Tuesday 19 May 2009

Out on site

The latest news is that we now have Scheduled Monument Consent; this is the most important piece of paperwork out of the way now, and it means we are actually allowed to start the excavation. I went out on site today with David Mason, the County Archaeologist and Binchester supreme and Peter Carne, from Archaeological Services, who will be in charge of the excavation itself. We were able to give the site a good walkover and look in detail at the area we are proposing to open up. We’d had some worries about a number of large trees on site potentially impinging on the location intended for the trench, but these fears were quickly allayed. As we were able to see some traces of medieval ridge and furrow cutting the fort interior Peter decided to arrange a topographical survey of the area before excavation to record these ephemeral features. As well as enjoying ourselves discussing the nitty gritty of trench location, there were also more practical issues to consider, such as where to put the spoil heap, the tool store and the Portakabins. Will we be able to persuade the delivery driver to take his lorry into the field and unload the cabins there?

Its only when walking around the edge of the site that one gets a sense of how the Romans used the hill on which the fort sits to its best advantage; as well as commanding the river crossing to the north-west it also dominates the gentle valley of the Bell Burn which lies to the north and east. The scarp slope of the north edge of the fort still survives to at least 10’ high, which is something that its not possible to appreciate from the interior of the fort. It also really brought home to me the logistical problems of the water supply for the fort; any aqueduct would have had to have been a complex piece of engineering.

Less than three weeks to go…

Proposed area of excavation in north-east corner of the fort (looking south-west)

North-east edge of the fort showing survival of the rampart as earthworks

North-west corner of the fort.

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