Day 16 – Wednesday 12th July

One of our small pools of rainwater – a little light sponging required!

Wednesday was a good day. Waking up and not hearing raindrops on the tent is always a good sign. We’d had rain overnight, which is a good thing. It waters the site and we don’t get wet while it does. There was just the small problem of a couple of small pools of water in low lying places. The rain cleaned the site of dust etc and it looked very nice, enough to bring a smile to Julian’s face! It was also the first day for the second group of Manchester students gaining fieldwork experience.

We’ve settled into a routine on site with this phase of the excavation seeing us taking out parts of the ditch in trench seven and removing the stones in trench six.

Trench six

A scale drawing from trench six.

The team in trench led by Nick has finished planning the features and have moved on the carefully removing the stones which formed the cairn over the mound material. An archaeological plan is a scale drawing of all we see in the ground. We draw a plan at a scale of 1:20, which means that for every 20cm on the ground we reduce that to 1cm of drawing. We use graph paper on a board and tape a drawing film called permatrace on top. There are a number of signs and symbols we use to indicate slopes or edges of pits or post holes for example, and once you get to know these it is fairly easy to read a plan. Most of the lines identify a slope and the small triangle indicates the direction of the slope. The longer line, the longer and more gentle the slope.  The picture here shows how good a plan can look!

Trench seven

In trench seven Julian and the team have continued revealing more of the ditch. Julian found that the area he was excavating contained what we call a re-cut. This means that at some point in the past when the ditch had filled up (either naturally or by human hand), and very likely in the Neolithic, someone had come along and dug a new ditch into the old ditch. This of course makes it much more tricky to excavate and draw. As the weather was good, plenty of progress was made and that too bought a smile to Julian’s face.

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In other news

Today saw a visit from Mike Allan who specialises in environmental archaeology. He will be taking samples from the site to examine them for pollen and other organic material which will tell us something of the vegetation around the top of Dorstone Hill in the past. He also specialises in snails. Snails and their shells which we find in excavation, can tell us about the vegetation in the past, as different species of snails prefer different habitats. Sadly here at Dorstone the soil is too acid to preserve snail shells, so we’ll be relying on other material for information on the environment here in the Neolithic.

Last, but by no means least, was the evening lecture by Nick. He drew a full house of both villagers and students for his talk on the work he and Irene, one of the project’s associate directors, are doing on Rock Crystal. It seems that the site of top of Dorstone Hill is, as far as we know, unique. There is nowhere in the country that has a Neolithic site with some much Rock Crystal! Nick and Irene are currently looking at ways of recording and analysing the finds and producing a report on their work. A generous round of applause was an apt reward for a really interesting talk! Thank you again Nick!

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