Archaeology doesn’t respect (trench) borders

Apart from all the other exciting things that came up in Trench 9 in the last two weeks, this is an update on the happenings at the west border of the trench. Cleaning off our top context (9058) student Rachel Moss uncovered some wood in situ and at the end of the day we even had a group of features that included two post holes and five stake holes. We now know that the stake holes still sit in context (9058), other than the post holes which are sitting in a yellowish grey layer of clay underneath.

Let’s concentrate on the latter, since these two post holes withheld many surprises. After Rachel’s revealing of the wood, we were interested to see if it was anything structural and archaeological. One of our volunteers, Bob, then cleaned up around the piece of wood and found that it was clearly sitting in a circular cut. To discover the size and the shape of the feature we decided to half-section it and came across more wood! Also two pieces of bone were found right at the top of the fill – one of them possibly horn and the other may be tooth. And as if that was not enough a nice piece of flint showed off at the bottom of the cut! Flint finds are very welcome in prehistoric archaeology, because they are datable and the way it has been worked by prehistoric humans can tell us which period it is from. This blade seems to be from the Mesolithic; thus it is one of our oldest artifacts!


This is how unobtrusive the features appeared before we uncovered their substance.


After the excavation of the two post holes and four stake holes.

Getting back to the wood that appeared as three stakes, we were facing one difficulty. It seemed to be angled into the ground – right underneath the trench edge. This forced us to extend the trench by a square of 50×50 cm. Digging down to the context the wood lay in, we found a lot of Quartz, Chert, Seeds and a piece of Straw/Rooting, which are similar finds from the upper context. As we finally reached the top of the third timber it did not quite continue as expected. Instead of sitting in a cut, it lay horizontally on the yellowish grey context we suspect to be the Neolithic ground level. The size of the wood came as quite a surprise. Most pieces we had found previously were rather small in diameter. This piece however, was very typical of a post. Its ends show very uneven and irregular cuts that led us to believe that it had broken off in antiquity. A closer look at Timber 1 and 2 revealed they are not individual stakes either, but are likely pieces of the same post based on the breaks that appear to fit into each other. We like to consider all these pieces of wood as remains of one single post, but at this point there are no definite conclusions possible.


The extension and the fully excavated Timber 3 lying on top of the clay.

During the investigation of an area like this, where features change their appearance and thus new theories and thoughts come up on a daily bases, the documentation of this development is very important. Trench 9 supervisor Tom Lally recorded every new step on film, showing off the features and speaking about what was there before, what has been done meanwhile and how we would proceed. We deliberately included new thoughts, current interpretations and the opinion of the student who had been working in the area.

To provide substance for further processing and research, and thereby maintain the information this find holds, Timber 3 was lifted, recorded and is being stored safely. The next step will be to investigate the remaining wood in the cut of the posthole and hopefully come across more exciting archaeology! – Franzi-


Timber 3 after it was safely taken out.

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