Time Team Series 20. My Fourth Episode: Day One

It was back at school sometime in the 1950s and I can remember standing in line while the music teacher conducted us through that lovely Irish air ‘The Mountains of Mourne’. Well, I woke up this morning – bright and early, around six AM – and the Ms of M were indeed running down to the sea. It was a stunning sight. I gobbled down eggs, bacon and all sorts of life-terminating fatty foods (they’re GREAT aren’t they?). Then we all clambered into the Time Team Discovery and drove down to the site.

It’s a smallish castle of unparalleled gorgeousness: luxuriant trees, verdant grass and stunning rock formations. All the ruined walls are covered with wild valerian in various shades of pink and maroonish reds – probably not very good for the masonry, but life-enhancing, nonetheless. The little hill which the castle stood on dominated the surrounding land and sea-scapes. It didn’t take an archaeological degree to work out why people had decided to settle here in the centuries before the Norman Conquest. More to the point: if it hadn’t been settled a very long time ago, I’d have wanted to know why not.

The site had been dug in 1950, but the dig had been inconclusive: one of the trenches showed some evidence for a very early (and possibly defensive) bank which might have been an antecedent for the later Anglo-Norman Castle. So we decided to re-open that ‘50s trench. And for my sins, I put Phil Harding in it. And it was a very wise decision. It took Phil a mere two hours to rediscover the old ‘50s trench and then clear out the back-fill. Then he started working down to the early levels, which I think he has successfully found, but we can’t be certain until we manage to find some good dateable pottery. So that’s for tomorrow.

Meanwhile geofizz are doing what we hope will be a total survey of the interior of the curtain wall, which marks out the perimeter of the two defended areas. Tomorrow we’ll move the radar down to the lower area and see what we can find there. So it’s been a great first day – and there was no rain, despite what the weather forecast had predicted. Let’s hope the elements are as kind to us tomorrow…

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