Temporary Encampments

There is a lot written in archaeology and anthropology about the short-term settlements of Hunter-Gatherers and Nomadic pastoralists. Our own impact on the landscape has been steadily growing over the three weeks we have been working here. Like the prehistoric people who left the remains we are excavating, we now have a structured camp with regularly demarcated zones of activity. Thanks to John’s shopping trip to Argos we even have some ephemeral stake shelters to hide from the sun under.

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This was the view from the top of the hill yesterday afternoon, it was too hot to go up there again today. What is particularly interesting is that, despite the way we have spread out over the hillside, the dig site is hidden by the slope of the hill. Apart from trench Q, on the left of the picture, almost none of the dig area is visible as you walk up from the valley until you are almost upon it. Presumably the prehistoric habitation we are uncovering was similarly well hidden.

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Connie and Chelsea have finished drawing the cross-section through the deposits in their pit in trench M. Now they get the fun of digging out the rest of it.

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In trench N, the big feature is starting to make sense. It is a broad, but not particularly deep, pit which is filled with different layers of dumped material. All these layers have a lot of charcoal and stone tool making waste in them. Presumably they also once had quite a lot of other things in there which don’t survive. Our thinking at the moment about this is that it is the place where all the debris from each season of occupation on the site was cleared away and dumped. On the north side we have identified another smaller pit. Ashley is just cleaning it up in the photo while George interprets the evidence.

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We are just left with the recording to do on trench P. Katie and James have been drawing the long sections and are pausing to explain the process to passing visitors. They have been cleaning the sides of the trench again to do this and in the process have discovered traces of another posthole or small pit cut into the top of the ditch. That now makes three in this section. None of the posts would have been very big, but then the ditch wouldn’t have been very deep either. I think this probably means that we should think about this boundary or enclosure as something which persisted for a long time and was modified. It started out as a ditch cut into the limestone and later on was re-emphasised by having posts put up in it.

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Of course, all this would make much more sense if we could look at the enclosure boundary in more than one place. Therefore we started a new excavation, trench Q, yesterday. We only really have a week to deal with this in so it has to be small but hopefully perfectly formed and precisely located right on top of the enclosure ditch on the other side of the hill. Cat, Chris, Tom, Alex and James have been chopping through the topsoil and hillwash to try and get down onto the surface of the clay subsoil, which is where we expect the top of the ditch to show up.

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Don’t they seem to grow up fast nowadays. The fledglings that hatched last Saturday have turned from voracious perpetually open beaks to recognisable, if slightly grumpy looking, young swallows in less than a week. Big thanks to John for another round of excellent choc ices and Chris for a splendid supply of doughnuts.

Rick

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