Day 17

It’s a Thursday, and a big day as today we start going into the road. We’ve removed all the features cutting into the surface and now we can actually start going into the first layer of surfacing. There is about a metre of successive road surfaces to take off, but we are hoping they can be removed relatively easily enabling us to get down to Boudica’s trackway underneath. Francesca shows the volunteers the fine art of mattocking into rock hard gravel and it lifts off quite easily onto something that is either another surface or the make-up level for the upper level.

Elsewhere in Trench 2 (the one with the road) we are coming down onto a series of complex intercutting pits. This is in some ways the sort of thing that we would expect to see here. Donald Atkinson found a lot of lovely pits at Caistor in the 1929-35 excavations and it seems that in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the residents of Caistor liked nothing better than going out of a morning and digging a big pit. Why they did this remains a mystery. Traditionally pits have been interpreted as storage or rubbish pits, or storage pits that were then used for rubbish. More recently the pendulum has swung towards seeing pits and their contents in more symbolic terms. Particularly in the Iron Age, people seem to have deliberately included certain things within the fills of pits and it seems that rather than being just rubbish the contents were carefully selected. Archaeologists, who are now aware that everyone knows that the word “ritual” is a euphemism for “can’t think of any other explanation”, have adopted the term “structured deposition” for this sort of behaviour, thus skillfully avoiding having to explain it.

In Trench 1, we have more features appearing, including something that (shock horror) looks remarkably similar to the roundish thing that we saw on the geophysics. For a feature that shows on geophysics to actually be located on the ground would be virtually unprecedented in archaeological history. The Trench 1 features are very difficult to see and don’t appear as tightly packed as those in the road trench, so hopefully we will be able to head downwards fairly rapidly.

In the church trench some other bits of structure appear, as well as an interesting jumble of bones apparently disturbed by the building of the buttress in 1811 (as we now know). There is one skull at present, but a large number of limbs (too many for everyday use).

We have our first day of Gwladys the Samian specialist, who comes in to pronounce on our Samian, which is mostly bits and pieces of 2nd-century stuff turning up in later contexts. She also brings cake. The Iron Age, however, remains conspicuous by its absence.

The road. One layer down, at least four to go.

Heather tells Ian why she is afraid of bananas.

A super cake made by Hazel M. Sadly it disappears in seconds.

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