Sunday 25 August 2013: the last day on site

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keeley Hale, Chris Hobbs (morning only), Christl Squires, Emily Abrehart, Frankie Saxton, Ivor Davies, Jim Skipper, Lyall Watson, Martin Jupp, Nigel Harper-Scott, Paul Browne (from 11 a.m.) Phil Dean, Rick Kelly, Steve Foulds, Tony Driscoll

Weather: drizzling and misty to start, with lighter clouds by 11.30 and occasional sunny spells

We are spending this morning tying up loose ends. Emily and Jim are trying to remove the last of (29), which can now be seen to overlie the surface (355); (97) turns out to be on top of (29) and to have spilled partly down into the inner ditch from the hump it forms that can be seen in section on the north-western edge, where it overlies (355) as (29) does not extend this far in that direction. Steve and Nigel are finishing the excavation of the westernmost of the three pits in the entrance, [396]. Lyall and Ivor are drawing a profile across pit [318] after emptying the water that had collected inside it overnight. Phil and Martin are completing the excavation of the inner ditch, [406]. Chris and Rick are drawing the north-east facing section of outer ditch [289], having spent some time with Keeley, Ivor and Lyall baling out the water that had filled it to a depth of around 15 cm. Keeley and Frankie are wrestling (sometimes literally) with paperwork and plans.

I am beginning to wonder about the fills of these pits. They all appear to have been infilled deliberately with very rammed chalk in a sandy clay matrix, compressed so much that they have been very difficult to excavate. Given the way that all three pits have been filling with water after rain, they must have posed an inconvenience to the users of the henge; even once they were full with soil (assuming that they ever were), they would have presented horrible soggy puddles in wet weather. I suspect that their fills were created in an attempt to minimise the puddling in this area.

Everything is really coming together today. Excavation has been minimal and most people have been occupied with recording. The sections across the outer ditch were completed before lunchtime, although there is still a little bit of cleaning to be done in the earlier ditch that was cut by it, as I need to get a photograph specifically showing it. Paul has planned the hollows east of the centre of the henge (we have decided not to assign them context numbers as they appear to be worn hollows in the bedrock), Steve is planning pit [396] and work has begun on recording both east facing and west facing sections of inner ditch [406].

The sections across the inner ditch show very clearly the cutting back of the bank when the inner ditch was created, so the sections have been extended back into the bank area, with the west facing section going across into the pre-henge topsoils. We have sufficient data from different sections to create a composite section across the entire henge. This is amazing! My concerns about barrows and misinterpreting the site have all vanished and I am now quite clear about the sequence. If anything, the low bank formed by (97) turns the site into a pond barrow for its final phase… Does this imply a connection between formative henges, classic henges and pond barrows?

By lunchtime, Paul had finished recording, so after lunch, he started to lay the first strip of geotextile, beginning in the southern corner of the trench and working north-eastward, covering the house, [344]. As other people finished their work (Rick in the outer ditch, Emily and Jim on (29), Lyall on his section), they each started help with removing soil from the spoilheaps, barrowing it across the site and leaving small mounds to secure the geotextile whilst waiting for the mechanical digger to come and do the backfilling proper. As ever, there are unstratified finds turning up in the spoil.

We held a little ceremony at the cremation pit [390]. Frankie had brought in a piece of rose quartz and a bag to hold it, which was accompanied by a waterproof label with a bit of text I wrote about the circumstances of the excavation of this pit, which went into a waterproof bag. Although it all seems a bit New Age and hippyish, everyone on site came and stood round while Frankie deposited it. Should we record this as a gift for the ancestors?

The last recording to be done was the planning of ditch [406] by Paul, who has turned out to be the fastest and most accurate planner on site. He was a member of the first team to work on the uppermost deposits in the feature, so it seems entirely fitting that he should be the one to draw its post-excavation plan.

I’d like to record a massive thank you to everyone who has worked on site for the past our summers, in whatever capacity and at whatever level of experience and ability: it is your hard work that has made this project what it has become.

The end of an excavation is always an emotional moment, but this year is particularly so. We will not be returning to the henge in the foreseeable future and I will not be digging next year, for the first time since 1986. My time will be taken up with work on the new District Museum, due to open in March 2015, while it is up to members of Norton Community Archaeology Group to decide where they want to excavate next. They will have a hard time finding a site as wonderful as this one has been.

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

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