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  • David Quick

Colemore after the Bank Holiday

It is the evening of Bank Holiday Monday and we are now a week and a half into the spring dig (CM519) at Colemore. What has been happening since my last post?

Well, first off, the weather has improved markedly since last week. It is quite a bit colder and the breeze has been from the north but over the weekend it has been much sunnier, with none of the hailstorms and strong gusts we were getting a week ago. This has made for much nicer working conditions, both in the trenches and the Finds Tent.

The number of the volunteers was down a bit over the weekend, as is to be expected over a public holiday with many people going away, but on weekdays we have had plenty of diggers including new members, one of whom (David) has rejoined us having last been a member during the Liss Villa dig.

We are starting to get lots of finds, more of which in a minute. As for the trenches:

  • The two test pits north of the pond have been closed and the spoil put back in; there were no obvious features in either. They were incidentally renumbered as TP62 and 63 because we realised belatedly that TP60 and 61 were numbers previously used during our CM418 dig.

  • Two of the three Evaluation Trenches north of the pond - EV1 and EV2 - have also been closed with nothing of significance found. Keith is still working in EV3.

  • Most of the recent effort has been in Trenches EE, FF and GG south of the pond. A new Trench II was opened over the weekend where work is just starting. Nothing has been done in Trench HH yet.

All of the trenches and test pits were measured in (except HH) and levels taken, so I have been able to plot them in our QGIS mapping software. This is the area north of the pond:

To explain:

  • The clump of trees at the bottom centre is the pond.

  • The green dashed line running north-south is where there used to be a hedgerow, dug up in the 1960s. (We show it because it appears on the geophys and can be confused with archaeology).

  • The monochrome plot is the magnetometry that Carl did last autumn and the white blobs are magnetic amomalies. (Barry explored many of these last week and found various lumps of iron, nails etc, and what I think is a broken horseshoe).

  • The two test pits are the little red squares, sited over white blobs showing a high magnetic response - which often turns out in this field to be a deposit of iron-rich clay.

  • The three hatched rectangles are from north to south EV1, 2 and 3 respectively.

This is the plot south of the pond, to the same scale:

What you see above is:

  • The pond at the top-centre.

  • The green dashed lines are again where hedgerows used to exist, dividing the field into four separate fields.

  • The grid made of white dotted lines is our site grid, from which everything is measured.

  • The rectangular shapes with blue hatching are trenches from our previous digs and the little white squares are test pits from past digs.

  • The rectangular shapes with red hatching are our current trenches.

  • The red and grey blobs are overlays from our geophysics scans - red showing areas of high magnetometry response and grey showing areas of low resistivity (usually indicating where there used to be ditches).

Ignoring the grey blobs where the hedgerow used to be, you will notice that there are some straight lines in the geophysics plots, some running north-south and others east-west (and one diagonally). We know these are late Iron Age ditches forming what is called a 'ladder enclosure' because it is shaped with two long uprights and a series of 'rungs'. We also know that last spring we found a second Romano-British building at Trench W and in the autumn found post-holes for this building in the Trenches AA and BB straddling Trench W.

Our new trenches have all been sited either to intersect one of the ditches or because of something of interest seen on the geophysics.

Liz is supervising Trench EE and this is today's drone photo:

I suspect there may have been a structure in this trench. You can see that there appears to be a grey patch (and possibly a regular pattern in the stones?) in the centre . Liz has done a section down the eastern end of the trench, seen here:

There is also a blackened lozenge-shaped area at the north-western corner which is why the trench has been extended there to find the extent of it.

The blackened area also proved interesting after the diggers had made a section through it. As seen below, it looks as though the blackened soil is contained within a small 'trough' lined with small flints and at present we don't know what this feature was for:

Meanwhile over in Trench FF thinks were looking very interesting:

Davy has been working on what he thinks is a feature at the eastern end but at the other end you can see that the trench does indeed intersect the ladder enclosure ditch. The fill is much darker and because the ditch is usually 2-3 metres wide we may well have to extend this trench westwards in due course. This ditch was part of the inhabitants' rubbish pit for probably 400 years during the Romano-British (R-B) era and we are already getting lots of finds from it - mostly a wide variety of pottery pieces, lots of nails, some slag as a by-product of iron making, lumps of charcoal and fragments of window glass.

In this photo at the top edge of the ditch you can also see some of the large pieces of R-B CBM (ceramic building material) including thick floor tiles, imbrex and tegula roof tiles and one piece of hypocaust tile. At last something to keep us busy in the Finds tent!

It is a bit difficult to make out anything in Trench GG because they had just watered the surface with a watering can before going for lunch:

And this is Trench II as they were just starting work on it after lifting the turf:

While on site a fair bit of my time is taken with admin and looking after visitors. On Friday Chris and her schools team looked after a group of primary school children from Selbourne, giving them a talk in the Barn and then letting them do some exploring (with seeded finds) with sieves and metal detectors in one of the closed-down test pits. Rem, our lovely landowner, came over for a chat with me and we discussed our progress and the problems we both have with not getting replies from some of the local colleges. However, the thing that took up a fair bit of my time yesterday was the problem with hot water.

We rely on site for our hot water for drinks on a 27-litre electric urn powered by a ratherly elderly (2005) petrol generator which takes 20-30 minutes to bring the urn to a boil after it is refilled. While I was off-site on 5 May I received messages from Juliet saying that the urn was not working properly and the water was luke-warm. There was nowhere we could buy a new urn on Bank Holiday Sunday but when I arrived on site again today the urn seemed to be working normally again. However, while heating it in readiness for lunch break I realised that the generator's noise kept changing; it kept going on and off load. I realised that the problem was not with the urn but with the electric connection between the generator and the urn. I checked the wiring inside the cable and it was fine - no loose connections. The I found that the plug was loose when pushed into the outlet socket on the generator, from years of vibration and wear and tear. We needed a new plug and socket of the sort you usually have on caravans.

Carl and I tried to tighten the connection and clean the plug where there had been poor electrical contact but we didn't habe the right tools on site.

Carl and me trying to clean and fix the loose plug connection

Fortunately Juliet was able to call Rob who kindly came to site with a spare replacement plug and socket. Much to our relief everything seems to be working again, although Rob noticed that through age the generator is vibrating more than it should and only delivering 200 volts. That probably needs to be the next big-ticket item on our equipment shopping list.

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