Day 14

It’s Bank Holiday Monday and after a bit of a dreary start, the sun comes out and all is well with the world. The public descend on us in droves with more than 330 visitors recorded as entering the marquee. This means that we sell loads of stuff, with even some of the hard-to-shift rulers leaving the tent. Dave B has the excellent idea of a “Back to School” promotion with all stationery needs fulfilled with Roman-themed product.

In the trenches, we continue on the road with more ruts appearing in the surface. This is all good but is delaying us getting down to prehistory (which is of course there). We’re going down in one area of the trench to give us a bit of a window on what’s going on in the lower reaches of the trench. This was where an auger hole showed a very deep feature with a possible incy wincy piece of prehistoric pot in it. The natural sand is very undulating and it seems increasingly likely that the road was constructed in an earlier hollow-way formed by repeated passage of traffic, which was then formalised in the Roman period. Certainly the lowest road surfaces seem much deeper than the natural sand on the south side of the trench. It’s going to be a nail-biting finish for Karen and Susanna from Time Team, who are nervously waiting to see if their programme is going to have an end. Will Godot come in the form of the Iron Age, or will Karen and Susanna be left as Time Team’s Vladimir and Estragon, perpetually waiting for an end to their torment? Watch this space. Susanna does a star turn on Chris Skinner’s Radio Norfolk show, which you can listen to here.

We start to prepare the lovely kiln in Trench 1 for its untimely destruction in the cause of archaeomagnetic sampling. The principle of this is based on the fact that the earth’s magnetic field changes all the time. When the kiln is fired all the iron particles in the clay of the kiln lining whizz around and align themselves with the earth’s magnetic field as it is at that particular moment in time. So you measure the magnetic orientation of the iron particles in your sample and compare it against the known history of the earth’s magnetic field (which we know over the last 3000-4000 years). The point where they match gives you your date. Easy peasy. The process involves sawing off a chunk of the hearth lining after recording its precise compass orientation. This orientation then has to be recreated under lab conditions, where the magnetic direction of the ancient particles is measured using some techy gizmos. It’s good for the late and post Roman period because the earth’s magnetic field goes mad at this point, producing very recognisable signals. This is handy because the same period is one for which radio carbon dating is often a bit rubbish, for reasons that need not detain us today.

Tomorrow we have Time Team in full effect with Tony Robinson etc. They are starting off with some helicopter shots in which we have been forbidden to wave or look up at the helicopter. So formation mooning is probably out of the question.

Bank Holiday visitors.

Dave B prepares the kiln for archaeomagnetic wizardry.

And have we found the remains of a colour coated jar, similar to the one found at Burgh Castle?

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