Here we go, our third dig. Recorded here are the posts from the three week dig. Scroll down to start at the beginning of week 1.
Tuesday 21st August 2018
Day 12 of our third dig. And what a day. As always we welcomed lots of diggers to our site of wonderful Woodgate and indeed Aylsham history. I have to say I am as always totally dumbfounded by the wonderful turnout of wonderful people. Thank you all for coming along and taking part in this community dig. I have to say that when I first thought of a community dig, I had no idea of how so many people would embrace it and make it real. For that I thank you all. So onwards to today… Little Dan who took over from Matt on the south side, oversaw some totalling of trenches, which means dig frantically and find things!! And again early medieval pottery was found including a lovely spout of a very small flask. The kiln field, as normal for the last two days, required removal of the top six inches of subsoil on the north east side, which is as usual yielding copious finds of mostly Roman pottery. Some of which were rather lovely, such as Nene valley ware and Oxford ware as well as our very own Woodgate ware. The most exciting news of the day is the discovery of two pits, with bronze age pottery deposited in them. They are right alongside each other to the north side of the trench. Yes we have found bronze age pot before, but now we have found it in a pit, with roman activity occurring above it. Another period of Human activity to add to our time line. The kitchen garden is as always providing heaps of finds within the huge layer of burnt material. Roman pot and CBM in huge quantities. And thankfully nothing but roman finds, so we do have a sealed context, apart from the odd piece of lime dragged down by rats, moles or rabbits! You can quite clearly see their runs. Yet more CBM, lots of pottery including some Oxford ware, and late Nene valley ware and some 4th century grey ware. And more teeth, so many teeth from the same feature… Julie tells us they were horse or pony. Dan tells us we have found evidence of the demolition of a Roman building by the Saxons and not just any building, but one with an under floor heating system and high quality pottery as well. We found Samian ware from the topsoil in past years and now we are finding late fine wares from the 4th century as well. It appears that the Romano British have been living here for at least three centuries. Next question is, have they lived in the same building, or have they modernised or knocked down an earlier one and started again? More questions to answer over the next few years. My thanks as always to everyone who has come along to help dig, to all those who have been a part of this project from the start,diggers , sievers, finds cleaners, food and water purveyors, and of course Britannia Archaeology for guiding us. We also had Virtronix here today using 3D cameras and drones to map our site. What they have done is mind boggling. Wonderful images of our trenches brought to life. Thank you Sheila for organising this. These amazing images will be available soon. Please sleep well and we look forward to tomorrow and what will be found. Peter.
Monday 20th August 2018
Day eleven, our third week. Can’t believe we are into the final run! Thank goodness the weather was with us, not too cold not too hot and not damp! Although there was a call of it’s a bit too humid! First I have to say a huge thank you to all those wonderful people who have very kindly donated money to the project during the last few days. We have received a massive £4800 purely from donations, in just seven days! I know most of that was down to one individual who has asked to remain anonymous, but thank you to you and everyone else who has helped to keep this amazing community project going for another year. So we must look at today’s developments. On the south side of the lake, Matt was thinking all features were dug and he could finish recording, but no, this is of course Woodgate where features and finds seem to appear when least expected. There are now another row of post holes to the south of the trench, which need to be dug and recorded! As we know, most of the features in the south trench show evidence of medieval occupation. Lots of ditches and pits, all with 10th to 13th century pottery lurking in them. This ties in well with the late 13th century coins that have been found this year and last. I do know that we will be opening another trench here next year, to the north of this one, and so closer to the trackway that the geophys shows up so clearly. In the Kiln field diggers were set to work removing the top six inches or so of soil, with all being sieved and of course lots being found, mostly roman pot. Ditch features were also being dug, thank you Franz for a lovely cross section on the north south ditch. And well done to Nigel and Karen digging the east west ditch, Martin was very impressed with your profile! My sister Jane and Sheila were looking at the question mark feature to the central north side of the trench, which now shows a Roman pit cutting a much earlier iron age pit. Samples from the pottery need to be looked at before trying to make a call on the precise date of the pottery found within. It shows yet more evidence of how the Romans changed the ancient Britons landscape. In the kitchen garden the black hole is gradually being dug deeper, and of course yet more Roman pottery and ceramic building material (CBM), are being found within the layer of charcoal and obvious burning material, which we believe is evidence of Saxon demolition of a building. Yes, it’s still a guess at the moment but it seems to be leading that way at present. No doubt all will change tomorrow! In a few short moments, Shelley found what just has to be foundation flint with opus signinum attached, the Roman equivalent of mortar. And then she dug a large lump of lead, all coiled up and presumably chucked in the pit by a Saxon. I’ve cleaned it up very carefully and was hoping to find some evidence of writing or a maker’s mark, but nothing yet. Sorry!! The flint is not in it’s original position, but it does show, with all the CBM found, there must be somewhere close by, a Roman tile -roofed dwelling of some sort with an under floor heating system. Some lovely pieces of pottery were also found…. late Oxford ware pot base, and Thames valley body sherd. Thankyou to all who were on the sieves today, finding massive amounts of pottery and CBM, both in the kiln field and to the south side.Thank you to all the people who sit quietly at the tables, washing and bagging and making sure each find is correctly labelled, and I am always amazed when I ask for a particular find, they can always locate it, just like that. Thank you. As ever I am amazed by the wonderful turnout each day, the behind the scenes work of so many volunteers making this all happen, and the great spirit and camaraderie shown by all. It is such a joy to see you all each morning and bid you all farewell of an evening, knowing you all had a happy day learning about our history. Sleep well. And see you tomorrow. Peter.
Some lovely aerial shots from a drone taken by Frederic Landes from North Norfolk Photographic Society. Thank you Frederic. Peter
Friday 17th August 2018
Day ten of our dig, or the last day of the second week. As ever, thank you all for coming along to dig and sieve and clean finds, and provide us with food and water! Someone asked me today how the whole project works. So I told them that a vast number of volunteers take on varied roles and work incredibly hard, and what you encounter each day is down to them. Yes, I am lucky enough by some wonderful chance to own a piece of land, beneath which is a huge area of occupation by humans over the years. but making this community dig work is down to a lot of lovely people spending hours and hours of their time making it all happen. Another person believed we were getting funding from the government for the dig! The fact is, we raise the funds ourselves, through membership fees, digging fees, sales of memorabilia, bric-a-brac sales, all money received from the talks we give, and of course wonderful donations from local people. No volunteers receive any recompense for the hours they put in, over 8000 hours during the last 12 months! This is a truly wonderful advert for community archaeology. I must add that all volunteers, llike Sheila, Diana and myself all pay the membership fee and dig fee, even Sable the dog pays her way!! But she does ask for permission for random rabbit hole digging as well. So at last to what has been found today. On the south side, Matt has been recording and photographing all the features. Volunteers have been cleaning features and digging new ones as well as sieving the subsoil.. All finds are 10th to 14th century, a totally different type of pottery to the roman types. There are as always lots of ditches denoting enclosure boundaries, and post holes have been discovered, suggesting a small structure of some sort. Possibly an animal shed or grain drying area. As we move north towards the trackway next year, we are almost certain that the remains of a dwelling will appear. There is so much domestic pottery appearing, there must be a living space close by. On to the kiln field. Lots of people were able to dig today, cleaning back and digging features as well. Once again the landscape is riddled with ditches and pits, from the late iron age through roman to medieval. We have found a range of pottery from Iron age, Roman right through to 17th century. Evidence again of continual use of the landscape for 2 thousand years. Finally to the kitchen garden where we believe there lies the remains of a Roman building of some sort. Dan and his diggers have begun excavating the features. Remember this only a 5 x 5 meter trench. There does seem to be a ditch running West to East along the northern boundary, possibly the boundary ditch of the structure, be it a villa or farmsted. This ditch is full of burnt material, roman roof, floor, and hypocaust tile, and of course Roman pottery and yet more large mammal teeth!. The area south of the ditch is a mass of interconnected pits. All full of burnt roman material. It really does look like the Saxons have come along and demolished the Roman villa, taken what they could use, and then burnt the rest. But of course you must remember we have only looked at one 5 x 5 meter trench, so we are making the best guess we can with the evidence we have so far. It was lovely to welcome members of the U3A north Norfolk archaeology group today. First I have to say a huge thank you for a wonderful donation, very kind of you all. We rely on funding like this to keep going. It was a great pleasure to show you around the site, and lovely to see your interest in what we are discovering. Please do come and see us again next week or next year, and do sign up to be a friend and come and help us dig next year. As always I have probably put you all to sleep. Thank you to everyone who has been brave enough to read all of this, thank you to all who are part of this wonderful project, please remember without you, we would not be here. Peter.
Thursday 16th August 2018
Day nine of our third annual dig. WET!! Yet unbelievably, 40 people turned up. That is real dedication, thank you all so much. There are obviously no developments to report regarding our trenches, except to say they are rather damp! We had a little scrape in the children’s area, which is partly undercover, and there is a ditch running north south on the west side. More to add to our overall historic landscape. I can’t wait to see when all we have found is put on a map, with the different features appearing in different colours depicting a specific time in history. So we may have blue for iron age, red for early roman, magenta for late roman, green for saxon etc etc. This will show us how the landscape has been changed over the years, influenced by new people adopting a different way of life,and using the land in different ways. So today was wet, yet we still managed some troweling on the kiln field. A few more features cleaned back and a few more features revealed. Away from the trenches, some brave souls were sieving, others were cleaning and bagging finds, and some were making pots or tiles to be fired in our ‘authentic reproduction!’ of a roman kiln, which we will be constructing in a few weeks time. The best thing about today was the wonderful camaraderie shown by all. And just have to say the dictionary definition is ‘a mutual trust and friendship shown between a group of people’. Sounds right to me! Thank you to everyone involved in this project in any way .It is such a happy environment , people enjoying archaeology, learning new things, and meeting new people. Tomorrow, if the weather gods are with us, we will be able to use lots of diggers in the kiln field, and across the lake. And of course there is still heaps of sieving to be done. The children’s area will be open as normal, and the kitchen garden will be back to normal provided the water has drained away. So please come along, put your best archaeology trousers on, and be involved in the Aylsham Roman Project. Peter.
Wednesday 15th August 2018
Day eight and ‘oh dear’ that means we are just over half way! We have uncovered a huge amount of archaeology, and have a huge amount to still look at. Hopefully we will make it. I’m beginning to sound a bit ‘Time Team’ ish….. ‘and we only have three days to find it!’ Hope you all managed to see John Lord, what an amazing craftsman. He was very kind and dated many of our flint finds, as well as putting on a wonderful demonstration. (Please see earlier post). Well I have to say today was a bit of a blur, I had to go watering at 5am this morn, and needless to say am a little weary! The kiln field trench which most of you were involved with today is, as always yielding its secrets bit by bit. The most important thing to grasp is that the ‘droveway’ which was found in the geophys, was found in year one and two and again in the school’s week in June, is really quite old! Probably an iron age feature. Then along came the Romans and altered the landscape…….. We know that kiln 2 ,from earlier years digging, was cut though the western ditch. This year we have found numerous ditches, pits and other anomalies that are located within the droveway or cut across it. So when we became romanised in the first and second century, a complete change of the landscape occurred. I do wonder if the ancient Britons living here at the time were thinking ‘we always walked up that piece of land with our animals, taking them to graze, then along come the Italians, start building their smelly pottery kilns and tell us we can improve our lifestyle by doing things their way’ What on earth is going on, I liked that field over there and now someone has decided to put a load of houses on it…… Or is that what’s happening nowadays? Just a thought!! Sorry, I feel I digressed…. the fact is the kiln field is revealing great archaeology. The confluence of ditches to the south of the trench are ditches from different ages,late iron age, early roman, late roman and then another one with as yet no dating evidence. We also have numerous roman pits within the droveway with finds from 1st to 4th century. As always roman greyware and other types, nene valley ware, samian ware and lots more iron slag….. where is the foundry? Across the lake Matt continues with the medieval pits and ditches. The location of four postholes in a corner of an enclosure indicates a small structure, possibly a grain drying shed. I love the early med pottery, all sorts of different types, some with fancy decoration, and coupled with lots of 13th century silver coins being found, shows the site was occupied 800 years after the romans left. I am sure we will find during subsequent digs that humans were living here continuously for about 5000 years! And finally to the kitchen garden where we still believe there is a roman villa. The 25 square meter trench has as you know been a total mix of finds from 2000 years! But we have at last reached the secure roman context, approx 80cm below the surface. And as you will remember Dan found an early sherd of anglo saxon pottery right on top of the roman context yesterday. There was a slight panic today, as we had found a huge ditch running west- east full of burnt material, right beside the northern extent of our trench. It appeared at first that the ditch ran underneath our trench, but by some miracle we have about one inch of natural soil to the north of the ditch, so we can continue to excavate. To explain…. It is really difficult to dig a feature that is only partly exposed, and really not allowed. So we were very relieved to find the edge of the feature is just within the confines of our trench. This was pure luck, as we simply dug the trench by chance… and happened to be very lucky. The finds within the Roman context consist of roman pot, lots of roof, floor and hypocaust tile, and also some very well preserved teeth, big teeth, probably cow or horse. We will await an evaluation by Julie next week. A very big piece of daub also appeared, so more evidence of roman building. The best guess at the moment is the big ditch to the north was possibly a building boundary, rather like we have a hedge, fence or wall around our houses today. When the Saxons came along and demolished the villa, having taken all they could use, they chucked the remains into the ditch and burnt it. No doubt this idea will change over the next few days, but it will do for me for now!! Thank you to all for making this such a happy community dig. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s surprises. See you soon. Peter.
Some photos of John Lord and his wonderful display. Thank you John for showing us the amazing art of flint knapping.
Tuesday 14th August 2018
Day seven of our third annual dig. What an amazing turnout, around 100 people digging and sieving or having a look, this is real community archaeology. Thank you so much to everyone young and not quite so young who have been with us today. It was wonderful to see the children’s trench filled to the brim with youngsters, trowels in hand having a dig and of course finding pottery and burnt flint and clay pipe, but also enjoying being outside in the open air. Thank you all for coming, please come and dig again soon. I know I have a tendency to send everyone to sleep with my evening ramble, SO PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THIS. Tomorrow is our specialist day, archaeologists, metal work expert, pottery expert, bone expert, animal footprint expert, Historic England adviser, They will all be here to answer your questions, help you identify your artefacts, your old coin, or piece of obscure pottery. And of course we have John Lord here giving a flint knapping demonstration, so please bring your flints for identification, watch him turning a piece of flint into an arrow head or axe or a scraper. Could you all please pass this on to your friends and family, you won’t get a better chance to have your questions answered about archaeology or simply to learn about archaeology…. a future career may be cultivated. Right, it’s time to return to the cure for insomniacs…! So we had lots of diggers today, and Martin was able to use about 50 in the kiln field. either digging or sieving. The sieves turned up enormous quantities of roman pottery, but also iron age pottery, as well as the burnt flint, clay pipe and assorted post medieval pot and brick, And a lovely silver penny, from the medieval period… most probably Edward 3rd, but we will confirm with our coin expert tomorrow. Remember… bring your coins along for evaluation from the expert. Almost forgot to say that Donna found a piece of Samian ware whilst sieving, brilliant and thank you for keeping your eyes peeled. Back to the kiln field trench. The cleaning back hour this morning, loads of people involved as seen in photos, revealed yet more features. It appears that our late iron age droveway was cut through by the romans, as we have found lots of pits in the droveway with roman finds in them. We also know from last year that kiln two cut right across the west ditch of the droveway. As always, the Romans have looked at our landscape and then re designed it to suit them! So we have numerous pits, all producing mostly Roman pottery and burnt flint, and then we have a pit that Frances and Deborah are digging producing a huge piece of roman roof tile, about a quarter of a whole one. Please see in the photos. And another lovely piece of Samian pottery appeared, which is great dating evidence as it stopped being produced in the late 2nd century. There is so much yet to find in the kiln field trench, so many more features to dig, and we only have eight days to go. Across the lake, Matt and his diggers have found four post holes, the site of a building. This structure is located in one corner of an enclosure, to the north and west of the feature. The pottery is mostly early medieval,with the occasional roman and iron age sherd appearing. I really believe that over the years to come, the archaeology discovered here, will help us to understand the whole forty acre site. We are right next to the springs, the waters that drew everyone here in the first place. And finally in the kitchen garden, the Victorian influenced features have now been removed. We are now on to the burning level, which has been cleaned back and all finds have been roman. So hopefully we have our sealed Roman context. Fingers crossed!! Thank you to all who helped with preparing this trench for the rather interesting archaeology to follow over the next few days. Good night to everyone, thank you for yet another wonderful day discovering the history of Woodgate and Aylsham. See you tomorrow. Peter
Monday 13th August 2018
First day of our second week, as always thank you to everyone who was here today, the die-hards from our first and second years and a huge welcome to our new diggers, lovely to see you and hope you enjoy this rather strange but highly enjoyable experience. It’s not everyone’s choice to get in a hole and dig up what was dumped by our forbears in a waste pit. But that is essentially what we do. So what happened today? Let’s start with the kiln field..As we already know we have two distinct ditches running south to north forming the edges of a droveway. The problem today is, in the west ditch we have found a confluence (I hope that’s a word) of ditches, posssibly three or four all meeting in one point. As Martin said earlier, this is exciting archaeology. So with careful troweling we will discover how one feature cuts another, and so give a timeline to each feature…. I Hope!! Just to the north and slightly east is a possible waste pit. If you remember in our first year year we found a huge waste pit between the kilns, which was very carefully dug by Teresa and Catherine if my memory is correct and lots of bone fragments appeared. So far this pit has yielded pottery and bone, and lots of ceramic fragments, possibly pieces from our kilns from year 1 and 2. I hope tomorrow we will find out so much more. On the south of the lake, we seem to be dealing with predominantly early medieval features. Certainly lots of 11th/12th C pottery appearing. In the north west corner there is a huge feature, as seen in the pics with Gary looking very relaxed!! It’s right in the corner of the trench so quite tricky to evaluate at the moment…we may need to wait to next year to understand what’s going on here. And finally to the kitchen garden, where I hope we have at last decided where reasonably modern activity meets sealed section archaeology. I HOPE. So I will try to make sense of six days of digging in as few words as possible, so you don’t all fall asleep! The top six inches or so is topsoil, a really dark layer of fertile soil cultivated over the last 150 years. Below that there is about 12 inches of subsoil, imported when the garden was made in 1870. Below that is another 12 inches of a wonderful mix of roman pottery roman roof, floor and hypocaust tile, medieval brick and post medieval brick and pottery and even a bronze age piece of worked flint, and Victorian pottery and flower pot. So in other words, nothing of any archaeological significance whatsoever……. apart from the fact that the Victorian workmen who made the kitchen garden were using a wonderful mix of ceramics across the ages to provide a level of good drainage for the garden. Below this is a layer of sand which varies in depth, so is being used as a levelling substrate, fill in the holes to form a reasonably level layer upon which to place your perfect kitchen garden soil. Hope you are keeping up with me on this one…. So the fact is the top 30 inches, although they contain wonderful finds, are all out of context. However the fact that so much Roman pot and building material is appearing does rather indicate the existence of a building somewhere near by. Right, if you are still keeping awake. we now get to the undisturbed context. Just above the burnt soil level we found a pipe bowl, dated about 1870 and a piece of white glazed Victorian pottery as seen in the photos. This proves that all finds above this layer are imported by the Victorians. Dan then made a wonderful discovery.. in the top layer of undisturbed roman context was a sherd of early Saxon pottery. At last our time line makes sense.. We have Saxon pottery right on top of the Roman context. I know I must not get too excited, but after a week’s digging that is very promising. It’s also our first confirmed piece of early Saxon pottery from the whole site ever!! Over the next few days we will start to dig the Roman features and hope we find some clues to what on earth was going on 1800 years ago. Thank you for reading all of that. Thank you all for coming along to the ARP, or for following us on Face book or on our web page. If you haven’t been to see us yet, please come along and have a look, you never know you might get hooked. Peter.
Friday 10th August 2018
Day five of our third year. I am still jumping for joy…. we had rain and then more rain again today. Wonderful for my plants, and lovely to have soil that is easier to dig, and features that are easier to see… but of course not very nice being soaked whilst trying to dig a feature. We had a wonderful turnout of volunteers today…those who have been with us since year one and lots of new faces too. Thank you all for being with us, discovering the history of Woodgate and Aylsham. I am totally in awe about the finds today, in an amazing 30 mins this morning.. Olivia found a minute flint leaf arrow head whilst sieving (we must sieve more), a huge piece of amphora found by Blythe searching the spoil heaps and a mid 4th century roman coin found whilst digging a feature. I am so sorry I forgot to ask your name, but thank you it’s a huge credit to your troweling skills to find a coin. The coin was seen by Dr John Davies who visited the site today, and he thought it came from the early to mid 4th century. The tiny flint arrow head found by Olivia is about 7000 years old and quite likely older than that. It is a tiny weeny piece of worked flint and the best guess it was used for killing birds, as being so small the impact on a mammal would not have caused significant damage.I am sure we will learn a lot more about this find when John Lord is with us next Wednesday 15th August. The amphora is most likely to be of Gallic (French) origin, circa 150-250 AD. Somewhere in France a potter made an amphora, it was then filled with olives, or wine or some sort of food ,loaded onto a boat, sailed easterly up the channel and up the north sea and came ashore in the great estuary at Yarmouth and made it’s way to Woodgate. Amphora finds in Norfolk are quite rare, so a very well done to Blythe my CFO for finding this wonderful artefact. Digging on all three sites was mostly cleaning back, so I am not able to give much more information on finds or features. The kitchen garden still reveals yet more Roman pottery and CBM, including box flue tile from the hypocaust system. And of course the huge layer of burnt material that Dan spoke about this afternoon. Is it the result of a Saxon demolition of the villa followed by a huge bonfire to remove the bits and pieces they had no use for?? Or have we by chance dug straight onto the rake pit from the under floor heating system? Hopefully we will get an answer in the next two weeks. This is an enormous archaeological site, 40 acres of land with human activity being revealed, lasting at least 7000 years!! All because we have a fresh water supply, in the form of springs. Thank you to every one who is involved in any way with this project. The fact that so many people come along each day, who help with the organisation, manning the welcome tent, digging, sieving, providing food and drink (civil protection volunteers), finds sorting and washing and keeping an eye on the diggers to make sure they have labelled the finds, (thank you Maggie), and just coming along, having a look at our history, taking part in revealing our past. I really wanted to start a community archaeological project, and I think I have achieved that, but only because of you wonderful people who are here every day taking part, and all those who make it all happen with your endless work behind the scenes. Lets hope for yet more great discoveries next week. Thank you all for an amazing first week. Peter.
Thursday 9th August 2018
Day four ……. It rained! A very selfish Hoorah now follows. I don’t have to water my plants tonight, but it also means easier digging in our trenches. Thank you to all who turned up today. The decision was made by Britannia not to dig features because of the potential damage to them, so the suggestion of digging the area of the children’s trench was put forward. What a wonderful group of volunteers we have. They all agreed to partake, either digging or sieving. Thank you to you all for showing great community spirit, despite the wet, be brave and carry on. Please look at the penultimate photo of a fossilised sea urchin, found in the south field with 12/13th century pottery. It was most probably discovered when flint knapping, and someone looked at it and thought it to be something special and kept it. We have found one of these before, at the south end of the nursery, in a Roman context. I love the fact that today if we found a sea urchin fossil we would keep it, just as they did 800 years ago, and again 2000 years ago. We humans have always been fascinated with wonderful objects from the past. If you haven’t seen the earlier post of the drone pics, please take a look, they are brilliant. Thank you to everyone who is part of this project. As you know, about five years ago I had a dream about a community dig, and now we are in our third year, with so many enthusiastic people of all ages learning about archaeology. The support and help from all of you is so humbling. Thank you. May it continue for many years. See you all tomorrow. Peter
These aerial shots of our three trenches were taken by David Mcarthur using a drone. He hopes to take more over the next two weeks. It’s great seeing the features from above and how they relate to each other.
Wednesday 8th August 2018
Day three of our third year. At least it was a bit cooler today or should I say less hot. First thing to share with you is that the water pump at the nursery has been removed from the borehole and successfully replaced with a brand new one, it is working and pumping water once again, thank goodness.
Right, back to archaeology. First I have to say a big thank you to all of you who appear each day to be a part of this wonderful dig. Without you we would not exist. So thank you.
I think I should also mention that the wonderful people from Britannia love being here, it gives them a chance to do proper archaeology, not the high pressure ‘get off my land’ pre house building type. The kitchen garden is gradually being reduced and still no real features, just a massive accumulation of roman, med and post med pot and CBM. As we dig deeper Dan assures me we will begin to see what’s going on. I hope!!
On the south side of the lake, we continue to find 11/14th C pottery, from ditches and pits. And the occasional late iron age fragment as well. The fact is I believe, that there has been continual occupation for many hundreds of years, because of the supply of fresh water via the springs. In the kiln field and all those features, lovely things are beginning to appear. Two rows of post holes indicate a structure of some sort. It does make sense, to have a potters shed near to the kilns. Ralph was digging a feature and found a long bone, Julie tells us it was from a young cow, and in a good state of preservation, considering our acidic soils. A friend has flown a drone over the dig sites today, so we should get a lovely aerial view of our trenches. Broadland ‘Tots to Teens’ have been with us today getting involved with all aspects of archaeology. They have been making pots to fire in our kiln which we will build in September. Digging sections in the kiln field, finding roman pot, mortaria, cbm, animal teeth, clay pipe and more. Hope you all had a happy day, and thank you all for coming. Thank you to everyone who is involved in any way with the dig. I hope you are all enjoying the experience, and learning more about the history of Aylsham and Woodgate. I must now get back to watering plants!. Peter
Tuesday 7th August 2018
Day two of our third year. Gosh it was hot!!! Some people gave up and went home, and I don’t blame you. We have another 13 days to go so no loss really. I have to say that nothing much has changed since yesterday. The kiln field site has now revealed a lovely row of three post holes. These are to the south of the kilns and are most probably the remains of a shed to dry the pottery pre firing in the kilns. I am sure we will learn more over the next two weeks. A lot more iron age pottery is turning up in this trench, as seen in the photos, which does indicate this area was in occupation by Britons before the Romans came along. To the south side, Matt has been directing his team in the excavation of features. Like yesterday most of the finds are 11th/14thC with a few, a very few pieces of Roman pot appearing. As they close in on the track way the number of finds increases. The more north you go, the closer you are to the life giving waters from the springs. The kitchen garden is a 5 x 5 meter trench to see what’s going on…. it is 25 square meters of archaeology! Below the imported top and subsoil is a layer of sand, probably used to level the site in the mid Victorian era.Above that is a layer of imported ceramic building material and pottery….. med, post med. and roman. Below the sand is a blanket of burnt material as we reported yesterday. Today we discovered the burnt horizon is 12 inches (30 cm in new money) and below that in the one area that was dug was natural soil. There is also a post med ditch running east west across the trench, possibly a drainage ditch from when there was an orchard here, as shown by the 1810 map. All the finds from the burnt layer are Roman and all are burnt. We believe the burnt layer to be sealed context, so charcoal removed from here could be C14 dated. Best guess at the moment is that the Saxons, having taken what was usable to them, burnt the remains of the villa. However, and there is always a however!, how about the possibility that an early villa burnt down and they built a new one. I just love this archaeology, trying to piece together what was going on hundreds if not thousands of years ago. The villa question will, I am sure go on for many years to come, but as we excavate more through the years we will find the answers. Thank you to all who took part today. Looking forward to seeing many more tomorrow. Peter
Monday 6th August 2018
Aylsham Roman Project year three day one. I really can’t believe we are here again. Thank you all for a wonderful turnout on the first day. We have opened four trenches this year. The first in the kiln field, which is due south of the kiln trench and west of the two trenches dug in years one and two… so we are filling in the missing jigsaw piece so to speak. The second one is due south of the schools trench we excavated at the end of June, which is to the eastern side of the kiln field. The third is south of the lake, or more accurately now a puddle!, and extends due north of the trench we looked at last year. Our final offering is a 5m x 5m trench in the kitchen garden with the hope of finding evidence of a roman farmsted. On my opening talk I did say that there was an area of the kiln trench which was devoid of archaeology, which was very soon proved wrong. Three post holes or pits appeared whilst cleaning! So what was found today…. Let’s start with the kiln field trench, we can see features in the trench, ditches running south to north, and some running east west. The first task was to clean back following the mechanical digger, and of course more features revealed themselves. An amazingly large number of finds were unearthed for day one, lots of Roman pottery and CBM which we would expect, and also a few fragments of iron age pot as well. Another lovely whetstone appeared in the sieves, coming from the same pit as our earlier whetstone. Different types of stone, but both used for sharpening blades. Across the lake Matt helped volunteers clean back the features and then immediately started finding mostly 12/13th century pottery. It seems that as we get closer to the trackway which we know is there, the finds become more prolific. This trench is again a confusion of crossing ditches and pits, but also a chance of the remains of a possible dwelling. Time will tell!! The kitchen garden is only a small trench, 5m x 5m, but it has already churned out heaps of roman pottery, med and post med tile and pottery, Victorian flower pot and a bronze age worked flint! It appears that the kitchen garden and the orchard that existed before were well prepared with ceramics to help drainage as well as absorbing water, and then covered with very fertile topsoil. On first inspection the area seems to be about two feet of top and sub soil and then sand. Ok let’s leave it at that… Oh no… Dan thought otherwise and dug down through the sand and found an archaeological horizon, about nine inches lower. And beneath the sand is a layer of very burnt soil. So the question is this. 1. Have we hit the hypocaust fire pit, 2. Is the burnt soil an indication of the Saxons burning the remains of the annoying Italian building they so despised or 3. And this is my favourite…… did the villa burn down??? Finds have included heaps of Roman pottery, roman ceramic building material, roof tiles, and possibly most significant box flue tile, evidence of underfloor heating system! I must away and water my plants… please may it rain soon. Thank you to every one who helped today, learning more about our past here at Woodgate. Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow. Please come along any time after 9am and we will start digging at 10am. Can’t wait to see how the picture develops tomorrow. Thank you Matt, Dan and Martin from Britannia Archaeology. Peter. Sleep well everyone.