Friday 19 July 2013: starting to do proper archaeology

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keeley Hale, Bernie Matthews, Chris Hobbs, Frances Bourne, Ivor Davies, Kit Carstairs, Lindsay Duncan, Sylvia Duncan, Mick James, Paul Browne, Paul Eland, Steve Foulds, Tony Driscoll

Weather: hot (26° C at 10 o’clock) and sunny with the merest hint of haze around the horizon

After yesterday’s heroic efforts to clear the site, which was done by the time it had reached 30° c, today we can start trowelling back in earnest. We need to give the site only a gentle scrape to be able to get it into a state ready for planning. Once one half has been cleaned, someone can do that plan, which means tht we won’t have the hold-ups that we have experienced in the past.

We were hoping to do 3D finds recording from today, but it turns out that the batteries on the EDM have not been charged (it’s brand new kit, unlike last year), so I will have to take it in to chrage fully this evening. Nevertheless, I think that we still ought to mark findspots for recording tomorrow: there isn’t a great deal of material turning up at the moment, which is fortunate.

The temperature was 28° C by noon and seems to have stabilised, so it is possible that we’ll get a complete day on site, which would be very good. The finds that are turning up include Peterborough Type Ware, Grooved Ware, lithics (only débitage so far today) and burnt sandstone. Interestingly, we seem to have bits of bedrock showing up, suggesting that the deposits in the centre of the monument aren’t as thick as I had originally thought, unless there is a hollow at is centre that contains a greater depth (which is the impression given by the posthole, that seems to have been cut through a depth of at least 0.25 m of archaeological deposits. There is also a patch of what may be an old ground surface beneath the bank, although this needs to be tested.

We seem to have reached a point where the heat is not too bad: there is an intermittent and occasionally strong breeze that is keeping the temperature between 28° and 30°, allowing work to continue into the afternoon. If people are happy to continue working – and they are – then I’m happy for the to do so.

Although it’s still very early in the project, we have complex archaeology showing up and the challenge will be to target areas that hold the highest potential to answer the research questions. The outer ditch clearly remains the top priority and by the end of tomorrow, it will be clean enough to plan and excavation can begin on it; I plan to start with two teams working from the centre out until we are so far down that there is only room for one team. The ditch fills did not appear to be artefact rich when we machined out the section at Easter, so I am hopeful that we will make rapid progress with its excavation. We also need to complete the excavation of the section through the inner ditch that was begun in 2011: it’s a real shame that we didn’t complete it last year. Those two areas aside, we ought to have a look at the structure of the bank and perhaps see if there is any evidence for activity on the site in the former ground surface beneath it. There is also the posthole, excavation of which began in 2010, which remains to be completed, as only a section through the post-pipe was ever completed.

We also need to investigate the area that appears to be bedrock: is that really what it is or might it be an area of rammed chalk? It certainly does appear to be at a higher level than any of the chalk bedrock elsewhere on site. There are clear plough ruts through it, so an examination of one of these might show if it is a skin on top of archaeological deposits. It will also be necessary to excavate a section through the entrance to see if we can pick up any of the possible postholes that show up as anomalies on the magnetometer survey. There is a patch of carbonised wood on one side of the gap in the bank that looks as if it may be the remains of a post.

By 2 o’clock, the temperature had reached over 30° C, so we decided to stop work for the day.

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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 19 July 2013, in Fieldwork, Stapleton's Field Dig 2013. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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