Post Excavation Fun

Over the course of the dig several members were kind enough to send me photographs to supplement the general shots I was clicking off on a daily basis. Having now had time to upload all my own photographs, to add to the others and to look through the full set, I think a few are worth sharing with a wider audience if only for comic value or to prompt the little grey cells into coming up with a suitable caption. Here is a selection with my own comments/captions attached.

It’s amazing the things that turn up in your sieve!

Image above supplied by Sue Harman.

Make that 500 lines, “I must fill in these forms correctly”.


You’ve been a very naughty boy, go and stand over by that tree.

Image above supplied by Nat Harlow

Excavation Director digs personal bunker in spare time!

Did you say Mars is in conjunction with Uranus?


CRP 1 – Moles 0!



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Dig Day Sixteen – Last Day

As has become the custom with CRP excavations over the years this one went down to the wire. Trench 5 simply refused to let us go so that another full day was expended trying to resolve exactly what was going on at the southern end of the trench. The picture oscillated between opinions as to whether we were dealing with one feature or two inter-related features. Further investigation eventually revealed that we were indeed dealing with two features not one and that a later construction trench, that terminated at either end in some very large stones/flints, had cut through an earlier feature. The clock ran out before we could fully investigate the latter.


Giles still hard at work on day sixteen

While work on resolving the enigma of the inter-cutting features continued, the completion of trench drawings was concluded by Rhiane ably assisted by Val. Sue finished off the paperwork under the watchful eye of Neil who kindly came over to assist, having completed the work on his trench earlier in the day.


Was that soil yellowy-orange or orangey-yellow?

The 2017 two week dig has been a great success with a very happy crew, a number of new faces and some lovely cake. We await the outcome of the post-excavation work with a good deal of optimism that we will have added further detail to the growing narrative about the development of Venta Icenorum.


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Dig Day Fifteen

As the clock ticks down to the end of another Summer excavation Neil was left to plough a lone furrow with a day dedicated to finishing the recording in Trench 6. This meant that all available resources could be deployed over in Trench 5 which continued to stubbornly resist resolution. Rhiane finally reached the bottom of her very deep pit just before she disappeared completely from sight.


The end was in sight, or so we thought until cleaning back the last area revealed that there was indeed another feature that had been suggested after the rainfall a few days ago. This has near vertical sides where it emerges from the east facing trench section with several very large abutting stones sticking out of said section. The bottom of this feature was reached just before the end of the day thanks to the combined efforts of Giles and Martin. Final cleaning of this area and a general tidy up of the whole trench should see the excavation completed tomorrow.

Star find of the day and one of the top finds of the past two weeks was a lovely section of bone comb found by Tony.


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Dig Day Fourteen

The day saw a heavy turnout for the now weekly show and tell session where some of the small finds recovered during the excavation are available for members to see, in some cases for the first time given that we have had two large trenches on the go and of course not everyone is present for the full duration of the dig.

Trench 6 was getting a final polish up together with completion of paperwork and drawings. As can be seen in the image below Chris has already developed the Archaeologists stock chin scratching pose. I wonder who he got that from? On a more serious note he has been a real asset throughout the dig and went above and beyond the call with his albeit abortive bat rescue mission. We hope to see him back next year.


With just one day left of the dig Trench 5 continues to tease. Rhiane is slowly heading for the centre of the earth in what she hopes will be a Saxon pit, which is a distinct possibility, whilst the southern end of the trench has now turned in to an antler working area with a number of neatly cut antler points recovered during the course of the day.

Trench 5 Antler Central

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Dig Day Twelve + 1

After the unpleasant weather conditions of the previous afternoon conditions were much improved and, once the soil had dried out a little, getting it through the sieve proved a much less challenging task. Mike and John kept the sieving staff fully occupied throughout the day as they mattocked away in the southern end of Trench 5. This area of the trench has produced one or two pilae suggesting the presence  of a building with a heated floor somewhere in the vicinity. There is still work to be done on the digging front  but the features are gradually being resolved.


Trench Five

Over in Trench 6 excellent progress has been made and the completed ditch excavation was looking particularly smart at the end of the working day, as can be seen in the image below. Animal skeletal remains were uncovered in the bottom of the ditch a feature that appears to be a recurring theme at Venta.


Ditch – Trench Six


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Dig Day Twelve

For the first time during this season’s excavation the weather intervened in an increasingly unpleasant manner forcing a slightly earlier finish than usual. Work in Trench 6 is very well advanced with several post holes half sectioned and sectioning of the ditch in progress. The new sieves were confronted with rain sodden soil for the first time so it will be interesting to get some feedback on how they stood up to the test.

Sieve meets mud for the first time

Work is also progressing well in Trench 5 with the main area still to be reduced being the south western corner. This area appeared darker following the early morning rain so may yet reveal another feature. The trench continues to produce pottery and bone in good quantities with the state of bone preservation being slightly better in some cases.

Section through ditch in Trench 5

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Dig Day Eleven

A high turnout of personnel led to early morning chaos on the parking front but once that was resolved the teams hit the trenches hard and excellent progress was made in both cases. The post holes in Trench six were half sectioned and a further feature or two may yet await discovery. Sue and Judith were focussing hard on the paperwork under the watchful eye of Rhiane as can be seen in the shot below.


The Joys of Paperwork

Over in Trench 5 Giles has been unravelling the tricky features and at close of play things were beginning to look much clearer. The trench produced a fourth flagon neck and a piece of roof tile badly deformed and vitrified one one side owing to the extreme heat it must have been subjected to.

Highlighting of the day was undoubtedly the magnificent cake produce by Sue complete with a photograph of Trench 6 with the house in the background.


 The Formal Cake Cutting Ceremony

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Dig Day Ten

In spite of the oppressive heat, particularly for those exposed to it all day in Trench 6, a sizeable contingent of willing workers trowelled and sieved away all day. The reward in 6 was the discovery of a sizeable post hole to the north of the ditch. Towards the end of the afternoon Chris was the beneficiary of an excellent tutorial from Neil on the delights and pitfalls of drawing with the aid of a planning frame.

Trench Six Posthole

Trench 5 has now turned in to the flagon trench with the count of complete neck sherds now up to three. It has already been suggested that this is further evidence of the smithing activity in this area with the blacksmith needing to slake his thirst on a regular basis owing to the inhospitable temperatures associated with this line of work. Sectioning of the main feature began with few finds emerging at this early stage.

Trench Five Flagon Neck

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Dig Day Nine

On a very warm day, especially for the brave souls in Trench 6 and with a reduced crew of diggers and sifters, we made good progress. The ditch and one or two other features are showing nicely in Trench 6 so the finishing line is in sight, depending upon what these features throw up.


Trench 6 with ditch emerging

In Trench 5 we have reached a similar position with both the feature picked up in the original test pit and the linear feature at the northern end of the trench marked out ready for sectioning tomorrow. The volume of finds in terms of pottery and bone from this particular trench continues to impress with a good range of Roman and a growing count of possible Saxon sherds.


Pairs synchronised spraying in progress in Trench 5

The small samian sherd retrieved by Martin yesterday bore a partial potter’s stamp consisting of the letters “CELS”. One possibility emerged from a  quick search of the Nottingham University samian database. This is a potter by the name of Celsianus so it would be interesting to know if he has cropped up previously in Caistor samian assemblages.

Hard to believed that nine days have passed without a mention of cake. To correct that omission tribute is hereby paid to all of our splendid cake makers. Roger’s wife Helen has been particularly hard working in this regard, so the efforts of you all are very much appreciated by everyone even if one or two are struggling to connect cake to mouth after a hard session in the trench.

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Dig Day Eight

The excavation is progressing well after a week of endeavour by our volunteers. We are now reaching the point where features are beginning to emerge which will make all of the preceding efforts worthwhile.

Today we welcomed the visiting Young Archaeologists Club. The children and several parents enthusiastically joined in with trowelling, sieving and bulk finds brushing. Clambering over the spoil heaps in search of pottery pulled out during the initial machining of the trenches proved to be a particularly popular pastime.


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