Area B blog, late April 2010

SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

April 29th, 2010, 5:14 pm #1

WeDig'er Badger is over digging in Area B with Justin this week, next week Area A with Andy. He's been forwarding e-mails at the end of the day, and OK'd a reposting here:

Day 1: 27 April
Fred and I make the long journey in pretty good form. It actually adds up to almost 24 hours of travel if you tack on the drive... Minor travel glitches along the way so we got in tired, late and slightly delirious. Slept hard. Woke up with sun blazing in the window. My usual senses told me 8 am and time to hurry for breakfast. But no, it was 6am and the world was silent. We are it seems far enough north that we are kind of Alaska like. Nights are short and still partly bright, dawn comes early and with emphasis.

Delightful weather.

Digging off and running, most of the crew were assigned to areas started last week. But there was a large area, maybe 12 by 10 feet that needed the turf taken off... Many barrow loads of turf, then of the tumbled rock and rubble that goes down the next 8 inches.

A few items turned up, although we are still too close to surface for any concentrated finds. Fred found half of a nice spindle whorl. And the usual assortment of pottery fragments. On the other side of the site two nice beads came up, one still has gold leaf on it.

Still early, so we may slake our thist a bit then walk up the hill to the Wall. And its quiz nite later, so there is usually a Vindolanda team. Not that Fred and I will be much help on the music trivia that dominates.
Last edited by SacoHarry on April 29th, 2010, 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

April 29th, 2010, 5:15 pm #2

Day 2: 28 April
Long day of exposing a random looking pile of rocks. There is a clear feature running diagonally across it, but perhaps a Victorian era field drain.

A few finds turned up, might be random bits that have been tossed about. Found the neck of a cool ringed wine flagon. And a palm sized slab of decorated Samian ware. This bit had elaborate designs on it, hunting dogs, grape leaves, a fish.

Next trench over a coin in decent shape turned up.

Dubious weather tomorrow, so if no update means we got rained out and had to find other things to do.
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

April 29th, 2010, 5:17 pm #3

Day 3: 29 April
Not a lot to report.

The area Fred and I were in had such initial promise....but the section I dug down was pretty much barren. I decided it must have been the floor of the village poor house...no artifacts larger than small pottery chips. Even the bones were small, maybe hand outs gnawed on more than once.

Fred did a little better, but not without effort. There is a large swath of river rock passing through the trench. Not natural, someone went to considerable effort to haul wagon loads of rock up from the river and dump them. Why? When? And over what? There were some broken bits of amphorae, big honkin' storage jars that would make fine road patching material once broken. But troweling between boulders is hard duty.

On the other end of the site are some rookie diggers. They laugh, they tease each other, then find interesting artifacts. A bit of bronze armor. A rolled up bit of lead, possibly a curse scroll (?)!

Breezy weather, three straight days without significant showers. Unprecedented!
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

April 30th, 2010, 4:28 pm #4

Day 4: 30 April
Odd weather. Rain, sun, rain, sun, hail, sun. Nothing to slow the digging down.

Fred and I alternated areas today. The previous area with big lunkin' rocks continues to be artifact free. I can imagine a hired contractor back in Roman times being told 'Four cartloads of rock, Fabius, and top quality only, no refuse thrown in!'. Probably there is a ditch under it all.

The other area was better, we dug two more spindle whorls today (this is a circular weight used to hold down the loose end of yarn while weaving). That makes three in a small area, so perhaps it means there was a weaving establishment there?

Various odd bits of pottery also found.

Next digger over turned up the neck of a really pretty sapphire perfume bottle. When you think about how much sewage there was all over the place one wonders why perfume bottles are an infrequent find. Maybe some of those 20 gallon amphorae we find were filled with something other than olive oil.....cheap parfume?

- Tim and Fred
whorl3.jpg
whorl2.jpg
Last edited by Badger on May 14th, 2010, 2:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Justin-T
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Joined: August 19th, 2009, 4:30 pm

April 30th, 2010, 5:04 pm #5

Just a quick note to say keep it up, as a soon-to-be-rookie digger its great to read this and get an idea of what daily digging is really like.
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HelenG
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HelenG
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Joined: June 27th, 2007, 12:53 pm

April 30th, 2010, 7:19 pm #6

Hi Badger

Glad to hear you made it across the pond and that you are finding more than cobbles.

Not sure about that definition of a spindle whorl though.

As I understand it a spindle whorl is a perfectly circular object with a whole dead centre and was used with a stick through it for drop-spinning. (see first two attachments)

Weights for holding down loose ends of yarn while weaving (loom-weights) are sometimes the same shape but do not have to be so perfectly round and balanced. Sometimes they triangular or just large pebbles (see attachments 3 and 4).

Either way, a cobble with a hole in it is a lot better to find than one without.

Helen
loom_weights.jpg
warp_weight_loom1.jpg
dropspin.jpg
Spindle1.jpg
Last edited by HelenG on April 30th, 2010, 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

May 1st, 2010, 7:19 pm #7

Day 5: 1 May 2010
Crummy weather, off and on showers, so in and out of the excavators' shelter. Lower area of the trenches full of water, so we were working some higher areas, with bits of pottery but not much else. Of course, our supervising archeologist hopped in to have a quick scratch at an area and out pops a sestertius, which is a low-value brass roman coin the size of a silver dollar.

The village area remains an enigma, with random patches of clay, rock and rubble. Cobblestone roads seem to start, stop and merge at odd angles. A huge burning pit is found three feet from what must have been a building at least partially made of wood. Later Victorian era field drains cut across at crazy angles, and often have roman pottery bits in them. After all, that is what washes into drains when you dig them through an archeological site.

All quite perplexing.

It is an area that I find intriguing, because you just never know what will turn up next. But every year when I leave it I shake my fist at it.

Off to the fort site proper tomorrow. Right angles, broad stone streets etc. But much mystery there as well. More on that in the days ahead.

-- Tim and Fred
wetB103.jpg
wetB101.jpg
Last edited by Badger on May 14th, 2010, 2:17 am, edited 4 times in total.
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SacoHarry
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Joined: August 22nd, 2006, 9:29 pm

May 1st, 2010, 7:25 pm #8

Final Recap, Week 3
Area B report.

We came on site after a period of unprecedented sunny, dry weather. Justin claimed he had actually tried to spray water on the site the week before, better to see subtle soil features. If true, and with Justin's sense of humor one cannot be entirely sure, it would be the first time in 1800 years that water had purposely been directed into the site rather than out!

The main trench was oriented around one of those later buildings erected on top of later silt fill, which in turn was atop c. AD 230 cobblestone roads. A couple of stalwarts took on a pile of boulders which had been used to fill in a burning pit. Others worked under the building foundation level. Various interesting small finds, including some nice beads.

A subsidiary trench was put off to the west, to cover an area that on magnetometer showed an intense stone concentration. Could it be a building? Well, it could be, but it was not. A dense concentration of boulders was painstakingly unearthed, with very few finds.

Other areas of the subsidiary trench yielded several spindlewhorls to suggest the possibility of a weaving industry.

And of course with Area B there are two constants.....

The weather went bad on the last day, with rain and mud slowing progress.

And at the end of the week there were still mysterious areas of clay, possible ditches, fragmentary floor surfaces and short sections of cobbled roads going to who knows where.

Plenty of mystery for the incoming crews!

Tim Wolter
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Badger
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Badger
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Joined: May 12th, 2008, 1:10 pm

May 14th, 2010, 2:19 am #9

Area B "blog" updated with a few pix.
And yes Helen you were correct in your description of how spindle whorls are used.
Its never a good day unless you learn something.

T Wolter
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