Things are going nicely on top of Dorstone Hill. The second week of the excavation has revealed more of the structure and is looking rather good. As ever, as the work progresses, the students get to see more of how archaeologists work and practice some of the skills.
In the pictures here, we see two of the students excavating ‘features’ on the site. ‘Feature’ is the term we use to cover what might be a multitude of differences in soil colour and texture, and which may turn out to be a post-hole, pit, ditch etc. You can see how there is a length of string across the feature. This is to help undertake what is called a half-section excavation. Half the feature is excavated which then leaves a vertical face through the feature. To an archaeologist, this reveals the story of the feature. It tells us the rate at which material was deposited on the hole, whether it was kept clean, if it was re-dug at a later date, how many deposits there are and sometimes in a post-hole for example, you find the remains of the post itself. It may well be wood, but very often on prehistoric sites, the wood has decayed to leave a fine, silty deposit known as a ‘post-pipe’. The use of nails to mark the section is also used to add it to the site plan in 3 dimensions.
In these days of digital technology, you might think that taking a picture is second-nature to students. It might be, but the images required for the excavation record have to be detailed, focused and contain information such as the site code, date, feature number, a north arrow and the direction of the photograph. All this takes a while to get used to – it’s not just a case of click and go! The chequerboard effect you see in the last image is the result of the team taking soil samples for analysis. This can give us valuable information about the environment in the past from what is contained in the soil such as pollen and snail shells.
Its not just students doing their archaeology degree who have been gaining experience on the excavation. The University of Manchester has a partnership with local charity Pure Innovations and have been help young people with learning disabilities achieve their Gold Duke of Edinburgh award – you can read more here Digging for gold!
Week two was a great success, with a number of pieces of Neolithic pottery being found as well as a fragment of a polished stone axe! Sadly for the students, their stay is over and they make way for a second group who also stay for two weeks. The staff and volunteers are there for the duration and get to see the site change dramatically over a month. We can’t wait to see what emerges in week three!
Back with more news soon!