Day 17 – Thursday 13th July

Thursday was another busy day on the hill. We had plenty to be getting on with in both trenches and lots of thinking to do about what we were finding. Thinking is one of the skills we use a lot as our understanding of a site can change very quickly. Read on . . .

Trench six

Nick and his team have finished planning the stones of the cairn structure and are now working on the next feature. Just to give you a brief re-cap on the story so far, the structure Nick and his team are working on sits close to the three long mounds excavated earlier. There isn’t a stratigraphic relationship between this structure and the middle and western mound, but there is with the eastern mound. By stratigraphic relationship, we mean that the layers or ‘contexts’ of each structure are physically touching. In this case there are layers of the eastern mound lie on top of some of this current structure so it much be the result of a more recent event.

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The story of this structure is looking to be a fairly complex one. As Nick explains it the first parts that appeared here were a ditch going around a rectangular structure, made of wood and daub. This was used for quite a long time before it was ‘de-commissioned’ and the ditch was partially filled in. In one section of the ditch there are deposits of cremated bone, suggesting that the dead were being treated differently. So far, there’s just a single discrete area of the ditch which was used for this, but there could be more. After this the whole area was covered with stones creating a large mound or cairn. The work is now focusing on what lies beneath the stones and to find the origins of the structure.

Trench seven

Part of the feature at the western end of the ditch – lots of burnt material appearing.

There have been some interesting developments in trench seven. We’ve been cleaning back in preparation for more photos of the ditch segments. As we’ve done so more elements or features have become clear. At the western end there appears to be a circular feature with a good deal of burnt material on it’s surface. It looks as if it has been cut or dug into the upper levels of the ditch, which of course means it was created later than the ditch. What we’re interested in is the relationship between it and the ditch in two directions, north-south and east-west. So there was some discussion as to how we might best tackle this. Usually we use a strategy call ‘half-section’ which means that the feature is divided in half (using high-tech nail and strings) and one half is then excavated. This shows us what the layers of the feature, such as a pit or a post hole, look like in profile. The second half is then excavated revealing more of the layers, and helping us see them in ‘plan’ from above. In this case, we divided it into four and are taking quadrants out in turn. A more complicated approach, but it will answer our questions.

Julian and the end of the ‘re-cut’ or later ditch

One thing that has become clearer is that all the segments of the ditch were re-dug at some point in prehistory. It seems that the ditch either filled in naturally over time or was deliberately filled in, and then a smaller ditch was dug into the top. Julian is very happy with progress on this front and has established that this more recent ditch is not as wide or as deep as the original ditch, and that more remains to  be discovered underneath this.

Now, as you’ll remember, Nick gave a talk on Rock Crystal on Wednesday night in the village hall. So what should we find on the site of Thursday? Why a quartz cobble with a facet of Rock Crystal clearly visible! It was found in the re-cut ditch and is therefore part of the later story. Nick of course was very happy.

In other news

Julian with Alison and Lisa from Historic England.

More visitors to site today, Adam Stanford returned to take some more photos with his drone, and we had two Historic England inspectors visit us to catch up with progress on the dig.

Thursday night is music quiz night! Everyone pays a pound entry fee and half the pot goes to the winners and half to the Dorstone Village Defibrillator Fund. In  another tight finish between the teams saw the winners emerge with a score of 27. The winners, who wish to remain anonymous graciously donated their winnings to the defibrillator fund!

Camp life isn’t all music quiz and trips to the pub, and students do try and do other things while they are staying in the countryside. Amelia, who is one of our star students and a whizz on the total station has also turned her hand to sketching scenes from the dig – here’s a sneaky look at one of them!


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