Saturday 11 August 2012

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Caoimhín Ó Coileáin, Arlene Walker, Claire Halley, David Sims, Frankie Saxton, Greg Ford, Hannah Blannin, Izzy Gray, Jean Andrews, John Byrne-Nash, Jon Goodwyn, Keeley Hale, Martin Coard, Martin Jupp, Nigel Harper-Scott, Pauline Gimson, Philip Dean, Rachael Mills, Roxanne Bowie, Tony Driscoll, Tony Ireland, Zoë Ní Coileáin

Weather: sunny with occasional light cloud, becoming cloudier as the morning progresses, warm but with a stiff and cooling breeze; distinctly hazy by the afternoon, but with fewer clouds

At the end of yesterday, another probable cremation burial was identified. Again, it was a deposit that had originally been identified as a posthole; interestingly, it forms a pair with the first cremation burial, flanking the probable entrance to the henge. We can therefore no longer postulate a four-post setting in the centre of the monument. Thankfully, the exhumation licence came through from the Ministry of Justice yesterday afternoon, so excavation of the burials can now take place. Rachel is dealing with one of them, which ought to be out by the end of the day. She will be removing it in 20 mm spits, with a photograph taken at the surface of each new spit. Jon is cleaning around the second (still only probable) burial. Depending on how much progress he makes during the morning, he will either remove the deposit this afternoon or excavation will have to wait until tomorrow.

In the section through the colluvium in the sondage area, Martin has come across a dense concentration of shattered flint. It’s in a deposit of Roman date and is clearly of some signifcance. Given that we have had flint cobbles from the enclosure ditch fills, I suspect that the flint was being used in a process carried out on the site rather than as rubble for building foundations, as I originally suspected of the stones from the ditch.

The inner ditch is coming down onto a single deposit that appears to be decayed chalk and I suspect that we are nearing the bottom. Whenever I worry that the monument might be a burial mound, I go to look at the ditch, which is clearly cut through the deposits either side of it. This cannot happen inside a burial mound. I really need to get over these ridiculous moments of self-doubt!

The western ditch terminal of the Romano-British enclosure ought to be completely emptied by the end of today. As the sections across the ditch are dinished, people can be moved on to excavating inside the henge. I particularly want to look as the deposits in what the geophysics suggests is the entrance, as it looks as if the activity deposits inside the henge spread out over a thin layer of chalk, raising the possibility that this entrance is a modification to the original plan. If that is the case, I am at a loss to suggest where the original entrance was located.

The first cremation burial proved to be shallow. It lay in a scoop in the ground, the edges of which were scorched by the heat of the ashes. How they were lifted from the site of the pyre into the pit in an age before the use of metal tools is not clear.

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

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