Geophysics Week 25 – 30 March

John Russell recounts an eventful week of geophysical survey, with some unexpected discoveries!

We’ve just completed an excellent – and varied – week of surveying in the Kingston end of the valley. Unlike our last geophys week, this one was completed in marvellous weather.

We started in Church Field, which for a field situated opposite the church is both aptly and cleverly named.  The original intention had been to spend most, if not all, of the week in this field but unfortunately it had recently been sown so we were only allowed two days of surveying. With the new timescale in mind, and under the expert guidance of Paul Durdin, we set to with gusto and soon the field was a blur of tape measures, bamboo poles and red pegs, all to the accompaniment of the steady bleep of the magnetometer. By the end of the day three ring features had been revealed by the mag, the largest being some 50m in diameter. The other two were very faint but one had been covered by the res, which showed a ring about 30m in diameter with the high resistance response inside the ring ditch suggesting it could be a barrow. We also made a number of surface finds from field walking, including some Samian ware shards, and parts of quern and wet stones.

Some Samian wear finds

Soon it was upsticks (well, bamboo poles) and we moved our effort to Seagram’s Field, a dauntingly huge field on the road to Maiden Bradley.  Excellent progress was made until agriculture struck again and we were told that the field would be drilled sometime during the day.  Keeping firmly in mind that it is farming rather than archaeology that puts food on our tables, we kept going until the tractor and drill were ready to start. Fortunately this wasn’t until the mid-afternoon, by which time we had achieved a solid amount of work.

On the following day surveying continued apace until there was an announcement of a munitions find. Initially this generated huge excitement – was it a ballista bolt in mint condition? Or a hoard of perfect flint arrow heads?  Or an Anglo-Saxon sword with gold inlay? Sadly it was none of these but rather a World War 2 2inch HE mortar bomb, probably dropped by the Deverill’s equivalent to Pte Pike.  All the correct procedures were followed and the next day the bomb was detonated by an Army EOD team.  Although the field suffered a small dent and we lost half a day of surveying effort, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we have removed a potential threat to the farm staff.  At Seagram’s Field our surveying has revealed various linear features scattered across the mag results, possibly parts of enclosures. The clearest feature though was in the southwest part of the field: a sharp rectangular enclosure with a double ditch on its eastern and northern sides. We surveyed this with both mag and res – the latter showed a smaller internal enclosure, along with suggestions of other features. The form of the rectangular enclosure suggests it is Roman. Surface finds in this field were few and far between: a few pottery shards and some small pieces of worked flint.

The Magnetometer

Although we didn’t conduct the surveying we intended, this was a successful week greatly helped by the wonderful weather. Our thanks to Paul for his patience and guidance, to David Stratton for allowing access to fields for survey, and well done in particular to Adrian and Matthew for their work with the mag.

Blog by John Russell.

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