Another sunny day: Friday 10 August 2012

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Aimee Crossland, Arlene Walker, Ashley Tierney, Bernie Matthews, Claire Halley, Eden Walker, Frankie Saxton, Hannah Blannin, Isobel Simmons, Ivor Davies, Jan Turner, Jim Skipper, John Byrne-Nash, Jon Goodwyn, Keeley Hale, Kit Carstairs, Miriam Fraser, Nigel Harper-Scott, Norman Norrington, Philip Dean, Priscilla Simmons, Rachael Mills, Shona Nash, Sid Rowe, Tony Driscoll, Tony Ireland, William Hurry

Weather: sunny (indeed, cloudless), dry and hot (20° at 10 o’clock and getting steadily warmer); clouding over slightly during the morning (around 15% cloud by midday)

Another day where digging will be difficult because of the heat and the dryness. The site is difficult to trowel and I am concerned about the effects of the sun (sunburn and dehydration to name but two). I am still waiting to hear from the Ministry of Justice about the exhumation licence, so we can’t begin work on excavating the cremation burial. Caoimhín noticed that someone had moved the soil-filled bag covering it while we were off site; I hope that it wasn’t someone who was on site yesterday coming back for a sneaky peep at it, as I made it quite clear that everyone is to treat the human remains with respect and not as something to gawp at.

There has been some over-digging in the central section of the outer enclosure ditch, which I ought to have picked up earlier. The section shows that three separate deposits have been taken out as one, creating a pseudo-recut in the ditch: it is clear that what was taken out as the fill of the recut consisted of parts of three deposits that occupied the full width of the cut. Having the three-dimensional finds data means that we will be able to assign them to their correct deposits during post-excavation.

Tony is cleaning around the chalk “platform” in the centre of the site. It is clearly associated with burning and its surface also looks burnt. I wonder if it may have been the site of the pyre on which the cremation of the child took place. Unfortunately, we have lost the ground surface from which the burial was dug, so we can’t connect the two stratigraphically; if we can get radiocarbon dates, this may enable us to determine whether or not they are contemporary.

The henge is now completely surveyed, so we have an accurate, georeferenced plan of the monument. I will need to do a rapid walkover to assess the stratigraphic relationships of the various deposits and features to each other. In most cases, I think that it the relationships are fairly obvious, at least at a basic level. We then need to ensure that each context sheet is completed. That done, we will be able to excavate any element of the monument we choose (at last!).

There are certain priorities within the henge. I want to assess a sample of (199), the material that appears to consist of plouged-out henge bank chalk in a ploughsoil matrix. This could give us a date for the ploughing down of the banks or, at least, a terminus post quem for the last ploughing to damage them. If the ploughing began in the early medieval period, though, I doubt that we will be able to date from artefacts.

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

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