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Boneyard through the ages

Last month we brought you Boneyard-before-SHARP. So it only makes sense to follow that nostalgia trip with another tracing SHARP's adventures on Boneyard 1996 to 2007.

First: a bit of technical information.

It might be hard to see, but this image shows the various archaeological interventions on Boneyard up to and including the main trench SHARP opened in 1996 (red rectangle). Previous interventions in 1957-58 and 1960-61 excavated a number of skeletons that made their way to an archive at Cambridge University, where they remain. SHARP was merely the latest to come to the Boneyard party.

In 1997 the Reeddam test-pitting was converted to a full trench, seen at the bottom of the hill (top of the photo), and the main (Old) trench was already starting to encroach on that territory. Note the Enviro Tree taking on its accustomed role of sentinel over the eastern side of the trench - its mute message being 'Here Be Archaeology', or perhaps 'Don't Fall Into The Trench'.

The push to merge the Boneyard and Reeddam trenches, to understand the land use as a cemetery across both, continued in following years. The next photo from 1998 shows an extension to Old Trench and excavation around the stumps of the poplar trees cut down two years earlier.

Uphill looking down... and downhill looking up in '98.

1999 rolls around and the merger of Boneyard and Reeddam is almost complete, as the following chronological drawing and photo show. In addition a large southern extension has been added to the Old Trench.

Here's a nice image of archaeology in action, '99 style. Sort of: at least someone is doing something. SHARP old timers will appreciate the yellow van and old marquee in the background.

The new millennium dawns, and SHARP celebrates on Boneyard by opening the New Trench, west of the Old Trench. Its purpose was to re-excavate the Jewell trenches of the 1950s and hence answer questions regarding the skeletal excavations of the time by picking up what (or who) was left behind.

I couldn't resist this image of the old marquee, looking a bit wonky, and probably taken late in the season during a storm, to judge by the rain refugees within. Those who are familiar with the current double-sized, stunningly glamorous Marquee will wonder how we lived in such squalor. Those who remember what we had before the old marquee (nothing) will recall it was luxury, with a Monty Python accent.

By 2001 the Old Trench traversed the full extent of the hill. Only the waterlogged conditions in the valley floor were limiting our activities, particularly when the pumps broke down. (Note the old marquee again, looking slightly less scruffy. And the van.)

This 2002 image shows the mid-section of Old Trench and its close relationship with New Trench, which by now was well underway. Despite many years of exploration in Old Trench, it still had some secrets to reveal...

...such as burials that kept popping up their heads (literally), in surprisingly good condition, under soil that had been walked over for years by hundreds of archaeologists, as seen in this photo from 2004.

This drawing from 2003 shows the full extent of the Old Trench's push for Boneyard and world domination, as it remains to this day.

In the last two years of excavation, 2006 and 2007, the New Trench was finished while Old Trench took a well-earned rest, as the vegetation growing on once-carefully trowelled surfaces shows. The former spoil heap had also started growing its own eco-system, which continues to flourish in the present day.

At the end of the 2007 season twelve years of excavation on Boneyard came to an end. SHARP turned its attention from the dead to the living, as we started to explore the Middle Saxon settlement area on Chalkpit Field.

But Boneyard is still home. Here Be Archaeology (and Don't Fall In The Trench).

If you recognise any of these photos, or anyone in them, please leave a comment on our Facebook page here: and visit our website here for all the 2018 news!

Edge of the Old Trench: 2017


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