2013 Season Updates

2013 Season

Update 1

So far this season work has concentrated on the “shrine” and the bank and ditch site, particularly the latter.  We have continued to remove the upper fills of the wide ditch, and we are now about a metre down and  into Roman levels, beneath the 18th century silt deposits.  There is still a lot to go I suspect as we haven’t started on the collapsed bank material.

There are tantalising fragments of what appear to be prehistoric pottery, and in the matter of the date of the ditch the balance is tipping in favour of iron age.  We have also found the narrower ditch running parallel to the east side of the bank, which was indicated by David Sabin’s geophysical survey, and just about where he said it would be.  It has produced prehistoric pottery but no Roman pottery (yet), so may also be iron age.

We have also started washing the finds on site, using the caravan kindly donated by Karin Castle (many thanks to her and the work parties who prepared it for its role on site).  Anybody who would like to get involved on site but doesn’t want to actually dig is very welcome to come and assist in this essential part of the excavation process.

Throughout August we will be getting to grips with the large pit under the Roman shrine, while continuing to investigate the bank and ditches in the long trench.

David Freke

Update 2 – September 2013

In the 2013 long trench (Trench 10, or Site 3) we have bottomed the narrow ditch at the east end, it’s about a metre deep, steep-sided and flat-bottomed (see attached picture 1), and very definitely pre-Roman in date, probably iron age.  The three burials we found in the very top fill of the ditch – two cremations and a possible baby inhumation – may seem significant in that we only excavated 2m of the ditch and found three burials.  However that may just mean that the soft ditch fill was more easy to dig a hole in than the rock, which is very close to the surface.

Still in Site 3 at the west end we continue to excavate the wider ditch, which seemed at one stage to be a narrower one than David Sabin’s geophysics suggested, but David’s interpretation has been vindicated as we realised that a very hard stoney layer was not the western edge but a upper deposit in the ditch fill.  We are now back to a 7-8m wide ditch, already over a metre deep and still in Roman deposits (see picture 2). Now we seem to be in silt deposits (very few finds) rather than deliberate backfilling with rubbish (lots of bones, stones and some pottery fragments).   There is still a way to go, and as we get deeper the effort needed to get the soil out is greater! On the outer edge of the ditch are several features –  a very nice post hole, and a stone-filled slot, both with Roman material in their fills (see pictures 3 and 4). Unfortunately the narrowness of our trench means we can’t put these into the wider context they need to interpret them.

In the “shrine” trench (Site 2) the area we opened this year to search for a possible ambulatory around the circular building has shown no evidence of one, despite several nice post holes turning up, with packing stones and padstones of re-used masonry and burnt stones (see picture 5).  Unfortunately they don’t make a pattern we can interpret as a structure.

We have begun to remove the stones at the north eastern end of the shrine wall to get access to the pit under the wall (see picture 6), and it has confirmed that this part of the building was constructed using re-used masonry and burnt stones.  It’s clear that this part of the wall was built starting from the west and working eastwards, judging by the slope of the large foundation stones. In the foundation trench for the wall was a new sherd from the Beaker pot found last year, and this confirms the direction of the build, as the builders would have disturbed the beaker pit as they worked their way round, and unwittingly incorporated this sherd in their foundation trench, a little to the east of the beaker pit.

On the original Site 1 we recently returned to investigate the interior of Building 2 (see picture 7 for interpretive plan), which had some sort of furnace or oven in one half of it.  Also the previous thinking that Building 2  was timber built with padstones rather than sleeper walls has had to be revised, as we have found a continuous run of stones clearly representing a sleeper wall.  It is very damaged with missing stones, as are the other walls, giving the misleading picture we had previously.   There is also work required to confirm the 2-room interpretation of Building 2 as shown on the plan, the north western half is still a little conjectural.  At a recent talk to the Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society one of the members raised a query about the width of Building 1, and how the roof would have been supported — how indeed?  our trench does not extend far enough across the footprint of the building to pick up evidence of aisles or central posts.  Possible work for the future?

We have managed to do some finds washing on-site, which has kept the finds backlog under control. Many thanks to all who have helped so far this season. Plenty more to do in September and October ………

October 2013 Update 3

It’s been a very productive few weeks since I last brought you up to date.
Firstly, many thanks to everyone who has turned up and trowelled, mattocked, bucketed or finds-washed, in order to get the results from the site described below.  Our visitors from the Warwickshire Local History Society last weekend saw a fascinating site thanks to everyone’s hard work.
The original site near the church continues to surprise: when we recently returned to investigate Building 2, the few burnt stones in the middle which looked as though they might have come from a hearth or furnace have resolved into an actual undisturbed Roman hearth.  A surprise, as most of our levels have been disturbed by the plough, but here the hearth (and surrounding floor) was protected by a deep layer of Roman debris, probably dumped to level up the ground when Building 3 was constructed.  We will soon have a plan of it.  In the debris was part of a mortarium rim, with a makers stamp (see pic 1).
Excavation on the shrine site has concentrated on the pit under the Roman wall, gradually widening and deepening, to reveal its full extent, and what lies at the bottom of it (pic 3 shows the section through the pit with the Roman wall foundations removed).
The long trench across the ditches has also progressed.  In the wide ditch we now have  reached a tumble of huge blocks of stone (see pic 2).  The stones have voids between them, meaning that they were probably  deposited too rapidly for soil to develop.  The stones form a layer at least a metre thick, and probably more.  They probably represent the adjacent rampart material deliberately pushed back into the ditch, in order to level the rampart and fill in the ditch.  We think this happened in the pre-Roman iron age, as the only pottery present is prehistoric, with no Roman material at all.  The layers above these enormous stones do contain Roman pottery, representing the gradual silting up of the dip left in the field after the deliberate backfilling.   The ditch itself is just over 6m wide (nearly 20 feet), is cut into rock and seems to have vertical sides, at least at the top.
Today also saw the first appearance of a soil under the stoney layer between the 2 ditches, in the area where we expect the rampart to have been.  This could be very significant, as it may represent the old land surface on which the rampart was built, and everything in this buried soil  therefore pre-dates the rampart.  This will be the target of careful excavation in the coming weeks.
Finds from the long trench over the last few weeks have included a number of flint tool preparation flakes, and one broken flint knife.

The weather has been kind to us over the whole season, and we are keen to make the most of what remains of the autumn, so please keep coming to help us unravel more of Warmington’s early history.

November 2013 update 4

The last few weeks have seen some good progress on all three sites.  On site 1, our original area, we have recognised that there is a fourth building, which currently shows as a 2m stretch of substantial foundations.  These consist of large slabs on edge – pitched – aligned with buildings 2 and 3 and apparently continuing under both of them.  This will have to wait until next year to follow up.
On the shrine site (Site 2) the pit under the Roman building gets ever bigger, and distinguishing between natural disturbances in the underlying rock and the backfill of the pit gets no easier.  But we have further evidence that the pit is neolithic.  Last week we excavated an antler pick from the loose rock backfill of the pit (see pics 1 and 2).  So far the fill of the pit has yielded only this pick and the polished axe, but both are undoubtedly neolithic, and probably both were deliberately deposited.
In the long trench (Site 3) we have got the sides and the bottom of the wide iron age ditch; it was an impressive 6-7m wide and 3.4m deep (about 20 feet wide and 11 feet deep in old money), with near-vertical sides and a flat bottom.  The bottom metre and a half was loosely filled with large boulders, presumably the rampart material, originally dug out of the ditch, pushed back in to level it.  The parallel ditch east of the rampart cannot have been open at the same time as the wide ditch and rampart (it would have been an obstruction to anybody trying to access the back of the rampart), so must either have been a pre-existing field boundary(?) ditch,  filled in before the rampart was constructed, or a later ditch following the line of the levelled bank.  There are a few bones from the lower fill of the wide ditch which might get us a C14  date, although the iron age is a difficult period for carbon dating.  The area under the bank seems to have the ghost of the rampart, where the land has been protected from erosion by the now levelled bank, but there is no obvious old land surface (pic 3).  The soil here has  yielded many flint flakes, and at least one flint knife.
The next couple of weeks should see the final excavation of the pit in Site 2 and tidying up and recording on the other two sites before shutting down for the winter.