Day 3 (15/09/04)

Practical Archaeology Course 2004: Day 3

15th September

The post holes contained large nodules of flint and worked flint cores put in as packing, and are thought to date from the IronThe post holes contained large nodules of flint and worked flint cores put in as packing, and are thought to date from the Iron
 

Trench One

The postholes in Trench One were excavated today. They contained large nodules of flint and worked flint cores put in as packing, and are thought to date from the Iron Age, though no positive dating evidence was found. The postholes are in 3 discrete areas, and were probably part of an enclosure or buildings, but the pattern of their distribution does not allow a more definitive interpretation at this stage.
 
Tree throws in Trench One are also being investigated today, but have so far yielded little evidence.
 

Trench Two

Work has begun on the ditch. Burnt flint, worked flint, animal bone and sherds of pottery have so far been found.Work has begun on the ditch. Burnt flint, worked flint, animal bone and sherds of pottery have so far been found.
 
Trench Two was the scene of much activity. Once the surveying grid had been set up, work began in the north-east corner of the trench in a quarry hollow. Quarried chalk would have been used for marling the land to render it less acidic, whitewashing buildings or as an ingredient for cob walling. The finds from the quarry hollow suggest that it was excavated during the Iron Age.
 
Work has begun on the ditch which showed up so clearly after the trench had been trowelled/cleaned yesterday. Burnt flint, worked flint, animal bone and sherds of pottery were found. The pottery will be examined by the Finds Department at Wessex Archaeology to try to establish a date, but it certainly looks as if this is possibly an Early Iron Age ditch.
 
Interestingly, there were large numbers of shells from land snails in some parts of the ditch, and these will help tell us more about the contemporary environment and landscape. This discovery was absolutely on-cue since today’s workshop was about paleo-environmental sampling!
 

Environmental Workshop

Dr Mike Allen from Wessex Archaeology demonstrates the sieving of soil samples as part of his talk to the students on environmental archaeologyDr Mike Allen from Wessex Archaeology demonstrates the sieving of soil samples as part of his talk to the students on environmental archaeology
 
Dr Mike Allen took students to Trench Three – dug into the colluvial (hill-wash) deposits down the slope from the main excavation site. Here he showed them how the snail shells are retrieved from soil samples by sieving. Snails are an extremely useful indicator of the landscape and its use because they occupy a restricted environmental niche: certain snail types are suited to specific environments, and unable to survive in others. From the types of snail found in a sample, it is possible to say whether the land was suitable for rich grazing, rough grassland, dense woodland or open woodland.
 
Dr Charley French, from Cambridge University, was an unexpected and very welcome visitor today. He is a geo-archaeologist, an expert on soils and the processes of soil formation. He has been conducting a large-scale project on the soils of this area. Students were interested to hear that the topsoil, now very thin, was once over 1m deep and has been eroded over 6 millennia of ploughing.