Thursday 8 August 2013: the hot weather returns

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Ivor Davies, Emma Winter, Frankie Saxton, Jan Turner, Julie Martin, Kit Carstairs, Molly Barron, Paul Browne (a.m. only), Rick Kelly, Sara Gee, Sid Rowe, Steve Warner, Thomas Burningham, Tony Driscoll, Tony Ireland

Weather: sunny, warm and dry; clouds to the north, moving south slowly, becoming overcast by about 10.35 and sunny again by 11.40, once the band of cloud had passed over; subsequently, light, wispy clouds and occasional thicker clouds

I have had to remind people about the hot weather policy because, although we are supposed only to get up to 24° C today, it is already this temperature on site. It will clearly get warmer during the course of the morning, although I doubt that it will reach 30° C.

I have split up yesterday’s teams for work today. This is partly to give people experience of different parts of the site (although one person is remaining in each area as a team leader to provide continuity) and partly to ensure that we have a good balance between experienced and inexperienced excavators. This was an issue yesterday, where there was an entire team of inexperienced people, which was unavoidable given the ratio of experienced to inexperienced. I hope that this doesn’t cause discontent.

Kit has found a piece of abraded Peterborough type Ware in (293), part of the material that makes up the bank. Further evidence for a Middle Neolithic date of initial construction: it will be interesting to see if there is anything diagnostic in the buried topsoil beneath the bank.

Everything is continuing smoothly on site and I am once again left feeling like a bit of a spare part! The outer ditch section, [289], is making good progress and I think that we will have it finished by the end of next week. Towards the end of yesterday, Sid found a piece of ceramic in (314), one of its fills, that looked like very abraded and poorly fired Roman pottery in an orange sandy fabric; it clearly can’t be and I wonder if it is a piece of daub. There was another odd bit of grey ceramic, which was very thin and only about the size of an Iron Age potin coin, from the same context.

As soon as the band of cloud passed overhead, the temperature dropped to 21° C, so my fear that we would need hourly breaks was unfounded.

Rick seems to have a small posthole cut partly through the chalk on the inner side of the inner ditch and partly through the principal deposit in the centre of the henge that overlies this chalk. It is nowhere near as big as the posthole excavated in 2011. Nearby, in (325), a patch of carbonised material that disappeared on trowelling, Steve has found a large piece of Peterborough type Ware with whipped cord maggot herringbone decoration and a cordon around the carination; it is perhaps Mortlake style. Unusually for local Peterborough type Ware, it is not heavily flint tempered; instead, it appears to have sand and small rounded quartz (although this assessment of what it does include was done without a hand lens, so caveat lector!). Intriguing: we now have a shelly fabric of Grooved Ware and a sandy fabric of Peterborough type Ware, not what one expects.

In the inner ditch, it has become evident that (313) is identical with (197), planned last year. This means that Jon and Paul can excavate up to the chalk edge, which gives us the northern lip of the ditch. It appears to be coming down on to a redder deposit, which is what extends to the southern edge of the ditch. We need to make better progress in this area.

In the eastern arm of the L-shaped section, Ivor and Jim are cleaning the area between where Frankie is working and where the hollows beneath (207) were investigated yesterday. It is unclear what is happening in this part of the section as it is very dust and appears quite complex.

At 12.15, we had to have a water break, as temperatures had reached 25° C around noon. This gives us a half hour session until lunch-time; as it was 26° C by the end of our water break, I suspect that we may well touch 27° C during the early afternoon, pushing us into half-hour work sessions, anyway.

We had indeed reached 27° C by the end of lunchtime, despite increasing cloud numbers. It had dropped back to 25° C by 2.15, so I decided that we ought to work until 2.30.

Emma has been dealing with (213), the very compacted chalk at the core of the henge bank. It is proving to be very thin, if hard. At least this means that it can come off rapidly. To the north-west, where Kit had removed (200), the less consolidated inner part of the bank, there was a stripe of chalk whose relationship to both (200) and the underlying pre-bank topsoil was unclear. He dug a narrow section across it and it turned out to be occupying a V-shaped trench cut through the relict topsoil; it appears to be the foundation of a pre-henge plank-built structure. This is VERY EXCITING! I was even lost for words for a few minutes. And Emma was worried that she was working on the most boring part of the henge…

The inner edge of the inner ditch is now almost completely exposed in the southern arm of the L-shaped section. It is cut through the chalk deposit  that forms an incomplete ring around the centre of the monument, (97); in one or two places, it has been overdug slightly and a soil deposit resembling those to the north is visible beneath it. Its outer edge is still not properly defined.

In the area east of the centre, the deposits seem to be resolving themselves and Frankie is going to do a sketch plan of what is visible. Intriguingly, one of the patches of burning, (306), seems to be underneath the main soily deposits; its relationship to the chalky deposits is not yet clear.

All in all, another good and exciting 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 8 August 2013, in Fieldwork. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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