Two of the diggers were only able to work on Saturday, so Sunday’s team was smaller. This slowed things down a bit, as people had to keep swapping between digging and sifting – but also gave me a chance to join in. I should probably have joined the diggers as this was the slightly less skilled job, but realized that my
back legs body probably wasn’t up to it, so opted for sifting. (I did once work on an archaeological dig, but that was a very long time ago and is another story).
Intriguingly, the soil on one side of the pit had become damp overnight. This turned out to caused by water dripping from an exposed root. The dampness was another difficulty as damp clay does not easily lend itself to sifting.
As the soil at the current depth was fairly well compacted and difficult to dig, the plan had been to dig deeper in one half of the pit. To complicate matters, there was a distinct sandy area (a “sand lens”) in one corner, so it was decided to treat this corner as a separate layer. As the dig progressed, it became clear from, amongst other things, the presence of plastic that this was the much dreaded late 20th century builders’ rubble.
As the day progressed, the professional archaeologists who were moving between the six gardens brought news of exciting finds at other sites including more early medieval and Roman pottery. My garden yielded a fair number of nails, some animal teeth, another piece of medieval pot and some shiny black material that might be evidence of metal working.
Towards the end of the day, the soil changed – it looked darker, felt different and even smelled different – archaeology is clearly a science of all the senses.
By 2:30 it was time to make sure that all the finds were bagged and tagged, take a final photo and try to get all the soil back in the hole. Despite a lot of strenuous jumping and stamping, there was a bit of soil left over which was bagged up for future use. Once the turf was replaced, you would hardly know that anything had happened. The temporarily re-homed worms are even now wending their way back to their freshly decompacted dwelling.
Brilliant day. Brilliant weekend.
To be continued: The next stage is to process the finds and produce written reports. I understand that this will happen over the next few weeks. Once they’ve finished with the finds, they’ll return them. Like I said, “brilliant”.