Tuesday 30 June 2009

Binchester Day Seventeen

Another muggy day! Whereas yesterday was dominated by large-scale cleaning of the northern area of the trench, today was mainly more selective cleaning. A number of people were back in the southern area of the trench working on defining the edges of the cobble spreads around the bow-sided building. This is helping to resolve this complex area, although there is still much to do. Elsewhere we had given up using the hoes and were on our knees troweling trying to remove the final outstanding islands of topsoil and related layers. This is very instructive and we are now starting to define various stretches of walls within the northern part of the trench. Obviously the main walls of the barrack are appearing, but also there are also some smaller stretches of certain or probable wall making an appearance. Some are clearly related to the barrack structure (although at this early stage they appear to be of a slightly different construction- what does this mean?). Other stretches are appearing in the north-eastern part of the stretch and seem to be overlying the putative intra-vallum roadway, which may indicate they are relatively late.

Monday 29 June 2009

Binchester Day Sixteen

Busy day today as our partners from Stanford arrived on site (although thanks to the baggage breakdown at Terminal 5 yesterday much of their luggage is not yet here). They had an introductory talk by David Mason (County Archaeologist) and then a site tour. We then got them working! You may remember that much of the northern part of our site has only had a superficial clean following the initial topsoil strip, so we decided to return to this area and give it a more thorough cleaning. This will allow us to get a sense of what is happening on this part of the site. It is clear that the barrack block extends into this area, but it is not clear how much activity there is in the north-east quadrant of the trench. Despite rather muggy conditions, the Stanford students and students from Durham were able to get about half of the area cleaned (though as elsewhere on the site, this is likely to be an on-going process we will return to regularly).

I’m aware that I didn’t do a ‘finds catch-up’ last week; as soon as I’ve enough new photographs I’ll post an overview. However, this is a good chance to flag up two nice discoveries. There is a nice fragment of jet or shale bracelet decorated with a distinctive ring-and-dot; very similar examples are known from South Shields where they may have been manufactured. We’ve also had a small lead sealing (probably for sealing bales of cloth, foodstuffs or even official documents); it bears the letter DEC and AR[I]? (last letter not quite clear). I’ll see if I can find any parallels.

Lead sealing

Matthew is this month's Mr Binchester. He describes himself as a 'top history boffin' and likes nothing better than drinking pina coladas and taking walks in the rain

Friday 26 June 2009

Binchester Day Fifteen

We've come to the end of week three; this is also the point at which the initial workforce of Durham 1st year archaeology students leaves. They will be replaced on Monday by a new team, consisting of a contingent from Stanford (US) and a motley group of Durham undergraduates and post-graduates. They will be taking work on the site forward over the next three weeks. The final day's work for the first years was marred slightly by persistent drizzle in the afternoon, nonetheless work continued apace. There were no major developments. We began to take out the second section of the late/sub-Roman feature- this produced two coins and an iron buckle in the space of about two hours. Work continued on the med/post-med feature though we're still not certain of the relationship it has with the stretch of wall that has appeared within it. The bow-sided building is now even clearer, which is pleasing. Finally, over by the rampart, a thorough cleaning and the cutting of a section confirmed that the rubble/wall line cuts the clay of the rampart and is clearly a later pahse of activity (perhaps a late Roman/post-Roman refortification?) and is not integral with the construction of the initial rampart phase. A really big thank you must go to this initial team, most of whom had no experience on an archaeological site before they arrived. However, thanks to the fantastic and profoundly tolerant (!) supervision of the team from Archaeological Services have done a really good job from a standing start.

The rubble/wall/revetment cutting the rampart material (on left of picture). Looking south.

I've also realised that so far, although I've talked about daily progress I've not provided much information about the position of our trench within the fort or given a plan of the trench. So here goes....

The position of our trench is marked (not to scale). You can see it lies in the eastern corner of the fort, to the north of the Via Principalis. The excavated site of the commandant's house and bath-house lies to the south-west of us. The map shows clearly how much of the west of the fort is overlain by Binchester Hall Farm and Binchester Hall. It is also easy to see the damage to the fort caused by landslips, as the scarp slope of the plateau collapsed into the River Wear (though this stabilised in the 20th century).

This is a very approimate plan of our trench I've knocked up this evening. It shows the broad configuration of the site at the moment. The northern half of the trench has been stripped but will require further cleaning before we can see much of what is happening. In the southern half of the trench is a building running more or less n-s (this is using site north, which is to the top of the plan). This is presumably a late Roman barrack block. The walls are less well preserved than the plan suggests, with some stretches robbed out entirely and other areas containing dumps of rubble, presumably the rubble core from walls dumped after the facing stones have been robbed. Within this building are two major features. To the north is the roughly oval feature containing cattle bones and late Roman pottery. This has either built up on an area of subsided floor surface or is in a pit/scoop lined with re-used flag stones from the surrounding floor. To the south of this and the other side of an internal wall is the larger feature which has contained large chunks of late medieval pottery and a little post-medieval material, including clay pipe. Not shown on the plan, within this feature is a stretch of north-south wall parallel to the long walls of the building. In the south-east corner of the trench is the bow-sided building on a different alignment to the barrack block. This is surrounded and possibly partly overlain by cobble surfaces. There is a particularly large cobble dump at its east end, which has yet to be removed. We've not found any floor surfaces connected with this building yet. Finally, to the north, is the stretch of rubble and wall, which we believe forms a revetment cut into the clay rampart. This appears to be robbed out in places; a fragment of medieval pottery from the rubble associated with this robbing is medieval giving us a rough idea of when this robbing took place. Just to the west of this (Not shown)are two stretches of rubble that could either be the ephemeral traces of a building or just two stretches of rubble. This is obviously a very simpliefied overview; the key thing to remember, is that running around, and in places over, both buildings are large areas of very heterogenous cobbled surfaces. Some of these may be collapse or demolition material, others may be proper occupation/activity surfaces. Time will tell. Hopefully though, this rough plan will help readers get a better understanding of the broad contours of the site and better understand my blog postings.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Binchester Day Fourteen

A very constructive day! After the doldrums of planning the site we are really back into the swing of digging again. We seem to be making progress in all key areas of the trench. The large medieval feature has now turned into a large post-medieval feature, as we found a fragment of clay tobacco pipe in it. This is actually very helpful; I’m happier having a big post-med pit than a medieval pit. If it had been the latter, there might have been a real possibility that many of the other features in the immediate vicinity could also have been medieval in date. However, it’s very unlikely that they are of post-medieval date. I think we have an isolated later feature here, rather than a series of medieval features. This gets rid of my nagging worries that the ‘barracks’ were actually a medieval building.

Just to the north, the other feature within the building has continued to produce bone and Roman pottery. We had a site visit from some of my colleagues from the Department of Archaeology today, and Peter Rowley-Conwy gave the bone a quick once over; it’s all small cattle, which is useful to know. There are still questions about this feature, however, as its construction is not quite clear. It could be a deposit that grew up on a scoop caused by an area of collapse or subsidence of the floor of the structure, as its base and sides consist of the same kind of stones that comprise the surrounding area. Alternatively, it might be a scoop deliberately cut into the floor and then lined with stones from the disturbed floor area. At the moment I’m inclined to feel that it’s a hollow caused by subsidence, as the stones around it appear to slump into it (see photograph below). The date is still uncertain, though it’s clearly very late or sub-Roman (l.4th century or later date). The trouble is there is virtually no diagnostic material culture of the 5th-7th century AD from the north-east. We may have to get a C14 date on some of the bone.

In the rampart area, we appear to have defined an area of stone revetment; there is also a possible irregular rubble wall nearby; it could be traces of a simple structure built against the rampart or simply a spread of rubble (we’ve got lost of those!). Finally, to the south, large areas of rubble have been removed to reveal more of the possible out-of-alignment stone building; we now have stretches of all four walls (see photo above). Interestingly the long walls appear to be slightly bowed out. This is a feature found in later first millennium AD structures (and we’re happy its certainly post-Roman), but I would have no problem it being of later date (11th-14th century). Hopefully, we’ll get some stratified artefactual material that will help us date it more precisely.

The probable late/sub-Roman feature; it is possible to see the stones slumping into it.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Binchester Day Thirteen

Unfortunately, not much to report today, as once again I was stuck in meetings. We did have a visit from Suzie Thomas, the CBA (Council for British Archaeology) Community Archaeology Support Officer. She came to talk to us about our plans for developing the community involvement element of the project. We spoke about our plans for a phase of public participation on the excavation following the end of the imminent Stanford visit; we were pleased to report that we were already fully booked up for this. There is clearly a real local thirst for the chance to get involved in archaeological excavation. We also discussed our plans for integrating local people into the post-excavation process (funding permitting). Otherwise I was back in the Department sorting out the last minute arrangements for the arrival of the US contingent and getting ready for tomorrow’s visit to the site by my colleagues in the Dept. of Archaeology.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Binchester Day Twelve

Today was the first properly hot day we’ve had on site this season; although the timely provision of ice lollies at lunch time helped keep the diggers cool! Now that the planning is finally complete (more or less) we’ve been able to commence digging features. The scoop containing animal bone has continued to produce Roman pottery (no medieval) and large pieces of animal bone; is it Roman or perhaps a bit later? Its relationship with the structure it lies within is still unclear. It may well have been related to some industrial activity as it contained fragments of charcoal. Excavation today also revealed a post-hole cut into the fill; this is officially the sites first ‘cut’ feature! (and we’ve been on site for over two weeks…). We also resumed work on the large medieval feature; removing further spits has revealed a distinct wall-line; this appears to be overlain by medieval material, but it’s not clear whether it is also medieval or whether it relates to the (presumed) Roman building.

Over by the rampart the situation is still unclear. Further cleaning is revealing a distinct line of stone, parallel to the edge of the fort. However, it varies considerably in nature along its course; to the south it appears to be a definite stone wall, but further north it becomes a rubble dump. This feature is unlikely to be the remains of the fort wall, but it could be the traces of the rear wall of a revetment; time will tell.

I also found a chance to get off site and explore the surrounding area this afternoon. Following the footpath along the edge of the field to the east of the field we are working in, it was possible to see a distinct bank running along the eastern edge. This appeared to be made up of earth and rubble. It is most likely to be the remains of the headland of an area of medieval ridge and furrow, though it might conceivably be related to Roman activity in the area. Further along, there are also a number of hollow ways leading down the slope to a low-lying marshy area; again the question arises, are these related to medieval activity at the site? Looking at the area on Google Earth, a large number of ridge and furrow like earthworks are visible all around this area; I am not entirely convinced they are medieval however. They vary in width and many are straight rather than exhibiting the sinuous S-curve associated with medieval r&f. Also there are areas of the bottom of the valley which show signs of these features which must have been too marshy for medieval ploughing. Are some of these features of medieval or post-medieval date and linked to drainage or the management of water meadows? I need to get hold of some of the estate plans for this area that are held in the archives in Durham.

Earth and rubble bank; medieval or Roman?

Possible hollow ways

Monday 22 June 2009

Binchester Day Eleven

Today the majority of the planning was completed which will allow us to crack on tomorrow with further exploring the barrack block, which is where we anticipate moving most of the excavators. Today, the large dark feature which had produced the bone and fragment of antler produced more late Roman looking pottery, which was very encouraging (and crucially, no medieval material); so far this is our best candidate for a late/sub-Roman feature. Elsewhere, work continued on defining what was happening closer to the rampart. Evidence for stretches of walling continue to appear, though the alignments of each individual stretch varies, so its not clear whether they are part of a single feature or fragments of a series of building built close to the edge of the fort (possibly of late date).

Friday 19 June 2009

Finds update

I'm going to try and provide a brief overview of the range of finds recovered from site each week. In terms of ceramics, there is a substantial quantity of Roman material coming out, including late Roman wares, such as calcite gritted wares, as well as the usual range of fine wares, grey wares, mortaria and amphorae one would expect from a Roman fort. We've also recovered a not insubstantial assemblage of late medieval green-glazed pottery from the large feature inside the barrack block.

Recovery of metal artefacts has been good, aided by the assistance of the metal detectorists. As we've been keeping the spoil from each feature separate, we've been able to relate objects recovered by detector back to its original context rather than just recording it as unstratified. Overall, we've now recovered over 100 coins; most are Roman, but we've also had one or two medieval examples.

We've also found a number of other objects, including a Roman melon bead and, most excitingly, a large fragment of a pipeclay figurine of Venus, probably produced in Gaul.

Roman brooch

Obverse and reverse of Roman coin

Obverse and reverse of long cross penny of Henry II

Medieval strap end

Roman melon bead

Pipeclay Venus figurine

End of week 2

End of week 2! This week has been harder than last week, not least because of the weather. The key task for the latter end of the week has been cracking on with the planning of the site. As much of the site consists of spreads of rubble and cobble surfaces, often intermingled, this process has taken some time. Also, as this is a training excavation, each student has had to be taught the principles behind planning. However, excavation has continued elsewhere on site. Today we commenced to half-section the second of the large dark features that lay inside the barrack block. The first of these features has, so far, only produced late medieval ceramics. So far this has not been repeated in the newly excavated feature, which is, however, producing reasonably large quantities of animal bone, including the sawn-off tip of a deer antler. Significantly, this feature has produced no medieval material, only Roman pottery and a 4th century coin, so it seems likely to be late or sub-Roman.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Binchester Day 9

Unfortunately, as I had to spend most of the day in meetings I spent a grand total of about 15 minutes on site today, and that was more or less first thing this morning. As a consequence I'm not able to blog about today's progress in the field (although I'll do a catch up tomorrow). Instead I thought I'd mention some of the progress we're starting to make on the archival/historical research for the project. The current Binchester Hall was built in 1835 replacing an earlier structure which lay slightly to the east. It was probably demolished as it was getting perilously close to the edge of the slope leading down to the Wear, which we know was actively suffering landslips in the 19th century. Although we've always been aware of the earlier Binchester Hall, we've not known anything about its appearance. However, I've now come across an image of the Hall drawn in the 18th century (see above) on the excellent Pictures in Print website. It comes from an engraving of Auckland Castle made by Samuel Buck in 1728. Binchester can be seen lying in the background of an image of Auckland Castle, the palace of the Bishops of Durham. It shows the hall as having a central range and two gable-ended wings at either side, and a separate structure (chapel? farm house?) lying to the east. Other things to note are the lack of tree cover on the hill slope and the fact that the Wear runs tight by the base of the hill. These probably explain the problems with landslips. The fact that the slopes now have a cover of thick woodland and the river has changed course slightly help explain why the hillside has stabilised.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Binchester Day Eight

Unfortunately another rather wet day on site. However, the team have coped brilliantly and perservered with the rain throughout the day, although progress has not been as fast as we'd hoped. Inevitably the site was a little muddy today, but this has not stopped planning beginning. We've now reached the stage where much of the site needs to be drawn before we can commence removing further layers.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Binchester day Seven

I didn’t get to spend as much time on site as I’d hoped today due to the demands of getting my car repaired and the joys of paperwork. However, when I did get out my first reaction was relief; despite the ridiculous amount of rain we had yesterday the site had not turned into a quagmire. The advantage of digging a site on the top of gravel plateau is that it drains well; though if we get a sustained period of hot and dry weather it’s going to become a dustbowl.

Work continued apace. Personally I feel the most confusing feature is the large dark feature in the middle of the barrack block. We’d been optimistically hoping it was an early medieval sunken-featured building/grĂ¼benhaus. However, so far its only revealing late medieval green glazed pottery If this was just in tiny fragments I think we’d be happy that they were simply related to medieval manuring. However, they are appearing in large chunks and at depths below the level of the walls of the presumed Roman barrack. How did this material arrive here? Was the feature actually of late or post-medieval date. It is conceivable that it was cut from a high level but the top of the feature had been destroyed by post-medieval ploughing meaning that we only picked it up at the level it cut the late/sub-Roman deposits; I think we need to revisit the topographic survey and see whether there is any evidence for a large feature cut through the ridge and furrow which appeared to seal the site.

Monday 15 June 2009

Binchester Day Six

Now we've concluded that the rubble layer over some of the site is a natural feature, much of today was spent removing it to allow us to better understand the layers beneath it. In the course of this a number of nice finds came up, including a fragment of painted glass (I'm not sure of the date; it didn't 'feel' Roman to me, perhaps med or post-med, but I'm not a glass expert) and more excitingly a headless pipeclay figurine of Venus (I'll put an image up as soon as I can, but you can see very similar example from Canterbury- only with a head- here.

I can't give much more detail about today's progress as I spent much of the day taking a group of students around the local area exploring the wider archaeological context of the fort and its surroundings. The day ended early due to a thunder storm accompanied by ferocious rain and hail- I've been working in the north east for a long time now and I'd never seen rain that heavy. The big question is whether the site will be waterlogged tomorrow or will it have drained away.

Friday 12 June 2009

Finds update

We've just had some photos done f some of the finds from the first stages of the excavation, so this is just a quick review of the some of the best discoveries so far.

Roman enamelled stud

Fragment of snake thread vessel - luxury c2nd C glass (id by J Price)

Enamelled brooch or seal box lid

Samian with later scratched decoration/doodle

Rim frag of late 2nd/ early 3rd C painted glass cup, may have part of fish design below red/yellow twisted band (J Price)

Coins (obverse)

Coins (reverse)

And some notes on the coin courtesy of our coin specialist Philippa Walton
"From top left coin going clockwise they are:

1) a copy of an VRBS ROMA nummus, AD 330-335 (House of Constantine)
2) a nummus of the House of Constantine, 2 soldiers 2 standards reverse, AD 330-335, Trier mint
3) A denarius of Otho, AD 69. This is an interesting coin. It's a variant on an aureus type (RIC 20 var) and is only the third one known, the others being a example from France (BN III, 25) and a PAS record BH-F5BD67!
4) A nummus of the House of Constantine, Victories with wreath on altar, AD 318-324, Trier mint"

Binchester Day 5

Its the end of the first week and a good chance to review the weeks progress. The first thing to say is that the site is much more complicated now than when we started, though this is a good thing. What appeared to be a relatively simple rectangular stone building has proved to be complex and hard to understand. Although we are still cleaning back and defining it, it is clear that there are many phases of surfaces associated with it. It has also been robbed out in places. There also seem to be places where possible post pads have been cut into the walls. Are these real? They certainly bear a passing resemblance to similar features associated with the post-Roman re-use of the Roman granaries at Birdoswald. However, dating them will be a challenge; the early medieval period in the North is a-ceramic and lacking coins, so these features are likely to only contain residual Roman material.

The structure we initially thought was a ballista platform is also far more complex; we now have a hypothesis that the layer of cobbles that covers this area is actually an artefact of ploughing causing the natural sorting of rocks within the soil. Beneath this cobbled layer, however, is at least one structure of uncertain date.

The real work is still to come- although we've come a long way in cleaning, refining and defining the features beneath the topsoil, we've made very little progress in starting to excavated these features. Even in the centre of the barrack block we're still recovering large fragments of late medieval pottery which shows we are still removing the base of the topsoil (though I'm not sure we've resolved the issue of where the pot is ultimately coming from).

Thursday 11 June 2009

Binchester Day 4

We had some much-needed rain over night. Although it has not been particularly hot, the site was already starting to dry out, making it difficult to dig. The work on clarifying the structural remains has ended up confusing matters rather than clarifying things. Some of the walls are certainly better defined, but others are less substantial than originally thought. It is clear that in some cases lengths of wall have been robbed out, whilst elsewhere they appear to be cut by pits or other possible features. The mound of rubble we originally thought might be a late ballista platform is becoming more complex by the minute; the rubble now appears to be overlying an earlier rectangular stone structure, which surprisingly is not on the same alignment as any of the other structures in the fort. The key question we really need to determine is that of chronology. Are the structures we can see late Roman or early medieval? We certainly have 4th century pottery and coinage, however, this is mainly unstratified; it is not until we start sectioning some of the pits and post-holes and getting finds from secure contexts that the question of date might start getting clearer. Confusingly, there is also a surprising quantity of late medieval pottery from the area we are digging. This is appearing in quite large fragments so is unlikely to be from manuring scatters. Is it possible that some of the structures are in fact late medieval? I think its unlikely, as the site appeared to be sealed by medieval ridge and furrow. However, this does the raise the question of how it got here; the original site of the medieval Binchester Hall is about 100m upslope, so it is quite possible that it came from there.

The key question is whether we are talking about a short late/sub-Roman chronology (sequence perhaps lasting into the mid-5th century) or a longer one (sequence lasting into 6th century or even later); we’ve certainly been playing with the idea that a large rectangular dark feature within one of the structures is an Anglo-Saxon sunken-featured building. This is highly speculative, but not entirely unfeasible, given the evidence for early medieval activity elsewhere on site. There’s only one way to find out though….

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Binchester Day 3

Relatively little to report today as far as on-site activity is concerned, as I had to spend most of the day in the office : ( However, I was able to pop out briefly at lunch time. Work continues on defining the possible tower; at this stage it still mainly appears to be a dump of rock, although a small stretch of walling can be identified. At the east end of the main section across the site we have started to look at the deposits close to the rampart. Its difficult to be clear what’s happening, though it is just possible that we are starting to isolate layers of dumped re-deposited natural, which may well make up the fabric of the rampart. At the other end, there has been more work cleaning the number of services which lie to the south of the wall of the main structure; it is possible that we are seeing a surface that has been repeatedly repaired and patched: but how late? Is this late Roman or sub-Roman?

Outisde the trench we’ve had a couple of good pieces of news. We’ve received a grant of £2500 from the Roman Research Trust to extend the geophysical survey; we aim cover the area to the north of the fort. GSB Prospection carried out a large-scale survey for Time Team, and identified vicus activity and an important early stage of the fort in this area; however, the large gravel plateau continues north towards the Bell Burn and we aim to use the survey to identify how far the vicus extends in this direction.

I’ve also been awarded a Beacon Fellowship, which will allow me to spend three months of my time over the next academic year developing the community side of the project; we are working closely with the Durham and Northumberland Archaeological and Architectural Society to allow members of the general public to spend time working on the site. I’ll also use this opportunity to work closely with the local community to explore other aspects of the historic environment of Binchester and Bishop Auckland.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Binchester Day 2

Another busy day! We finished our initial cleaning back of the main trench. This allowed us to begin to explore the site in more detail. In the south-east corner, where the possible late interval tower is located, work began on gently trying to define the edge of the large mound of rubble. Elsewhere on site we are taking a large section across one of the main structures. Having clearly defined the stonework of the walls, we are now cleaning back in shallow spits. We have identified a number of different surfaces, one made of large flat stones and another of smaller cobbles; there are also other possible patches and layers overlying these surfaces. We still have much work ahead in resolving the stratigraphic relationship of these late features. The site is already rich in finds, with more pot and glass being recovered; as well as coins and many ‘fe obj’. In addition to the excavation on the site, we began work on the environs survey this morning. The students set up a simple 25m grid and began the slow task of digging and sieving the contents of the shovel pits, which we are going to use to assess the contents of the topsoil around the site. The immediate landscape is primarily pasture meaning that we cannot use fieldwalking to explore the site’s context.

Monday 8 June 2009

Binchester Day 1

Today we finally started excavation on the fort. Forty-five single honours Archaeology undergraduates arrived on site this morning raring to go and ready to get stuck in. The topsoil had now been completely removed from most of the trench and it was already clear that a number of structural remains could be seen. Pleasingly, the rectangular structure visible on the GPR plot was clearly visible on the ground and, in places, areas of flagstone paving could still be seen. The main job for today was to give the site a thorough clean, removing the last of the topsoil and preparing the trench for planning. This cleaning stage took all today and will continue tomorrow. The structural remains are becoming better defined and a number of other potential features could be identified. It looks like we may have got the edge of a trench excavated in the 1930s by Kenneth Steer; it might be useful to reexcavate this to give us a proper section through the rampart. There is also a possible platform adjacent to the rampart, which may be a late Roman tower- we shall have to see whether this platform is indeed structural or just an area of collapese or rubble. We are already recovering a large quantity of pottery and tile, as well as small finds including iron nails, Roman window glass and, find of the day, a rather nice lozenge shaped enamel brooch. Its early days, but its shaping up to be a really exciting excavation. The key challenge is going to be with the weather; the site is a well-drained gravel plateau and I suspect we are going to have real problems with the site drying out.

Traces of the probable rectangular building, presumably a barrack block.

Friday 5 June 2009

Ground Penetrating Radar

First results from the Ground Penetrating Radar; they seem to show the walls of a parallel building, and to the right of this are bands of data which appear to represent a possible track and then the fort wall.

Thursday 4 June 2009

First results

Work is continuing with the topsoil strip which should be completed today. There are clearly lots of archaeological features appearing including SW/NE building/s; there is some plough damage (the site was cut by medieval ridge and furrow) but much is still intact including areas of large stone internal paving. A range of finds have been recovered including pottery (fragments of terra sigillata, mortaria, courseware and possible amphora), Roman window glass, a lot of unidentifiable iron objects, several probable Roman copper alloy items, including a small enameled stud, and a number of coins.

We also have the first results from the geophysical survey, which show evidence for activity within the area we are looking. We're hoping that the Ground Penetrating Radar survey data, which is being processed at the moment, will give us a more detailed and subtle understanding of the features in the area of our trench.

Magnetometer data

Resistivity data

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Breaking the sod...

Well, we’ve finally officially begun the excavation stage of the Durham-Stanford Binchester Research project. The GPR survey and the topographic survey were carried out yesterday (Monday) leaving nothing to do but begin the removal of the topsoil. Although a JCB is used for this, the process was carefully monitored, with a member of Archaeological Services keeping a close eye out to ensure that the digger driver just removed the disturbed topsoil and didn’t eat into the archaeological deposits.. The spoil was then given the once over by members of a local metal detecting club to catch any metal items that were in the topsoil. The topsoil strip is about 2/3 completed now and already it is clear that there is plenty of archaeology for us to get our teeth into. We’ve identified the traces of a possible interval tower and it’s clear there are other structural remains, presumably barrack blocks. As well as the exciting job of beginning the excavation, there was also more mundane progress this morning; the arrival of the tool stores, site huts and the all-important chemical toilets!
Traces of wall; perhaps an interval tower?