Time Team Series 20: My First Episode – Day 3

I must admit I wasn’t feeling one hundred percent optimistic at the start of Day 3. The weather forecast looked grim in the afternoon, so I was aware we’d have to get a great deal completed by lunchtime. With the exception of the very first trench, which I wrote about yesterday, none of the others had gone much beyond the initial trowel-cleaning stage. So Phil and I decided to take a quick tour of the trenches before work began, to assess what we’d still got to do. And frankly it was a bit scary: there was just so much. We’d barely managed to finish more than a post-hole or two. All the larger ditches remained undug and most of the finds that had been recovered on Day 2 had come from cleaning the surface of various features. Frankly we both arrived at the start of day briefing feeling a bit depressed.

Then I had to do various general scenes with Tony, so was away from the trenches for about an hour. But when I returned, things were suddenly very different. One of the round-houses was now looking very early indeed – around 600-700 BC. And that estimate was based on a pit that had been deliberately filled with pottery – almost two complete vessels – and a smashed saddle quern. To work a saddle quern you squat over it, with legs on either side, and rub the two stones forward and backwards with a sort of rocking motion. These are less efficient than the later rotary querns, which they replaced after – and now I’m guessing – about 300 BC. Most saddle querns date to the later Bronze and early Iron Ages.

Then we began to find increasing evidence that the hillfort had been the site of a major farm at the time of the Roman conquest, which happened in this area around AD 47. There was also a settlement alongside this farm and abundant evidence for the smelting of iron from iron ore in so-called bloomery furnaces. The latest occupation extended through the fourth century AD, towards the end of the Roman period, around AD 400. This substantial Roman presence was very unexpected, but one mustn’t think in terms of toga-wearing Latin-speaking invaders. These people would have been the direct descendents of the folk who constructed the hillfort, sometime around 300-500 BC. And I very much doubt whether they’d have spoken Latin half as well as us (and I have Latin O Level!). They’d have spoken an early version of Welsh.

So that’s it for now. In a couple of days, when I’ve had a chance to relax and unwind (and – have planted another row of peas), I’ll write a short up-sum of what I’ve learnt from this Time Team. Each one is different and has new things to teach me – and not just about the past. I’ve always said that there’s more to archaeology than digging holes. And there is: much, much more.

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