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The new season is nearly upon us....!

June is here, the weather is getting sunnier and warmer, so that can only mean one thing…..the summer season is nearly here.

At the moment things are all quiet on Trench 23, the same can’t be said of Chalkpit field as it is full of sheep with their lambs loudly bleating and running around. But that will all change towards the end of June when the site set-up team descends on Sedgeford to get things ready for day 1, week 1, season 24; in other words, the 29th June.

Trench 23 waiting to be "unpacked for this season

Whether you are a seasoned ‘digger’ or a complete newbie, or are more interested in one of our ‘non digging’ courses, you are welcome to come and join us. We still have spaces on all of our courses except for the Human Remains ones, and plenty of room for more volunteers in our trenches. Click here for more information.

This year we have two areas of excavation – Trench 23 and Saggy Horse Field.

Excavations on Trench 23 in 2018 confirmed beyond doubt that we have the earliest known malthouse in the British archaeological record. Not only does this discovery confirm the dynamism of the agricultural revolution of the long 8th century in Anglo-Saxon England; it is also a discovery of international importance, implying high levels of technological sophistication and connectivity across the Carolingian world at the time.

Some uncertainties about the form of Malthouse 1 remain, and we hope to clarify these during the 2019 season. The archaeological remains of this tripartite, two-storey structure, combining steeping area, germination floor, and drying area, are of exceptional quality due to the depth of the gully in which they lie buried and the abundance of carbonised and burnt-clay material in the associated deposits.

Our main focus in 2019, however, will be on other structures in Trench 23. We suspect that one, two, or even three additional malthouses may be represented, and our current working hypothesis is that we have multiple units working side by side, implying very high levels of output. This in turn has implications for our understanding of Sedgeford's place in contemporary economic, social, and political structures; at the very least, the technology deployed at the malting complex suggests heavy ecclesiastical involvement, and the scale of operations speaks of lordship, great estates, and long-distance movement of goods.

In Saggy Horse we will be reopening an area excavated by Anj Beckham during the 2003 season as one of the trenches posed a number of intriguing and unanswered questions, for which we now need to find a solution.

The 2003 trench transected a ‘canal’; 6 m in width, 1 m in depth, with a shallow ‘U-shaped’ profile and with granular chalk and clay sides and bottom. This ‘canal’, we now realise, can be traced from Heacham parallel to and to the south of the Heacham river up to the point where it runs into the tail part of the Reeddam pond at Sedgeford. From this point it ran as a canalised river past the site of the present-day Sedgeford Hall and under the site of Glover’s Farm past Fring Cross, where it is forded by the Peddars Way up to and into the three-acre pond at Fring (known as Fring Harbour).

The Reeddam pond has now been shown stratigraphically, by deposits sealed by its clay lining - middle Anglo-Saxon Ipswich ware pottery - to be a water engineering work dating to the 8th/9th centuries.

Unfortunately, the two sections that cut through the ‘canal’ (in Saggy Horse Field and in the Reeddam II trenches) failed to provide definitive dating evidence, although the feature was seen to cut through burials in the cemetery (650 to 850/875) along the southern border of the Reeddam pond.

The dating range for initial construction of the canal is between the 9th/10th century and the post conquest period 11th/12th century. The 2019 excavations will attempt to provide a definitive answer by re-excavating the 2003 trench, removing back-fill and excavating beneath the granular chalk and clay of the sides and the bottom to see if any ceramic evidence can be found to date it.

The excavations here will be an important and continuing part of SHARP’s research.

Come join us and be part of this exciting and unique archaeology. Don’t delay…book today !


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