August 2016 Dig

ARP ventures into the great unknown. This is a digest of some of the blogs Peter posted on Facebook during the August 2016 Dig. It keeps it in order as written then and tracks our way through the two weeks. Some of the photos posted then have been included, many more will be added to the Gallery. Scroll to the bottom to start reading our first amazing journey.

22nd August 2016 Good evening to all. I have decided to leave the final report until Britannia have finished on site. Today more lovely things appeared, which had to be removed before back filling, in case of damage caused by exposure to air and rain. So here we have the dog skull and one half of lower jaw. These will be sent to animal bone specialist for identification. Carefully removed by Catherine and Teresa.

Trench B, or the ‘children’s trench’ as it became known, now reveals a big ditch running north-south. You can see from the differing soil colour quite clearly, it’s line of direction. The rest of this trench now reveals more interconnecting ditches and pits. Yes I know, yet more questions!!! But all contained Roman pottery and building material, and some late Iron Age pot. And of course the fragments of copper alloy jewellery. It seems that wherever we look on this field, more questions arise than answers. Perhaps a good thing, as we will re-do the geophys and hopefully locate these features in better definition giving us all a better idea of where to position the trenches in the future. To end with, the keen eyed Kevin found a partner to one of our best pieces of pottery. I am sure that as we look through the pieces of pot we will find lots that match. Good luck to our finds sorters!! And a big thank you to all who have signed up for this task.

I know I have said this before…. but thank you again to everybody who has been involved with the project in any way. To everyone who helped with funding, providing tents, tables, chairs, toilets, food, drink, guiding us through the whole process, castle museum, Gressenhall rural life museum, Aylsham heritage centre, Broadland council, Aylsham town council, roman experts from far and wide, photographers, nursery staff, Britannia archaeology, archaeologists from across the country, historic England, Sable dog, Andrew Baker(the BBQ man) and his family, BBC TV and radio, Anglia TV, Mustard TV, EDP, Aylsham regional magazine, the Aylsham Roman Project team, and all family and friends who have put up with my obsession for countless years, and most of all… all of the volunteers and all others who turned up for being part of this wonderful community project. If I have forgotten someone I am sorry. But thank you anyway. We are all looking forward to next year…. Lots more to follow soon, with a report from Britannia on this year’s dig, Peter.

18th August 2016 Day nine of our dig, I am already getting the post dig blues!! Just wish this could go on forever! I am so overwhelmed with the wonderful turnout every day, young and old, complete novices and seasoned professionals, girls boys women men, all taking part in something that is not about money, is not about personal gain… Is just about being a part of something that brings young and old together. You are all amazing, you have all made me smile lots. If Sable had two hundred tails, she would be wagging them all now, as I am. This day has been quite amazing! Kiln one (now referred to as the poor relation) which I think is rather sad, is fully excavated. A perfect example of a Roman pottery kiln. Lining intact, flue is intact and now visible, after a great piece of work by one of our volunteers, I will not reveal his name as I had not asked his permission, but please make yourself known on this site if you want to. Kiln two has now become revered by all archaeologists as one of the best preserved ‘perforated floor lined kilns’ in the country. Just stop and think about that last sentence!!! We have a Roman pottery kiln, which will be visited by some of the top archaeologists in the country, in fact two of them were here today, keeping their heads down!! The enigmatic antler and bone remains are still sitting there, longing to be removed, but as always these things take time. Trench two, the children’s trench, is full of Iron Age and Roman pottery, and bone and metal finds. It is an Iron Age ditch, which appears to be a classic Iron Age enclosure, but more evidence is required before we can say for sure. I am sure there is much more to tell, but my mind is waning! As always, a huge thank you to all who helped today and all who helped over the last two weeks. Diggers, sievers, cleaners and drink and food providers, archaeologists, Woodgate staff, Steve, Kevin, Adrian, Alice, Andrew, Matt, Matt, Dan, Martin , Adam, Mark, Teresa, Catherine and many many more, without all of you, this would never have happened, And most importantly…. there are some people in this wonderful community of Aylsham and surrounding villages who have donated staggering amounts of money. I thank you all sincerely for what your donations have achieved. This dig costs money, and all your wonderful contributions have helped hugely with this, Thank you all for believing in my dream, that we could provide an Aylsham Dig. Peter.

17th August 2016 Welcome to a short account of day 8 of the Aylsham Roman Project community dig. I am trying to entertain thirsty archaeologists whilst writing this, so please forgive me!!! Beautiful weather yet again and another wonderful gathering of volunteers. We had another group of children from the ‘Tots2 teens’ club with us today, who were guided by Martin throughout the day. Their find trays at the end of the day included Roman and Iron Age pottery, some beautiful mortarium, some locally made and some from Nene valley, and a vast collection of flints. We hope you enjoyed your time with us, and hopefully you will come along and see us again next year. Thank you to Broadland for organising this, a wonderful chance for children to be involved in archaeology. Kiln two has a very well preserved lining to the north side and we have at least a depth of 52cm (as I have just been informed by Matt B), apparently a rarity in surviving Roman kilns. So that deserves a big Bravo!! The rake pit from kiln two is enormous to say the least, I am rather concerned about the number of sherds still lurking there. Two pot rims matched up perfectly, and I believe we have the third and final piece from the December dig, I hope !!!! If so we could be able to construct an entire top of a pot with substantial amounts of side and base as well. Over the months to come, I am certain we will find lots of pieces that will fit together. The antler and pig or perhaps horse or perhaps deer bones are nearly ready for removal, we will see them tomorrow before the day is out. This pit to the west of kiln one is providing lots of evidence of life in the Romano British era. Hopefully more ‘social’ finds will be uncovered tomorrow. I think I must end now, as the thirsty archaeologists need their glasses topped up and food on their plates! Thank you to all of you who have made my dream a reality. I am so so grateful to you all for coming to be a part of this, day after day. It is really and truly a ‘community project’ of which I am very proud. And finally dear Wendy, in fact Dame Wendy of Iron Age Pot fame, has finished the 25 hour dissection of her pot. Painstaking work. Thank you so so much.  And finally, as always, a huge thank you to Britannia Archaeology, who have guided us, answered our endless questions with a smile, and brought the site to life with their boundless enthusiasm. I now must feed and water them!!! Peter

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16th August 2016 

Day 7 of our dig. Claire Bradshaw, our very own community field archaeologist, who works from Gressenhall Rural Life Museum, was with us today, getting involved with the dig. Thank you Claire for your help with this project. And a big thank you to all at Norfolk Archaeology who have supported my ‘mad decision’ to start a community dig. I have to say it’s been a wonderful few days, with special thanks to all who have attended, to make it a truly ‘community’ effort. You all deserve a very big BRAVO. This has been rather eventful to say the least. I am as always, overwhelmed by the numbers of wonderful people who keep turning up to be involved in this fascinating look at the history of Roman Aylsham, and of course the Britons who were living here before a load of Italians came over the channel to tell us we were doing it incorrectly! This post will be brief, and I will update you all early or should I say very early tomorrow. We are now certain that kiln one had a catastrophic second firing, it probably collapsed soon after firing, and all the contents were destroyed. Can you imagine being the potter, spending many days creating these vessels, to see them being lost in the collapse of the floor! The remains were all raked out and deposited in the vast pit just south of the kiln. But lots of lovely pot sherds for us to look at. The jumbled mess of kiln two is no longer a jumbled mess. It has a lovely well preserved lining, and is much deeper than we thought. The flue is made of building material from a nearby structure, roof tiles similar to those found on the villa site. This has collapsed, but the form of this kiln is becoming clearer as we dig. The Iron Age ditch runs under kiln two, great dating evidence. Later in the day the remains of what we think are pig bones were found deep in a pit between the two kilns. We said earlier that no bones would have survived the acidic soil, but this pig has been well and truly boiled, and so the bone has hardened and is very well preserved. This ties in well with the few bones found on the villa site, which are mostly of bird origin, but have been cooked or boiled, and therefore preserved. And just before we finished for the day, dear Karen found an antler in the bottom of her pit, very close to where the pig? remains were. We hope this was used as a digging tool, but we will know once fully excavated. Well that was supposed to the brief version!! More tomorrow. Thank you to all of you who helped today, and what a day it was. Thank you to Martin Dan and Matt from Britannia who bring it all to life. Peter

15th August 2016 

Day 6 of our dig. Another glorious day weather wise and find wise.
Lots of new faces and of course the stalwarts who have been with us since the start. The enthusiasm of the whole team has been fantastic. As always a huge thank you to our finds washers, who carry on, regardless of the massive amount of pottery coming their way. A very warm welcome to Matt B from Britannia and to Andrew Peachy the Roman pottery specialist who helped with dating our bits and pieces. The rest of the rake out pits of kiln one is ready to be excavated tomorrow, with loads more sherds expected. Kiln two is far less ‘messy’ than expected, so we will hopefully see much more of the structure tomorrow. The random ‘bits and pieces’ between the two kilns, are now confirmed to be in a pit rather than ditch…… unless that changes tomorrow!!! Of course there may be a ditch beneath them which is what makes this archaeology thing so much fun. We had lots of people come along today, and it’s not always possible to get everyone doing something. We welcome anyone who comes to see us, but we cannot promise to be able to give each and every one of you a task. There is much to learn by watching what is going on, and by asking the team questions. We are so lucky to have a group of experts willing to share their expertise with you. Thank you to all those donating to the project, it is very kind of you, and without which we cannot continue. Mustard TV spent a couple of hours filming today, so keep a look out for their report, due in the next two or three days. Thank you again to all who are involved with this community project. Peter.

12th August 2016

Well here we are, at the end of our first week of community digging. I cannot have ever believed what we were going to find, or how many people would be with us each day. I was warned many months ago that we would have plenty of people on the first day, and then by the end of the week we might get ten if we were lucky. And you have all proved that they were wrong. I am so pleased that my belief in this dig has been proven right. We have wonderful leaders in Dan and Martin from Britannia. They are so enthusiastic about the whole project, and are able to share that with us. Doctor Davies from the Castle museum was with us today for a couple of hours, and he was so impressed with the whole project. I am indebted to him for his guidance so far. Looking forward to seeing you all next week, Let us all have a great last five days. My thanks as always to all of you and to Martin and Dan who bring the site to life. Brilliant and thank you. Peter.

11th August 2016 Day Four. I am now wondering what I have done! Despite the rain this morning, our volunteers turned out in admirable numbers. The dig trench seems to be rendering up more questions than answers. It now seems that kiln one has a lot of building material in it. Roof tiles both flat and curvy, are used in the structure, and today we found mortar in its construction as well. It seems as if a building has been demolished, and part of its structure has been incorporated in the pottery kiln. So are there remains of a building nearby?? Kiln two is still a bit of a mess. It appears to be larger than kiln one, but has been knocked over to one side, so excavation is rather tricky. But it does have an enormous rake out pit, that stretches for about 4 metres, and crosses over the iron age ditch. Random kiln fabric and pottery located between the two kilns are now officially ‘ random kiln fabric and pottery’ !! In other words we don’t know yet, but hopefully we will find out over the next few days. Possibly two waste pits, or a ditch that has been filled with….. yes you guessed it ‘random kiln fabric and pottery’.
In the meantime, totally oblivious of what’s going around her, dear Wendy has been very carefully, grain by grain, removing the infill of our 1000BC iron age pot. Patience in it’s extreme. After what must now be, ten hours, the end is in sight. Wendy you deserve a huge round of applause. Thank you. Anglia TV was on site today, and hopefully you have seen the report. No doubt it will be posted here soon, if you haven’t. Sheila found some lovely dating evidence from kiln one, in the form of charcoal, this will be carbon dated very soon, so we will have an approximate date of the firing of this kiln. So that’s it for day four. I am sure I have forgotten loads of information, but please forgive me, I am a little tired!! Thank you as always to all volunteers and the wonderful Britannia in the form of Dan and Martin. Peter

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10th August 2016 Day three of the volunteer dig. We have nearly 4000 finds!! I honestly feel like we have been digging for three weeks not three days. We have been digging features today…. kiln one has been partially excavated in quads. The kiln fabric is partly made up of old roofing tiles from a building, which seems to be quite a rarity. The base of it is now confirmed as flint. One digger found a huge ‘sagger’ in the rake out, which brought much attention…. photos to follow. The children from Broadland ‘Tots to teens’ were with us today in trench two and again (sure you guessed it) found heaps more early Roman pottery and part of a Roman brooch, and some early mortarium, and a piece of metal slag, and a lovely copper alloy late Iron Age or early Roman piece of bracelet, dating to be confirmed on Friday. The group had a wonderful day learning all about archaeology under the expert guidance of Martin from Britannia. Thank you for coming today. Another group will be with us next Wednesday. Kiln two is becoming a jumbled mess, looks as though it collapsed, but we have much excavation to do on that one. The other two possible kilns, now look like waste pits, but again we need to look deeper to find out. The early ditch seems to be dating as late Iron Age- early Roman, but again more research required. There is so much more to tell, but time is limited this evening. Sorry!! I must just tell you all this before I go….. two Roman coins were found in the sieves today, one we believe to be of Crispus, around 320Ad. The other was found in a sieve by a young lad called Albert Cole who had been on site not more than five minutes. He walked across to a sieve, picked out something and said, ‘I think I have found a coin’ !!!!! It appears to be mid-4th century, but again needs verifying by the Castle museum. I have asked him to come back every day!!! Thank you again to all of you who have been along to help. This whole project has become something so very exciting, I can’t begin to describe what it all means to me. But needless to say, I am smiling!! Sleep well, there is much more to do tomorrow. Thank you. Peter

9th August 2016 Day two of ARP community dig. Another fifty volunteers and passers-by helped with today’s work. We are now digging features, and finding yet more pottery. In fact heaps of pottery, Roman and Iron Age. We now know that the ancient Norfolk folk (or should I say North Folk) were living here happily doing their ancient Norfolk thing, before the Romans appeared. The two kilns are now very well defined, and more work on them tomorrow. The ditch and post holes have Iron Age pottery in them, wonderful dating evidence. The large piece of Iron Age pot has been extracted from the pit, and will be very carefully cleaned tomorrow. A horse’s tooth is sticking out from one side…… Why? Enormous thanks as well to the unsung heroes of the sieving and finds cleaning group. The finds from the sieves are very exciting, including a lovely fragment of decorated Nene Valley ware. The ladies cleaning the finds, and there are several thousand of them (finds rather than ladies!), have done a wonderful job, beautifully decorated pottery comes to life once cleaned. A fragment of Roman brooch was discovered next to kiln two. We have now completed two days of digging. We are gradually beginning to get an understanding of the site. With somewhere close to 3000 finds. I hope the archivists are ready!! More to follow, with pictures of finds and hopefully more happy volunteers. As always, a huge thank you to Britannia Archaeology, and an even bigger thank you to all of you who have been here helping us discover Roman and Iron Age Aylsham. Peter

8th August 2016 

Day One of community dig. What can I say? Fifty eager volunteers cleaning, scraping, sieving, finds cleaning and of course a bit of Sable worship as well! We can now clearly see the two pottery kilns, post holes and ditch. The ditch does appear to pre-date the kilns. Hundreds of pottery sherds and a fragment of a copper alloy bracelet, along with kiln fabric and tiles have been discovered. The piece of pottery in the top of one post hole does look to be Iron Age, but we hope to confirm that tomorrow. Other Iron Age pottery fragments have been found in the sieving process. I am overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of all who attended today. Let’s hope the next two weeks are just as exciting and informative. My thanks as always to Britannia Archaeology, without whom we would not be doing what we are, the Civil Protection people providing us with tea, coffee, water and a calm place to sit and contemplate and of course to all of you who attended today and those who will be joining us over the next two weeks. If you are reading this and wondering what’s going on…. just pop down to Woodgate Nursery and ask about the Roman Dig, and come and have a look, or grab a trowel or get sieving. This is a community dig, come along and get involved. A wonderful first day. What will tomorrow bring? Thank you to everybody I have forgotten to say thank you to! Peter

7th August 2016 

Forty plus years of wondering. Four years of planning. And today our tent blew down!! But Smudge turns up, and two hours later the tent is back up. Thank you Sir, we are so in your debt. Tomorrow we start the adventure. Let’s hope the weather is with us and the finds are plentiful, and more importantly we learn a huge amount about Roman Aylsham. I doubt I will sleep tonight!! See you all tomorrow. Happy Digging to all. Peter

5th August 2016 

Final day of week one. Dan and Martin explain to our volunteers the wonders of our trench, and the numerous finds. Much to be done over the next two weeks!! Thank you to everyone who came to see us today.