Due to other committments, only a small number of us met today for finds processing. So those who could make it continued washing, weighing and counting finds from past digs and fieldwalks. Ian and Margaret are seen weighing and recording onto forms the details that Francesca will later enter onto a database. Those details include site and finds location, the context, if it comes from a trench, item type and number and any other notable features. It's a good opportunity to take a closer look at these finds now they are free from dirt, mud or, in some cases, soot. Once piece of pottery that looked totally black with soot, when thoroughly cleaned turned out to be a nice piece of slipware.
Everyone was amused when, Tina using her trusty metal detector, first found the obviously homemade coat-hanger shown below on the Shelsey Furnace site. Today coathangers are almost two-a-penny, but not so back in the early 1900s when times were hard. When this artisanneeded something for his wife to hang her Sunday best frock on, he produced this item made of twisted double wire! It was actually quite heavy, but it probably did the trick.
One of our members who gives regular talks also kindly distributes our leaflets, so once Terry has printed off a number, Tina helps to fold them, as seen below.
Having measured and plotted the testpits, preparing to excavate.
Six members turned out for today’s training session, being done in preparation for a future joint project. This acted as both a refresher for some and an introduction to new aspects of archaeology for others and was a very "hands-on" experience. It involved everyone starting from the very beginning by measuring the field from an agreed temporary Bench Mark and then setting out and digging a series of test pits to a defined size and depth.
De-turfing the testpits
Often much of the preparation is done by the project manager and his or her assistant long before the excavators (human) appear on the scene. So this exercise was intended to introduce members to those earlier processes too so they would be better prepared for the above project, where they might have to work independently and perhaps even instruct someone else.
Working in pairs to excavate
In addition this training included the use of context sheets (seen above behind the bucket!) to accurately record what was found in each test pit. This is always an invaluable source of information for the archaeologists to analyse later (when memories have faded!) and it helps to build up a more complete picture of the site, as well as providing details of what was found and where.
Finds from Astely Forge Mill Cottage. A potter lived there for a while in the 20th century, so the above fairly modern-looking pot might have been one of his.
It was so warm and sunny today it could easily have been summertime as eight members (Jenny, Keith, Ian, Margaret, Tina, Liz R, Andy and Terry) continued on with last week's training session. We had already marked out two trenches from a temporary bench mark in this old orchard and measured them to certain specifications (1m x 1m x max 750 deep) with the plan of excavating and record our findings onto context sheets. All this was to prepare new members (and refreshing old ones!) for a future project that involves digging a series of test pits.
Testpit 2 with its compacted clay and sondage
The trenches were well on their way when we last left them, so we continued to take them down even further to see what they next revealed. Within two contexts both trenches had reached orangy clay mixed with charcoal & coal bits. Number 1 had reached wet clay last week and water was found seeping in this week, so it seems probable it was near the source of a spring. Accordingly, once the trench was fully recorded by Liz and Ian and photographed, it was closed down.
Interestingly, even though Number 2 trench was situated only a few meters away, once the context of clay mixed with charcoal had been reached instead of getting wetter, as expected, the clay soil became harder and more compacted. A sondage was then cut, as seen in the photo, and taken down a little further (but not to full depth) before also being recorded. Needless to say that in both trenches any small finds (clay pipe pieces, pottery, nails etc.) discovered were mainly in the upper 2 contexts.
We were delighted to have Andy along with his Drone filming the whole area, which included the newer orchard next door and a secton of raised ground that was purported to be old house platforms. He and Tina then did some metal detecting that uncovered the two items in the photos and, after everyone had watched the drone film, we all had lunch from Terry's barbeque. (Thanks to him and Ian for the yummy not too burnt sausages)
The intriguing "platforms" then beckoned us so, armed with a few spades, everyone walked to the area beyond the new orchard where a testpit was then put in to see how far down the soil went before finding anything solid, which was several feet (all with the landowner's approval of course). Meanwhile the rest of us did a quick assessment of the area to see if it offered up any other clues, like an entrance from the nearby road. Sadly the results of the investigation, apart from finding the George III penny and the tiny thimble (child's?) above, suggested that the area was little more than raised soil. While it was the same height as that in the next field and did, after a few metres into our field, drop away again as if it was an old boundary. but strangely the "platform" did not stretch the whole width of the field. Perhaps the owner's provision of an old map next will shed some light on it?