Monday, June 25, 2007
I was lucky enough to be able to attend for free as the course was part of a Community Archaeology initiative. Instruction and supervision were outstanding. I have to admit that it was a surprise to find that digging was a minor part of the course with the emphasis being to learn about the methods employed on and off site to fully record what is uncovered. In hindsight I see the sense of that. Reading about archaeology had not prepared me for the rigorousness of the actual practice.
I have dual interests, one for my personal efforts and the other for initiatives within the wider area of the parish in association with a local history group. I need to mull it all over ......
I find myself mulling over the significance to me of single-context recording, the hand-drawing of contexts and the relevance of the matrix to my efforts in the back garden.
Hopefully I won't be mesmerised into inactivity .....
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The photo above shows the latest single piece from Test Pit 2. It was found at level 4, which is normally the case. It is a rim piece that I've scanned to show the colour and nature of the fabric with its white inclusions.
I've no doubt that the presence of this type of pottery represents late Iron Age settlement in the immediate vicinity. The presence of copious amounts of this type of pottery in a previous dig, below, alongside and above pottery from the Roman era, suggest a continuation of use of the coarse ware either side of Romanisation.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
The outside (convex) surface is slightly darker than the inside (concave) surface though not quite as much as this scan suggests. The fabric is the same orange colour all the way through. The inclusions are interesting:
They are of two types: very minute, dark brown, pebble-like and smooth (on the left above); again minute, quartz-like, white/translucent (on the right).
The inside has two, not quite parallel, lines about 1.5 cms apart. Evidence of a tool used for smoothing, perhaps?This piece was at level 1 (in the first 10 cms). I normally riddle the first two levels but I decided to trowel instead this time. I am glad I did!
I am quite excited about this piece for some reason!
Friday, April 20, 2007
What with that and catching up on assembling photographs and documentation from previous digs I have had my head down and I have not been able to open another test pit.
But I have got a location in the garden staked out ready. As it is further down the garden it means that it is more than likely to be in an area that has been continuously cultivated for centuries. I predict that I will find the same cross section of pottery but less of it. But I could be wrong. We will see.
More and more, the idea of community test-pitting as an organised event appeals to me, if only for the chance of being able to engage the necessary archaeological expertise. Having to go out and find that expertise as an individual is not easy.
I have tentatively started to ask others in the village if they would be willing to be involved by making a part of their garden available.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Low and behold, there is a paper by Carenza Lewis entitled, "Test pit excavation within occupied settlements in East Anglia in 2005" which "introduces a new project which is focussing on the archaeological investigation of medieval rural settlements that are still inhabited".
I am pleasantly surprised to see that a new (to me) acronym of CORS has been devised for "currently-occupied rural settlements". With CORS it would seem, test pits have become main stream and the verb "test pitting" has arrived.
The project described is tied in with the Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA - find out more here) thereby meeting twin archaeological and educational aims (and providing an archaeological workforce in the process).
The paper concludes, "In terms of archaeological results, it seems clear already that the HEFA model of test pit excavation within currently-occupied rural settlements can and does produce new and useful archaeological evidence".
How encouraging! Somehow I feel less confined to the periphery of archaeology. But it does make me want to catch up with the documentation of my test pitting!
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
... and I have decided that answering these questions is more important, at the moment, than finding the end or the continuation of the Iron Age ditch. Finding pottery (or anything else) provides a chance of obtaining dating evidence for continuous habitation on this plot of land. That could help with the nucleation question if not the one of replanning.
After I've documented the current dig and packaged the finds so that I can obtain expert advice on type and date, I plan to open a test pit at the bottom end of the garden in order to explore something completely different!
For anyone who hasn't read the earlier posts I was hoping to find the continuation of a ditch feature running into the garden from the boundary. The diagram below (not to scale) shows the location of previous digs, the possible direction of the ditch feature and the test pit I have been working on in 2007.
So, I have to conclude, at least, that the ditch doesn't run in a straight line. Tantalisingly the natural surface slopes off towards the edge of the test pit (on the boundary side). Does the ditch continue but not in a straight line? Or, perhaps it isn't a ditch at all. It could be a hole dug for some practical purpose like the acquisition of clay.
Watching Time Team prepares you for such set backs! I will have to regroup, consult the "Mick Aston" within and decide how to proceed.
In the meantime, the grass needs cutting!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
In looking through the reference books I have to hand (I have listed them in the sidebar) this sherd seems closest to a Stamford ware crucible judging by the shape of the rim (from the A. J. Mainman book). There is a deposit on the outside of the sherd that could result from use in extreme heat. But this is wild speculation!
Although I show the sherd in cross section I do not think I have got its inclination right. It probably sloped inwards on the actual vessel.
I will not attempt to guess at this one but it does have a distinctive rim shape (like the top part of the Times Roman number "1"). I am hopeful that this, with the colour and type of fabric, will enable an expert to give it a date.
My first stop for dating will be the regional Portable Antiquities Scheme. This time instead of taking along a few pieces at a time I will take everything from the one dig and leave it for identification (if they will have it!).
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Friday, April 6, 2007
Another expert who would be handy is a geologist. You get used to the common forms of naturally occuring rock (mostly chalk and flint here) and just toss them to oneside. But sometimes a piece stands out as unusual and just has to be kept. An example from the current dig is shown in the photograph. It is heavy for its size and it has a cubic, crystalline composition. I thought that it might be metallic but it doesn't give any reading under a metal detector. I am glad I kept it and I'd like to know more about it.
In the course of excavating the ditch feature I have found many cracked, formerly smooth, stones. They stood out as uncommon from the start i.e. you don't find many uncracked, smooth stones. As they accumulated it became clear that they were "pot boilers", stones that were heated up in a fire in order to be dropped into a liquid for cooking purposes although some experts say the main use was to roast things. Either way, the heating and cooling process caused them to crack and they must have been discarded. I could easily have ignored these stones and regretted it.
If it is unusual in any way, keep it!
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Consistent with other finds in previous years, they are two abraded pieces of calcite-gritted pottery with a black fabric. Both are shown in the accompanying photograph. One has a buff/orange outer surface but on the reverse it is identically coloured to the other. The "grit" can just be seen as white specks in the upper sherd.
Although this type of pottery is a hand-made variety typical of the late Iron Age period it is highly likely that it continued to be made during the centuries following Romanisation, especially in rural areas and amongst the agricultural population.
The fact that such pieces of pottery are excessively worn at level 4 suggests that they remained in the cultivated upper levels of the soil after being discarded. By comparison, pieces found at lower levels are particularly crisp having rested where they were thrown without disturbance.
In level 3 of the latest dig I found a number of partially green-glazed sherds in close proximity. I always check if similar pieces fit together. Although the breaks didn't match I realised that one piece which looked like part of a rim could actually be part of a lid. When I put it against a piece that was definitely a rim I concluded that they came from the same vessel!
I need to get the pairing checked and also have the type of pottery identified and dated but in the meantime I'm sure that I've found my first piece of a lid. Also, I've no doubt that the rim carried a lid as it is damaged on its upper surface consistent with constantly having something knocked against it.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
The main discovery in the ditch over the three completed digs has been copious pieces of "local coarse ware" pottery which has been dated by experts to the late Iron Age. Accompanying this has been a smaller quantity of Romano-British pottery.
The photo shows the new dig for 2007, in the foreground, in relation to the projected edge of the ditch (marked by orange tape). The test pit is approximately 6.5 metres from the last trench (3 m x 1m) dug in 2005.
The aim is to show whether or not the ditch feature continues further into the garden.
As of the date of this post I am clearing level 4. I referred to this in my previous post as "where the fun starts" because it is the level at which I have previously found signs of the Iron Age.
I have written about some of the previous digs on the village's local history website.
I moved the first 2 layers of the new dig (each 10 centimetres deep) with a shovel and riddled the soil. Thereafter I started trowelling.
Layer 4 is usually where the fun starts but I found some interesting pieces of pottery in layer 3 ...