A day-by-day account of the activities of the Rossnaree Archaeological Project 2010-11

Archive for July 17, 2010

Day 10: Half way! ‘A lot done, a lot more to do…’

Rossnaree Excavation Trench 4

Kieran and Deirdre in Trench 4

We are now at the end of our second week; day 10 out of a total of 20. Am I a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person? I think that the rate of progress has slowed a bit in Week 2 relative to week 1 but this was inevitable. We had a larger crew in Week 1 and a lot of material was moved – desodding and topsoil. The nature of what we are dealing with now means the work now has to take a slower pace. We are trowelling a lot more rather than mattocking and shovelling. We also have to stop digging at intervals in order to record the features we uncover. However, there have been important successes. Nothing that has been found so far on site suggests that the enclosure is anything other than Neolithic in date. Although there has been no pottery yet (which is closely dateable because of their fast-changing shapes and decorative styles over time), there has been a lot of flint pointing to prehistoric and probably Neolithic or Early Bronze Age construction and occupation.

Rossnaree Excavation Trench 4

Trench 4 section showing enclosure ditch cut

Anyway, the news for today is that first of all, the weather turned out much better than we were expecting. After the near wash-out on Thursday we had been expecting blustery showers all day. The wind didn’t materialise and there was no rain at all. As a result we managed to get some more work done. The success of the day was that in Trench 4, Kieran and Deirdre were really getting to grips with the nature of the enclosure ditch. The edges had been clearly established and they began to take down the fill. Although the ditch was not bottomed we are definitely in the right place and the base is not far off. Digging finished up at a level characterised by a layer of field stones which must have spilled in from one side or the other. The fact that they are so deep down in the fill suggests that this event may have taken place relatively early in the life of the ditch. This layer may be comparable to the ‘spill/slump’ layers of stones identified in Trenches 1 and 3 and the stones may have come from a bank feature that once would have stood along the inner edge of the Trench 4 ditch. There is no sign of such a bank today in any of the data we have – aerial photographs, LiDAR, and the various geophysical outputs – but it is likely that there once was one in this area comprised of the spoil dug from the ditch. There are very few finds from this part of the site; although they are there the numbers are extremely small compared to Trench 1 and especially Trench 3 close to the core of the site. Perhaps there wasn’t much activity in this part of the site. Even today, this is an area subjected to regular flooding during winter and would have been the same in the past. It would not have been a wise location to construct houses or other structures. Perhaps the stony layer so far down in the section suggests that there was less concern in maintaining this part of the site compared to the sections of ditch in Trenches 1 and 3. The fill of the ditch looks promising for the preservation of macrofossil plant remains and perhaps pollen. Snail shells were also noted in the fill here and soil samples will be taken to examine the specific species present as snails (molluscs) are very sensitive indicators of the environmental conditions in an area in the past.

Rossnaree excavation Trench 3

Work in progress: the ditch section in Trench 3

Work also continued in Trench 3 where Matt and Darren continued to explore the fills of the ditch there. We had been speculating as to the probable depth of the ditch here. One set of geophysical data was suggesting that it was not as substantial as the outer enclosure ditch encountered in Trench 1 while another set of data was saying that it was comparable in size. I had thought that it may be less substantial as it was an inner enclosure but the digging here today suggests that it may be as big as the Trench 1 ditch. A considerable depth has already been reached and the signs are that it is still going down. More to be revealed as we continue early next week.

We also had a number of visitors to the site today: Gabriel, Steve, Aimée, Kim and Emmet from U.C.D. as well as Bryn who is visiting home from Australia and Michael who helped out on site in the first week of the dig. They reminded us once again of what a wonderful place we are working in. I think we may have begun to take our surroundings a bit for granted, and of course the weather wasn’t helping.

Regarding the question posed at the top of this post, I think I have to say that the glass is definitely half full. Maybe even more…