Day 8: Every cloud has a silver lining.
The day got off to a very unpromising start weatherwise. There had been rain overnight and when we reached the site at 9am, light drizzle was gradually becoming more persistent. We suited up in our wegear, hoping this was only a shower, and walked down to the site. The rain got heavier as we went and stopped us getting stuck in to the work. We sheltered under a combination of hawthorn trees in the hedge, taking time to speculate on their age, and Deirdre’s very functional fishing umbrella. This should perhaps become standard issue on all archaeological sites!
However, just as we were saying ‘five more minutes and we’ll go up and stick on the kettle’ the sky brightened a bit and the rain actually stopped. We split into our teams and started. In Trench 4 the team began to take down the next spit of cultivation soil overlying the ditch which we had identified in the geophysics. It seems that the cultivation soil is relatively deep in this area because there is a very distinctive corrugated pattern to the field surface indicating ridge-and-furrow cultivation with the ridges set about 5m apart from each other.
Additionally, the geophysics from this area is a lot less distinct than that for the field to the west where the main part of the enclosure is located, perhaps suggesting a lot of agricultural disturbance.
The Trench 4 team was joined by our new recruit, Eimear, and experienced digger and research student based in UCD, who is very welcome.
In Trench 1 the other team cleaned up the section face of the ditch that was exposed yesterday and took a close look at the various fills of the ditch. Six separate fills were identified, indicating the various stages involved in the gradual silting up of the ditch to its present surface level. While it was once almost 1m deep, it now is only about 15cm deep. A lot of material washed down the slope and off the tops of the adjacent banks over time. We also took another series of soil samples from the section faces for magnetic susceptibility analysis.
Matt began to look at a smaller ditch to the west of the main enclosure ditch. This shows up in the geophysics for the area but appears to be a much less substantial feature and it also follows a slightly different line to the main ditch. Our feeling at the moment is that it may be a much later drainage gully which was coincidentally placed close to the prehistoric ditch. The fill is very clean silty clay with no finds of any kind.
Meanwhile, by the afternoon, real progress was being made in Trench 4. The diggers there had found the base of cultivation soil. Disturbed soil gave way to a layer of more gravelly soil which in turn gave way to more compact clean gravelly material. They now have a good understanding of the depth of disturbed soil that must be removed from the top of the trench before the first intact ditch fills are encountered.
So, no dramatic finds or discoveries made today, but despite the unpromising start, a good solid productive day followed.