As Crocodile Dundee might have said if he were an archaeologist.
THAT’S a test pit.
Trench L continues to get deeper. The only problem we have is what precisely is it a test pit into. We started to dig here on the assumption that this hollow in the field was the top of a doline, a natural sinkhole into the limestone. However, there seemed to be evidence at the top of the shaft of some relatively recent digging in this area and yesterday we found the head of a kind of pick hammer along with quite a bit of charcoal about half way down the section. Tony has done some consulting with local mine historians and archaeologists on our behalf and we are wondering if the depression we are digging is actually an 18th or 19th century mining pit. Now the sections are clean and it is safely propped again we are going to have a bit of a confer about what precisely this is and what is the safest way of digging it.
We also have an answer to yesterday’s question of what was at the end of trench J. Despite the promising depth of deposit this is not a prehistoric rock-cut ditch but another natural fissure in the limestone. This is interesting (negative evidence is always interesting) because it means that we have no surviving evidence of the main enclosure ditch on the south side of the hill. There are two probable reasons for this. It may never have been there at all, for some reason the shape of the plateau may have been distinctive enough to mark it out without digging a ditch. Or it may have existed in the past but has been lost due to the erosion of the hillside since the Early Bronze Age.
This is our attempt to check if there was a ditch which has since fallen down the hill. At just one point along the length of trench J there was an area around 3 m wide where the bedrock was weathered in a noticeably different way than in the rest of the trench. We are wondering if this differential weathering marks the former base of the lost ditch. To check whether this is at all plausible we have opened a wider trench at this point which we are going to clean up and examine the surface of the bedrock over a larger area.
In trench H, the slightly damper conditions have allowed us to see a range of differences in the colour and texture of what we thought was all undisturbed subsoil. We had previously tried to dig these as if they were separate features but all that happened was we got very confused by how amorphous they were. We now think we have some quite large spreads of what archaeologists refer to as old ground surfaces. This is the mottled silver-grey deposit (context H14 if you hadn’t guessed) which Scott and Ella are removing in this photo. You can see how this is coming down onto a much more clayey yellow-orange layer beneath. The old land surface itself is full of charcoal flecks and there are finds including some nice chert flakes. It is also possible that there are slightly earlier features preserved under this old ground surface. Either an earlier phase of the timber circle or pits which pre-date the whole thing.
At about 4.00 this afternoon we just missed the most enormous thunderstorm which slid on past to pour down on Clitheroe. However, we did get 15 minutes of torrential rain (while my coat was in the barn, obviously), specifically so the third and fourth years could tell the second years all about how it was that wet all the time last year. By 4.20 it was blazing sunshine again, leaving us with very dramatic cloudscapes and a gently steaming site.