Time Team Series 20: My First Episode – Day 1

It was raining hard as we drove to site from our hotel, a short but miraculous journey. While we were on the road, the rain stopped, the grey overcast gave way to a shy sun peeping out from behind cotton wool clouds. I apologise for the moment of pseudo-poetry, but my arrival on site did feel rather extraordinary. Then the familiar, heavy-duty clouds returned and within an hour we’d all felt the first of many showers; but thankfully, they were generally light. Tomorrow, we’re assured, the elements won’t be so kind.

Digging a site like a large hillfort is all about keeping a clear sense of what you want to achieve. One of my objectives was to sort out dates. When, for example, was the site first occupied? We knew of a ditch which looked like it might date to the end of the Bronze Age or early Iron Age – round about 700-1000 BC – and started to dig. By lunch it was looking very good, but after lunch they found an iron, possibly medieval, nail. Then later I had another look at precisely where that nail was found in the ditch’s filling. As a result I’m now not so convinced that it (the nail) necessarily dates the initial digging of the ditch. So we’re not much further forward. Maybe we’ll sort that one out tomorrow – but I’m not too optimistic.

The good weather meant that the geophys team could make a very good start and soon they were producing amazing results. In fact I’m very excited indeed. Just before lunch we started to dig the site of a possible Iron Age round-house that they’d revealed in the morning. I have to admit I was pretty sceptical when we opened the trench, but now I’m not. In fact I’m delighted: we have a splendid round-house and I think it’s very well preserved.

The latest geofizz has produced loads more evidence for occupation in the Iron Age, but what we need now are good dateable finds. So tomorrow I plan to concentrate our efforts on areas where we might expect to discover either ritual offerings, or industrial areas, such as smithies or casting furnaces. Or, of course (and with luck), both. Fingers crossed.

I think tomorrow’s big problem will be the weather, and I’m really quite worried, because the sort of careful excavation you need to do if you want to uncover delicate prehistoric material, is never easy – even when conditions are good. But when the heavens open, the task can become well-nigh impossible. So Day 2 is going to be a big challenge. Day 1 has left me feeling knackered. So I’m off to get an early night. Sweet dreams…

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