Today was the last day of the Durham 1st year students’ time on site. Despite the dire meteorological prognostications, we actually got a full days digging in (helped by the ample supply of cheap cake!). In Trench 1, there was a lot of recording being done, but also some excavation in and around the revetment of the medieval building and the small oven to its west. Small quantities of digging also took place in and around the corner tower and near the barrack. Overall, despite the Jubilee and the weather meaning we’ve lost nearly a week of work, we’ve done quite well in this Trench 1. Crucially, we’ve shown the small rectangular building is indeed medieval. This is something we long suspected, but could not prove. The associated ovens mean we have a nice little medieval (13th/14th? Century) assemblage of features here. The removal of the building has also allowed us to get at the road surface in this area. Indeed we now have this and its associated drain defined clearly along most of the eastern side of our trench. After leaving it for a few years, we’ve also made real progress with the corner of the fort. The tower can now be seen to be bigger than suspected – although we are missing a back wall. It is possible that the large flagstones uncovered in this area may be related to its entrance. The small wall projecting from the rampart to the west of the tower may be connected somehow, possibly forming part of a small related structure. We’ve done relatively little work within and around the immediate area of the barrack itself compared with previous years. We have though got to the stage where we are happy that all the features in the northern part of the building (what we’ e started to call the ‘officers’ quarters’) are broadly contemporary and they have all been planned. We can look forward to getting more stuck into the barrack when the US team and the community volunteers arrive in ten days time.
In Trench 2, we’ve also made great strides of the last three weeks. Starting in Building 1 (the western strip building), we’ve had a good go and unpicking the flue and it’s relationship with the building. It tentatively looks like we may have another oven. We also have an oven or at very least a burnt area, to the west of this building, although we only just starting to get to grips with this section. In Building 2, over the last fortnight, Sean has made great progress unpicking what is clearly a complex oven structure, which appears to have had a flue/stokehole that went through the wall of the building. It was of stone construction, but with a clay lining, and we’ve found some slag from here which we hope will give us a better idea of its purpose. Exciting today, when Sean removed a large stone slab he found what looks like the better part of charred wooden plank, which we carefully removed for further analysis in the labs (See picture). In the area between the strip buildings and the large structure, we’ve been removing stones and uncovering a dark layer which unusually for Binchester is not packed with cobbles although there are traces of a possible wall line just appearing. In the large building itself, it is clear that both rooms contained deliberately constructed stone lined pits with clay bases. We are now happy that these are simply floors that have collapsed or slumped into earlier features. There is also a possible door or entrance between the western chamber and the eastern room. More generally, this area is now looking more and more like a building related to the adjacent circular bathhouse (sudatoria) excavated by Hooppell in the early 20th century. Peter pointed out today that the long thin ‘room’ aligns centrally on the circular bathhouse, and looks very much like a formal entrance. The slight expansion of the trench has revealed just enough of the eastern side of the building to suggest that we are dealing with a symmetrical building with an entrance hall leading to the sudatoria. However, it is clear from both our excavations and Hooppell’s earlier work that the basic structures were significantly altered over time. In the near future I think we need to do some more mapping work in this area. We need to integrate our plans with Hooppell’s and look in detail at the geophysics of this area to see if we can identify more of the building’s plan. I’d also be keen to see if we can do a small Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the immediate vicinity of this corner of the trench to see if we can better understand and identify any related surviving walls (in the longer term, and time and funding allowing, it would make an interesting exercise to re-excavate the Hooppell trench).
So lots done already but plenty left to do for when the new team starts on July 2nd. Thanks to all the Durham students who worked so hard in often pretty damp conditions. We’re not on site next week, so I’m unlikely to be updating the blog until we resume excavations, unless anything very exciting happens!
Pictures [top]Lifting the block of charcoal from the oven [middle]Large-stone lined pit in interior of large building in Trench 2 [bottom] Sketch plan of Trench 2: strip buildings 1 and 2 on the left and probably baths building to the right
This blog will share information about the major new field project at the Roman fort of Binchester (Co. Durham), run jointly by Durham County Council, the Dept. of Archaeology, Durham University, Vinovia.org, Texas Tech University and the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland. It will communicate news, events, and once the field season starts a daily update of the discoveries on site. To find out more visit our website