Friday, November 28, 2008

A Talk and a Nodule

I have just given a talk to a neighbouring Local History Group on the subject of Back Garden Archaeology. It went reasonably well considering it was touch and go whether I’d be able to do it due to a sore throat and loss of voice. My voice held out in the end. To give me strength on the day I told myself that I had volunteered to talk, it was on a topic that I enjoyed and that I wanted to do it.

There were questions and comments at the end that were encouraging. Someone asked if the stone of the pot-boilers was local and when I said it wasn’t they suggested that it had come from the coast because of its sea-tossed smoothness. Someone else suggested it could be more local than the coast and glacial in formation. All of which indicates a line of research if I can find an informative geologist somewhere.

There was some interest in the examples of slag that I had taken along. No one seemed to know if it should show signs of a metal reaction under a metal detector and anyway I had discovered that not all slag is the result of metal working anyway. So, what form of industry do the examples I have unearthed suggest? That is another line of inquiry.

I said during the talk that I had not found anything made of metal of any significance and that no worked flint had appeared. There is just one item that makes me reconsider this but I didn't mention it. It is a flint nodule of a very comfortable hand-shaped size (see the photos) that seems to be pock-marked with chips added to which it has a pointy side and a hemispherical side. I wonder whether it is natural or a tool of some kind. It is not that I am desperate to find a significant piece of flint but it would be nice considering how much has been tossed on the spoil heap.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Snails Are Back!

Just in case you can't see what this is - it's a snail shell.

I am 70 to 80cm down and shells like this have started to appear. I am encouraged to find them as they mean that the soil I am going through was on the surface at one time. Either the snails were part of infill or they got into the ditch as it was filling up. Judging by the nature of the soil it seems like the former. In previous digs I have seen the layers that have built up in the ditch as fine dark soil. What I am going through is very coarse with a lot of chalk and flint so it could be late Iron Age infill.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A New Start

After weeks of rainy days I have returned to my neglected dig. I decided to shore the sides up before continuing as they looked unsafe. That way I can leave things open over the winter if I can't get to the bottom before the weather closes in.

How do the professionals cope with adverse weather conditions?

I am just going into level 7. Compared with previous digs into the same ditch feature (only a foot or two away) I am finding fewer sherds of pottery and animal bones, so far, but I am prepared to be surprised.

I am beginning to think that the first test pit I sunk into this feature uncovered the area that was open longest and got filled up with the most Iron Age domestic waste (lots of animal bone, pottery, pot-boilers).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Unexpected Help

I am still continuing with my dig although I have been hindered by bad weather and other demands on my time. Recently, after a prolonged period of rain, I looked in the pit and saw that I'd had help! A hedgehog had wandered in and could not get out. Over a period of days it had scratched away at the sides in an attempt to escape. Luckily I managed to lift it out in time and initially it looked exhausted but when I started up the lawn mower to cut adjacent grass it uncurled and fled. I now leave a hedgehog escape ramp in the pit when I am rained off.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Latest Finds by Level

This photo gives some idea of what has been found in the latest dig so far. I've kept more than I normally would in order to show others what to look out for. Sometimes what looks like a piece of rock turns out to be pottery and vice versa.

The oldest, most interesting pottery sherds are on the far left. Later medieval and modern pieces are further over to the right in the pottery column.

I have been keeping natural geological specimens other than white chalk and smaller pieces of flint. Some of these are distinctive and not like anything I've found before. Which is why I need a geologist as well as a pottery expert to consult! In layer 5 I have just started to find pieces of what look like broken pot-boilers (see a previous post).

In the bottom left corner I have encircled 5 pieces of the late Iron Age pottery which started to emerge at level 4.

A Post Hole

I've got a post hole to excavate in this dig. This shows it carrying on down from the 40 cm level. It seems to be about 72 cms deep from the current ground surface. What I have removed seems to reveal just the hole created by the post. The hole to take the post was dug wider I think. Finds in the hole suggest a relatively recent date. Since this photo was taken and the hole has been widened I have found a piece of clear glass that looks fairly modern.

Removing the top surface of level 5 has revealed a change in soil type. I have come to a fairly poor soil, lacking in humus with a higher chalk content. At a guess I'd say that I am just going below the medieval cultivated surface. It is after this that things should get more interesting. We will see!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It always surprises me ...

I have just cleared level 4. I've said before that I always find at least one piece of Iron Age pottery at level 4. I was beginning to wonder whether I was right about that. I was washing my last tray of finds and amazingly the very last piece of pottery I washed turned out to be the same as the "local coarse ware" I've seen so many times before - an indication that I am travelling back in time and getting closer to the levels that contain evidence of the late Iron Age.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Digging Resumes for 2008

With the weather improving, at last, I have opened a new dig for 2008 measuring 1 by 1.5 metres and I have just cleared layers 1 and 2 - as quickly as possible.

I decided to put this pit in between Test Pit 2 and Trench 1 that I showed in the layout in a previous entry called Rock Bottom (dated 10/04/07). I realised that the incidence of domestic remains like pot boilers, bones and copious sherds of pottery had been falling off as I have progressed away from the test pit I dug in 2003. I am hoping that I will reveal more of that in this latest dig.

The photo above shows the positioning of the test pit in relation to the approximate sloping side of the Iron Age ditch feature I am digging into (shown as a red line). The other side of the ditch is out of shot on the other side of the fence on the left. I expect to dig into the deepest part of the ditch.