Trench 1 End of Season Report

Assistant T1 supervisor, Alex Stevens, gives us an overview of the progress made in Trench 1 over the 2011 season.

Trench One End of Season Report

The end of another year in Trench 1! We’ve had a great season, and really paved the way for a fantastic one next year as well.  Although this year has been fairly sparing in terms of finds (AKA we haven’t really found any), we have had a number of extremely interesting features appearing in the trench. Some of these were expected, having already been partially excavated in the old part of trench 1, some were entirely new.

Picture of T1, facing south.

The Prodigal Features Return

Two major features in Trench 1 this year have been the robber trench for our Building B, and a large pit, which I believe to be a post pit.  The robber trench, as mentioned in previous updates, is the remains of an Anglo-Saxon stone building associated with St. Oswald’s gate. It is extremely difficult to see in plan, even when wet or damp, but in section, because it cuts into the natural boulder clay, it becomes a lot easier to see. We have now almost fully excavated the western side, from where it enters the current Trench 1, to where it butts up against the bedrock that rises out of the ground in the trench. The bedrock in line with the robber trench (and therefore the wall) has been cut and broken, and has what is believed to be mortar residue sitting in the cracks. I believe this cutting of the bedrock to be the equivalent of sanding down a door before it is painted; giving the rock a rougher surface which can hold the mortar better.

American Student, Nina, working on the robber trench.

The original T1, facing east.

The pit, as mentioned above, has two large boulders sitting at its base, which I believe to be packing stones. Unfortunately, because the pit seems to be cutting an older feature, it is not yet possible to definitely confirm this. If they are packing stones, judging by their size, they would have supported an extremely large post. The pit itself would also line up with two other large post pits from the old Trench 1. This line of post pits DOES NOT align with either of the current known buildings in Trench 1, possibly indicating a third, timber, structure. More on this next year.

The Young Ones

As well as returning features, we’ve had a fair number of new features emerge. In particular, the area around a hearth in the north east of the trench has thrown up a number of interesting layers, including a strange linear stony spread, which could indicate another floor surface.

Area around the potential hearth with a linear stony spread beginning to emerge

In the south east, the possible cut for the timber Building A seems to run alongside a rubble layer. As the bedrock would have sat inside the timber building, it is possible that this is the rubble packing for a raised floor.

However, the most exciting feature, as already mentioned in previous posts, has to be the possible arched gate spanning the huge cleft in the bedrock that acts as the Anglo-Saxon entrance to the castle. We have found a suspicious rubble and mortar spread that extends right to the edge of this cleft. It post-dates the timber building, but we are as yet unsure of how it relates to the stone one. It seems likely thus far that the two are at least roughly contemporary. Further excavations and dating evidence will be required to confirm that it is an arched gate, and to further pin down how it relates to the other features in the trench.

Exit to St Oswald's Gate

Outside the castle walls. Note the numerous building phases.

Next Season

Thanks to the hard work of all the students this year, next year promises to be an exciting one in Trench 1. We will almost certainly open a new trench on the other side of the entrance cleft in the bedrock, to see if we can find the other side of the aforementioned arched gateway. Another season objective will be to find where exactly the timber and stone buildings (which are similar, but slightly different alignments) cross over. We know roughly where they should, but a significant amount of work still needs to be done before we can say for sure.

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