August 2019 Dig

Thursday 22nd August Welcome to day 14, our penultimate day of discovering the history of Woodgate, Aylsham. Martin started the day with lots of people cleaning back the Kiln field, preparing for lots of photographs as this area will not be opened again. The last part of the east west ditch was dug for finds retrieval and it did not disappoint. Plenty of roman pot and some CBM as well. On to the Kitchen Garden and yet more pony bones appeared along with pottery and heaps more CBM, some burnt and some not. I await the last day talk from Dan for some explanation. Thank goodness that all the areas dug this year will have a written report from Britannia to help us understand what is going on!! There are lots more pony bones, including ribs, a shoulder bone, and some butchered vertebrae. We will wait for Julie to have a look. On the south side, Matt gave his end of dig talk, indeed his last as he is leaving Britannia to take up the post of County Archaeologist for Suffolk. Many congratulations to Matt. We hope to see him over the coming years, thank you Matt for all you have taught us over the last years about the archaeology of the South Side. He told us that the enclosure we have discovered is all medieval. The pottery found in the ditches last year and this year is all Med. We have a first on the south side… A charcoal producing pit on the west side of the trench, and in the baulk of the section there appears to be another charcoal pit which could be excavated next year. For me the best thing is finding the track. This track has a ditch running along each side as expected, is dated to around the 12-13th century, which is contemporary with the finds from all the ditches we have dug so far. The quarry pits which were all thought to be post med, have produced med pot. So we now think these pits are contemporary with the enclosures, and possibly earlier. So were they digging gravel and sand to make the track? Let’s be brave and say YES. Thank you to every one for being a part of ARP. Please do come along tomorrow to learn about the history of Woodgate from Dan and Martin. Sleep well. Peter.

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Wednesday 21st August Day 13 of ARP 2019 dig, a touch of sadness as it’s coming to an end, but really overjoyed with the finds this year. So many new finds and features not seen before. It is very hard to describe how I feel…. We have been digging for four years now, which in itself is an achievement, and every year something new appears to help with the planning of the activity that was going on over the last two to three thousand years. We know we have a site of continuous occupation for thousands of years, around forty acres of activity due to the water from the springs. And as we seek the past by digging the features, we are gathering knowledge of who was living here, finding out about them by examining their rubbish left in pits or ditches. We know we have a substantial Roman building in the location of the Kitchen Garden, we know we have an area of Roman industry in the Kiln Field and we know we have evidence of Medieval activity in the south field. We also know that there are hundreds more areas to dig over the coming years, as the geophysics has shown. I can already see myself in some sort of buggy or frame, tottering out to the dig, making grumpy comments about the appearance of diggers in the not too distant future!! I hope and pray that this site will continue to bring archaeologists both amateur and professional, to discover our history here in Aylsham, for many many years to come. We had Broadland ‘tots to teens’ with us today learning about archaeology, thank you all so much for coming to join us, perhaps you will become the archaeologists of the future, and come back one day to help us understand what is going on! Here are photos from the day, I will not give a commentary as we will learn about all the areas in the next two days from the archaeologists. However a big thank you is given to all of you who have helped this year and through the past three years to make this project what it is. It’s all very well for me to be so fortunate to own some land with wonderful history beneath, it’s down to all of you to make this a truly wonderful community project, and you have certainly done that. Thank you. Peter

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Tuesday 20th August Good evening to everyone, here we are day 12 and I’m getting post dig blues already! I was asked today by a visitor, ‘why on earth do you open your land up to be dug each year?’ My initial response was ‘because I can!’ But on reflection I said ‘I am so lucky to have this archaeology beneath my feet and it has to be shared with anyone who wants to be involved, it is our history not mine, and I am so lucky to have 140 people who want to be involved.’ So thank you yet again for being a part of this project. The jovial spirit, the camaraderie, the way the three weeks just run so happily is a testament to you all. Dr John Davies was with us today, and echoed those sentiments, and added how we amateur archaeologists were digging very fine features to a professional level… Praise indeed! So where are we at the end of day 12? To be honest I am never sure but here goes.. The kiln field is nearly finished, Kev has been rootling around in his pit on the west side adjoining the roman ditch, all roman finds so far, and we were so hoping for iron age pot or a skull or two! The east field trench has the ditches and pits, but dating evidence from finds is still not happening, so hopefully finds will appear tomorrow. Have to say they look Roman from the few finds discovered so far. In the kitchen garden we are still finding heaps of pot, roman building material and bones. Another first was a roof tile with a hole for a peg, found by my sister Jane. Donna found yet another fill to the eastern ditch which had rather a lot of daub in it, the daub was in good condition with the grooves of the wattle still visible!! Preservation on our site is remarkable. So a big thank you to great grandpa Purdy for not over ploughing the land. On the south side the features were being totally dug, 100 percenting is the technical term. Although the finds are few and far between, what is found is all early medieval. Yet more pony bones were dug from dead pony pit, and we now have a pretty secure date for our poor equid, around 1250-1350 AD So about 750 years old. Julie has been cleaning the bones and the poor beast was around 20 years old when it died. The teeth we have found are very worn, so it was probably a highly worked rather thin beast. It’s silly I know, but I get quite emotional about this poor creature. And why was it buried so close to the water source? Within a few yards of the springs. Answers we will probably never learn, but a wonderful story nonetheless. Julie also added that the estimated height was around 12 hands, so quite a small pony, used for work and hence the well worn teeth. Scavenging on what it could find when it wasn’t pulling carts. I am sure the human population was finding life hard as well, desperately searching for food and water, being ruled over by an elite living in their castles and crusading from time to time!!! As we know so well, the evaluation of this site will continue for many many years. Thank you again to everyone who came today and helped in any way. I am very much in your debt. We really do have a wonderful community project. Peter

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Monday 19th August Our third week and its day 11. We wait all year to dig and yet it seems it’s nearing the end already! Thank you to all who came along today to help discover what was going on beneath our feet many thousands of years ago. On the south side most of the recording has been done this morning, so we could start to 100% the whole site. Lots more pony bones have been unearthed along with two and a half horse shoes, beneath the track. Another part of a shoe was found in the west quarry pit, is it from the same pony? The ditches beside the track all reveal early med pottery, so appear contemporary; the horse shoes also date from the same era.. Thank goodness!! The quarry pits have so far revealed med pottery, but we must be careful as they could be residual finds falling into our feature, rather than sealed feature finds. In the kiln field we are now digging the last remaining features, purely for finds retrieval, apart from the pit which intersects the north-south ditch, hoping to find dating evidence which is earlier than Roman… nothing as yet. In the new East trench we have been digging three of the ditches and the pits. The pits have revealed no dating evidence which is slightly frustrating, but in the ditches we have found Roman pottery and CBM. Still lots to find here over the next few days. And there is a bone just waiting to be dug up! In the kitchen garden our volunteers were digging the ditches and pits to remove all finds before we close this trench possibly forever. Loads more CBM and pottery and bone were discovered. As you all know there is a substantial romano-british building in touching distance….. next year perhaps! Lots of animal bone was recovered, all cooked and from the east ditch. At the moment it appears to be from the same pony, and we have Julie with us tomorrow to check. The finds from sieving in the KG include Samian ware, mortaria, roman nails loads of pottery and CBM. I believe we already have 1000 finds purely from sieving in the KG. Thank you to everyone who has been with us today and indeed over the last two weeks. You are all contributing to a rather fantastic community archaeology project. And finally a huge thank you to Eileen Springall who is not well enough to help us dig this year, but is still cooking cakes for us, available in the civil protection tent. Thank you so much Lady Eileen. Peter.

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Friday 16th August Day ten, the end of our second week. So we have five days to go, well four really as the last day is final cleaning and explanations from the archaeologists about what we have found and so very nearly found!! That’s for Dan in the KG and the building that seems to change its location each year!! I know yesterday’s report was painfully long, so I hope to keep this one a little less a cure for insomniacs. Across the lake Matt has been overseeing the sections across the track way, which really does seem to date to the 11th-13th centuries, contemporary with the enclosure ditches we have been digging for the last three years. Finds from the ditches either side of the track are all 11-13thC. Dead pony pit beneath the track has much more to be dug, and we can start that once section drawings are completed. The quarry pit to the east is now starting to flood with water, the springs being very close to the north of the trench. Finds from this pit indicate med, not the post med we all thought earlier this week. But let’s wait and see, before we get too excited. We will take core samples next week, as it is impossible to dig with water lapping around your trowel. Someone suggested we should bottle the water and sell it to help fund ARP, but I’m not sure that rather grey murky water would be much of a hit, unless we can get a lifestyle guru to champion it! In the kiln field the last few remaining slots were dug, yielding yet more pot and CBM, there are just a few left to dig and we can then sign off the KF. However the new trench in the east field shows three ditches and many pits to be dug, I rather like the big round pit to the south, all on its own and will probably be nothing to shout about, but until it’s dug who knows. John was detecting the spoil heaps and found another bronze roman coin, as yet to be identified, as it is in rather poor condition. In the KG the ditches gave up yet more CBM, pot and bone.. all roman. We still have more slots to finish and a whole area to trowel through, before this trench is backfilled for evermore. Finds recovery is very important here, and the fact that there must be a substantial roman building nearby, makes the wait for at least another year almost unbearable. As always a huge thank you to everyone who has helped today. I am so fortunate to have a group of dedicated people who are very happy to get covered in mud discovering the history of ancient Woodgate. Please sleep well, and we are looking forward to the last five days of discovery. Peter.

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Thursday 15th August Day 9 of the ARP community dig. Thank you all again for coming along and taking part. I just love the fact that the whole day progresses with everyone, both new and the ARP veterans, getting along and doing what we all do so well. Enjoying archaeology, being guided by Britannia, and finding things….. in fact quite a lot of things, learning about those who walked this land many many years before we are. My personal feeling whenever I dig something from the soil, is who touched this last, how old were they, female or male, were they having a good day, was it raining!!! It’s a bit daft, I know, but that’s what makes me do this archaeology thing! If you hadn’t noticed… I love it. So today, we opened another evaluation trench, in the east field. The geophys results from the East field are very strange compared to what we found in the kiln field. Britannia believe it may be a geological issue, or just that when we geophysed this field the weather conditions were against us. If the sun is obscured by cloud and then comes out, and this process continues every few mins, the geophys results can be a bit peculiar. This is because the effect of the sun can affect the magnetometer. So we machined a three meter wide trench about fifty meters long, running north to south. We were hoping to find the four ditches we have found this year and in previous years, still being visible about ten meters to the east. And we found them, thank goodness, along with some pits. Ralph was metal detecting and found a very early silver penny, no idea which Monarch as yet, but definitely pre 1300AD. We then found the big west-east ditch found in kiln field. The upper level full of roman pot and CBM. A huge base of a mortaria was discovered along with roof tile and hypocaust tile. Ralph then found a lovely mid third century bronze roman coin, in wonderful condition, we will wait to learn which emperor when John Davies returns next week. So we now have many more slots through many more features to be dug. I am sure you are all up to the challenge. On the south side, the pit beneath the track has revealed yet more pony bones, all from the same beast. There is much more of this feature to dig, once the section records have been taken, so we will probably find more of this creature in next few days. The charcoal pit has been fully excavated, lots of samples taken for analysis, and a pit right alongside being dug by Tony revealed some 13th century pot. The aim of the south side this year was to find the track, cut through it and therefore record a cross section from south to north. We are nearly there, apart from having the remains of a pony directly beneath the track! The other features, ditches and pits are being fully excavated and the dating finds are now few and far between. To the north, the huge quarry pits are being dug, with very few finds. There was a piece of med pottery but that was in a pit cut by the quarry pit. I still believe these huge features can be blamed on my Great Grandpa, something associated with the digging of the lake, re-gravelling his drive or something similar!! In the kitchen garden, we started excavating the remains of the ditches…. loads of finds! Roman pot, CBM and lots of bones. Some of the bones are huge and will take a day or two to remove. Evidence of domestic activity, ie eating some cow and chucking the remains in a ditch… there really is rather a lot. Dan also found a coin at the base of a feature, but in very poor condition, so we hope that John Davies can help with that one as well. There is so much to do, and as we are starting the last six days, we need all the help we can get. Thank you to everyone who helped today, to dig, to sieve to, clean finds and record them, and to anyone who came along to have a look. Please tell your friends, to come and see what we are doing, have a look around and if they get the bug then join up and have a dig. And thanks as always to Dan, Martin and Matt for leading us and explaining what it all means! See you all tomorrow I hope. Peter. Oh I forgot to mention that I found a piece of breeze block in the new trench and told Jan to chuck it away, but best to check with Martin first. It turned out to be a piece of Lava Quernstone!! The lesson is ‘never discard anything’ !! I’ve learnt my lesson well and truly! Good night all.

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Wednesday 14th August Welcome to day 8 of ARP 2019, we are half way through our dig this year. I have listened to you all and this is being written in ‘word’ and then sent to Facebook, thank you for the advice, I am pretty useless when it comes to technology as many of you know oh so well! Back to archaeology… As always we are so lucky to be finding things! We have quite a few ‘firsts’ this year. Roman knife, key and shears, corn dryer, charcoal pit (which is pretty big), limestone quern and of course the piece of fabric found yesterday… is it of Roman origin?
So back to yesterday, the first find to appear was in the kitchen garden, in the feature Hilary was digging, a lovely large chunk of limestone quern. The biggest we have found so far, along with two smaller pieces from the same context. Two pieces were from the upper stone and one from the lower. Can you please imagine two circular pieces of stone approx. two feet in diameter. One sits above the other. There is a hole in the centre of the top one, through which you pour corn. The top stone is rotated by hand and grinds the corn, and the flour appears at the edge of where the top stone meets the lower one. We have now found three different types of grind stones. The limestone quern found yesterday, pudding stone found last year in KG and lava quern (which comes from a place in Germany near to Essen) found in the South Field. The poor deceased equid found along with one shoe was discovered beneath the track way in the south field. Julie Curl has dated it to be mediaeval, based on the shape of the shoe. The bones themselves belong to a pony about 13 hands high. The pottery found nearby was also med, about 13th -14th Century, helping to confirm the date. This is why I love archaeology, dating evidence confirmed by other dating evidence. Seeking finds in features to date the feature and then finding something which confirms that date, or quite often does not!! We are very lucky to have land that has not been deep ploughed and so our archaeology is undisturbed….most of the time. The material or fabric found yesterday in the kiln field by Donna, was in a sealed roman context. There was roman pottery found above it and beside it. It was found in a primary fill of a ditch….. therefore it must be roman! But roman fabric does not survive for 1700 years, or perhaps it does. We have to take a view that it is not Roman. Simply because fabric from roman times just does not survive. However, it was found in sealed context, with roman dating evidence, so we can hope. Next question is this, was it dragged down by a mole or rodent to build a nest? No burrows were discovered and no other nesting material found. The weave of the fabric appears ancient, the condition is very poor, all indicating that it could be roman. So we have had to go to higher authorities to check. The British Museum and Historic England have now been involved. So we are now sending a tiny fragment of this fabric to the topmost specialist in the UK, to learn her thoughts and then once we get an answer will proceed accordingly. Hopefully we will know what is happening before we finish next week. Whatever the outcome, it has been rather exciting. And so today… great morning and then the rain came as forecast. I’m selfishly pleased, no early morning watering for me and my wonderful staff at the nursery for a day or two, and digging features tomorrow will be easier. Digging was limited, but we did find loads more pot and CBM in KG, including some late iron age/early roman pot, three more pieces of samian and heaps more bone. We are now sure that we have two distinct eras of occupation, one in the 1st and early 2nd century, and the next starting in the mid to late 3rd century. This has all been gleaned from the finds from the two ditches which have two distinct cuts, one early and one late. The finds from each cut differ by at least a hundred years!! Can you imagine the pottery from 100 years ago and compare it to what we use now… these things cross my tiny mind all the time. I like to compare a hundred years then to a hundred years now and wonder if things changed that much for them, as it has changed so much for us now. Bones from the KG have been looked at by Julie. We have, wait for it… bones from a peacock in a roman context, red deer toe and vertebrae, and the leg bone from a common toad!! The romans kept peacocks as a status symbol and hunted red deer, so this all makes sense. The toad of course might have come from a few years ago, as they do burrow into the soil. Thank you Julie for your time today helping us with all our finds. We finished the day with Andy talking about the pottery that has come from the kiln field, and how he is dating it. The kilns seem to date from the mid to late third century. Pot from some features date to much earlier, and others are similar to the kilns. We have coins from 66AD to 180 AD, then a gap to260 AD and onwards. Our latest Roman coin being around 390AD. As we dig the site we are gradually building a picture of what was going on in the Roman period. It will take many more years to complete the picture, but at least we are seeing the results of the last four years of archaeology giving a small clue to what was going on around 1800 years ago!! John Lord was with us today, knapping flints and talking to many people about flints and the tools that can be made from them. John is a craftsman, but also able to talk to anyone about his trade. A real pleasure to have you with us, thank you John. It was also specialist day, so we had Dr John Davies, Julie Curl, Andy Fawcett and Louisa Cunningham all here to help answer questions about archaeology. Thank you all for being with us. Finally, thank you to all of you for coming along, taking part, digging and finding things, digging and finding nothing, finds cleaning and archiving, welcome tent overseeing, sieving the soil and sometimes finding lots and sometimes finding nothing… that’s archaeology… you never know what will turn up. Peter

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Tuesday 13th August Please forgive me but I’m losing my patience with FB. I have written post twice and it’s disappeared! So here are some pics from today to show you what an amazing day it’s been. How you all have been involved, discovering the wonders of the history of Woodgate, Aylsham. The most significant finds were pieces of fabric, please see last two pics, which were found in the east- west roman ditch in kiln field. They were discovered in a sealed context with Roman pot above them and alongside them. As always, the archaeologists are having to show doubt… so until we have proof from a specialist we cannot claim what would be a quite incredible find. I cannot quite believe that we may have found a piece of material/fabric that dates from 1700 years ago. In the kitchen garden Hilary found a large piece of quern stone, the biggest we have found over the last four years. I will stop now in case it shuts down on me again. Will update you all tomorrow. Thank you all for being a part of something really rather amazing. Peter

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Monday 12th August Welcome to the first day of week 2 of ARP 2019. And what a wonderful day, a hundred people taking part and having a look. It still amazes me that you all come along happy to dig a hole and get covered in soil and mud, sieve and get covered in dust, clean finds and get wet. So thank you all for coming along and helping in every which way that you do. And thank you to civil protection for keeping us fed and watered. Please do seek them out and be replenished by them… food and drink very cheap and a very jovial atmosphere! Also a huge thank you to my nephew Mark who was constantly attending to the tents and marquee over the windy weekend, and ensuring the straps were well fastened. We only suffered a broken joint on the south side, which considering the winds which were lifting the structures and moving them somewhat, was a miracle. The civil protection tent moved about a foot to the east!! So back to archaeology…. The kiln field was left to Martin to do recording this morning, so we all went south with Matt or west with Dan. The kitchen garden as always revealed loads more CBM and roman pot. We are now at a stage where the slots through features have been dug, so we now have almost two weeks to 100% the features and remove all finds before this area is covered up for always. Lots of burnt bone was found, which our specialist can identify on Wednesday, which of course is ‘Specialist Wednesday’, so do bring your finds along for identification, ask questions of the archaeologists and discover more about our site. John Lord will also be here, with his flint knapping demonstration, great fun to watch and so much to learn. Ask your friends to come along and see what we do. The kitchen garden is still producing evidence of a rather nice Roman farmhouse with underfloor heating and a possible mosaic, as we find lots of box flue tile, hypercaust stack tile and pieces of tessarae. Thank you Dan for guiding us through the endless ditches, pits and the ‘I have no idea’ features we are digging. I love these people from Britannia Archaeology, as they are quite happy to say… ‘I don’t know’. And ‘let’s see tomorrow’. Moving back to the kiln field, we were digging the possible ‘corn drying’ feature, and the confluence of two roman ditches. Only one find came from the corn dryer, if indeed it is a corn dryer, a tiny piece of roman pot. Another day or two should complete this feature. The shape matches a corn dryer, the proximity to the kilns indicates industrial activity, but I know as archaeologists we shouldn’t label something until we are certain. I’m not an archaeologist, so will quite happily say that we have found what looks very much like a corn dryer!! We still have to excavate all the ditches and know full well that more finds will appear. We have also decided to open another trench to the east of the kiln field, just across the fence line into the east field. We hope to find the ditches we found this year and last year which run through to the east. Also i’m rather impatient and wanted to have a look!! Hopefully it’s not too much for us all to dig, I am certain we will have enough volunteers to help. And so to the south side… We had a lot of diggers here today and discovered so so much. To the north of the trench a feature was dug that revealed a charcoal producing pit. Loads of charcoal was recovered and can be used for species sampling, oak, ash hornbeam, hazel etc. The larger pieces could be used for C14 dating, but at £500 a time I will have to think carefully about that. The first quarrying pit does look to be recent, ie the last two hundred years or so. Probably digging clay for lining the lake, or gravel for the garden at Woodgate House. Just one find would help a lot. but so far nothing. And finally, if you haven’t yet fallen asleep, under the track way we found a feature. A horse shoe and a large quantity of horse or pony bone was discovered. There is still a lot of this feature to be dug, and so hopefully more bone will be recovered and possibly a bridal and bit!!!!!! The bone can be C14 dated if we find no other dating evidence. Our bone specialist will be able to tell us the species, and hopefully the horse shoe will give us an idea of age as well. I have as usual waffled on for far too long. Facebook tells me the text is too long. So goodnight to all. Peter

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Friday 9th August Day 5 of 2019 ARP archaeological dig…..well what a week. About 2000 finds so far, about 80 people attending each day, our knowledge of all things Roman here at Woodgate seems to get more complicated! We have 1st century Roman ditches being cut by 3rd century ditches in the kiln field. And in the kitchen garden, if I remember correctly what Dan said, we have a pit cut by a pit cut by a ditch cut by another pit cut by another ditch…or something like that. To be honest I’m rather lost, so there is no point in me boring you all to sleep with an attempt at explaining the results. So a brief summary is this…. The children’s dig area was excavated a little to make easier digging next week and a ditch feature has been found. Cleaning back on the kiln field produced yet more features, some of which have now been dug, mostly post holes and pits. The remainder of the kiln field is the two ditches which run east to west and north to south. Not to mention the corn drying kiln which will be excavated next week. In the kitchen garden the finds increase, mostly CBM along with pottery and lots of nails. Dan tells us that the finds equate to a substantial Roman building…perhaps we will find it next year. So I leave you now with the hope that you all have a lovely weekend and can come along next week to discover that Roman Aylsham can reveal. Thank you to everyone who has been involved either being here of following us on line. Peter

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Thursday 8th August Welcome to Day 4 of the Aylsham Roman Project. I know we often unearth finds from other eras, but today really has been Roman. We dug in the kiln field and the kitchen garden today, as Matt was not here we did not dig in the south field. Our trackway will have to wait! Well it’s been there for 2000 years or more, so what’s another day or two. In the kiln field we were digging the ditches, which produced Roman pottery, CBM and quite a few nails! Donna found a long bone which was lifted with soil around it to prevent it from breaking…. an animal leg bone which we hope Julie can identify when she is next with us. Some of the post holes around the corn drying feature were dug and Roman pottery was found in the base of a hole, good dating evidence. Lots more kiln fabric was found in the ditch which runs quite close to kiln one, you can imagine the potters chucking away bits of unwanted kiln into the nearest hole they could find. One piece had a lovely human finger mark in it, suggesting it was the outer layer of the kiln.. the beehive bit if you like covering the pots waiting to be fired. Anyone who witnessed our reconstructed kiln will know what I mean. Kevin found a lovely pot base which we need Andy to look at, my thoughts are a dog bowl type, but we will have to wait and see. In the kitchen garden loads more burnt CBM was found in the ditch and waste pits, along with Roman pottery, a 1970s oil drum and plenty of wire netting….not guilty your honour!!! A lovely piece of decorated Samian pot was found whilst sieving, the first piece of decorated Samian found on this site, which deserves a big HOORAH. Thank you. Large chunks of roof tile, hypocaust tile and floor tile were also excavated. We really do have a large Roman building very nearby… but where? Other finds in the KG were lots of well cooked animal bone, roman mortar, opus signinum and more pieces of mosaic. I just hope and pray that we will eventually find at least part of a mosaic, please please! Thank you all for helping today, I love the friendly atmosphere that runs around the site, everyone new and old getting along together and enjoying proper archaeology. Hope you all enjoy a happy evening, and see you tomorrow. Peter.

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Wednesday 7th August Day three of the ARP 2019, and thank you to all who came and dug and sieved, not to mention the cleaning and sorting of finds that carries on oh so quietly behind the scenes. We are so lucky to have a lovely group of people who all help in so many ways, and do so in such a professional manner. I thank you all for everything you do to help us discover the history of Woodgate and Aylsham. I am so lucky to have this wonderful archaeology beneath the land around the nursery, and then so fortunate to have all of you who want to help with learning about our ancient and not so ancient history. Maggie Vaughan-Lewis came to have a look today, wonderful to see her and so sad her dear William will never see what they both made happen here. I know I’ve said it before, but without Maggie and William this whole project would not be happening at all.
So what was discovered today… to be honest I’m a bit lost! I rather think that Britannia are holding something back, but we will wait and see. In the kiln field, everyone’s favourite site, we were digging features. Ditches mainly and also a strange looking feature to the south-east of the trench. The ditches, as they often do produced finds, mostly late Roman pottery and again more kiln fabric (just chucked away from kiln one when it was opened I guess), and also a Roman knife made from iron, so rather rusty but really in remarkable condition considering it’s been lying there for 1700 years. The strange feature is, according to Martin who has also been in contact with Dr Zoe Outram from Historic England, a corn drying kiln. Rather different form our pottery kilns, as there is no residual structure, but a kiln nonetheless. This feature will need careful digging over the next day or two to verify his belief. This feature is also surrounded by postholes, which were possibly a wind break. Each post hole will be dug over the next few days. On the south side, Matt has explained we are digging in the northernmost part of a medieval enclosure, which ends very close to the trackway. The track itself has two ditches
running along either side, to help with drainage. The track is now only a few centimeters of hard standing, mostly small flints and gravel. This is why we can see the wheel ruts of carts that have broken through the track into the sand below. Finds from the ditches are all medieval pot. The last two huge features are extraction pits or quarrying pits, probably removing clay to line the lake in the mid Victorian era. But until they are dug who can tell. The kitchen garden has revealed it’s past once again. Nearly all the features dug are giving up very burnt Roman CBM and pottery. We have an early 1st century boundary ditch which reveals 1st century pot and all unburnt, across this is a third century ditch which is filled with 3rd Century pot and CBM all very burnt!! We are very close to our Roman building but not quite in touch as yet. The thought is this, we have an early Roman building all timber structure, and then in the 3rd century we have a more robust farmhouse built with flint foundations and has a tiled roof and hypocaust heating system. More mosaic tesserae have been found, so hopefully we will find one day the remains of a mosaic… I pray!! All rather exciting but also tantalising… we must be patient. Thank you to all of you who dug and sieved and finds sorted, or helped in the welcome tent. What an amazing day, with so much to look forward to. Breathtaking for me. Thank you . Peter

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Tuesday 6th August I still can’t believe we are in our fourth year. So welcome to day 2 of the ARP community dig 2019. Another 80 volunteers arrived to help find what is lurking under our feet here at Woodgate, Aylsham. And thank you to three new friends and diggers who signed up today. Thank you. As you all know we are called the Aylsham Roman Project, because of the huge amount of Roman pottery I have found across the site over the last 50 years, but we are discovering so much more than Roman occupation. Simply thousands of years of human activity….. really rather exciting. So what was discovered today.. On the kiln field, which is always a favourite with our diggers, because we find things, we were excavating Roman ditches and pits. Finds include Nene valley pottery, our own grey ware, late Samian ware, kiln fabric and a copper alloy fitting yet to be looked at by a specialist. My nightmare which occurs every July, where we dig across three sites and find nothing and ends up with me being lynched by all of you, is thankfully wrong again!! The majority of the pottery finds were mid to late 3rd century…. tying in quite nicely with our kilns dated 220-270 AD. Our new found find magnet Ivy, resumed her search of a one meter section in the children’s area, and of course found more Roman pot!! Well done Ivy and thank you for coming back to help us evaluate our landscape. On the south side it all started rather quietly…. digging features with no finds, nothing to see at all, but then in the afternoon session med pottery appeared, quite a lot in fact. I walked round expecting rather forlorn diggers, and was presented with a wonderful 12th ish century flagon handle. It is rather spectacular, with a green glaze. Can you imagine walking back to your shack with a flagon of water, or perhaps beer and the handle falls off…. Mrs roundhouse owner would not be best pleased, perhaps even rather miffed!! I love the stories these fragments of the past tell us. The trackway is still to be looked at, and the boundary ditches will reveal our all important dating evidence….. pre Roman I hope. On now to the kitchen garden where we really believe we have a substantial Roman building…. but where is it?? We think we are too far to the north and too far to the west, because we are finding boundary ditches and pits… not what you would expect right next to your farmhouse. The fun of this is the chase, we know it’s there but exactly where is still a mystery. As I said before we cannot geophys the site as it is full of Victorian garden waste which rather confuses the gradiometer and it’s owner! Having said that the finds from the sieves and from digging are extraordinary. Heaps of roman pot, CBM (ceramic building material) most of which is burnt. Another question… did our fancy Roman building burn down or was it trashed by the Saxons? Last year we found early Saxon pot right on top of burnt Roman material, so perhaps that is the answer… but the archaeologists are as always hiding their lamp under a bushel! We look forward to tomorrow and what wonderful finds it will bring… telling us more about our past, how our forebears lived and died, what they threw away to enable us to try to understand how they lived. I almost forgot to say, there was a piece of mosaic well possibly mosaic found in the kitchen garden sieves…… needs to be checked by a specialist.. but we can only hope!!! Thank you for reading. Peter

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Monday 5th August 2019 Well can you believe it, we have begun year 4 of the ARP. 79 wonderful people came today to help discover what amazing things exist beneath our feet here at Woodgate. We know we have a large Roman settlement covering around 30 acres, and we know we have evidence of the bronze age and iron age people living here as well. Flint tools and arrow heads show us the prehistoric folk were also present, and then we have evidence of early Saxo-Norman and medieval habitation especially on the south side of the lake. So… what are we trying to find out this year? Britannia Archaeology’s specialist has been looking at the pottery found in the first three years, all 29000 pieces of it, and discovered that some ditches and pits had mid to late 1st century pottery and other ditches only had early to mid 3rd century pottery. This suggests that the Roman influence was rather fluid, they came and influenced the celts, and then much less so for a hundred years and then back again for another go in the 3rd century. So we are trying to discover which features are early and which features are later. Over on the south side of the lake we are investigating the enclosures we found during the last two years and also studying the trackway that we know exists from map evidence and the fact that we carried out a trial trench evaluation back in 2016 and discovered roman pot in the ditch beside the track. I would love to find earlier dating finds, to show this track was in existence way before the Romans came along. The springs providing the fresh water are the key to our site, and could show human activity for thousands of years. So after all that preamble lets talk about today… On the Kiln field whilst cleaning back, we found mid and late iron age pot, roman grey ware, Nene valley mortaria, kiln fabric, Nene valley pottery, Grimston green glaze ware, three ditches all Roman.. 2 running east to west and one north to south. Look like boundary ditches. (Remember… we now use hedges, fences and walls to demarcate our boundaries.. the ancients used ditches and mounds to demarcate theirs), 12 post holes and 3 pits. The children’s area revealed a ditch and Roman pottery. The south side shows a corner of an early med enclosure, a track way with ditches either side, and what looks like wheel ruts!!!!! 10th to 12th Century pot near to the track as well as from other features. To the north end we have two quarrying features, most likely dating from 1870, when great grandpa was asking his chaps to dig a lake!! At the moment we think they were digging out clay to line the lake we see today. But we all know that with further investigation this will probably be proved incorrect! A flint scraper was found in the top of one of the quarry sites, dating to around 3000 BC, most possibly run off from the finds rich site. Thank you all for your help today. All of you turning up, digging, sieving washing finds, and taking part make this a truly community archaeological project.
Thank you to Martin and Dan from Britannia Archaeology for guiding us and thank you to Sheila and Diana for keeping me in order, well just about!! Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Thank you to all who participated. Peter

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