The site stripped
I made a quick visit to site this morning and it is looking impressive. Almost a third of the henge bank is exposed, with the activity deposits showing up in the centre as organic-rich soils, while the secondary inner ditch can now be seen in plan, at least for part of its circuit. The puzzling outer enclosure ditch has been exposed at the bottom of the slope and we have termini either side of an entrance. There is also a ditch belonging to the ring ditch east of the henge visible in the spur along the north-eastern edge of the trench.
There is clearly a lot of cleaning to do (it’s a huge area), but all thanks must go to Keeley Hale and Mick James for supervising what I understand to have been a very difficult topsoil strip. They have done a great job!
Hawthorn Hill Romano-British settlement
Friday 20 March 2009
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Pauline Gimson, Ken Bird, Alan Goodwin, Barbara Crombie, Tony Driscoll, Lorna Holding, Eileen Moxley, Chris Hobbs, Lorna Boyd-Bell, Tony Ireland, Mick James, Christl Squires, Nigel Harper-Scott, Ray Thorne
Weather: sunny and dry with occasional light clouds, becoming colder after about 3.15 pm.
We are operating in four separate gardens: three on Wheathill (nos 18, 24 and 33) and one on Wilbury Road (no 115), which gives us good spread around where Percy Westell identified the original site and where the assistant curator at Letchworth Museum (name?) dug trenches in 1956. Roman ceramics are turning up in the topsoil, so there is clearly going to be good evidence for the ancient site.
The most productive of the pits is that at 33 Wheathill, where there is a good mixture of Romano-British greywares, orange ware, possible amphora and samian. This suggests to me that this is the closest pit to the centre of the settlement, whatever for it took. In the other Wheathill trenches, the Roman material is much more worn; the is a nice fragment of lava, presumably from a quernstone, from number 24. At 115 Wilbury Road, there is a highly burnished sherd from what appears to be a small globular vessel, which looks rather Middle Iron Age at first sight: it will be interesting to see what it’s like after washing.
It’s fairly slow progress this morning, with everyone still in topsoil. I hope that by lunchtime, in 50 minutes or so, the topsoil will have been just about removed from all the trenches. On the other hand, it might be a lot deeper than I’m anticipating.
After lunch, the trench at 33 Wheathill seems to be coming down onto a new, stonier deposit. There are fewer finds at this depth (which is around 0.2 m. None of the trenches was out of topsoil/ploughsoil by the end of the day: although there are plenty of Romano-British finds, they don’t really tell us anything that we don’t already know. We need to find structural evidence, or at least surfaces, to help characterise the nature of the activity here.