Well, probably, given my general track record in this area, but we seem to be moving in a smooth and orderly fashion towards the end of the dig. Obviously, until every last bit of the site is excavated we won’t know if there are going to be any last-minute surprises to complicate our final week. However, we seem to be on top of all our paperwork, the weather is being remarkably benign (i.e. its not raining but the ground is damp enough for us to see soil colours) and everyone has worked tremendously hard.
We are already just finishing up in trench P, as Katie and Jack sample the ditch sediments. We will also be taking a soil column from the opposite section to look for fossil pollen tomorrow and then trench P will be completely excavated, recorded and sampled.
Unsurprisingly, given we only started digging it on Thursday last week, we are not anywhere near finishing trench Q. This is the trench we put in so we could see if the anomaly that runs around the hill on the magnetometer survey is actually part of the same prehistoric ditch we found in trench P. The hillwash and topsoil above any possible prehistoric features are particularly deep on this part of the hill but thanks to lots of hard work, we believe we have come down on to the top of another small ditch very similar to the one on the other side. It seems to be cut into the natural bedrock on the right of the photo and to extend just less than halfway across the base of the trench. We have had some worked stone and charcoal in this area, but not a great amount so far.
This is trench N, looking very like an illustration from a 1950s excavation manual on how to dig a pond barrow. We have left standing baulks of sediment between the quadrants of the large pit. This should allow us to draw two cross-sections through the deposits which fill the pit at right angles to each other. Once this is done and we have sampled these sediments we will then be able to complete the digging of this pit by removing the standing baulks. Although this pit is quite shallow we have also discovered two smaller, deeper pits at the northern edge.
Josh and George are filling out a context record to describe the sediment filling one of these pits, which you can see in the section behind Josh’s boots. We now realise that we have completely over-dug the other one, just visible behind Carol and Phil. This was a genuine archaeological feature, which probably was about as deep as the one being recorded now, but the natural subsoil which formed the base of the pit was so loose and damp that charcoal and worked stone kept falling into it. We therefore kept assuming that this loose stuff full of finds was still the fill of the pit and kept taking it out. In the end, the fact that there was no obvious difference between what we thought was the fill of the pit and the sediment which made up the sides and base made us see that we had gone down too far and we stopped.
This sort of thing happens all the time. It is an inevitable result of the fact that to find out if something is real or not you generally have to dig it. Sometimes you dig it and it’s not real and then you are left with a hole in the natural. It is a lovely cool damp hole, Mike found the wildlife of the day, another tiny toad, in it this morning. A toad, in the hole, do you see what we did there?