Wednesday 24 July 2013: the second week begins
On site: Keith Ftizpatrick-Matthews, Ashley Tierney, Amy Brown, Bernie Matthews, Christl Squires, Claire Briginshaw, Frances Bourne, Isobel Simmons, Frankie Saxton, Jan Turner, Jean Andrews, John Baskerville, Kit Carstairs, Mick James, Molly Barron, Muriel James, Phil Chainey, Priscilla Simmons, Sid Dring, Steve Warner, Tony Driscoll
Weather: overcast during the morning, turning to sunny with occasional clouds during the afternoon, warm, becoming hotter throughout the day, slight breeze
We are cleaning the last strip along the north-western side of the site that was left as a barrow run for emptying the inner ditch. This is currently occupying seven people and ought to be complete by morning tea break. Frankie is continuing the plan started by Keeley; the slight rain we’ve had in Letchworth Garden City hasn’t really helped to show up any extra details on site. We will need to start planning the other half of the site, too, but the challenge will be to do this with the minimum of disruption to the excavation. Excavation of the inner ditch is continuing, with the north-western edge being cleaned as (77) before the team attacks the remains of (255) in the bottom. I hope that we can have this complete this week. Ashley is working on (295), which is the burnt deposit underneath the chalk platform (88); it is distinguishable only from (94) by its more compact nature.
Once those cleaning the strip along the north-western edge of the site have finished, they can start work excavating henge deposits. I want to target the area around the entrance, a section through the bank the sample the underlying relict topsoil and an area around where the collection of disarticulated bone has turned up. I have been in touch with the Department of Justice and submitted an application for a new licence to exhume human bone, so we ought now to be covered in law to excavate it. No-one is concerned with the idea of dealing with human remains, so there are no issues with choosing a team for that area.
I have decided on a strategy for dealing with the majority of the henge: we will establish an L-shaped section running west from the entrance to the chalk platform (88), then turning south to cross the bank, taking in the last remaining bit of topsoil (199), to give us a complete section of what survives in the centre of the monument. In this way, we ought to get another look at the inner ditch. This should be enough to understand the sequence of construction and use of the henge and will be the principal focus (apart from the outer ditch section) for the next five weeks.
By lunchtime, the temperature had climbed to 28½° C, so we are on half-hour shifts until it drops (or, worse, reaches 30° C). The rain showers that were predicted to happen this afternoon now look exceedingly unlikely: the cloud cover of earlier in the day has given way to fluffy white clouds and long spells of sunshine.
Everyone is now working on excavating within the henge or outer ditch: there are four separate groups working in the L-shaped section, one in the inner ditch and two in the outer ditch. Frankie has started the second plan of the north-eastern half of the site. Progress this year has been amazing: it took us four weeks to reach this stage last year!
The area beneath chalk platform (88) is turning out to be complex and interesting. The chalk remains of (88) seem to be deeper at its corners, which perhaps shows how it was constructed and may indicate a concern with getting the corners right, which would suggest that the shape was important. The material underneath contains evidence for in situ burning, although it is not intense: there are no patches of heavily scorched soil. There is also animal bone and snail shell but no ceramics.
Now that we’re excavating the henge, the number of finds has increased hugely. There has been the inevitable Roman coin, from (291) in the outer ditch; it seems to be a third century type. To prevent a logjam for the recording team, we stopped work at 3.30 (it was very hot, anyway) to allow them to catch up without the diggers creating more finds.