Dig Diary: Postscript

The bottom of the ditchThe bottom of the ditch Although the course may have finished, there was still some work to be completed. Over the weekend Martin Green continued the investigations, helped by his own team of researchers. They dug the primary chalk rubble from the ditch in Trench Two and finished excavating the remaining three quadrants of the quarry hollow. In the ditch they found a large beaker sherd (early Bronze Age) and an ox cranium. In the quarry hollow several more finds came to light: a second cow mandible, a small piece of clay daub and more fragments of burnt and worked flint.
 
PostholesPostholesOn Monday Martin and the team were helped by Trevor and Brian, two course participants from the first week. They recorded the ditch sections and the quarry hollow in Trench Two. In Trench One the postholes, sectioned during the course, were fully excavated in the hope of finding dating evidence. Unfortunately none was found.
 
Environmental samples were taken on Tuesday. A bulk sample was collected from the primary silts (material from the erosion of the natural chalk sides of ditch) to look for information about the landscape, land management and farming practices at the time when the ditch was newly dug. A monolith sample (a vertical tube of soil) was also extracted to analyse soils and pollen in detail and so give a picture of the development of the site over time. This will add to the information Martin already has from samples taken elsewhere on the site, and give a clearer picture of the contemporary Iron Age landscape.
 
Tool marksTool marksMeanwhile the lower sections of the ditch were excavated. Although no significant finds were uncovered, the bottom of the ditch was of considerable interest. There, in line with the direction of the ditch, were tool marks 80mm -100mm long which had been gouged into the chalk bedrock. Their rounded shape suggests they were made by antler picks. The sides of the ditch showed no such marks, possibly because they had been eroded away. It is also possible that it is because Iron Age ditch-diggers had made use of the natural cleavage planes, visible in the sides of the ditch, inserting their picks where the chalk was weakest, making it easier to dislodge.
 
Backfilling the siteBackfilling the site Wednesday was our last day on site. All the features that have been investigated over the last two weeks were back-filled by hand. First a geo-textile membrane (Terram) was placed in the bottom of all the deeper features so that any future excavators will be able to see where our investigations finished. So with recording done, and grid pegs in place to mark the extent of the excavation, the fieldwork on this year’s Practical Archaeology Course has drawn to its close. There remains the report to write, and when this is completed, and with Martin’s permission, it will be put on this web site to complete the story – from fieldwork to report.