as one of the corners of a square; in other words, it is not central to the monument after all. Do we perhaps have a square setting of large posts as the focus of the henge in a second phase? What is also interesting is that, if we really do have a square of posts, the chalk and burnt soil area identified last year next to the “central” posthole is actually inside the square (although it clearly pre-dates the postholes).

Excavation is so much easier now that the soil is damp. Within the sondage, (21) is trowelling away much more readily than last week. A good deal of ironstone is turning up, in much greater concentrations that I would expect to see in the local soils. Given that this part of the deposit seems to have been forming in the Roman period, that we know that there was Roman industrial activity close to the henge and that we know the ironstone was being used as a source of metallic iron in Roman Baldock, I am tempted to suggest that the concentration is not accidental.

The fills of the outer enclosure ditch are proving to be different in character at the terminal from the other two sections. We have therefore assigned new context numbers to the uppermost fill in each section. There are significantly fewer finds from its fills than elsewhere on the site, with the exception of the fills in ring ditch [144]; this may be an indication of a prehistoric (or, unfortunately, medieval) date for the filling of the enclosure ditch.

During the late morning, as excavation of the outer enclosure ditch progressed, a number of sherds of evidently prehistoric pottery turned up. As they were in the top of the fills, they don’t necessarily tell us much. However, in the middle section, where the large iron object is still embedded in the fill, it is clear that there is plough disturbance in the top of the ditch fills. The could explain the presence of the iron object and, about 30 cm away from it, a large fragment of late medieval or early post-medieval tile, but also the medieval material excavated from it in 2010. The section excavated in that year lay on the same alignment as the direction of post-medieval ploughing, which could have made the recognition of plough ruts more difficult. The ditch was very shallow in that area, so ploughing may have been able to intrude later material towards the base of the fills. It’s a hope, anyway!

The section through ring ditch [144] is becoming increasingly difficult to understand. On Sunday, it seemed clear that the loose chalk in the base was a slump of material from the barrow and outer bank, and that the material higher up was simply more consolidated slump. Today, the loose material in the base appears to be running beneath even the undoubtedly solid chalk at the edge of the cut. This is he paradox: the very loose material in the base dos not look natural, whereas material sealing it does. The only explanations I can think of at the moment are that there is an undercut at the base (whether caused by weathering or by the initial quarrying of chalk, I don’t know) or that the sides remain under-dug (which they do not appear to be).

When we had to abandon site on Sunday, the finds team were unable to process them in to the recording system in the usual way. The team has now managed to catch up and we are back on top of on-site finds recording. The main issue we now face is the impossibility of using the Total Station should we have the threatened showery weather over the next few days.

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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 1 August 2012, in Fieldwork. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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