Friday 3 August 2012

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Aimee Crossland, Arlene Walker, Ashley Tierney, Chris Hobbs, David Croft, Dorien de Vries, Eden Walker, Emma Winter, Frances Bourne, Frankie Saxton, Isobel Simmons, Ivor Davies, Izzy Gray, Jacky Winter, Jan Turner, Jim Skipper, John Byrne-Nash, Keeley Hale, Kit Carstairs, Martin Coard, Nigel Harper-Scott, Pauline Gimson, Phil Thomas, Philip Dean, Priscilla Simmons, Richard Phillips, Shona Nash, Sid Rowe, Tony Driscoll, Tom Westrope, Ursula Scott

Weather: mostly grey clouds with occasional sunny spells, cool with a cooler gusty wind; occasional very light showers

Yesterday, work continued on both the outer enclosure ditch and the henge. We have suspended work temporarily on ring ditch [144] as a result of the confusing geology. Ursula and Ann spent some time looking at the unconsolidated chalk and could not reach any firm conclusions about it. The consensus seems to be that water was involved in its formation and that is a transformation of the original chalk deposits, but beyond that, it remains a puzzle.

Typically, because we had a visit from specialists in Neolithic material, there were no nice ceramics for them to look at yesterday. Sarah Percival suggested that the large pieces of vessel in the special deposit inside the henge are not Grooved Ware but something finer, perhaps an eccentric Beaker type. If so, this could well be the first Beaker material we have had from the site, pushing its use into the later third millennium BC.

Today, we are continuing much as yesterday. The eastern part of the outer enclosure ditch, [169], is now cleaned and I photographed it first thing. After morning teabreak, Keeley set up a team to excavate a two-metre section at the terminal. The terminal of the western part has started producing Roman material; there is a large piece of tegula and several potsherds. They appear not to be intrusive and I am beginning to think that the enclosure is Romano-British, relating to the industrial evidence we have recovered over the last two seasons. This raises the possibility that the ring ditch at the east of the site, [144], was included inside the enclosure because the mound was used as the base for something, perhaps a kiln or a furnace. A rectangular enclosure makes much more sense as a Roman feature than prehistoric or medieval. This means that the medieval pottery and tile found in the fills is intrusive.

Cleaning the henge is now almost complete. Philip is beginning a sketch plan that we will be able to survey with the Total Station to give us an accurate plan. We will be able to tie it in to last year’s context numbers and make decisions about which areas to target for more intensive excavation. There are a number of places where the stratigraphy looks very complex and I can see that to the north-east there are deposits overlying the bank, which is better preserved here than elsewhere in the trench.

Ursula has been in touch with a friend at the Natural History Museum about our curious geology. They have suggested that it represents a phase of erosion during the Cretaceous, at a time when the sea level had dropped and exposed the land surface. Subsequent sea level rise then caused the consolidation and cementation of the top part of the eroded chalk, allowing solid chalk to form on top. I will check in the memoir to accompany the British Geological Survey’s map of this area for periods of marine regression in the Cretaceous.

The near-complete vessel, <5750>, in special deposit (172) is now partly cleaned. It is suffering badly as a result of over-exposure and hairline cracks are beginning to appear in it; some sherds have already broken away. It has become vital that we lift it today before any further avoidable damage occurs. The decoration can now be seen to be divided between three zones: zigzags on the collar, latticework below that and a row of dots at the bottom. The lower half of the body appears to be completely plain, which I think is very unusual for a Beaker vessel; I still wonder if it might be an unusual Grooved Ware type, as we do have some fairly fine fabrics among definite Grooved Ware material in the museums’ collection. I will suspend judgement on the issue, as I am not a Neolithic specialist by any stretch of the imagination!

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

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