Week 1 - and we're off!
This week, as almost all first weeks are, was mainly focused on opening Trench 23 and cleaning all surfaces. Some progress was made in places, with the baulk being taken back on the eastern side, revealing a possible ditch feature. Elsewhere in the trench, the BERTs took down the colluvium around Kiln 3 to look at the possibility of another clay floor in front of the kiln. Future plans for Trench 23 in the coming week include a detailed sampling of Kiln 3 and its clay surface. New this year is Hannah Caroe, a DPhil student from Oxford, researching Anglo-Saxon malting and beer production whilst working on our environmental team. It is hoped that this analysis can provide a greater insight into how the Anglo-Saxon Malt Houses operated at Sedgeford. In addition to this, many features identified by the cleaning done this week will be investigated around Kiln 2 to learn more about its function and structure.
Trench 25, opened this year in Saggy Horse Field, was placed directly over the previous excavation carried out in 2003, and most of the first few days were spent clearing the backfill and revealing the features. It is clear that the trench covers part of a water management feature, possibly a canal, which is likely associated with the Anglo-Saxon settlement in Sedgeford and which extends throughout the landscape. The trench was also extended to cover a circular feature detected via magnetometry, with the aim this season to investigate and record what it is.
The Medieval History Group spent most of Week One wading up the river in the environs of Eaton looking for evidence of mills and other modifications along the river’s course. In spite of problems with barbed wire, the high bankside growth of nettles, fallen trees across the river and increased flow and depth, a number of useful observations were made. A further piece of basalt millstone was found at a site where a large part of a millstone had previously been retrieved, i.e. a mill was close by.
The site of Kyme mill was examined and re-assessed. Some 25 m upstream of this, a piece of gritstone rotary quern was found in the river bed. A large piece of Roman (manufactured) roof-tile was found by Sedgeford Carr. Ochre was noticed leaching into the river from either bank at Sedgeford Carr and Kyme suggesting that bog iron was present (a potential source of ore for smelting).
Week 2 and 3 will be spent taking auger cores in the Reeddam. Waders and wellies essential - webbed feet optional!
BERT Course (by Katie Clay, one of our BERT students this week)
The BERT course provided an excellent opportunity for both university students needing to gain valuable practice experience and those with an interest in archaeology who are simply wanting to learn basic excavation and recording techniques. The week is very varied with hands on elements, in which we exposed a clay floor with possible links to Kiln 3, mixed with classroom based elements learning the theory behind. We also spent time with the enviro team looking at a basic floatation method, and in the finds hut discovering what happens once items are taken out of the soil. We also had the opportunity to learn about non-invasive archaeology for those not visiting the CRISP factory to learn more about the malting process.
Tuesday Night Lecture
The talk this week was on the average Roman person and their lives focusing on curse tablets from the bath complex at Bath, and letters from Vindolanda, just south of Hadrian’s Wall. It was very interesting and Paddy Lambert was a very good speaker, having been invited back after his talk last year on Roman Roads. He covered the ways in which Romans have traditionally been perceived, and how ordinary people were affected by their conquest by an Empire; both the British and those from around the Mediterranean who found themselves in a new province.
Next week's talk will be on New Understandings of Anglo-Saxon Sedgeford by Neil Faulkner and John Jolleys, who have been leading the excavations and landscape work around the village. Details of forthcoming lectures can be found here.
Crisp Maltings Visit
On Thursday, a group of us visited the Crisp Maltings in Fakenham, a short drive away from Sedgeford. There, we were able to see how both traditional and state-of-the-art malting was carried out - a brand new roasting machine has recently been installed to cater to the fast developing brewing industry. Crisp first started malting in 1870, and still uses some of the original malting floors from the early 20th century, the rest having been destroyed during the Second World War and by subsequent redevelopment of their site.
Although the machinery has been modernised, with steel tanks used to steep the grain, as opposed to the earlier brick-lined tanks set into the floor, and air conditioning to more precisely control the temperature than opening and closing the many windows along the wall, the basic process remains the same: Barley is steeped for a few days, before being placed on the malting floor to allow the germination process to begin, converting the starches into sugars in order to brew the beer. From there, it is heated and dried to stop the germination, removing the rootlets that have sprouted from the seeds, and allowing the grain to be used in the brewing process.
A similar arrangement can be seen in our Trench 23, with Malting House 1 featuring a steeping tank, with a clay-lined floor to allow the germination process to occur, before being lifted above a kiln at the opposite end. It is hoped that this same arrangement can be found in our other Malting Houses currently under excavation.
On Friday, the Penland Phezants returned to Boneyard Field, to perform the story of the fatal thunderstorm 200 years ago, in which the 14-year old Susan Nobes was killed by lightning in 1819. They also gave a showcase of their musical histories, including The True Story of Hereward the Wake, and Margery Kempe of Lynn.