And so, it begins. Season 23 is nearly upon us. An advance party arrived on site last weekend, and as each day passes our numbers increase as the team arrives in preparation of the start of week 1.
There is a vast range of activities that have to be done in set-up week – overseeing the arrival of cabins, toilets, showers (and all the associated connecting up), and the erection of the marquee are the obvious ones, but even before that the grass has to be cut and the nettles and thistles need strimming from around the permanent cabins and the track leading to the OVH.
Site cabins begin to arrive
There is also the kitchen to be thoroughly cleaned. Even though it was left in an immaculate condition at the end of last season, it still requires a deep clean. There are all the chairs, tables, notice boards etc to come out of the trailers and be put in the marquee, and the hired cabins are transformed in to finds / animal bones research / visitors centre and teaching room …..the list of tasks to get done is endless.
Our showers down the track are no longer in use so this year we have hired in a unit. As these units run off electricity they need to be near the generator which is also runs power for the kitchens, lighting and marquee and other cabins. Before the shower-block arrived a new soakaway was dug on the eastern edge of Boneyard field, and we exposed two shin bones lying in an east-west direction. Suffice it to say that we have now arranged for a different shower unit which has a waste tank underneath, so no excavations are required.
Ray has visited today to look at the bones. Very quickly he has been able to say that it is an adult female of middle age (she has now been named Lou) and she is in an excellent state of preservation. The way in which the feet are splayed indicates that it was a coffin burial, however, due to the sandy conditions a grave cut isn’t obvious. It is hoped that the missing bones of the feet will be found at a lower level and that the spoil heap will not have to be sieved to find them!
Ray has his first date with Lou!
Also on Thursday there was a First Aid course being undertaken and today the team have had an induction day where we chatted through all the Health and Safety bits and bobs, and got on to discussing the archaeology – which at the end of the day is what we are all here for!
Dave Crease testing out his new glasses during induction
This year the main focus of excavation is Trench 23 (‘the ovens trench’) where over the last few years methodical excavations are revealing what we now believe is a sequence of Mid Anglo-Saxon malthouses, each comprising cistern (for steeping), floor (for germination), and kiln (for drying). – this is unique, only a handful of malting kilns are known, but we have the remains of an entire grain-processing complex.
The team have their first visit to Trench 23
But Sharp isn’t only about digging holes and although we have a number of BERT courses running this year that will involve digging, we also have a number of other courses – Human Remains (I and II), Environmental Archaeology, and three new courses of this year – An Introduction to Photogrammetry, Landscape and Non-invasive Archaeology, and Unlocking Sedgeford’s Medieval Past. This last course has several people from the village on it who are keen to learn more of Sedgeford’s history and will include test pitting in some of their gardens Details on all the courses can be found on the website (Click here for more details). Bookings are still being taken. The weather is looking good, so don’t delay, book today!