There is now slightly less than a month to go before we start our summer season of excavations. Many vehicles, most of our equipment and what seemed like hundreds of students went south this morning to the other big project UCLan is running this summer, the excavations at Oakington Anglo-Saxon cemetery just outside Cambridge. This has focussed my mind on making sure that we are ready to start at Whitewell on the 8th July. Hopefully it isn’t raining as hard in Cambridgeshire as it was here this dinnertime otherwise they are all going to get very wet putting up their tents. Once they start digging up Saxons, probably around dinnertime tomorrow, there will be regular updates from this project on their Twitter feed.
I have been carefully working out where the best place to put our trenches will be and how many I think we can realistically complete in four weeks. I have gone for four, which may or may not be over-optimistic. Two of these, trenches H and J, will hopefully give us a lot more detail on the New Laund Enclosure. Trench H should cover both one edge and the centre of the timber circle. I’m hoping for lots more evidence for Early Bronze Age ritual and burial at the centre of the enclosure here.
Trench J is based on Simon’s work tracing the line of the outer bank and ditch of the enclosure using GPS and resistivity survey (this is what the Technicolor overlay is on that part of the hill). I have set out a long trench covering all of his suggested locations for the line of this feature, all we have to do now is find it.
The other two trenches are away from the enclosure and are there to look at the wider landscape in prehistory. While we were working at Fairy Holes in April, Alex Whitlock from Pendle Heritage Centre Archaeology group found some Mesolithic stone tools and waste in the field above Fairy Holes wood. We are going to use trench K to look for more of this earlier prehistoric activity. Alex has also reminded me of a serious omission in my list of children’s historical fiction last week – Noggin the Nog. Apparently based on the Lewis chessmen, after illustrator Peter Firmin saw them on display in the British Museum, and boasting, in the Terry-Thomas-alike form of Nogbad the Bad, one of the all time great villains, how could I have forgotten the books and TV series? However, I digress…
On the other side of the hill, trench L is going to be an exploration of this doline (a vertical sinkhole in the limestone). Dolines are the one kind of natural limestone feature that we haven’t explored yet on the farm. Being vertical holes in the ground they are very good traps for any archaeological material (or careless people and animals). There is also a well-documented Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age tradition of using them as burial sites. They are also good places for preserving fossil pollen so we should get some more environmental data from this site too.
Of course, before we start all of this, we should really have finished off the stuff we started at Easter. At the very least we should make sure that the interim report is finished for the Fairy Holes cave before we dig any new holes. With this in mind I have also been working on that report today. I didn’t get that many words written but I do have a lovely overall plan of the three Fairy Holes caves and the location of our trenches to show for my efforts.