Eagle-eyed residents of Lyminge will have spotted a few of us digging on Tayne Field last week. Gabor and I, along with Nick Pankhurst, (a colleague from the Reading archaeology department who works for the Silchester Town Life project), our logistics manager Stuart Hunnisett and local volunteers Les and Richard went down to the village to hand-dig a few small areas that we won’t be able to target in the summer. To our surprise, the sun shone for a few days and apart from some rather unpleasant high winds towards the end of the week, the weather was pretty good to us.
We went in for a few days to test some of the anomalies on the geophysics that we have been wondering about for a while. You’ll notice from the image below right that at the southern end of the field there are what look like two large ditch or boundary features that run along the contour of the field.
Our trench in the summer of 2013 will be a 30x30m trench to the north of the 2012 trench and away from these linear features, so we wanted to know whether or not these possible boundary features were of a similar date to the Saxon evidence we unearthed last summer, or whether they are entirely separate from the 6th-7th century settlement.
We carefully de-turfed and hand-dug a 2x12m trench across both boundary features, and uncovered one narrow ditch to the north and a much wider linear feature to the south. We then set about digging in to these features to establish their extent and to try to find some dating evidence, our main priority.
Nick and I quickly established that we had a ditch with very little in it, with a smaller gully feature running alongside it. It is quite likely that this ditch is prehistoric, possibly dug in the Bronze Age as it seems typical of the period, but because we have no finds at all barring a few redeposited struck flints, it is difficult to confirm this.
What we can say, however, is that this ditch was not open in the Saxon period or later, as we would almost certainly have had at least a few finds were this the case.
The more southerly linear feature, closer to the stream, was a little more complicated. The geophysics were more subtle and what we found certainly tallies with the geophysical survey. The shallow linear scoop appears to be a trackway or hollow way that was probably in use in the early-mid Saxon period. It had gone out of use by the 11th century AD as it was cut across almost its entire width by a large Saxo-Norman pit in the area that we exposed.
We established the likely dates of the boundary features on the geophysics earlier than we expected, on day two, so we began to open a series of small 1x1m test pits over other areas of anomalies on the geophysics. There are several areas that look interesting and while we know where we will be digging this summer, it hasn’t always been clear which of these ‘interesting’ areas we should target in 2014, the last year of this phase of the project.
We opened these test pits in order to find out whether it was worth placing a much larger trench over them in the future – we didn’t want the remains of a bonfire from the 21st century to be all we find in 2014!
The five smaller test pits that we opened were extremely illuminating. While one showed that the geophysical anomaly equated to demolition rubble from the World War II buildings on Tayne Field, three showed firm evidence for Saxon occupation and one contained potential Saxon evidence but no firm dating evidence. Test pit 2, as you can see from the photo, is full of charcoal and associated smithing evidence like slag, and perhaps even a charred timber. Water is a key component in metal-working, so
assuming the stream hasn’t moved dramatically since the Saxon period (something yet to be investigated), this is an ideal location for this sort of activity. Unfortunately we didn’t get any dating evidence from this test pit, so we can’t be sure that this activity is related to the early Saxon settlement we excavated in 2012.
Another test pit was positioned over a cluster of possible sunken-featured buildings. Nick and I tackled this, and although it is difficult to see from the photograph, we uncovered what looks very much like the fill of an SFB pit, similar to what we found last summer and full of pieces of pottery, animal bone and daub. Although we can’t definitively say that it’s an SFB, it contains early Anglo-Saxon pottery, and the outline of the feature is indicative, so perhaps is an area to target in 2013. A further test pit gave use WWII rubble, explaining the strong signal on the geophysics, and two more test pits brought up early Saxon pottery with lots of daub, animal bone and charcoal, potentially indicating pits or Anglo-Saxon demolition material.
All in all, a very exciting and rewarding week, where the Site Director and the Post-doc (me) actually got properly stuck in digging for a change! We now have a much better idea about where to position our 2014 trenches, and how much of Tayne Field was occupied in the Saxon period, so watch this space for future discoveries.
In other Lyminge-related news (yes there’s more!), our travelling exhibition has now been installed at upstairs at Folkestone Library and History Resource centre, so another opportunity for Kent residents to catch it. Gabor and I installed it and there is lots more to see at the Library so do have a look if you live in the area.
Do remember to sign up for an induction if you would like to join us as a volunteer this summer. All applications for student bursaries have now been awarded so applications are closed, but anyone who can get to the site on a daily basis or stay locally can volunteer free of charge at Lyminge over the summer. Details are on the ‘taking part’ page on the menu bar at the top of the page.