2005 Dig Diary Week 2

Day 1

Post-hole with chalk packingPost-hole with chalk packingAs excavation continues on site, our knowledge about who built it, how and when, is growing. Several of the post holes that have been excavated revealed post-pipes. These occur where, in the past, a wooden post has been removed from a post hole and the resulting void has filled up with soil. The picture on the left demonstrates this: the dark vertical band is the ‘ghost’ of the post that once stood within the posthole, the lighter soil to either side of the dark patch is the original chalk packing that would have been used to keep the wooden post in place.
Post-hole with flint packingPost-hole with flint packingChalk, however, is not the only type of prehistoric post packing to have been used on this site. This picture shows a postpit which was uncovered on site today. You can clearly see the large flint nodules which were used in the same way as the chalk, but probably to support a much larger wooden post. Hopefully further excavation will reveal more about the type of structures or buildings these posts would have formed part of.

Day 2

Iron Age potteryIron Age potteryThe most exciting discoveries of the day have been several sherds of pottery. Those shown in the picture are the first pieces of decorated pot uncovered this season. They show the two bands of decoration around what would have been a small bowl. The style of pottery is what is known as ‘All Cannings Cross’ which dates to the Early Iron Age. This confirms our belief that this site was created during the Early to Middle Iron Age (700-100 BC). Slowly but surely we are beginning to piece together the history of the site.

Day 3

Recording in the rain!Recording in the rain!Despite the rain, excavation and recording has continued. As wet weather makes the features more visible on the chalk, the numerous postholes are beginning to make sense. We have now established that there are at least three more four-post structures to add to the one found last year. These structures are commonly found on prehistoric settlement sites and are thought to have been grain stores. They would have been built as small square huts or sheds supported above ground by posts in order to keep out vermin.

Day 4

Jake explains about the kilnJake explains about the kilnRecording and excavating have continued on site, thankfully under kinder weather conditions. Jake Keene was operating his iron smelting kiln again today. While last week’s results were “quite good” this week’s were “not wonderfully successful”. As you can see from the picture, this smelt produced hardly any useable iron. Jake’s 98 experiments have shown that the consistent production of iron is very difficult. This is useful information in itself and demonstrates the skill of the Iron Age craftsmen.

Day 5

One of the four-post structuresOne of the four-post structuresThe post holes are starting to make sense as ancilliary structures. Two large post pits now appear to be the entrance to a roundhouse. This is just north of the roundhouse found last year. Further post-excavation work may well reveal more information. So thank you to all the participants for adding to our knowledge of the site.
Congratultions to all of the participants on week two of the course

Day 6

One of the final site photosOne of the final site photosAfter the course participants had left, the final stages of the excavation began. These included finishing off the recording and excavating of any archaeological features that were started during the course. Once this task is done, the archive is complete and the maximum amount of information has been extracted. As any course participant will tell you, archaeology is all about the archive since the paper record, together with any finds, is all that remains from an excavation. In fact many people have commented on the similarity between being an archaeologist and working in an office! There are countless registers, forms, records and indexes to be filled in, checked and cross-referenced. Then final photographs of the excavated site were taken.
Backfilling the archaeological featuresBackfilling the archaeological featuresLast of all, the task of backfilling, the cause of many an aching muscle. All the excavated features were refilled with soil. Those such as the ditch and quarry hollow, which may be continued next year, have been lined with a special fabric to help protect them, and to prevent any cross contamination from the soil of the back-fill.
Listen week two's Archaeocast to see what the participants really thought! (20 mins: mp3, 18.7Mb)