SHARP 2023: Week 6
After a very wet Saturday, the start of our final week of excavations was looking bright and sunny. The trench was too soggy for work on Sunday, so in the morning the BERTs has their first lessons under cover whilst the rest of the trench 24 team did finds cleaning, and paperwork. After tea-break we made good progress on backfilling trench 26. You can watch videos about the excavation of Trench 26 on our Digital Trenches. More downpours at lunch time and the afternoon really did stop play on-site, so we ran a group outing to nearby Castle Rising. We ended the day with a thoroughly enjoyable time at the on-site quiz with Quizmaster Sam setting a tough one this week.
On Monday we had NO rain! So despite the looming clouds we managed to get a huge amount of work done on trench 24 and it was nice and warm at times. We completed the kiln 4 section drawings and moved onto the plans of this kiln and its wider area. The slots over kiln 2 have now been recorded and photographs taken, with the next job being the 1:50 plan. Some of the BERTs worked with Steve on malthouse 1, looking for post holes. We think there might be another post hole on the Eastern side of the malting house, this would add to our growing evidence of an earlier phase of building. We also further investigated the foundation to the south wall of the steeping tank by digging more slots. This will hopefully help us understand the relationship between the wall, the floor and the dark deposit underneath. A group of volunteers carried out a cleaning session at the southern end of the trench (upslope) as we are still trying to reach a level that will enable us to better define kiln 5 and its surrounding area. The odd shape of the potential floor is puzzling us.
Tuesday brought another great day of weather and allowed us to make much needed progress on-site. The area around kiln 5 was further cleaned, ready for photographs. Excitingly, this latest clean has started to reveal the fill of the kiln! It looks like the clay surface to the east of the kiln has perhaps suffered from more disturbance at its eastern extent. In the evening, the lecture in the church was excellent. Chris Fern, a previous SHARPie spoke about his work on the Staffordshire Hoard project. He talked about the Hoard itself, the objects, decoration styles and even a theory or two about how they ended up in the ground.
With the good weather continuing on Wednesday, the findings from our work around the steeping tank were consistent with previous years, suggesting that there are multiple phases, with burnt grain at the bottom of the cut pit. We did find several potential postholes in the area of malthouse 1, but these will have to wait until the 2024 season to be investigated further. Down-slope, in the northern extent of trench 24, excavators were relieved to have taken photos the day before as guineafowl had attacked the collapsed areas of the kilns! However, it did cause some frustration as they were working on the final recording stages and the 1:20 plans. The BERTs had a busy day working on their slots, revealing many new cuts and fills within the N-S ditches in the western area of the trench. The southern extension however continues to confuse things as more daub and clay come up as well as a potential cut feature instead of the four ditches we were expecting to find.
The sun was almost in the way on Thursday as the BERTs learnt about photography. Across the trench, volunteers worked on the drawn record, with progress on the 1:20 plans of kiln 4 and kiln 2 and BERTs creating section drawings of the ditches. In the evening, the usual games night was swapped for crafting of swords and costume making, in preparation for the long-awaited Friday night murder mystery. This was followed by a very atmospheric night sat around the camp fire, with a marshmallow or two, watching the meteor shower across clear skies.
The final day of excavations was hectic and the hot weather made things challenging but the volunteers and BERTs were amazing and we got so much done. All the 1:20 plans and all, but one, of the 1:50 plans have been completed and every section drawn. That left only a few bits of cross-checking and context sheets to be done at the start of close down week. The culmination of the season’s evening entertainment took place on Friday evening with a pirate murder mystery party. It was a very well-earned relaxing evening. Owen had the most overacted performance overall with the most outrageous accent! Steve and Bryan had the best costumes, with M and Aster impressing with their handcrafted items. Of course, after the murder was solved by Ann, we all carried on the party with our usual karaoke!
Site close down is now complete, everything has been collected, from showers and solar panels to the archaeological records to be digitised. The kitchen has been cleaned, the campsite is now empty and the site has been put to bed as the remaining SHARP team make their way home.
Thank you to the SHARP team for making this season possible. Everyone has worked so hard on and off trench, from trench supervisors, post-ex supervisors, course tutors, info hut supervisor and caterers. A particular big thank you to our site management team, our site manager Steve, and Info-hut supervisor Terry, for such a job well done this year. And of course, all the volunteers who have participated this year, both on-site and remotely. It has also been lovely to see so many visitors from the general public this season.
Although the site in Sedgeford is now closed until next year, the SHARP team will be busy out of season, working on post excavation and preparing for more archaeological escapades in 2024. Despite numerous logistical setbacks, it has been an informative and fun year, the SHARP team and volunteers have been amazing and we look forward to seeing everyone again next year as well as welcoming new faces.
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.
Weekly summary videos for weeks 1 to 3 are now available on SHARP’s Digital Trench ‘2023 Summer Season’.