June excavation dig diary

Day 5

Following Sunday’s dreadful weather, Monday started quite kindly! This would be our final day of activity, so the teams cracked on with small extra excavations in some key parts of the two pits whilst the post-ex team processed the outstanding finds that had dried overnight. There were a few new finds from the morning’s work, and a few trays’ worth of finds from Saturday and Sunday that hadn’t quite dried were left for onward transport, drying and processing in David’s garage!

By lunchtime the anticipated rain arrived on cue, along with 13 schoolchildren from Crockerton Primary school and their teacher and 2 parents.  Denise Wilding gave a talk  with a Powerpoint presentation on archaeology, supported by the two Davids, and after this the children paid a brief visit to the active excavations at the bottom of the cricket field. As the rain got heavier the whole party retreated to the village hall where Lou, Lorraine, Denise and David had prepared some sand trays with hidden ‘finds’ for them to discover.

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David Croot explaining the difference between Alice Holt greyware and Black Burnished ware.

Long discussions followed about the significance and interpretation of animal bones, teeth, pottery and coins. Of course we could not ignore the fact that the children’s school is located on Potters Hill, in a place called CROCK er TON (the place where pots were made). Were any of the pot sherds we have found made in Crockerton? Not a question we could answer! The children thoroughly enjoyed their visit and who knows, maybe some future archaeologists were amongst them!

The day was wrapped up by the teams finalizing the recording of the trenches and logging all the finds that have been processed to date and bagging the weighed finds.  The last job was to thoroughly clean the village hall and load the kit into the HE Landrover.

Tuesday would see the pits back-filled and the site tidied up by Chris the digger driver.

(Blog by David Croot)

Day 4

After a morning of clearing trenches 1 and 2, we welcomed the 7th Warminster Brownie Pack on site.  The Brownies’ visit followed on from a presentation David Croot gave to the pack in May, assisted by Lorraine and Lou.

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The Brownies get a first view of the excavation.

The Brownies started with a guided tour of the two trenches given by our own real-life archaeologist, Dr David Roberts.  This was followed by an opportunity for the Brownies to have a go at digging for themselves. Although they were unable to dig in the trenches, they had great fun digging in the spoil heap, once Rod had demonstrated that you really can find hidden treasure in the disregarded spoil!  The Brownies had a great time and soon began to be able to tell pottery and bone from flint and stone, with one Brownie even finding a wonderful piece of pottery with a thumb-print pattern below the rim.

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Great find!

Once they had gathered their finds, they took them to Ted and Denise where they were shown the techniques of cleaning finds and even had the opportunity to have a go themselves.

With the assistance of DAG, the Brownies now have enough experience and evidence to allow them to earn the Archaeology Badge, a new badge and the 7th Warminster Brownies will be the first pack in Wiltshire to earn it!

(Blog by Louise and Lorraine)

Day 3 

Ed and I finished removing the fill from part of the linear ditch in Trench 2 where yesterday we had found a couple of lovely glazed Medieval pottery sherds. We then completed our context sheets (oh joy), including using the Munsell chart to determine the colour of our ditch fill. Soooo many brownish hues to choose from!

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Our finds from Trench 2

The heavy rain held off until afternoon tea break (see, David Roberts is not such a slave driver). Good timing and today we were treated to brownies of a different kind, thanks to David and Lorraine’s daughter, which were delicious. 

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Drawing a section

At the end of each day’s digging, David asks for a ‘willing’ volunteer from each of the trenches to explain what has been happening in their trench that day. Luckily for me, I got this out of the way early on and did my turn yesterday, so I could relax! It is a great idea though to ask us diggers to give the trench tours as it encourages us to keep tabs on what is happening in our trench. There are always opportunities to discuss ideas with fellow diggers and the management! Our supervisors, Mike and Jonathan, together with David, are all good at asking us questions about the features we are digging and giving clear explanations as to their reasonings if they disagree with us!

It was another good day on site and I’m looking forward to finding something Roman tomorrow, hopefully…

(Blog by Sophie Hawke; images by Jane Hanbridge)

Day 2

Flaming June? What a joke!! Cold, torrential rain overnight and all morning followed by heavy downpours in the afternoon. Needless to say we cancelled all activities for the day on the basis of the weather forecast. I wonder if we will be excavating two swimming pools tomorrow!!?

Some may ask why the Deverill valley is so keen to keep its archaeological secrets (snow, unexploded ordnance, and now heavy rain in June!).

(Blog by David Croot)

Day 1

In warm sunshine, we unloaded kit from Historic England’s Land-Rover, stowing every mattock and finds-tray in the village hall on an immense tarpaulin kindly loaned by DAG volunteer Sarah.  In the corner of the field where we’re excavating, nettles stood as high as a proverbial elephant’s eye: fortunately, the tracks on Richard’s Kubota excavator can flatten anything, so no need for Chairman David to fetch his brush-cutter.

Richard had barely scraped off a single length of turf when animal bones and sherds of pottery began to appear: could we be on the right track, as geophys results had strongly suggested?  Once the Kubota was swinging its digging-bucket further up-slope, hard-hatted volunteers scampered onto the area already scraped, cleaning back the surface, and straightening its edges as far as crumbly top-soil would allow. Operations were closely supervised by Richard’s terrier, perched in the cab’s doorway.

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‘Historic’ David and the machine

Soon finds were mounting up in a tray, smartly context-numbered, and a lovely clear chalky surface lay before us: this is the cue for much peering and speculating about whether any clues as to possible features are yet revealed.

 

 

 

Meanwhile Richard was scraping off the surface for our second trench, a bit nearer to the village hall.  This caused Historic David (not to be confused with Chairman David) to become slightly excited and wave his arms:  “Look!  Here is clay – here is a bank – here is one edge of a ditch …”  The Kubota scrapes a bit more.  “And here is the other edge of the ditch!”  The word “possibly” was in there somewhere.  Several pairs of hands were moved into the new area to define the possible bank and generally clean back, in the process gleaning another tray of finds, including part of a vessel’s base – could be Black Burnished Ware, local Dorset pots that the Romans used in industrial quantities all the way from Poole to Hadrian’s Wall; “and the obligatory oyster shell” commented a neighbour from down the valley who had dropped by (having Roman remains in his own back garden, he’s seen a few oyster shells dug up).

As shadows lengthen, it is time for the ancient ritual ceremony of Unrolling The Orange Plastic Mesh; and so ends day 1.  “We have one day more than they have on Time Team” says one of the Davids.  But what does the weather have in store?  Tune in again for episode two.

 

 

 

(Blog and images by Matthew Tagney)

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