Saturday 3 August: more lithic artefacts

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Jim Skipper, Chris Hobbs, Emma Winter, Ivor Davies, Jacky Winter, Jon Goodwyn, Keeley Hale, Martin Jupp, Mervyn Evans, Nigel Harper-Scott, Paul Browne, Phil Dean, Priscilla Simmons, Sylvia Duncan, Thomas Burningham, Tony Driscoll

Weather: starting out sunny with occasional light cloud, becoming cloudier throughout the first hour but then returning to sunny spells by lunchtime; light cooling breeze but otherwise warm

We started almost straight away with the discovery of another scraper by Tom in in the inner ditch. This time, it was a horseshoe scraper, evidently used by a left-handed person (it had blunting along its left side rather than scraper retouch, suggesting that this edge would have been in contact with the skin); these types are more typically of third millennium BC date than yesterday’s end scraper. A little later, Chris discovered a side scraper on a flake in (207), the deposit in the entrance of the henge. This I am also happy to see as later fourth or earlier third millennium BC in date. Having said in previous years that the site produces only débitage, I am now eating my words: we have good evidence for artefact use as well as production and we were either unlucky or looking in the wrong places in previous years.

We have people working in all areas: two teams on the outer ditch section [289], continuing to remove (291) and exposing (311), a more rubbly deposit, to the north-east; a team continuing the extension of this sondage across the henge bank, currently removing a small patch of colluvium (35); a team on the inner ditch section, removing the last of (197) to expose the new (so far unnumbered) fill beneath; a team continuing to remove (207) in the entrance.

Mervyn has found a piece of shell tempered ware in (197) that has a deep groove in it, reminiscent of the horizontal decoration towards the top of Grooved Ware vessels. I haven’t previously seen this shelly fabric used for Grooved Ware (but I haven’t seen large quantities of Grooved Ware, I have to confess), so it is good to see that this material is a Late Neolithic type. I had worried that sherds we have found before might be Iron Age or Romano-British. I really ought to trust my own judgement more.

The entrance is beginning to look slightly more complex than I thought yesterday. The chalky deposit (207) is of very variable thickness and the underlying deposits (of which there are several) have an undulating surface. It is good to have found a lithic artefact among the chalk, as this area has otherwise been unproductive. Perhaps there are other artefacts lurking amongst the finds I have not seen.

There is not a great deal left to do on fill (291) in outer ditch section [289] as (311) beneath it is showing up in most areas now. This is similar to what was recorded in the machine cut section at Easter, which is encouraging as it suggests that we didn’t lose as much data as I feared we might have done by using a JCB to empty the ditch. There will have been some artefacts missed, although the sieving ought to have recovered a significant proportion of them, albeit in an unstratified way.

Mervyn, Jon and Tom have started on (313), the chalky fill that appears to underlie (197) in the top of the inner ditch section. It looks as if it may be a relatively superficial deposit, as it is not visible in section less than a metre to the north-west, where there is an machine overdug scoop.

The small patch of colluvium (35) in the extension to the sondage has now been removed. There was a considerable quantity of pea grit on the interface with (293) below, indicating that it was impermeable to worms. Visible in section in the sondage over the outer ditch, (293) appears to be quite a thick deposit (perhaps 100 mm or so), so its removal will probably take a day or two. It clearly overlies the henge bank (213) and presumably derives in part from it, as it contains a lot of chalk.

By the end of lunch, the temperature had risen to 23° C, which came as a bit of a surprise. It’s probably the breeze that is making it feel cooler. Although some of the clouds look rain bearing, we have had none of the threatened showers so far. The radar map of rain shows that it has been passing to our north and to our south as the bands make their way towards the east-north-east.

The lighter deposit beneath (207) in the entrance is very thin and has trowelled away in places, revealing that it sits immedately on top of the bedrock. This suggests that it is a pre-henge topsoil, drastically compressed beneath the material deposited in the entrance. I did wonder if (207) might have been deposited to make up the ground surface following erosion by traffic in and out of the monument, but this no longer looks likely (unless the thinness of the underlying soil is partly a result of erosion as well as compression). Coincidentally, the exposed patch of chalk bedrock lies exactly on the line where the inner ditch would have run had it been a complete ring rather than a horseshoe: this is part of the entrance causeway of the second phase, classic henge.

Excavation is now beginning on (311) in outer ditch section [289]. It has already produced a sherd of Peterborough type Ware, which is encouraging. There are also fragments of animal bone.

I am beginning to wonder if (293) is actually part of the bank rather than material that has tumbled from it. It is very compacted in most places and looks deliberately laid. There have been some fragments of highly mineralised bone from it.

Around 3.30, the rain that had been threatening finally arrived. We recorded the few remaining finds, packed away and were off site around 3.55.

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

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