Thursday 18 July 2013: continuing to clean the site
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keeley Hale, Ashley Tierney, Bernie Matthews, Frances Bourne, Ivor Davies, Julie Martin, Kit Carstairs, Lindsay Duncan, Sylvia Duncan, Mick James, Paul Eland, Steve Foulds, Steve Warner, Tony Driscoll
Weather: hot (24° C at 10.00 am) and sunny; no cloud but a very slight haze
After yesterday’s heat, which forced us to finish early, the local radio forecast is that we will only get up to 27° C today, which, if true, would mean that we will get a whole day’s work in (dependant, of course, on how tiring working in the sun proves for people). With this holiday type weather, I think that flexibility is the key to avoiding heat exhaustion. Apparently the BBC has suggested temperatures in the low 30s, but this may apply only to the area west of London. Keeley and I will be monitoring the thermometer…
Before we started work, one of the buzzards that nests at Nortonbury flew over, obviously checking out what we are doing. At least it’s not a vulture. Last week, during the topsoil stripping, we had a visit from one of the red kites that nests by Church Field. It landed in the field on the opposite side of the footpath; they are much larger than I had imagined and perhaps as big as a buzzard.
There are a few interesting finds coming out of the initial scraping. Yesterday, Keeley spotted a rather nice (if damaged) horseshoe scraper in the colluvium over the outer ditch, there has been a sherd of possible Grooved Ware today and a coin that appears to be a penny of Victoria or an early twentieth-century monarch. This last came from the spoilheap, so it’s not exactly relevant to the henge!
The south-western branch of the inner ditch that showed so clearly during topsoil stripping is becoming visible, so once we have cleaned the site thoroughly, we will not only be able to plan it but also to target what appears to be its south-eastern terminal. This is where interesting things ought to be happening.
By morning tea-break at 11.00, the temperature was 26.5° C, so we will work for another hour until 12.15, when I suspect that it will have reached 27° C, meaning that a half hour work session will take us through to lunch at 1 o’clock. There is a slight breeze today, which is making it feel not so hot. These few degrees make all the difference.
Another piece of prehistoric pot has turned up, this time from the spoil heap. There is also a concentration of highly eroded animal bone from a deposit close to the entrance that may be in the terminal of the inner ditch. There are some quite large pieces, which appear to be from a cow sized animal. The bone is being left in situ so that we can examine this area properly when excavation begins in earnest. Tony has found another scraper, this time a thumbnail scraper.
Progress has been more rapid today and, assuming that we get a full day’s work in, the site ought to be completely cleaned by the end of the day, in which case we trowel tomorrow. I had feared that it might take three or more days, but as the weather is due to be cooler still over the next few days, I am confident that we’ll be excavating in earnest before the end of our first week. This is good progress.
By 12.30, it was almost 27° C, which means that the half hour will take us through to lunch-time. Nevertheless, the breeze is cooling and does make the heat more bearable than yesterday. I intend to stop work today one the shovel-scraping of the trench is complete. This will probably be around the middle of the afternoon. Although a lot of progress has been made on clearing a path around the top edge of the trench, I am less concerned that we get this finished today.
The henge is looking reasonable obvious, despite the dryness. The entrance is quite apparent and there is an interesting cluster of carbonised wood (with some fragments quite large) towards its northern edge. This is another area that will need proper targeting once excavation is under way. It’s good to be concentrating solely on the henge this time: although the Romano-British stuff we had last year was interesting in its own right (and important to the story of Baldock), it’s the Neolithic that is our reason for being here, so being able to focus on this is helping to answer the main research questions.