Firstly, two catch ups from yesterday: the view along the path to the cross base, and a sadly out of focus shot of the medieval pottery.
Despite awful weather forecasts, site was workable until about 3.30, when we had to give up. We made loads of progress on planning in Trench 5, which will free up space for further excavation on Monday. Katie did really well to spot not just the wooden handle of a knife, but also the highly corroded and fragile blade. This was lifted as a block, and we’ll get Susannah, our conservator, to have a look at it. The process was a valuable opportunity to show everyone how to deal with fragile finds, and most of the students seemed to want to record the process. Perhaps they are thinking of their learning journals that have to be submitted in a couple of weeks.
Neil’s trench threw up a couple of surprises. As discussed yesterday, the ‘cultivated’ gravels gave way to clean gravel, seemingly deposited by water. This gave way to clay, and we assume these sequences are natural. However, in removing the gravel we discovered a possible feature in the section of the trench, which may be a ditch/pit. This will mean that we have to expand the trench on Monday to explore this feature further. Earlier in the day Dolores found a nice clay pipe bowl with a harp on it whilst finally removing the cultivated gravel.
This afternoon I worked on context recording with half of the students. In part this involves explaining why describing a soil as ‘brown mud with big stones in it’ isn’t appropriate, but ‘yellowish brown (10YR3/4) silty sand with c15% inclusions of sub-rounded pebbles (c. 5-10cm in max dimension) of local lithology’ is. We run this exercise every year – working through the standard soil descriptions, including the use of Munsell charts as standard colour references. It’s a really valuable learning opportunity for the students, although in an ideal world, one done in slightly better weather conditions.
It’s been a really productive week, in very varied weather, and we’re grateful to our students for their excellent attitude and high quality of work. We hope they have learnt something, perhaps even about archaeology. It must have been a good week – we even managed to get Neil smiling. Just don’t ask what he and Mark are doing with pliers and a peg.
PS: before any pedant goes to check, 10YR3/4 may not be yellowish brown. I don’t have a Munsell in front of me as I write this…