Forty two

Which is of course the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. There is exactly a week left of this year’s dig. This means it is time to think about the answers we have so far. It is also time to plot what exactly we need to do to finish everything on time.

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Jas and Chris demonstrate one useful strategy on trench K, get stuck in with a mattock and shovel. The Rick Parfitt stance is an essential part of using a mattock successfully. The layer they are digging down onto here is another colour change in the natural sub-soil. Despite all the chert and flint tools that have come from this area there are no prehistoric features showing within the trench yet.

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Looking at the wider location of the trench you can see how the whole of this part of the hill is sheltered behind a low ridge (towards the top of the photo). Just beyond this ridge there is a spring. The whole area seems ideally suited for either a Mesolithic temporary hunting camp or indeed a later settlement. We get our turn on the gradiometer again next week, so we are going to lay out some survey grids covering the whole of this area. This should allow us to detect both pits and hearths associated with all these worked stone tools in the area beyond the trench.

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Up in trench J we have been trying to prove the existence of a vanished ditch. We thought that the bedrock is this area was significantly more weathered than in the rest of the trench and we hypothesised (i.e. guessed) that this might be because it had been exposed in the base of a prehistoric ditch. We weren’t very confident about this only being based on a 1 metre wide section of ditch so we extended the trench in this area and cleaned up some more bedrock. It may be the hallucinogenic properties of  repeatedly cleaning stones but we think we can still see a difference here. So, the answer in trench J is that yes, there was a ditch around this side of the hill once. However, it fell down the hill at some point in the Bronze Age, leaving just the differential weathering of the base to mark its position.

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More superhuman burrowing on trench L has taken them 2.3 metres down. More importantly the sequence here has started to become a bit clearer. This is not the best photo I have ever taken but, even with all the shadows, props and boards in the way, it is possible to see the main elements of the sequence. Reading from the top, first we have topsoil and rubble which has slumped into the depression at the top of the feature. Beneath that is a mixed orange-brown subsoil. This is the layer that the 19th century hammer came from and it too has slumped into a feature. At the base of this layer you can see a thick layer of charcoal. This seems to mark the edge of a hole that was dug into the top of this shaft in the relatively recent past, probably in search of limestone for walling or lime burning. Beneath this is a very clean brown silt. We think that this silt is the natural fill which has accumulated in a doline over many years.

This is excellent news as the later mining doesn’t extend over the whole trench and so we have at least one section with almost 2 metres of undisturbed deposit to sample for pollen. We are going to keep on digging this layer as deep as we can to extend the sequence as far back in time as possible.

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Two related exciting developments on trench H. Here you can see Scott and Alima continuing to dig off the layer of old ground surface we identified yesterday. This proved to have been covering a deeper feature which seems to run from just under Mike’s boots to somewhere around the large rectangular rock on the left of the photo. You can just see the contrast between the lighter fill and the slightly darker yellow clay of the natural sub-soil above and below it.

The rectangular rock is also important because all morning we have been finding small waste flakes of chert scattered around it in the fill. It is as if someone sat down on the rock, just inside the entrance to the timber circle, and worked a piece of chert into a tool. Once all these flakes are clean we will check if it is possible that they all came from a single block of chert.

Wildlife of the day. White mice, obviously.

Rick

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