Saturday, 16 August 2014

All wrapped up for the summer

Sorry for the radio silence... I think we've all just been recovering, and trying to fit back into regular life! Adjusting back to living between four walls and under a roof has certainly been a challenge.

The week after the dig finished, Wendy and I, along with some much appreciated help from Neil Mason, finished off the last few bits of drawing, context recording, and geomatics, before covering the entire site in geo-textile (a rather unpleasant dusty fight against the wind!). Wendy finished off sampling the well, before the shoring was finally taken down, and the well was filled in again for the last time. 

On Tuesday our two machines were back on site bright and early, and the backfilling began in earnest. It's certainly a time of mixed emotions... it's nice to be at the end of a very good month of digging, but also a little distressing to see all of that soil dumped back in the hole! 

We have plenty of people to thank for their help this year, including Will, Peter, Lizzie, and Max at the Fleur de Lys Pub in Dorchester, for putting up with our muddy boots and providing sensational food; Prof. Chris Gosden, Dr Clifford Sofield, Priscilla Lange, and Ian Cartwright for their talks to the students; John Gibbs and Alan Davis for their assistance with managing the dig; Angela and Ian Reid for putting us all up in their field for the first two weeks; the Geoff Russell and the Dorchester Parish Council for the use of the Pavilion showers; Granville Laws and Chris Smallridge at Oxford Archaeology for all their help with the logistics; Rob Bashford at Oxford Archaeology for his advice and assistance with the well shoring; Lee at Qik; and Dave, Adam, and Alfred from David Beecroft Ltd for their hard work on the machines at the start and end of the dig. 

Thanks also to all of our supervisory team, of Dr Wendy Morrison, Laura Jones, Abi Tompkins, Peter Forward, and Patrick Roberts, and to all the diggers who worked so hard to make this such a successful season!

Friday, 25 July 2014

All's well that ends well...

Today was the last day of Dorchester 2014. We all spent the day finishing the odds and ends for recording features, drawing plans, and packing up the finds. Our students had a final lecture from Paul Booth on the Roman coins of Dorchester and the wider implications of coinage in the Romano British world.

Soil samples were taken from the well for analysis, with the hope of finding both charred plant remains and ancient pollen. The road was given a final brushing and had its photograph taken before being put to bed for the next 11 months under a couple of metres of backfill.

Our fantastic field school participants were awarded their certificates of completion and then were treated to a wrap up lecture from Paul.

Thanks to all who have been involved in the dig this year. We have had a great 4 weeks of excavation this year, but the work isn't over yet! Next week, Ed and Wendy will prep the site for backfilling, and then the long process of post excavation will begin. We will keep posting regularly on what comes up during those processes, including the flotation of the eco-samples and the x-raying of the metal artefacts. Watch this space!




Thursday, 24 July 2014

It's the final countdown!

Thursday is done and we have just one day left. The race is on to finish off all the digging that we need to, and get everything recorded before closing the trench at the start of next week.

Today we had another scorcher, with all the students working very hard in the hot sun. We saw the completion of the recording of the well section, widespread planning, lessons in section drawing, and the removal of the second road surface.



Activity was not confined to the trench, with visitors from Marcham and diggers from years gone by dropping in to see our progress. Gill Hey, CEO of Oxford Archaeology and one of our co-directors, came by the site to see the results of this year's hard work.



In the early afternoon, with the excavators being treated to a lecture by Professor Chris Gosden, the supervisors were happily distracted from their work by the Red Arrows' fantastic display for the RAF Benson Families' Day. The aerial acrobatics, however, didn't stop them from hopping onto the road for some final trowelling action before the end of the season.

Check back tomorrow for the final action post.

Dr Morrison's daily round-up, given from the depths of the well

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Down bottom of t' well

Today was another scorcher, with glorious sun over the Wittenham Clumps and the Dorchester Allotments. Our students were taught a range of skills, including the importance of context sheets and how to fill them in, and section and plan drawing. Just after lunch we had a talk from Ian Cartwright, the Institute of Archaeology's photographer, on the ins and outs of archaeological photography.

Today's finds of the day were a piece of stamped Southern Gaulish terra sigillata, bearing the impression "Iuli," and a lovely copper alloy needle, eye still in tact, about 10 cm long.

One of the highlights of the day was the reaching of the bottom of the well! At 3 metres the archaeology ended with a thin layer of gravel, lying on top of the dark blue Oxford Clay. All that remains is for the section to be drawn and the column pollen sampling can begin.

Two days left and it's still full steam ahead. Keep an eye out for updates!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Week 4

Sorry all for the radio silence - we've just been too busy digging!

Week 4 has got underway with some very warm, and very humid weather. Today we may have been melting a little... But soil continues to be moved at a good pace, as we take the layers of the site down.

Highlights of the first half of this week include the digging of a slot across the edge of the top surface of the Roman road, finding a series of second century jars and  beakers in the well, and some bronze coins in the late Roman ditches that line the north edge of the site.

A post medieval intervention truncating these ditches has produced a lot of material, including a Stuart coin and fragments of bellarmine jug; these are a sharp contrast to our Roman assemblages which for the rest of the site artefacts. We hope to have cleared these post-med deposits very soon and then begin to understand the relationship of these ditches to the road surface.

This week's students are enjoying (we hope) the sunny skies and the generous Roman layers - these soils offer our participants a lit of opportunity to get to know pottery and animal bones. We have had a couple of good lectures this week so far with Dr Cliff Sofield briefing the teams on the Anglo-Saxon Wessex and Priscilla Lange giving training on animal bone identification. Tomorrow Ian Cartwright will give a lecture on archaeological photography.

We will keep you posted daily now on the final countdown to the end of the 2014 season!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Week 3 finished, Open Day tomorrow!

In stunning sunshine we finished week 3 today! With temperatures reportedly reaching 28 degrees in the shade, our intrepid diggers dug on. Roads have been planned, ditches have been dug, and the well continues to get deeper!

Most of our fieldschool participants finished up today, with a round up tour from Paul and the presentations of the coveted Certificate of Completion. We really enjoyed having them with us this week and we are looking forward to meeting a new batch of participants on Sunday morning.

Lest you think the team might be slacking off for the Saturday in between - fear not! We will be setting up for the Archaeology Open Day at the site. We will be open from 12-5pm and plan to have an educational activities tent for children, tours of the site, and the star artefacts of the season on display. In addition, Peter will be providing a taste of Roman life with his Pompeian bread loaves, garum (Roman fish sauce), olives and stuffed dates! Fingers crossed, the weather will treat us to the same sunny warmth that we have had all week.

Peter's home-made wood-fired oven, ready for the bread to go in!


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

What's down the well?

Today we made great progress on site, as we planned several segments of the Roman road and its immediate environs, as well as the series of interventions we have been digging across the later Roman ditches in the north of the trench.

We have also been teaching the fieldschool students how to record soil types, plan features, and use the Total Station. I think everyone is having a good time in the summer sun!

We have had been having lunchtime lectures each day also; yesterday Dr Cliff Sofield spoke about Anglo Saxon Dorchester on Thames, and today Paul Booth familiarised the students with the basics of the Roman ceramic industry and the identification of Roman pottery.



In the Roman well, we have gone down another 70 cm, and still are a ways of from the water table, but we did recover a whole pot - a Roman beaker from the mid second century and in really good condition!