Week two has brought not only a greater depth to our new slot through the ‘blob’, but an almost endless parade of finds. Fragments from glass vessels such as cone beakers and claw beakers are almost becoming run-of-the-mill! We have excavated almost 70 fragments from glass vessels as well as several glass beads. Below are just a small selection of the glass fragments coming up from the ‘blob’…are we looking at a glass production site? The evidence is mounting but we still need something definitive to prove it.
The weather this week has been a little more conducive to some hard digging – last week was incredibly hot and left us all exhausted – especially as we hadn’t acclimatised back into digging mode yet. We’ve been able to make real progress this week, getting firmly stuck into the more central layers of the blob and the overnight rain has made it easier to both see the differences between archaeological features and to actually dig!
Our aims were to establish an origin for the enormous crater that existed before the Saxons began filling it up.
We’re just now getting the first indications that the large hole filled up with such interesting cultural material existed in prehistory, well before the Saxons came to Lyminge. In the north-south trench that was partially dug last year, Dan and Owen are taking back a clay layer that appears to overlie natural chalk. This gets deeper towards the centre of the midden, and is the layer that underlies the large flint nodules packed tightly in the lower layers of the midden.
Within this clay, towards the edges of the blob/midden, there are worked and struck flints that look to be Bronze Age in date, and a small sherd of likely Bronze Age pottery backs up the interpretation that this ‘primary fill’ (the first deposit to go in the hole) dates to this period and proves that the hole was dug (or created naturally) in prehistory. Then it seems that the Saxons came along centuries later and used the open hole for their own purposes! This is great progress in just under two weeks, as we are already starting to answer some of the questions that prompted us to return this summer.
This week also saw the opening of a small trench up by the road. Volunteers from Dover Archaeology Group (DAG) who have been coming to help at Lyminge for several years now have helped us open a trench by hand to locate the western end of the very large timber hall that we excavated in 2013 and 2014. A few calculations according to the location of the door-ways that were excavated last year guided our positioning of the trench and it looks like we might have found the return wall (although of course there are a few other features in there just to confuse us!). The area in the photo below between Les (with the cap) and the finds tray looks like it contains one of the typical Lyminge plank-in-trench constructed wall foundations, cut through by a large Medieval ditch that we identified last year.
We’ll be disentangling the wall trenches from the medieval ditch over the next week or so, but already there are some really interesting finds, and one that is very special indeed – a lovely fragment of blue glass, from a vessel of some kind. We’ve only had one other blue fragment from Tayne Field so this is quite a find.
The excavation of the sunken-featured building is also coming along – we’ve taken it down in quadrants and due to its shallow nature, we’re already on to excavating the last two quadrants (we divided the feature into four to get the best profile through the deposits).
Although it is shallow (which is likely why it didn’t appear on the geophysics as well as previous sunken-featured buildings), there are still a few finds, with pottery and a lovely miniature radiate headed brooch, a type we’re seeing regularly now at Lyminge.
We are of course still ploughing on with the main new slot through the blob! Along with some of the glass that is pictured above, we’re finding pottery, daub, small pieces of clay moulds perhaps for metalworking and copper alloy objects. Certainly this slot through the midden is proving just as productive as the other areas, and we’re heading down towards those layers that contained ironworking evidence, so look out for that in the next blog post.
Before we wrap up the blog post, we have a bit of a mystery object that came up from the blob this week – we’ve had two other similar examples over the years and thought we’d show you all for any more ideas. The object below is made from an antler tine and is about 10cm long. As you can see it is broken at one end and has a carefully worked hole that passes through the top and out of the side, rather like the hole for a whistle although it doesn’t go all the way through the tine.
Of the other two examples excavated at Lyminge one was found last year in 2014 and the the other was excavated from an entirely different site, the monastic phase at Lyminge up behind the church, dating from the 8th-9th centuries AD.
The notch in the tine from last season is almost exactly the same as this year’s – clearly it had a very specific purpose! We’ve had lots of suggestions including a tool for making nets, or perhaps for tightening something under tension.
You can see that the monastic phase carved antler tine is slightly different – it is more polished and the holes are more cleanly drilled.
It has two holes running right through the top of the tine, rather than the one notched hole as seen in the two 6th century examples. The drawing below shows you how the drilled holes cross in the centre.
It’s entirely possible that this later implement had a different purpose as its design doesn’t include the notch cut into the side of the tine.
All three objects are about the same size and shape, and feel like they are made to sit nicely in the hand – if you have any ideas do send them this way!
We’re making great progress despite the weather we’ve experienced today while I’ve been writing up this blog post – although it does make things difficult for drying washed finds and for digging, as walking over the trench can ruin archaeological features as well as prove dangerous! As we go down into the blob there will be lots more to show you and I’ll keep you updated about the hunt for the western end of the Timber Hall – it’s all looking very promising for the second half of this year’s excavation.