Welcome to the 2020 Dig Blog for Caistor Roman Project – a very different dig under Covid19 restrictions .
This blog is created in reverse date order – so the newest posts are at the top and the oldest at the bottom
So, if you are a new reader scroll to the bottom and work your way up whereas regular readers can simply start from the top.
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Thanks to everyone who took part this summer – not the dig we had planned pre-Covid but an enjoyable couple of weeks with good company.
Day 14 – Friday 28th August
Last digging day today, a day earlier than planned, as our work for this dig is now all done.
Wendy’s Trenches 1 and 2 were completed yesterday and Linda’s Trench 3 finished emptying the pit in the north east corner.
The trench only clipped part of the pit, which was deep with steep sides and produced a lot of Roman pottery and some bone with evidence of butchery.
Nat takes a level . . .
. . . and a three armed Richard of York seems happy with his readings . . .
. . . whilst somehow simultaneously holding the ranging poles.
Andrew strikes a relaxed pose before being planned for posterity.
In the trench Richard chops out a quick sondage against the south baulk to define the natural geology level – and churns up a bit of mud underfoot after last night’s deluge.
Nat spoons out the last of the pit contents protected by a tarpaulin from the mud churned earlier by Richard.
And, as usual, everybody points at something.
A last view of the pit in trench 3 with the tell-tale yellow sandy-gravelly natural geology showing in the bottom and sides.
Hawk Whisperer Jackson communes with nature one last time
and Linda finishes off the drawing.
In the meanwhile emptying the marquee starts by dragging the tarpaulins outside for a good shake.
Before storing everything neatly ready for the Flying Scotsman to take back to the barn on Sunday morning.
And finally backfilling begins.
Today’s creature feature is an attractive Orb Web spider
This spider has a distinctive dark brown ‘marbled’ spot on the back of its abdomen and is found near water or damp heathland. It can be seen from May to October across most of the UK. They eat small insects and grow up to 14mm.
Day 13 – Thursday 27th August
Not too much to report today from Wendy’s team as the bottom has been found in Trench 2 with no discernible features and little in terms of finds other than a partial coin.
So both Trenches 1 and 2 have now been backfilled with no more digging work planned.
Trench 3 by contrast has identified part of a pit in the north east corner which has been partially excavated with lots of bone and pot being unearthed.
One pot appears to have been inserted in the pit and then collapsed – more to discover tomorrow.
Jenny’s first into the pit.
Followed by Margaret – note the brimming finds tray.
Upright bone in the Trench 3 pit.
In front of a captive if a tad quizzical audience.
James strikes a pose for the camera.
Nat displays her specialist southpaw trowelling skills in the pit in Trench 3.
Linda counters with an orthodox approach.
Bone from the pit showing nice butchery marks.
The pit in Trench 3 at the end of the day – no sign of natural as yet at the bottom or on the sides. Still some bone and pottery in the sections.
Today’s creature feature is a very fine European hornet (as opposed to a drunken German hornet or vicious Asian hornet) visiting the trenches.
Day 12 – Wednesday 26th August
A short blog for today and it was the blogger’s day off . . . however . . .
The Trench 3 gazebo is rescued from the trees after being repositioned by Storm Ellen.
A generous audience turns up to cheer Nat on with her demonstration of excavation by mattock.
Margaret shows her best side alongside Linda – she’s never going back to sorting CBM in the marquee.
And an interesting bit of pot to end the day.
Day 11 – Tuesday 25th August
Tuesday is cancelled due to rain forecasted for all day.
Day 10 – Monday 24th August
Today both trenches continue to dig down through subsoil – a near thankless task bouyed only by the Norfolk weather and good humour of the teams and . . .
. . . the first coin of the dig – found on Ian’s day off, and within an hour of Richard of York starting the dig
Today’s creature feature and Toad of the Day comes from Trench 3 courtesy of Val – a very fine chap.
Plus a colourful fly on my arm at tea break.
Subsoil shifting continues in Trench 3 courtesy of James and Tony – with an audience of course!!
Linda points out the the near empty finds’ tray to Mike
And Trench 2 is also ploughing through the subsoil as Wendy discusses the test match with Mike
And finally for today, and padding out the blog, a picture of a lonely dumpy in a field
Day 9 – Sunday 23rd August
Now that the digging has (finally) stopped in Trench 1 Rob sets to with the drawing.
The content labels in the section are looking very fine.
The turf’s up in Trench 2 and Lynda and Elizabeth set to with a vengeance and with mattocks
As the rest of the team watch and offer encouragement.
And visitors pose for photographs.
Meanwhile over in Trench 3 Tony demonstrates a new yoga with shovel stretch . . .
. . . as the rough dirt is trowelled down to level dirt . . .
. . . and the sieving is simply relentless.
And finally, a couple of panoramic shots from break time outside the marquee.
Day 8 – Saturday 22nd August
Its change over day as new teams join the dig and new trenches are being opened.
Rob and Martin dig a valiant last ditch investigation in Trench 1
Chrissy joins the dig and gets digging in a trench for the first time for ages
And Chrissy and Ian make a sieving team of great experience
But at last the mattocks are called in to clear out the last levels above natural
Last photos tomorrow before Trench 1 is filled in , . . or will the team continue to dig down in search of extra terrestial life?
Over in Trench 4 the work is complete.
Linda explains what she can about the trench to her hew team before its all filled in
The admin team pitch in with the backfilling
The tamper irons come in handy
And the last bit of soil is tipped in
Then Tony starts cutting back the long grass towards the new Trench 3 . . .
. . . before heading off deep into the undergrowth
The turf is off on Trench 3 and work is underway
And Linda takes a moment to update the paperwork
Whilst others catch their breath in the shade by the backfilled Trench 4
In the morning Chairman Alan Pask pays a visit.
Day 7 – Friday 21st August
We start with today’s nature feature Toad in the Hole as Wendy and Rob rescued a young toad (as yet unnamed) that had hopped into Trench 1 overnight and was unable to hop out.
And it was pretty much downhill from there!
In Trench 1 Rob and Martin start by stripping yet another level off the surface to try to find those elusive edges that might lead to features.
With a nice exercise in tandem trowelling.
An interesting piece of what might have been a flagon with a handle is unearthed . . .
. . . along with a piece of reused fragment of pottery – possible loom weight?
Rob hits the trench with the killer spray
Ready for photos and hopeful identification of feature edges
A potential small pit is half sectioned but that’s about it – so move on to draw it up and backfill tomorrow,
A consolation Prize pops up in terms of of a nice piece of Samian with running dog decoration.
Over in Trench 4 Carol and Luke continue the work to get down to natural and/or spot any possible edges of features.
Note the positioning of the stepladder to give an impression that the trench is deeper than it actually is.
With a fine demonstration of seiving in the time of Covid by Helen and Judith.
Linda takes out part of what looks like it might be trench-like feature cut into the natural – but its more pot and bone but nothing else.
Eventually time is called on Trench 4 – a fair amount of finds in terms of pot and bone but no discernible features after all.
Linda draws the sections and the team pack up.
We end today with another nature feature – this fine shot taken by Ian of a Wasp Spider fleeing from Wendy’s trench.
Tomorrow is changeover day for both teams in term of new personnel and starting a new trench.
Day 6 – Thursday 20th August
Yet another lovely sunny morning, buzzards circling above, juvenile sparrow-hawks noisily fly from tree to tree and Martin is stung by a bee when opening a nest in Trench 1.
As well as ants and bees, Trench 1 has now started to yield pieces of Saxon pottery, some painted wall plaster and some large pieces of Roman pottery.
However, it now appears that the entire 3m x 1m trench has been placed across a large pit as no edges of the pit have yet been found despite several hopeful but false alarms
In Trench 4 Franz and Luke begin to level out the bottom to try and determine what they have there.
As the trench deepens a good amount of pot is being received – all Roman – and an increasing amount of animal bones.
Find of the day is a lovely stamped base sherd of samian from the bottom of the layer being removed above.
The stamp reads OFRV? which, from Ian’s initial research, appears to be either Ruffinus or Rufus and dating to between AD 65 to AD 90.
At lunchtime Lindas’s Trench 4 team, as usual, eat under the gazebo by the trench . . .
. . . while Wendy’s Trench 1 team return to base and lunch with facilities by the marquee.
Today’s lunchtime highlight was Christine comparing Martin’s scotch egg to a kangaroo’s scrotum she allegedly saw on a cruising programme.
Towards the end of the day Wendy’s team in Trench 1 pack up a bit early while Wendy draws a plan.
The next step tomorrow is to dig a couple of corner sections and see what they might reveal.
Back in Trench 4 Franz is determined to dig out that lump before the end of the day (he doesn’t).
Today’s nature feature – the wasp nest nearby Trench 4 spot the wasp!
I’m sure there were lots there when I took the pictures.
Day 5 – Wednesday 19th August
A short blog today as the author was offsite all morning and rain stopped play in the afternoon.
Judith celebrates her last day on site by lifting a fine rim of mortaria from trench 1.
And Glen carefully lifts a scapula before the rain thunders down.
Colin and Christine are surprisingly perky on the the sieve after seriously celebrating Christine’s 70th yesterday – happy birthday Christine.
The first “real” small find of the dig is unearthed from trench 1 – a lovely turquoise bead.
Andy demonstrates how not to wear a protective visor
At the end of the day both teams lay out their cleaned and sanitised equipment in immaculate fashion,
Day Four – Tuesday 18th August.
Well, we thought that today we might be bottoming out the first two trenches and moving on – but how wrong we were.
In Trench 1 the team continued to work further down around the pit that was partially excavated yesterday
Paul appeals to the umpire
Carole gets into delicate territory as she works with fine dentistry tools around what could be a large bone.
Now looking like a cow rib.
But when finally lifted it turns out to be best Norfolk mud encasing a couple of bone sherds. All good practice though.
In the afternoon Owen cleans over a chalky/stoney surface layer to determine the edge of the pit which now appears much bigger than previously thought.
And undeterred by the fake bone episode Carol excavates a sondage through part of the chalky surface . . .
. . . and lo and behold . . .
. . . unearths the biggest find so far – a lovely rim sherd of Roman mortaria – displayed below by Ian’s beautifully clean fingers.
Meanwhile in Trench 4 yesterday’s trench extension is now complete.
Work is temporarily halted due to another ants’ nest which is dealt with over lunch by the magic of Nippon to complete the insect holocaust.
After lunch Glen and Martin trowel through the ants’ nest remains to clean up the context for photographs – spot the remaining Nippon powder.
Later in the afternoon the team start to define the edges of the pit(s)? to be taken out tomorrow.
Back in the Marquee Alex swots up for another hotel guest tour.
Today Alex charmed 6 guests on the tour – a record so far for this summer.
Day Three – Monday 17th August
A good day as both open trenches finally break through the subsoil into more interesting territory,
The weather threatens thunderstorms all day before finally breaking in the afternoon to bring work to a slightly early close.
Trench 1 removes the subsoil to reveal evidence of a pit in the corner.
The trench is extended to enable the pit to be fully investigated.
A large ants nest causes amusement for some . . .
. . . before being swiftly despatched into the long grass by Colin and Mick.
Judith and Tim diligently trowel down amid the remaining angry and homeless insects.
Trench 4 started the day with a traditional round of standing, watching and encouragement . . .
. . .followed by digging further down (and more encouragement) . . .
. . . until finally some archaeology arrives – a new context, a small pit and some photos.
The pit is sectioned and Roman pottery is recovered.
After which work continues until rain stops play.
Back in the marquee Hawk Whisperer Ian rescues a young sparrowhawk that flew in to help with the finds.
Unfortunately the bird then got caught in the ceiling before being captured and released by our intrepid finds specialist.
Day Two – Sunday 16th August
Second day in and both teams are person-fully working through the subsoil with both trenches still producing a fair amount of finds – albeit very battered.
The weather remains fine and dry if a little humid.
In Trench 4 the team have been trowelling down when not interrupted by the admin team on sieve inspection.
Mid-morning Linda takes meticulous care in unearthing a very delicate . . .
. . . lump of wood.
And its all hands on the sieve
Meanwhile over in Trench 1 Rob points out some trees
As the approach to the subsoil becomes more robust . . .
. . . and sieving appears to have become a Sturman family affair.
At the end of the day Helen and Carol demonstrate the anti-virus cleaning of tools back in the marquee.
Day One – Saturday 15th August
Today is the first day with the digging teams on site. Due to C19 restrictions we are only running with 2 teams of 6 per trench plus the central admin team.
Fortunately the heat of the past few days has reduced to a warm, cloudy, workable environment.
The overhead buzzards continue to screech almost non-stop.
The day starts as always with the 8.45 briefing . . .
then the hard work begins . . .
Lifting the turf – no digger this year so the turf has to be manually lifted
Gazebos are erected and Tony strims some extra areas and a new path to avoid a major wasps nest.
In Trench 1 – the team has been steadfastly working through the topsoil . . .
. . . as Wendy and Rob begin to sort the finds . . .
. . . and a surprisingly large amount of pottery has been produced from the topsoil – most of it Roman Sandy Grey Ware.
Trench 4 also spends the day trowelling (with the odd mattock) and sieving down through the topsoil.
Alex, Mike and Rhiane model the visors being used by the admin team.
Day Zero – Thursday 13th August
Moving the equipment – early morning Jason, the Flying Scotsman, transports the tools and equipment from the Barn to to site and everything is moved into the marquee.
The marquee is prepared – it’s not often the we have a whole wedding marquee at our disposal (thank you Caistor Hall Hotel) together with toilets, running water and electricity. Normally it takes us half a day just to get our marquee erected and install the portaloos.
The marquee floor is covered with tarpaulins to stop our mucky little diggers making a mess.
Preparing the site – the entire paddock has been left to nature and is brimming with flora and fauna – including lots of ant hills and the odd wasps nest
A hardy team of Norfolk pensioners set to work with strimmers to create paths and clear spaces around the target trenches.
Ian explains his rustic craft to some disinterested helpers.
Marking out the trenches – the first 2x2m trenches have been marked out ready for the earth to move.
The first green is looking a tad shabby – just wait until the team get stuck in!!
Rhiane strikes a somewhat sceptical pose as she inspects one of the trimmed and marked out trench locations
And hello from our hosts – a big thank you to Agha and Wendy from the Caistor Hall Hotel who has generously allowed us to carry out work in the hotel grounds and let us make use of the wedding marquee during August.