Splendid weather for the last day of our first fortnight at Binchester – still five more weeks on site to look forward to.
Today we were visited by a team from the Department of Archaeology at Durham led by Professor Ian Bailiff, who came to take samples from a number of our hearths for OSL dating. This will be particularly useful with the hearth within the barrack, as it should be able to tell us whether it is Roman in date, or potentially more recent; which given the quantity of medieval activity in the area is a distinct possibility.
In Trench 1, once the hearth was sampled were able to crack on with removing it- it had been standing proud on a pedestal waiting for the samples to be taken. We’ve now more or less come down to a consistent level across the barrack interior and lots of planning is now taking place. One surprising discovery during the limited excavation we are still doing within the barrack was a probable baby burial tucked against the west wall of the structure. It was on the inside of the wall, more or less exactly on the other side of the wall from where we found a similar baby burial last year. These are not foundation deposits as they don’t sit physically under the wall, but must have had some symbolic connotations. In the zone to the west of the barrack, the metalled surface is coming up nicely, as is the small stretch of walling outside the north-west corner of the barrack. Its stratigraphic relationship with the main barrack block is still not clear, although currently it does seem to be a little earlier; although it is hard to know precisely what kind of structure it came from. Work on the corner tower continues apace- all three external walls and the main fort wall are more or less exposed to a greater or lesser extent, although the walls have all lost their facing stones. Finally, in the new slot in the eastern rampart which has picked up the fort wall, there is more exploration of what now appears to be a possible turf rampart on the interior edge. Some nice finds from Trench 1 include a whetstone and a pierced copper disc, as well as (from the spoilheap), two rather nice brooches, one enamelled one and one in the shape of a tiny fly!
In Trench 2, we got another full run at the bath-house today. In the north-west corner, Rachael has been clearing up the interior of wall and come across a section of in situ wall plaster that still has some painted decoration. Traces of an orange border perhaps forming panels can just about be seen, although it is clear that this decorated plaster was later covered over with a further layer of plain plaster. The two Rachaels and Alba have also picked up a number of nice fragments of painted plaster, some with remarkably vivid colours still surviving. On the other side of the bath-house, the team have done more great work exposing the bench and the floor, and Karen has removed the last section of stone tumble between the main room and the later annex. We will soon be using this as the main access route in and out of the trench. In the corridor, we were rather low on numbers, but the slot through the interior deposits is still going down.
Elsewhere on Trench 2, the area to the west of the bath-house continues to be slowly cleared up and trowelled back. There is a substantial dump of burnt material of uncertain origin. Nicest find from here today was a lovely jet toggle found by Sue.
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