Thursday 15 August: another busy day
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Frankie Saxton, Ashley Tierney, Bernie Matthews, Chris Hobbs, Emily Abrehart, Ivor Davies, Jan Turner, Judy Flack, Keeley Hale (pm only), Kit Carstairs, Laura Slack, Paul Browne, Paul Eland, Sara Gee, Sid Rowe, Steve Warner, Tony Driscoll, William Siddeley
Weather: overcast, gusty breeze but otherwise warm; heavy rain shower around 2.30 pm
We have another large team today, so work is continuing on all the areas we were targetting yesterday. Things are off to a good start: in the outer ditch section , Chris and William are working on (352?), which extends part of the way up the sides of the ditch; they have started removing these parts (which, in a couple of places, have unfortunately been left looking like steps) to find that the chalk edge of the ditch lies just a few millimetres below. In removing (293) on the outer edge of the bank, Ashley and Bernie have both fould lumps of daub, perhaps significantly close to the first structure. In the inner ditch, deposit (342), which overlies both its fills and the henge bank, has almost completely gone and it will be possible to return to excavating this section. Elsewhere, eveything is progressing well; Sid has found a piece of daub in the henge bank to the south, close to the second structure to be discovered.
Emma popped in to the site first thing, rather excited. She has got her A-Level grades and is off to the University of Reading to read Archaeology: congratulations! She was also pleased to have been named in the article in yesterday’s Advertiser as co-discoverer (with Kit) of the first of our Neolithic structures.
The sample buckets turned up… at the (former) First Garden City Heritage Museum! This was despite a postcode and street address that clearly refer to Letchworth Museum and despite the fact that the company has twice before delivered to the correct address. Oh well, at least we now have them.
The inner ditch section in the southern arm of the L-shaped section is getting sorted out. Deposit (342), the very late soil that covers the infilled ditch, was sealed by (358), the same loose chalk rubble as (196), recorded in 2012, that is clearly material derived from the henge bank. Whether it represents post-abandonment collapse or is a result of ploughing is currently impossible to say.
Chris has found the outer edge of the outer ditch and it’s almost vertical with a nearly flat base. This puts me very much in mind of the Stonehenge ditch and makes me realise that we under-dug the section, , dug at Easter: it is now evident that (286), which we wrote off as over-excavation by the machine into the natural was in fact an archaeological deposit.
We have a third structure, at the southern end of the L-shaped section, where Sid and Emily are digging. This feels a bit greedy! The first to be discovered is beginning to look more defined and I can persuade myself that I can see the whole thing. Each structure is beginning to look hexagonal (or similar) and only two or three metres in diameter. I am wondering if there was originally a complete ring of them, constructed where the henge bank was designed to be erected. They are puzzling and it will be interesting to find out if there is anything like it elsewhere.
Keeley has reached what appears to be pre-henge topsoil under deposit (355), which probably confirms that it is the same material as (207). This means that the entire centre of the henge was “paved” at some point (and it is clearly not a primary feature, as its deposition was later than the creation of the ash heap at the centre).
As we were packing up, Anne Teather and her husband, Andrew Chamberlain, turned up on site, after being delayed by motorway traffic. They seemed impressed by the site and its landscape.
I feel that everything is beginning to come together on the site. The story is not only coherent, it is also significant. We have a truly remarkable site that—this year, at least—has not failed to surprise and exceed our expectations. It really does feel like a privilege to be rediscovering this ancient place that was clearly of immense importance to uncounted people over many centuries.