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SHARP 2023: Week 3

This week saw us continue with our work on trench 24 and also open a small evaluation trench on the edge of Boneyard field. The weather has continued to be difficult with lots of rain, more than last week. Despite this, we have managed to persevere and make advances with the archaeology. We had a visit from the Eastern Daily Press this week and you can read their article here.

We extended the digging area within the southern extent of the trench. We have excavated down to explore the area where we think kiln 5 is located and view the north-south ditch(es) in plan. Our Basic Excavation and Recording Techniques (BERT) course participants worked hard trowelling and sampling areas. On occasions they even got the opportunity for some mattocking practice. A lot of Ipswich ware pottery has been found in this area of the trench. We can see some evidence for the ditch(es) but need to do more work to ensure we can definitively identify the cut(s).

After further cleaning of the area near kiln 5 that contained daub, burning and clay, we still think we are too high to be getting down to the level of the kiln. So we will need to take down more within that area to help us understand the deposits and how the kiln 5 debris relates to the surrounding contexts. We are taking down specific grid squares and have begun to dig a sondage. The sondage excavation so far seems to confirm that everything we are seeing is still related to kiln 5. The trowelling back the grid squares has enabled us to re-define the changes in contexts and shown a distinct line between the daub and charcoal layer and an orange-brown context and, some dark deposits have also been revealed. These possible features will need to be looked at in more detail in the coming weeks.

We have quarter sectioned kiln 4 and sampled the fill. As we excavated through the compacted daub we arrived at a layer of larger pieces of daub. These are starting to be lifted slowly as part of the process of understanding the collapse of the malthouse. The presence of these large pieces is another characteristic similar to kiln 3. But we are starting to identify differences. The pieces from kiln 4 are flatter which possibly suggests that the dome was higher than with kiln 3. We will investigate this further. As the week progressed, there were really large slabs of daub found towards the bottom of kiln 4 and small areas of burnt material between the daub. This suggests that unlike kiln 3, it may not have been entirely sealed during the collapse. We have done lots of photographing and drawing of kiln 4 this week whilst we decided our next moves. At the end of the week, we finally removed the largest block of daub – unfortunately it didn’t come up in one piece, but we should still be able to measure it to determine the wall thickness.

An area to the north of kiln 4 is being cleaned in order to explore what we think is potentially a clay surface associated with malthouse 4. Our volunteers on ‘Dig for the Day’ may have found this clay floor. We have sampled the area and will continue to explore this, as we are only seeing traces at the moment.

Meanwhile, as work progresses on kiln 3, it seems that the ‘rake’ step was probably not as deep as we originally thought. We continue to detangle layers of collapse from the charcoal and are sampling as we go. The layers associated with the collapse of the north side of the kiln are being removed so that we can fully reveal the kiln’s shape.

The excavation around the post of kiln 2 is almost complete. As the kiln is being dissected, this is revealing more wattle within the daub walls.

Our best find of the week was a small glass bead that was discovered in an environmental sample from nearby the floor of malthouse 3. Our most amusing find of the week however, was within the mock sample taken by G.Nome – much to the surprise of the unsuspecting Enviro team and Enviro volunteers!

Our new course on Ancient Craeft and Techniques also ran this week. It was a great success and tutors Sam Atkins and Richard Hancox even managed to accommodate some of our site volunteers on our rainy days and some of our group visitors, giving them the opportunity to join in with some of the practical sessions.

The move of our traditional Friday afternoon tours to a Thursday has been working well this season. This week the tour started with volunteers and visitors being given a talk by the attendees on the Ancient Craeft and Techniques course, learning about the casting process and the moulds that have been created. The tour party then went up to Trench 24 where volunteers explained what they had been working on this week. It then continued over to the church and heard about progress being made with work on the human skeletal remains previously excavated from Boneyard field by SHARP.

The Human Remains volunteers have been carrying out a variety of tasks this week. They have continued to check skeleton records after laying out some of the incomplete articulated skeletons and have explored re-association from the disarticulated bone assemblage. One volunteer managed identify several disarticulated bones (femur head and pelvis) as belonging to one individual on the basis of joint pathology evidence (osteoarthritis). Another volunteer has progressed their investigation of a series of skeletons which seem to have unusual characteristics. When discovered during excavation, these individuals generally had their arms, legs, skull and often pelvic bones in place as would be expected with extended supine burials. However, the torso bones (vertebrae and ribs) were mostly absent, as if they had been scooped up. We are looking at these skeletons to see whether this could be attributed to plough damage, another cause of bone disturbance or, a specific type of bone weathering.

We have had more home-school group visits this week and we gave a tour to the Wells’ Discussion Group who were all new visitors to SHARP. On Friday, we had a visit from members of the Restoration Trust and they enjoyed their tour of the trench. Our visitors managed to get some brief trowelling experience before learning more about our environmental archaeology processes and ancient craefts and techniques.

A fun quiz was given by Richard on Sunday evening, which include rounds on Norfolk and the local natural world. One evening, some of us spent some time reminiscing over old photographs of SHARP and its excavations when we were sorting photographs as part of our Photograph Donation project. If you have photographs of your time at SHARP that you would like to donate. You can find out more about this through our Digital Trenches platform.

The Tuesday evening lecture this week was about a different early Medieval (Anglo Saxon) site – Lowbury Hill in Oxfordshire. AHRC funded PhD student Summer Courts gave a fascinating talk on the reinterpretation of the archaeological evidence from Lowbury Hill and the female burial discovered there. This lecture was recorded and we hope to be able to upload this to our Lectures Digital Trench soon.

Tuesday night lecture

There has also been lots of fun creative activity taking place during the evenings, in preparation for SHARP’s annual Festival of Archaeology. We have prepared tombola prizes, made, repaired and tried on costumes and created a range of fun games for the day. And of course, we couldn’t have a SHARP Festival of Archaeology without creating some archaeological ‘poo’! We have also thoroughly enjoyed sitting around the campfire as a respite from the damp weather.

On Friday evening we were entertained with live music from Emily Blake followed by our karaoke which was a lovely end to fun but very damp week.

SHARP would like to thank The King William IV Pub again this week for their help and support in providing shower facilities whilst we waited for the delivery of a new water tank for our showers. Thank you – it has been very much appreciated by the SHARP team and volunteers onsite. The new tank is now installed and we managed to do this without having to move any tents, skips, or the marquee. Quite an achievement!


Keep up to date via SHARP’s Digital Trenches and social media posts! Check out our weekly video blogs about SHARP’s activities this summer on the 2023 Summer Season Digital Trench. The video for Week 3 will be uploaded and available to view soon. If you haven’t already registered on the Digital Trenches site, you can do so by via the SHARP website. If you would like to be notified when new content is uploaded, subscribe to the Site News/ Latest News Forum. Follow us on Facebook for our daily updates of progress and discoveries made on trench, posted by Dr Ellie Blakelock in her Director Site Diary.

Are you wondering what to do after the summer season ends? Will you miss the archaeology? Book a place on SHARP’s new online short course! This is a new and exciting venture for SHARP and the Human Remains team have created a course on Cremation and Cremated Remains in Archaeology. This starts in September 2023 but you can find out more information on the SHARP website and you can book your place now at the introductory rate of £50.


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