Monday 2nd July was the first day of fieldwork for this season’s excavations on the Bowland Caves project. We are going to try and do two things over the next four weeks: examine the New Laund Enclosure and sample as many caves and rockshelters as we can using 1 metre square test excavations.
We were shown the bank and dtich of the New Laund enclosure last year by John Alpe. It survives on the eastern flank of New Laund Hill as a curved segment of ditch with, apparently, a low bank outside it. Olaf Bayer and Mike Birtles did an area of gradiometer survey over this part of the hill last year. A gradiometer is the machine that looks like a rugby goal that a surveyor wears, it measures minute variations in the earth’s magnetic field to detect buried features. The results of that survey showed not only the bank and ditch but also a semi-circular feature inside the enclosure.
We think the enclosure could be one of four things. The bank looks as if it is outside the ditch, which is typical of Late Neolithic henge monuments (for more about this kind of monument have a look at the paper by Tim Darvill and Julian Thomas on the reading list). However, it only seems to enclose part of the hill top – which may make it something more like the Iron Age enclosure at Gardom’s Edge in Derbyshire. According to the English Heritage research agenda document for North-West England a lot of the presumed Iron Age enclosures which have been radiocarbon dated in the region turn out to be early medieval (ie 5th to 9th centuries AD in date) so we have to bear in mind that it might be of that date too. Lastly there is a lot of post-medieval lime-working evidence in the area, including some big quarries and associated trackways. There seem to be some of these trackways overlying parts of the enclosure but there is always the possibility that what we are seeing as an earlier enclosure is actually just an early phase of this later activity.
To try and solve these problems we are digging two trenches. Trench C is 15×3 metres over the bank and ditch itself at the eastern end of the hill. Trench D is 8×8 metres and covers the area of a possible interanl feature showing on the gradiometer plot. Despite the appauling weather we managed to get the whole of trench C de-turfed today – thanks to sterling work by everyone else while I spent the day driving to and from to Preston to get all the equipment out to site. The turf is being laid out flat on tarpaulins to give the species rich grasses the best chance of surviving the disruption of excavation. I was worried that we would have a big job of watering this to keep it alive while we dug but so far no problems about this at all.
Wildlife of the day today. I saw two lapwings by the side of the road as I drove back to Preston but there was a curlew skimming around the hill and calling as it flew over trench C which I think gets the prize.