Slip sliding away

It drizzled for most of the day today, except for a brief interlude at midday when it chucked it down for about 45 minutes. This made moving from cave to cave a very tricky task indeed. The hillside is steep and muddy and with all the rain the surface dissolved into something about the consistency of chocolate mousse. Everyone fell over, usually when carrying something which needed to be kept clean or dry or both.

Today was really our last chance to get all the recording and drawing of the archaeology completed. We will have to spend most of tomorrow filling in the holes and cleaning equipment. Very wet conditions and lots of recording are not a good combination. It is not so much the physical effects of the wet on what you are writing, 6H pencil on drawing film stays legible underwater and even black biro on paper is fairly robust, but the way that the rain gets in your brain and makes you stupid.

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Still, at least we had caves to hide in. I fled furthest from the rain, into the deep part of the cave at the end of Musson’s old excavation, where I was adding to the section drawing to show all the extra material uncovered by Tony and Carol yesterday. Once this was done, I took a column sample of soil through the undisturbed cave deposit so that Martina can hopefully get a sequence of preserved pollen. This is what the section of plastic gutter sticking to the section is for. I have pushed it into the sediment and then excavated around it to leave it standing proud. The next task was to ease my trowel in behind it and lever the sample off as a single block of soil. The gutter protects the soil and keeps it in its original orientation, notice it is usefully marked ‘this way up’. Once it is out of the ground it is wrapped up in many layers of tin foil, cling film and gaffer tape to keep it safe and moist.

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Sam was finishing off the drawings in both the east and west caves, so she had the most slopping about between sites to do. This is the east cave. You can see we have removed all of the darker brown upper fill. This has brought us down onto the top of a paler, more silty, layer which we haven’t had time to excavate. This cave also goes much deeper, behind the standing section, so there is the potential for more work here.

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The west cave is much smaller. It is really just an enlarged fissure. This photo shows how narrow the base is and also the three successive layers of fill. It is the middle, dark brown,  layer which contained most of the animal bone from this cave.

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Nikki and Scott spent all day drawing an 8 metre long cross-section through the excavated entrance to the main cave. This was the biggest drawing job of all. When I took this photograph, just as they were finishing, the rain had finally stopped.

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This meant that Pete was also finally able to photograph the area around the new cave. This shows the  limestone bedrock outside the cave. The entrance is under the moss-covered rock-face on the right.

Just as we got in the bus to come home the sun came out.

Rick

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