After an unexpectedly long weekend break from digging because of the nasty rain, today’s outlook was pretty positive; The bad weather stayed away although it’s damage could be seen as it had caused the balk of one deep ditch cut to fall in. One trench and a couple of palisade slots were still full of water.
Today’s main tasks were to carry on with what we had been doing before the extra long weekend, which for most of group G include peeling back the layers that fill the ditch cuts and tracing the palisade. Trench AG, the largest trench, is looking pretty impressive as more and more parts of the ditch and palisade are excavated, making the features really stand out clearly. This is the main point of excavating bits along the length of the palisade as it is clearer in some places than others. This trench has turned up quite a few flint finds for anyone with keen enough eyesight. The barrow and the area beyond the wall are still a bit of a mystery but some good stuff has been being found there like the fabled stone ring in the barrow from Wilmott’s excavations and stones from the definite rectangular stone hut thingy beyond the wall.
Everyone’s getting pretty used to digging and everything it entails and knows what to expect, i.e, lots of stones, dirt that should not be referred to as ‘brown mud’, scattered showers and tea breaks with tea but no cups. Shame really that this is the last week. Sod’s law more interesting stuff and the good weather will all come out after we’ve gone.
It was the first day back on site since after the heavy rains the week before, whereupon excavation had been cancelled. Luckily due to nice summery weather over the weekend the site had dried up.
Across the wall from where the bulldozer tracks and Wilmot’s trench had been, works group J. Split into two groups for each of the trenches we dug. The one group spent the day learning how to record and draw and survey the trench and its features. The rest of group J, on the other hand, spent the day debauching the rampart and digging deeper into the palisade in trench AK. The morning was spent clearing off all the yellow soil and reaching a light grey soil which is believed to be the original rampart as well cleaning up the supposed sheep track. For the past few weeks we had been working around carefully so as to not destroy any of the archaeological features present in that little hill, so this morning when we finally got the chance to mattock the whole thing a few feet down, many of our faces bore gleeful expressions. When clearing the loose it became apparent that once more moles or some kind of animal had dug its way through the soil thus causing some cave-ins. The work paid off as one of our group members found what was believed to be a piece of Neolithic pottery (the first piece to be found on the other side of the wall). The Neolithic pottery did not remain the most interesting artefact of the day for long as a little while later another group member who was digging out the palisade found a piece of jet.
The finds continued after lunch; one of them being very unexpected yet very exciting. Whilst clearing up the loose and digging further into the palisade, pieces of flint and charcoal were found by both a student and our supervisor Kirk. These were not the first that we had found, but at the same time they were not a part of a large collection. This was not the end of the accumulation of finds however. In the first week a group member had dug a part in the tail of trench AK which came to be nicknamed “Bertha” and also “sexy pit” due to the intricate stains the peat and the mud had formed. Sadly, we had to dig deeper into the ground, thus destroying the patterning, but, it proved worthy when a large piece of dark brown pottery was found within it. Upon some closer inspection by Dominic Powesland based on the texture of the pottery (dark clay) and its location in the tail of the trench and stratigraphy it is thought to be an Iron Age pot. There is the possibility though that the tail of trench AK could be part of a burial, and thus the explanation for the deposition of a pot. A lot of care was made when digging it out using a smaller trowel and paint brush, but once it had been photographed numerous times for the 3D recording Dominic and the student broke the pottery on purpose so that it could be bagged and tagged. And thus ended our exciting day.
Trench AK, where we had worked, had not resulted in many finds over the past few weeks, however, with the artefacts discovered today, all the work and slaving about we had done previously, proved definitely worth it!
Whilst many of group F were digging out palisade slots, I was excavating the far ditch in the AG trench with members from another group. Firstly, we had to remove the bulldozed rampart. This brought us to a layer of peat, which signified we had reached the 60s turf line and everything from that point was undisturbed archaeology (however no finds as of yet!).
The initial idea was to clean the peat layer to be photographed, but unfortunately, some of us dug too far and we ended up exposing the layer beneath. This meant we had to remove the entire peat layer in order to prepare the next part for photographing, which we just about achieved by the end of the day.
Cleaning the ditch was frustrating, as after cleaning the bottom of the ditch, we noticed the section wasn’t straight and had to trowel the sides all over our clean area. However, it didn’t take long to clear it all out again after assigning some people to bucket emptying duty.
Despite some minor setbacks, overall it was a productive day of excavation.
After Tuesday’s development in our trench, we were looking forward to discover what may lie under the previously excavated soil. Our surprise wasn’t small on Thursday morning when we arrived at Boltby Scar to be informed by Prof Powlesland that the entire sight had been flooded by rainfall during Wednesday and Thursday night, making excavation for the today and tomorrow unfeasible.
Thanks to some quick thinking of the supervisors it was decided that all groups were to be deposited at the North York Moors National Park Centre. There each Group took turns in being instructed in four “Skill areas”.
The first one was the explanation of drawing plans and sections of sites according to drawing conventions. By knowing how to signify elevation, depth, changes in stratigraphy and not least the north – south positioning of a ditch or trench, we can avoid the unnecessary aggravation of having to throw away the drawing because the position of the trench in the drawing can’t be determined.
The second one was how to accurately describe the colour, texture, density and other properties of the soil, for the archaeological record. This is important in gathering data and being able, as in first “discipline” to avoid confusion for later evaluation. The evaluation might first take place weeks or months after the excavation, when the people who noted it up have long forgotten about it.
The third one was, being instructed in not only recognising Neolithic flint but also what kind of pottery to look for. We got to see a select range of Neolithic axe heads, flint tools, a jet bead and a piece of Neolithic pottery.
The last one was the finer points of using a Leica TPS1200 total station for archaeological surveying.
This useful and expensive piece of equipment helps us determining the position of finds through GPS. Finds can thus be plotted in the computer to gain a more complete picture of the distribution of finds. Which might give us a clue of what had happened on Boltby during prehistoric times?
Blog Entry Group G
On arriving at Boltby Scar, after our Wednesday off, we were told no excavation were to take place because of the heavy rain in the area. Much to our disappointment we learned that the trenches around the site were waterlogged and any work that would have taken place would have been counter productive. Mud may have been trodden onto clean sections and using our trowels would have been very difficult indeed. It was decided that the best course of action was to leave the site alone until it had drained.
Once it has dried we plan to continue our work, and clean any trenches that need attention.
Instead of excavating we travelled to the nearby visitors centre to refine and learn recording skills that will be essential for our work at Boltby in the coming week. Because we have done a lot of digging, there will be a lot of recording to do also! Throughout the day we were taught a variety of skills including section drawing, plan drawing, artefact analysis, filling in records sheets and the use of a theodolite. Some of these archaeological practices we had already read about or even performed, but others were brand new to us.
Despite the rain our day was not at all wasted, we learned a lot and are now all very keen to draw plans and sections diagrams next week on site.
I’m sure our enthusiasm would have quickly faded had we been allowed to crouch in a trench filled with a foot of water, and I think we now all feel far better prepared to tackle archaeological recording. We are excited to get back on site again and get back to work!
Just a reminder that Professor Dominic Powlesland is giving a talk on excavations past and very present tonight.
It takes place at Sutton Bank National Park Centre at 7pm.
To book a FREE place call 01439 772738.
See you there!
After being split into two groups at the end of the previous week, we set about working on two different trenches. Four of us began work on excavating what had previously been regarded as a long barrow; however suspicions arose that it was in fact post medieval, due to the strange marks it made on the earth, visible through aerial photography and on the ground. It resembled more of a rectangular structure than a prehistoric long barrow. Group J was assigned to excavate a corner of this strange feature, and on Monday, after it had been de-turfed, we began to mattock away the rocks that made up the mounds. The rocks that were removed were not the kind of material one expects to find in a long barrow, so the hypothesis as to the purpose of the feature had to be adjusted, and a post-medieval structure seemed more likely.
Tuesday involved removing the last of the rocks present in our trench, and in the process we uncovered one or two small flints. After clearing the trench of rubble, we began to clean, and discovered a layer of grey clay which indicates the presence of iron. We also found what we believe to be the remains of the turf layer in the stratigraphy, which would indicate that whatever was built upon the ground was done so directly on top of the turf, which may be evidence that it was once a dry-stone wall, possibly as part of a larger structure. However, at the end of Tuesday we are still unclear as to the purpose of the structure (if it even was one), and it has been suggested to make a cut into the trench to uncover anything we may have missed deeper down in the stratigraphy. So, while we may have disproved a 100 year old theory as to the type of feature present, we are yet to gain enough evidence ourselves.