Thursday, 28 February 2013

Last Days

The last part of any dig can be taken up with checking the paperwork and going on 'pot search', digging out sectioned features for more diagnostic pottery. But for 'Uncle Albert' it was a rush to dig a last feature, which turned out to be a kiln:
The flue at the baulk and some burning were the clues. Easily missed by less experienced eyes. This changed the way the feature next to it was interpreted:
This is an important find for the site, as it shows that this settlement was also the location of pottery manufacture.

Our supervisor, 'Pistol Pete', also wanted to obtain some photos of the roundhouse. As we couldn't afford a helicopter we rigged up a camera on the level staff for some high-up shots:

Mine were not so good:
so I will ask for some copies and post them later.

All sites have to end and the team breaks up. In a big city unit one can usually see staff at another site sooner or later. In a rural setting, and staff who are on very short contracts, it is probable that I will never see some of this team again. 

I'm off digging in Taunton next week, for three days, and then I do not know when I will be digging again. I enjoyed this site and the team I worked with, but glad I no longer do it twelve months a year. The weather made this a tough one, but that comes with the job. I still look forward to another site, sooner or later, but now it is back to community work and teaching.  

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.17-18

Well, no treasure this time. But this grain/cess pit was last open 2,500 years ago and took me three days to dig it. The slot coming in from the right is the enclosure ditch cutting it. All the recording is done and we finish on Thursday.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

A Diggers Day 15-16

The last couple of working days have been  hard slog to get the cess pit dug. It has been made harder by the water turning the clay/mud into a slurry, thus I'm sinking faster than I can shovel! So, we had to think again. We decided to take out the other half of the pit and hope that I can then dig deeper and find the base of the pit before it becomes unworkable. It is generally the case that the best finds tend to be at the bottom of a hole/well. People chuck stuff in and then bury it.

To speed things up, as we only have 4 working days next week before we have to vacate the site, I had a younger digger do some of the hard work for me (what else are they for!):
 It was suggested by one of the texts we had to read at college, from the 1960s, that Borstal boys are a good resource to have on site for the heavy work. 'Loowee' here has never had his 'collar felt', as far as I know, but is just as good!

Next week I will finish off the feature. Will I find treasure at the bottom or just more bottom waste? Look in to find out.  

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.14

I have had a s**t day today - literally. That pit I mentioned yesterday I found to have a clay lining. This normally means that it may be a grain pit, such as this one:
Mine is dug into clay, but it would have functioned in the same way. The clay lining keeps out water and the cap keeps out air, so the grain produces carbon dioxide which kills any microscopic bugs and thus the grain goes into stasis ready for future use.

However, my clay lined pit had cess in the bottom:

The flints are in the fill of the enclosure ditch that cuts the pit.

So it could have been used to get rid of human waste. Although it may have been used for grain previously (one hopes it was this way around!). There was a lot of charcoal flecks mixed in. I took a sample so that the boffins may find out what our I/A farmers were eating 2,500 years ago. So my pit was more interesting than I first thought. The last time I dug a cess pit was in London and I found half a dozen of these:
These are called Albarellos and as the name suggests (the AL is arabic) they are from the middle east. They were imported into a London in the mid 1350s. No such luck in finding whole pots in my cess pit this time, although I did find this nice rim:

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A Diggers Day No. 12-13

Bill Putnam

Yesterday we had a visit from Bill Putnams wife Maureen. Bill and Maureen have made archaeology in Dorset a lifelong passion. I only met Bill a couple of time before his death, unfortunately, but it was great to see Maureen on our site. She recognised me when introduced, but only after lifting my woolly hat! So if you want to hold up a bank just wear a woolly hat and you will be unrecognisable.

We had a brilliant sunny day and the sight of several buzzards wheeling overhead. Although common in Dorset they are a magnificent to see.

Today I have been working on one of a number of pits on the site. Rather uninspiring and full of flint, but I found a nice pottery rim in it:

But it was not all fun... We had to clean the site hut, which had become covered in mud from top to bottom, as it is being returned on Thursday. This is the life of an archaeologist. At least we didn't leave the level out overnight this time...

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.11

This is now the final section across the primary and secondary ditches.The primary ditch ends here with the secondary coming in and cutting it further south.
So ends the second week. With the weather looking better for a few days we may be able to crack on and finish on time, the 28th.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.10

Yesterday was hell, today quite pleasant. What a change can happen in 24 hours with the weather in Britain. But the water took time to drain away and make the site easier to work:

I am working on the ditches further north and trying to answer a question. Did the primary ditch match the E/W direction of the secondary ditch or not? Digging at the point where it turns from E/W to N/S I have found that it does not:

As can be seen the primary ditch only runs N/S. I found it quite satisfying to have solved this little puzzle, set out 2,500 years ago. Why I/A people dug a straight and short ditch cannot be answered from this, but it is obvious that the secondary ditch followed the primary until it was then dug E/W to create the enclosure to the settlement.
This is the secondary ditch just as it turns south.

My colleague 'Uncle Albert' found this very nice fragment of pot today:
BBW example

Luckily our pottery expert was on site and identified it as Middle Iron Age. 'Huney' found a very fine, small fragment of rim:
Considering the conditions we have had to endure this could easily have been overlooked.
Keep digging guys.

We are hoping to have this type of weather for a few days, especially as we don't have to work this weekend!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.8-9

Most archaeologists will work in weather and conditions that many people would shy away from. But today, with driving rain and biting cold even we had to admit that it was best to just give up. With frozen fingers and feet we trugged back to the hut. But even here we are only marginally better off. We have to squeeze into a space fit for hamsters, with the floors and walls covered in mud, as we have no where to divest ourselves of wet and dirty outer clothes. Meanwhile, even before the building site workers have arrived, three huge huts are onsite, one being a canteen which has yet to be connected to the electric. Only in our last week will we be able to get decent facilities to share.

Meanwhile I have finished off the terminus and am now working on the area where the enclosure turns from E/W to N/S. It looks as if the primary ditch only exists on the N/S axis. Only digging will answer that question.

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.7

My day started with small swimming pools:
But in this case I had to empty them, and that took a bucket and sponge, bearing in mind that the temperature was c.2 degrees. My poor hands.

The rest of the day was taken up with digging the terminal to the enclosure ditch:
Just as we were packing up I came across another 'lug' piece of pottery. As you can see the ditch is quite visible, a dark fill surrounded by the orange clay. Over the rest of the site finds have been hard to come by.

One good event took place: the canteen has arrived. No more squeezing into the tiny hut, with at least two people having to stand. Hot soup for lunch tomorrow!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.6

Yesterday was no day for photos. Dank, dark, wet and very muddy, which makes every task twice as hard and long to do.

I finished off the second section through the enclosure ditch and established the primary terminus. Just two pieces of pottery this time and only small fragments at that. Next are two postholes that may be part of the whole structure - although two postholes do not a palisade make.

Covered from head to toe in clay, so took time to go through the paperwork, but the site hut is as muddy as the site itself! We are looking forward to the bigger canteen this coming week.

Some of the others are working today - and it is raining. They probably won't get much done in these conditions. We all hope that it dries up next week, but this is the west country after all. I spending a day off to wash all my things before returning to the fray tomorrow.  

Friday, 8 February 2013

A Diggers Day No. 4-5

Yesterday I finished off the section through the enclosure ditch:
This is a better picture, and as you can see there are lots of flint at the base of the secondary ditch cut. Archaeology is not all treasure, you know.

I then moved on to another section, this time to establish the butt-end of the primary ditch. The fill of the secondary ditch was richer in pot and this nice BBW base came up:

But better was to come. After taking more soil out I came across this:
This is a piece off the side of a pot which was hung over the fire, hence the 'lug' seen here in situ. It does look like someone has been buried with only their nose showing! This was post-ex:
This section of ditch yielded quite a few bags of pot, both BBW and a red ware that was quite poorly fired. A good haul:

The only down side at the moment is the small site hut. If the generator is not working I have to go for a pee in the dark. One has to trust to a good aim. However, we are due a site workers canteen next week - luxury! Hot lunches and fresh coffee too.

Working tomorrow, but on time and a half - hooray!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.3

A better day weather wise, but still very windy. As the rain/sleet/snow held off the ground is drying and easier to work, plus I am not several centimeters taller every time I come off site!

I have finished digging the section through the enclosure ditch and found this nice translucent flint:
Not a great pic but my hands were cold. It is very thin and has a nice cutting edge.

This is the section through the ditch, in very strong sunlight, so again not too good. I found that the ditch is in fact two; the first wider and then a second one cut through the middle of the earlier feature. A small posthole can be seen to the left.

We had two deer scamper across the next field today. Two young males with furry antlers. I wouldn't have seen that in London!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.2

When I moved to Dorset I was told that it never snowed here. Five out of six years it has snowed, and this year it has snowed again. On site today we had sleet, snow and blue sky's, all within a few minutes.

People used to say to me "archaeologists; you only work during the summer". This is how we have to work at in February:
But I had a consolation. I am working on the enclosure ditch and within a few strikes of a mattock I found this:

Some sherds of Black Burnished Ware (BBW). This is a slot through the ditch:

So, although the weather was changeable some nice bits of 2,000 year old pottery can brighten the day.

Monday, 4 February 2013

A Diggers Day No.1

It is a truth universally acknowledged that were you find a digger you find 3-4 people standing looking at it. 

I started at the site today, and a windy one it is. It myst have been blowing 50-60 miles per hour. As with most sites we had to wait for the digger to turn up, so we had a look at the work done so far. The site had been stripped previously and produced some standard features as can be seen on the map posted previously. So we had to remove the protective covering and soil first. Once we had uncovered the site we could begin to clean back by troweling.

This is one of the postholes of the roundhouse and luckily the fill is dark and the surrounding natural is a nice orange/yellow clay with flints. Nice and clear!

We found some unstrat pottery straight away. A nice base from a Romano-British small dish. Once we have cleaned back we can start to see what needs to be done.

Not a bad start and the view is quite good too!