Saturday 14 August 2010

Season Two: Day Forty-five

Final dispatch from Dave Mien "So that’s it for another year with the excavation coming to an end. On a day when the weather was absolutely foul, with rain, wind and a very moderate temperature, it would have been no surprise if no volunteers had turned up, but about a dozen arrived to work. Levelling, planning and very limited trowelling took place, though unfortunately no memorable finds were made, only small amounts of pottery, mostly Roman. Today was quite a sad occasion with the weather reflecting this and the final photograph shows the fort in dismal mode.However, the next season will soon be here and this scene will be transformed with the fort bathed in warm sunshine and lots of excavators unlocking the secrets of Binchester."

And finally, from me, its now the end of a great second season for the project- I'll review the year's progress next week!

Thursday 12 August 2010

Season Two: Day Forty-Four

Nearly the end of the excavation and there are enough volunteers, together with Janice and Jamie, to ensure that the planning will be completed on time. Some volunteers are still trowelling in the fort but Matty is careful not to disturb the areas that have been carefully planned. However, the site still had a little of the Time Team Theatricals, because late yesterday afternoon a great find was uncovered. It was a knife, about 10 inches in length and although found in the higher levels of the site, it is thought that it is Roman in origin. Obviously this has still to be confirmed after conservation, but it may well be one of the finds of the season.
Since the find may be so important it is worth considering where it was discovered. In the second photograph the indentation can be seen near bottom centre, where the knife was excavated at an angle of 45 degrees, very close to the surface. Interestingly in the background lies the “pit”, which makes one wonder what will be discovered here and indeed throughout the site next season. Today there were a few finds, mainly pottery, and a very small bead, so the excavation gives up its’ goodies right up until the end.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Season Two: Day Forty-Three

More from David M. "A fresh batch of volunteers arrived, so the number of workers was greatly increased and showed the popularity of the excavations amongst the local community. Only the fort was open and the vicus looked a sad prospect with no-one actually there, after so many weeks in which it was a hive of activity. Matty ensured that the volunteers had plenty to explore and it was in the eastern section, that had previously provided a number of hob nails, in which the largest number of volunteers were deployed. At long last the “mystery pit” was planned and it is hoped that when all the data is collated the actual feature will be identified and put into the context of the site. Again more visitors arrived on a day in which the weather was extremely mixed."

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Season Two: Day Forty-Two

Latest news from the front via Dave Mien "Work again continues, but purely in the fort. The vicus does not now require any volunteers with Janice just checking the plans. Here we can see, somewhat roughly, how the plans come together and find another use for the site office! In the fort the volunteers trowelled in several areas. Of course “the pit” was investigated and 6 volunteers trowelled in the eastern region. Matty found several people willing to plan, however, there is still a large amount of planning to be completed. Happily there was a steady stream of visitors, so interest from the locals, and general public in still extremely strong. As for finds, there was a good amount of Roman pottery found together with several nails. Importantly a purple Roman intaglio was discovered, again in the proximity of the pit feature, and it is hoped to identify the details later. Rain arrived about lunch time and the showers became more regular with the clouds more threatening but the volunteers, as normal, worked on."

Season Two: Day Forty-One

From Dave Mien "Now reaching the end of the season, “All is quiet on the Binchester front”. There are still a number of volunteers working, but they are mainly in the fort. The vicus is very much into “closure status”, with Janice tidying up the plans and ensuring that all is in order. However, the volunteers still trowel in the fort mainly in pairs dotted around the trench. No finds of note have been made and the mysterious pit still has workers trying to unlock its’ secrets. Matty is frantically trying to persuade the volunteers to do some planning, because, as the photo shows there are plenty of plans to finish off! Nevertheless work continues and I have no doubt by the end of the week the site will be completely up to date and another successful season taken place."

Friday 6 August 2010

Season Two: Day Forty

Another missive from David M.
"It would seem that the American students have taken the sunshine with them, so hurry back! Today was windy, cool with rain showers and the number of workers on the site reflected this. There were very few and one visitor from New Zealand, who expressed an interest yesterday, came and was enlisted to help plan within minutes of arriving. The four workers in the vicus continued to plan so no discoveries were made. However in the fort many of the volunteers were trowelling and hob nails were “the order of the day”. A sizeable number were discovered close to the large pit and everything pointed to them being Roman. I was also informed that the Samian pot mentioned earlier in the week had been removed and was a pretty patterned example of Samian ware. The photograph today shows Peter Carne examining the pit which has been a mystery throughout the excavation. It was also a chance for Peter to demonstrate his skills, though unfortunately to a very limited audience and for Matty to show that cold weather doesn’t affect a professional archaeologist!"

Thursday 5 August 2010

Season Two: Day Thirty-Nine

Under threatening skies the volunteers continued to work on both trenches, again largely planning. As the excavation reaches a conclusion for this year, priority lies in ensuring that the dig has been fully recorded. Due to good housekeeping and hard work from all involved, this aspect is well under control and should be completed in time. We received more visitors including the American student Miriam, who is shown on an earlier blog page, together with her family, who thoroughly enjoyed their visit to Binchester. In the small amount of actual digging that took place more pottery was found in the fort and this may be connected to the pottery vessels discovered earlier in the week. The vicus revealed an interesting example of recycling. This is a possible Roman quernstone which, as can be seen, was broken in two and one section used as a part of a relatively recent wall. The photograph also indicates the amount of planning taking place with trowelling being carried carefully, so as not to upset the strings and tapes strewn across the site. Adding to the sense of finality, two of the stalwart volunteers, Terry and Pauline, have now left the site after five weeks, but work will continue until next week.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Season Two: Day Thirty-Eight

Courtesy of David Mien

"There is a definite “end of season” feel about the excavation, with numbers of volunteers down and a desire to ensure that all planning has been completed. However this does not mean that excavation work has eased and indeed there has been an interesting find made in the fort. This caused some excitement amongst the volunteers, who all made an effort to see it in situ where it will possibly remain until next year. The find is a Samian pottery inside a larger calcified grey ware bowl and is situated in a channel close to some large cattle bones.

In the vicus the majority of the volunteers were engaged in planning, but the site of a Roman altar was identified and some continued the search for more features and goodies. It was mentioned earlier about the number of visitors the site has received and this trend was seen again today. As well as a steady flow of public visitors, groups arrived from the Archaeology Department of Durham University, Northern Archaeology amongst others, all of whom showed a great interest in the excavations."

Season Two: Day Thirty-Seven

The second day with only the Community volunteers excavating continued steadily. The weather again was good, amazingly no rain, and the twenty workers completed work uninterrupted. Interestingly for the second day running another twelve groups of visitors were shown round the site by the supervisors, so their day was more hectic.

In the fort, and indeed the vicus, the volunteers combined planning and excavating, with the planning aspect becoming more important as the season ends. The fort saw more features being developed, and the large pit identified much earlier in the excavation, now having a smaller pit within it. Two other pits have been excavated, one containing a number of nails and perhaps carved stones. We are still in the later phases of the site and will now have to wait until next season before going deeper. The workers in the vicus were busily planning and excavating the features in the northern area and more information should soon be available about them.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Season Two: Day Thirty-Six

I'm off site for a while, so over to one of our volunteers David Mien for an overview of today's work

"This was the first day without the American students, so the trenches were sparsely
populated. However the twenty or so community volunteers continued the good work under what was a leaden sky, though happily the rain held off.

In the fort trowelling was the order of the day, with no planning taking place, a complete reversal from Friday when ten students and volunteers were doing this. There was, in true Time Team fashion, near the end of the day the discovery of a stone lined circular feature, which bore similarities to a feature already excavated. Hopefully tomorrow some further details will emerge which I will pass on. Some large cattle bones were also found and they may have some relationship with the large skull excavated a week ago.

The vicus trench contained only five volunteers, who again largely trowelled, and one of whom made the best find of the day. This was a large coin, which may be similar to an earlier coin find, and although some aspects were faintly discernable, careful cleaning in the laboratory will be required. The excavators mainly concentrated on an 18th Century gully and the day here ended in some planning and no further discoveries."

Season Two: Day Thirty-five

Today was hectic as we tried to tie up loose ends before the departure of the Stanford crew. Lots of last minute planning and recording to ensure that the site was in a good position to be handed over to the community group for the final haul towards the end of the project. Looking over the site we've achieved a lot in the last month. In Trench 1 we've defined the southern end of the structure and started to unpick the complex sequence of cobbled surfaces and rubble spreads in the southern half of the trench. In the northern half of the site, perhaps the major development was the discovery of the large pit in the north-east corner. This has proved to be a complex feature and is clearly far from fully excavated. It is clear that the larger pit was cut into by a later clay-lined feature. We're still not certain how deep the original pit was. It is possible that we are seeing the pragmatic re-use of an area of subsidence formed by the original pit for some form of craft-working. Today we cleaned up the stone feature that we thought might have been a stone window-head; in fact it is has turned out to be a large fragment of a stone mortar (date uncertain)- we had another smaller example from the south end of the main building last year. In Trench 2 it turns out we've now got a date for the linear feature that cuts through all the buildings to the norht of the wall (or at least a tpq for its infill), as we've found a coin dating to 1752 in its main fill. Work over the last few days has confirmed the presence of a number of shallow stone-lined scoops/depressions containing lots of animal bones (mainly cattle skulls and foot bones). These circular features appear to be a feature of both trenches. In both areas they appear to be broadly late/post-Roman in date, but we are lacking good dating evidence. I suspect we're going to need to use C14 dating to resolve this conundrum. After a long day and a final site tour our US partners headed off (at least as far as Ustinov College for a goodbye party!). They've been a really important part of the Binchester experience over the last month. We've enjoyed having them in Durham and are looking forward to their return next year!