Friday 16 August 2013: our first wet day

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Frankie Saxton, Ashley Tierney, Chris Hobbs, Emily Abrehart, Ivor Davies, Kit Carstairs, Laura Slack, Paul Browne, Paul Eland, Phil Thomas, Rick Kelly, Sid Rowe, Tony Driscoll, William Siddely

Weather: overcast, constant mostly light rain until about 11.30; cool (allegedly 17° C at noon, although it feels much lower than this, presumably because there is a breeze; our mendacious thermometer is reading over 20° C, but I’m not taken in by its lies)

The wet weather didn’t put people off turning up and we have the full complement of people on site, which is good. We got off to a fairly late start as there was a bit of heavier rain first thing, but it became much lighter quite quickly. It has been good for seeing things on site, with all three structures showing up much more clearly than they have hitherto. With a slightly reduced team from yesterday and with Ivor moved on to finds recording, work on the eastern branch of the L-shaped section has been suspended temporarily.

Sid and Emily have been planning their structure (or, at least, the part of it that lies within the L-shaped section) and will be removing the fill of the foundation trench later. The structures are all beginning to look roughly oval (with straight lengths of trench to accommodate the plank walling), although Anne Teather did speculate yesterday that they might turn out to be D-shaped.

At last, the inner ditch in the L-shaped section is beginning to be sorted out. The rubble deposit has gone, so Paul and Rick can sort out removing the last bit of (342), where it overlies the bank. It would be good to be able to excavate to the bottom of the ditch here, but with only seven days remaining I am doubtful that we will achieve it.

Chris and William are making excellent progress on the outer ditch: both edges are now defined and it is interesting to note that the outer (north-west facing) face is much more highly weathered than the inner, which suggests that the chalk slumping on the inner face, (363), formed more rapidly than the slumping on the outer, (364). Neither of these slump deposits has been finds rich, with only a few scraps of bone between them, which will be crucial for dating (assuming that the fragments are large enough to test).

The inner chalk bank, (97), suddenly makes sense. Stonehenge Phase 1 (as defined by Mike Parker Pearson) has a bank both inside and outside the ditch, which set me thinking. Paul and Rick have found that the henge bank seems to have been cut back to create the inner ditch, at least at this point. The chalk removed from it then seems to have been piled up inside the newly cut inner ditch (presumably together with chalk from the base of the ditch), creating a double bank with the inner bank, (97) being only 30 cm or so high.

Because of the breeze, the site is drying rapidly. However, we are promised more wet weather tomorrow, so I’m hoping that we will get the decent visibility back tomorrow.

Today feels rather quiet, with fewer people than we have had for a couple of days. In some ways, it’s no bad thing, as it gives me a bit more time to think about the site and its stratigraphy (hence my solution for chalk bank (97)); at the same time, I worry about completing everything we need to do before 25 August, which absolutely has to be our last day.

The first structure to be discovered is beginning to look distinctly horseshoe-shaped. It is apparently open towards the east, exactly the same as the henge itself. This suggests that the two are conceptually linked and that it is not an accident that the structure was there and dismantled immediately before the bank was constructed. I’m tempted to use the R word and suggest a r*t**l function for it… I wouldn’t be a Real Archaeologist without ascribing this sort of function occasionally.

During the afternoon teabreak, around 3.10, it started to rain. It continued to rain and by 3.25, it had become a downpour. Water was cascading down the site into the outer ditch, which was two thirds filled with water by the time the rain had stopped at 3.40. Pit [319] was also full of water. We packed everything away once the rain had stopped, in blazing sunshine. We have learned, though, how water acts to clean the chalk of the inner ditch: tomorrow, we will learn how much sediment can form in the base following a downpour like today’s.


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 16 August 2013, in Fieldwork. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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