This first week of the season was the perfect way to ease back into our investigation of the Castle and its grounds, as well as an opportunity to guide a fantastic group of students! The week began with an introduction to the project’s past work and induction to the methods and protocols we employ on-site. The students learned the basics of finds identification and washing and also absolutely loved getting their hands on some of our recent special small finds. You can find out more about this here (the bulk find process and the small finds process).
The beginning of the week involved quite a bit of landscaping! The team worked hard to clear the stone steps down from Saint Oswald’s Gate of any greenery to make the area more accessible. We do intend to be going up and down those stairs a fair bit over the season, so this was an absolute necessity. The modern steps appear to follow the natural slope towards the base of the outcrop, suggesting they are smack dab on the very path used for centuries. We then turned our attention to the more level ground near Elmund’s Tower.
Once the ground surface was exposed, three interesting areas were selected for further investigation.
Trench 5a is the trench closer to the base of the outcrop on the landward side, where we are trying to pick up a bit of medieval wall that was visible a few metres to the north. The trench has produced numerous small finds already, but most are corroded iron objects we have not yet identified.
Trench 5b is a unique shape, starting as an L-shaped open area with bits of masonry visible above the ground surface and a long trench alongside yet another bit of wall above ground surface that runs perpendicular to the ivy-covered 13th or 14th-century wall visible from the village green. The long rectangular trench has probable medieval masonry that the post-medieval visible wall is chasing.
In the L-shaped trench towards the beach, we have the probable corner of a structure that may very well be from the medieval tower, which was still partially standing as late at the mid-20th century.
And roughly to the north appeared a hole dubbed ‘The Void’ by our students. At first, we eagerly thought this could be the well that was associated with Elmund’s tower, but soon the stones visible from above revealed themselves to be part of a wall extending downward.
As the rock tumble that was associated with ‘The Void’ was cleaned, naturally some of us felt the undeniable need to put mobile phone torches, arms, and faces down into the hole for a little nose around (adhering to all safety instructions of course!). There may have also been a pokey stick. Soon, a large iron peg was visible extending about 15cm out of the stone wall.
A bit more cleaning was undertaken, which revealed what might be a door handle, but no associated door fittings or signs of a threshold yet, as it was just loose within the soil and rubble.
More parts of ‘The Void’ have opened as the area around the obvious hole was cleaned, which makes us think this is part of a ground floor room in the tower substantially below present-day ground-level.
In the finds department, the team has been washing the bulk material (animal bone and shells) from 2020. This material relates to the early medieval period and the probable Romano-British roundhouse excavated at the end of the season. We have uncovered a number of pieces of worked bone, some of which have already appeared on the blog. Notably, the animal bone assemblage appears to contain a significant quantity of juvenile bones, identifiable by the unfused long bones present in the assemblage.
As the trenches are still mostly in the topsoil layer, we have found a lot of modern glass and a few sherds of post-medieval pottery. The glass is almost entirely bottle glass, but today some window glass has been found as well. As mentioned in a previous post, we also had the one medieval bit of pottery, but could not tie it to a secure context.