CAMPAIGN TRAIL: DAY 20 - 9/9/99
THE NEWS IN BRIEF
Mark Redknap sums up the results of the season's excavation as the team begin to plan the final day's work on site. There will be another update when the team get back to Cardiff next week.
"Our last update 'in the field', and an opportune moment to review our achievements. The last few days have seen the tempo quicken, with numerous tasks requiring completion. In between talking to visitors and colleagues (such as the Friends of the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust and the local primary school), lifting skeletons, checking section drawings and hiring pumps (see Day 18), I have spent time studying our features and soil profiles for the last time, discussing their interpretations with members of the team.
Thanks to the dedication and hard work of the team, all the objectives of the season have been realised. We now know the extent of the site (our field boundary ditch has provided valuable information on the location of the enclosure wall), and we have been able to study in detail an important group of burials which, as our post-excavation continues, will no doubt provide further clues to the past of the site. I hope that this will also reveal more about life and death in early medieval Wales.
A number of tasks remain for tomorrow: completing the planning of Mark Lewis' trench in the South Field, finishing some section drawing through features, flotation of some samples taken today of ditch silts (in order to recover seeds, charcoal), and taking some soil column samples of stratigraphic sequences for later thin-section analysis (for characterization of the deposits and information on their make-up).
Of course, we will leave the site with new questions for next year - what is the date of the burnt mound in Mark Lewis' trench (Bronze Age?), and how does it relate to other early finds from the site? Could any burials lie to the north of Mark Lodwick's trench? What did the spring, enclosed by ditch and wall in the 9th/10th-century, look like, and what information remains preserved in its silts? In his classic book 'Archaeology from the Earth', Sir Mortimer Wheeler stressed that archaeology is about digging up not things but people, and this year's dig has brought us even closer to this objective, with possibilities of linking facial reconstruction, DNA and dietary analysis of the skeletons with data on the status, economy, function and living conditions of our site. Understanding the relationship between the site and the landscape as it evolved is crucial to our interpretation, and at lunch-time today I visited another field nearby with Archie, following a new find which he had made. We wondered whether another archaeological occupation site had been discovered, and whether it was of direct relevance to the late Iron Age / Roman evidence from Llanbedrgoch - perhaps similar to the better known site at Pant-y-saer, a few miles away.
While we have not quite finished (!), I would like to thank all those who have participated and made this possible: Roger and Debbie for allowing us back, to the staff on the farm for all their assistance, to Archie and Pete, to Dave, Evan, Mark, Mark, Steve, and most importantly to all our volunteers, who have worked really hard in all conditions, and achieved so much. Mustn't forget Wally the dog, for impeccable behaviour on site! It has been particularly rewarding sharing our results through the web. There will be a further update once we are back at the museum next week: do tune in for more. "
DR MARK REDKNAP
MARK LODWICK - DIG ORGANISER
" Nearly Finished! Only one day to go, we are all quite tired but very satisfied with this season's work. Most of the excavation has been completed but some loose ends have to be sorted out before we can go home and there is still some archaeology to record.
Progress over Wednesday and Thursday has been relatively slow. We have received many interested visitors, everything from professional archaeologists to a primary school class . On Thursday Kevin Thomas, head of photography at the National Museum in Cardiff visited to record all the archaeology, now that it is fully exposed. This meant an exciting lift in Roger the farmer's 'cherry picker' to get a birds-eye view of the site.
On Wednesday we received a visit from yet another film crew; the makers of the programme 'Homelands' spent a day with us and presenter Rupert Moon got his hands dirty pitching in with all aspects of fieldwork.
Friday should see close down the site so Roger can backfill the trenches for us on Saturday and we can return to Cardiff and resume a more normal life."
MARK LEWIS - WALL TRENCH SUPERVISOR
"We have now uncovered the ditch in both arms of the trench. The wall and its relationship to the second section of ditch has been examined. Between the remains of the very badly plough-damaged wall and the top of the bank of the ditch is a linear feature parallel to both. This feature is a pebble and rubble filled trench which is similar to those found within the ditch in trenches dug during previous years. Its purpose remains uncertain as it contains no obvious post-holes. It seems likely that it pre-dates the wall: it has no visible cut through the contexts above it.
Digging is drawing to a close as recording takes over. Samples of the ditch fills have been taken and sent to Evan for flotation. Sections and plans of the trench are well under way with all anticipated photography complete. It has been a challenging trench for the students to dig but the experience they will have gained from it will stand them in good stead for any future excavations they join. The archaeology has been very rewarding and, other than bottoming the ditch sections which was prevented by bad weather coupled with a high water table, we have achieved our objectives. It has once again been a privilege to work on such a rewarding site. "
EVAN CHAPMAN - FINDS SUPERVISOR
"All quiet on the finds front. The remaining two skeletons have now been lifted and boxed up. After the horrible weather of yesterday, today was a perfect drying day and with promise of similar tomorrow there is every chance of all the washed finds being sufficiently dry for final bagging up by the end of the dig. This will leave me with less than a box of unwashed bone to be dealt with back in the museum. Over the years, I've discovered that, in the short term, one has more problems with bones from this site if they are put away damp than if they are stored unwashed.
Tomorrow apart from bagging up the dried finds there will be the last of the samples for flotation to be dealt with, and all the final additional packaging to render the finds ready to transport. It also generally falls to me to see that all the tools are cleaned and oiled, and to start the process of packing up the equipment."