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Trench 24 - A Summary of our 2022 Season

Last season there was a lot going on, so we regrettably did not manage to keep up with our regular weekly blogs. So instead, we have decided to provide a summary of the latest discoveries on trench 24 and share some of our aims for the 2023 summer season.

Excavation of Kilns 3 and 4

The archaeology within trench 24 continues to surprise and amaze us. In weeks 3-5 we continued to remove the clay surface from malt house 1. More yellow clay appeared across the area and this strongly suggests that there may well have been an earlier phase to the malt house. This discovery may explain why kiln 1 is off set from the rest of the building, perhaps the kiln was related to an earlier phase.

By week 5 the full extent of kiln 3 was revealed. This kiln is a similar size to kiln 2 however not as deep. Further investigation of kiln 2 revealed a clay base deep in the kiln; this floor appeared to be connected to the walls suggesting the kiln was initially that deep when constructed, however it is also possible that there are multiple phases of construction (quite likely given the repairs to the clay lining we have already identified). The confirmation of a step cut into the subsoil would have made accessing the kiln far easier, and this seems to be a design feature present on other kilns too, as there is also a step associated with kiln 3.

As is traditional for SHARP, our most exciting new developments were discovered in the final weeks of excavating, and the 2022 season was no exception.

The two most exciting possibilities is that we may have even more kilns on the site. At the very end of the 2021 season, we made the discovery of a kiln wall to the east of kiln 3. This became our fourth kiln on the site. Further excavation of this area to confirm and identify the extent of this new kiln was carried out this year. We collected plenty of environmental samples using our grid excavation system, as well as trying to identify any evidence for phasing. However, in week 5 the possible outline of yet another kiln was highlighted by Duncan and his keen and observant volunteers. Could this be our kiln 5?

However, that title was quickly stolen away as Owen and his volunteers found the allusive burnt grain associated with feature 5 at the top of the hill. The size and burning seen in this feature clearly suggested it was a kiln, but the absence of grain was a concern. So with the recent discovery of grain here we can announce that we have identified our 5th kiln, and this one probably represents the last malting on the site. At this stage our numbering sequence is all over the place, so the volunteers on site in week 6 were keen to give the kilns names, apparently kiln 3 is now called Anya. But what should we call the others?

In addition to the excitement over the kilns, at the end of week 2 we had worked out that there were a series of intercutting ditches on the eastern side of the malting complex. By the end of the season we also had potential proof that the ditch was timber lined, something Neil Faulkner predicted back in 2019. In addition, we now have evidence for more ditches on the western side of the site, one of which appears to have cut into an earlier burn event (possibly when one of the malt houses burnt down).

Excavating West Ditch

Each year we gain more insight into the full extent of the site and the phasing of the various malting buildings. At the start of the season, we only had 3 definite kilns, and by the end of the season we have at least 5 kilns, and a probable 2 further ones to be identified, one between kilns 3&4 and one associated with the earlier malt house 0 (probably under malt house 5). The site just keeps getting better and is definitely living up to its title of a site of national (if not international) significance.

As well as the amazing archaeology, SHARP has always been keen to explore different excavation methods as we continue to excavate for research purposes rather than under commercial pressures, and hopefully we can show the benefits of some of our excavation strategies. We are recovering an amazing amount of data that will ultimately be essential to understanding how the site functions, and in the case of the environmental data will provide insights into the agriculture of the time.

Our thanks go to all the volunteers that worked on the site in 2022, and we hope we will see many of you again this coming season for the next set of surprises.

West Ditch

So, what is the plan for next year. Well, we have a new ditch to explore to the west of the site and we must determine how that ditch relates to our new kiln 5, and any clay surface it may have. We should hopefully also be able to start to excavate the inside of kiln 5 this season. In the middle of the trench there is more work to be done on the two phases of malt house 1, and the cistern needs further excavation as well as there seems to be multiple burn episodes within it. At the bottom of the hill, the final parts of kiln 3 need to be excavated and recorded. Excavation of the inside of kiln 4 can start, however we need to put both kilns, and the new potential kiln into its wider context and identify any post-holes associated with any of the two/three malthouse structures. More excavation using grid squares will be carried out to collect as much environmental data as possible, this means there will be plenty to be done in our onsite environmental cabin. And finally there will be the ever present quest to locate the post holes representing the many buildings on the site.

This year we will not be closing and covering the site until after week 6 has finished, so anyone booking in week 6 will get a good mix of excavation and recording, and for visitors there will be plenty to see until Saturday 12th August 2023.

Finally, don’t forget to add our Festival of Archaeology on Sunday 23rd of July to your diaries, where we can share the latest results from the season.

Looking forward to seeing lots of you this summer for another exciting SHARP season!


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