Today we experienced our first rain of this year’s dig but unfortunately apart from lowering the temperature it did little or nothing to alleviate the difficult digging conditions.
A surprise but welcome visitor to the site was a gentlemen who took part in Miss Mottram’s excavation of the temple in the mid 1950’s. His recollections and any written material from that time will be a great addition to the evolving story of Caistor.
Today we were treated to an event hitherto not seen during the life of the Caistor Roman Project, although he begs to differ. I refer of course to the sight of Martin and a drawing board in the same frame, as proven by the image below. Of course his GCE in Technical Drawing was so long ago he is probably having difficulty working out which way up to hold the pencil.
Joking aside much of the last couple of days has been taken up with drawing and its been great that the likes of Linda, Val and Martin have been prepared to take on the challenge. They may have had a gentle nudge or two from Rhiane but it is the only way that we can spread the load a little wider and ensure that the same one or two individuals don’t end up being saddled with all of the drawing.
The image below is a view of the site from the North.
Excavation conditions remain extremely challenging with searing temperatures and baked earth to contend with. The highlight of the day has been a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) survey of the part of the ancillary building lying outside the excavation area. This was kindly conducted by Tim Dennis a colleague of Geoff’s. Once the data has been analysed it should provide crucial information on the depth of the building walls, in particular. This in turn will help inform our excavation strategy in the ancillary building. Given the extremely taxing digging conditions, allied to the limited time available, it is clearly imperative that we make the most of the time available to us.
GPR Survey in progress
Hats off to everyone on site today. In temperatures pushing beyond 25 degrees celsius the teams have made steady progress in all three trenches. To date the ditch trench is producing the most pottery in terms of quantity and variety with a small selection of pre-Roman sherds and some decorated samian.
Trench 1 over the ancillary building is now showing a good length of wall in all its glory with intriguingly a couple of very large pilae tiles at the western limit of the trench. The purpose of these has yet to be established.
Wall and spread of building material showing nicely in Trench 1
The potential post holes in Trench 2 showed up well following a quick application of water from the killaspray. The plough scarring also shows up well after spraying.
Clinicians in Norfolk will be reporting abnormal levels of RSI in the near future and will be pondering on the casual factors, until enlightened by patients who will place the blame fairly and squarely on the rock hard unforgiving earth that they have recently been asked (very politely I might add), to diligently scrape day after day under the remorseless gaze of their supervisors.
The good news is that all three trenches are producing archaeology and the sterling efforts of diggers and sievers is already producing results.
Note the flagrant advertisement for Norvic Archaeology, revealed when, quite by chance, this individual bent over just before the camera clicked.
Over in the gateway trench a large spread of concreted material has emerged bang on line with the precinct wall.
Lesson number 2 – the second pole goes with the pointy end facing that way!
In the ditch trench oyster shell and animal bone is beginning to emerge although the ditch has yet to reveal itself. Along with the gateway trench it is however showing some lovely plough lines.
Mark One and Mark Two Sieves in action
If I was being hypercritical I would say that the range of cakes on offer today fell a little short of my expectations but then again I do set the bar quite high in that regard and in any even its always good to leave some room for improvement.
Some 30 individuals arrived on site bright and early for the eagerly anticipated excavation within the extra-mural temple enclosure at Caistor St. Edmund.
Following the granting of consent to excavate within the area of a Scheduled Ancient Monument we will be digging three evaluation trenches. Our three trenches will focus on the following areas:
TEM1 is located over part of the very large ancillary building to the north of the temple. This building is tentatively described as a priest’s house on the Norfolk HER.
TEM1 Work in progress
TEM2 is located over part of what is believed to be an eastern gateway in to the temple precinct.
TEM2 work in progress
TEM3 is located over a ditch lying to the north of the ancillary building.
TEM3 work in progress
After a hard day trowelling back baked earth and eating dust we have archaeology in two of the trenches and the beginnings of a nice collection of tesserae including three/four small and very regular examples of the white chalk variety that have been collected on the site in the past.
It would of course be remiss not to mention the most important feature of the day which in true CRP tradition was the most excellent cake served up. The success of any CRP dig is evaluated, not in terms of the archaeology but, as we all know, in terms of the quantity and quality of the cake. Long may it continue!
Last day of the dig. Conducted in sweltering heat so we’ve had a broad spectrum of weather to contend with over the past ten days. As is our custom, the last day of the dig is primarily devoted to drawing and form filling, see image below.
Once the paperwork was complete we covered the sensitive areas of both trenches with protective membrane and they now await backfilling. Martin uncovered a nice deposit of pot sherds where he was working as can be seen in the image below.
Martin’s Pot Collection
As this is the last day of the dig I must pay tribute to Chrissy who has manned the barn in her usual exemplary fashion, sometimes alone with only the radio for company. It would also be remiss of me not to mention the steady stream of cakes and others goodies that have graced our table during breaks. Thanks to those who contributed on that front. The pot brushers have also worked away on perhaps the least glamorous, but necessary, of archaeological tasks without complaint. Finally thanks to Giles for keeping us on the straight and narrow and to Mike, Rhiane and Tony in their respective capacities.
A merit mark to Barbara for spotting the musical themed page headings in a number of the postings on this year’s blog but no there is not, as yet, a song entitled Samian Extravaganza, at least not as far as I know.
Unfortunately a combination of the weather and the complexity of what we’ve been digging in Trench 7 has defeated us for the time being. What has been established today is that the kiln appears to have had multiple firings and this has resulted in a considerable depth of construction material, in the floor, which we cannot do justice to in the remaining time available. The quantity of fired clay now evident within the structure confirms the geophysical survey results although what we had hoped would be a metal working furnace has turned out to be a kiln.
The kiln in Trench 8 has not been excavated, the decision having been taken to preserve the remaining archaeology in its entirety given that we had exposed a kiln in each trench.
This excavation has probably produced a greater quantity of mortaria sherds than we have seen previously. Several of these have been quite large pieces that have included the spout. Unfortunately only one sherd appears to bear a partial stamp (not featured in the image below).
Today we played host to 20+ members of the Norfolk Young Archaeologists Club together with a number of parents. On a gloriously sunny day the YAC members took part in a range of activities including test pitting, finds brushing and metal detecting. The latter being carried out by the budding young archaeologist who has her own metal detector.
Young Archaeologists Test Pit
Work in Trench 8 is possibly drawing to a close but there is still work to be done in Trench 7 with the collapsed material and broken tile needing to be removed from the centre of the kiln, since the exact purpose of these structures remains to be determined.
Trench 7 Kiln
Work continued methodically in both trenches with time now our biggest enemy owing to the amount we lost due to the weather. Painstaking excavation in and around the kiln in Trench 7 is paying dividends where the bottom may have been reached. Sitting at this level are a number of pot sherds and what is likely to be collapsed material from the kiln superstructure (see image below).
Find of the day and one of the finest pieces of decorated samian we’ve ever encountered came out of Trench 7 courtesy of Wendy. It proved to match up with a smaller sherd recovered earlier in the week by Nat.
All of the decorated samian to date has been found in Trench 7.