Day three: Easter Sunday 31 March 2013
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keeley Hale, Chris Hobbs (a.m. only), Nigel Harper-Scott, Ivor Davies, Tony Driscoll, Jean Andrews, Mervyn Evans, Martin Jupp, Susana Suldana, Jim Skipper, Lindsay Duncan, Sylvia Duncan
Weather: dry, cloudy with occasional sunny spells, very cold east wind; one snow shower
Keeley and Chris are excavating deposit (287) in the base of the ditch, which is still producing fragments of animal bone (including a piece of jaw and a tooth that were not connected with the teeth Mervyn found yesterday – signs of animal scavenging?). The deposit does not appear to be very thick, as Keeley is coming down rapidly onto rubbly chalk that may be the weathered base of the ditch. Nigel is beginning a plan of the trench.
Sieving is producing very little material, as it was towards the end of yesterday. What has turned up so far appears to be mostly Romano-British, so I suspect that we are dealing with colluvium rather than ditch fills.
Keeley’s rubble is indeed the base of the ditch and it is significant that all the finds are sitting on it, covered by the silt of deposit (287), which is therefore the primary fill. On the base of the ditch was a lump of fired clay that Keeley and Chris were worried might be medieval brick, but it was daub. There is a second potential piece. Interestingly, none has turned up during the sieving, which raises the possibility that it is part of a structured deposit.
As sieving continues, there has been more Neolithic material turning up and less Roman. It seems that the spoil represents destroyed stratigraphy quite accurately: it’s a shame that there is no way of telling which parts derive from which ditch fills and which are from the colluvium. One possible way of sorting out at least some of the material will come in the summer, when we excavate the trench to hand dig across the outer ditch: if we create a separate spoil heap for the colluvium (which will be stripped by machine), we can establish the range of finds it contains and suggest by elimination which classes derive from the ditch fills.
Excavation of the ditch, , was finished by 2.30. Martin took over from Chris after he had to leave at 12.30, and he and Keeley worked into their lunch break to make good progress on excavation. The base of the ditch is flat and the outer side slopes more steeply than the inner, which also has a curious break of slope near the top. There seem to be no more than four or five fills visible in section, although it’s possible that more will be identifiable through excavation in plan. I have record photographs and Nigel has planned it. All that needs to be done now is for Keeley to draw the section and we can pack up.
All in all, this has been a very productive and informative spring excavation. Although the weather hasn’t been on our side (who could have predicted that we would still be in single figure temperatures and have snow at the very end of March?), people have really worked hard and enthusiastically at the sieving. I had feared that the cold would be offputting, but it hasn’t turned out that way. I’ll do a further update on my thoughts about what this short excavation has achieved on the new North Herts Museum blog.