The dig has begun! On Saturday the team began to arrive at the campsite to set up for the six weeks ahead, and spent a sunny afternoon and a surprisingly cold first night camping for the first time since 2010. It’s been really great to come back to such a beautiful spot and see friends we’ve made over the past few years, both local and from further afield.
This year we’ve got a core team made up of people who’ve been working on the excavations at Lyminge for the past three years, but also some new faces who are looking forward to an exciting season.
Dr Gabor Thomas (Lecturer in early Medieval archaeology at the University of Reading) – our director and the reason we’re all here again!
Rosie Cummings is our Excavation Manager, in charge of training volunteers and students. She’s a professional archaeologist and has worked both at Lyminge and Gabor’s previous dig, Bishopstone, Sussex.
Roo Mitcheson is a Field Supervisor. Roo has been at every Lyminge dig with us and the rest of the year works for the Egypt Exploration Society. We seem to have convinced him Saxon archaeology is quite exciting too!
Keith Parfitt is a Field Supervisor at Lyminge and comes to us from Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) with acres of invaluable experience. Some of you might know him as the leader of the dig that discovered the Dover Bronze Age boat back in 1992.
Andy Mackintosh is also from CAT and is a Field Supervisor here at Lyminge for the first time. We’re really pleased to welcome both Keith and Andy for the next six weeks.
Helen Harrington is our Finds Supervisor, and has been with the project since the test pits that were dug in 2007.
David Mudd is logistics manager, and we could not run this project without him! Without his brilliant organisation we would not have all our equipment, our site cabins, our campsite showers and let’s not forget our loos! When he’s not our logistics man, his special interest is the Neolithic of Iran and Iraq, which he studied at the University of Reading.
Celia Winning is Assistant Field Supervisor. She started working on the project prior to her archaeology degree at Reading university, and got involved originally through living locally. Celia has worked at Lyminge every season is now embarking on an archaeological career.
Neil Mullins is the owner of our campsite but so much more than that – he strips the topsoil from the site every season and sorts out everything that David can’t, and can produce any tool or item that you require! Another absolutely invaluable member of the team.
There are two other important people who will be arriving a bit later on in the dig – Simon Maslin is in charge of Environmental processing and is the Data Manager for the project, and Amy Hammett will be Finds Assistant, helping Helen. I’ll introduce them as they arrive.
Of course, there is also me, your very own blog writer Alexandra Knox – Assistant Director of the excavations and Post-Doctoral Research Assistant on the project. I’ve recently submitted my PhD in Anglo-Saxon Archaeology at the University of Reading, and I’ve been with the Lyminge project from the first full season in 2008.
But enough about us! On Sunday things really kicked off. We began the morning by going up to Tayne Field to have a look at the site, and we were greeted by a huge fenced off area with an enormous 360 digger in the middle of it. Neil had been busy setting up the fencing, and the digger had arrived in preparation for stripping the site on Monday.
Things were starting to happen. We got stuck in to laying out our site grid which we use to accurately record and measure the archaeological features, and deciding exactly where to position the 30x30m trench, using such technical equipment as measuring tapes, string and line paint. The fence needed to be extended to account for our chosen location for the trench, so the supervisors got stuck in lifting and shifting.
The big event was in the afternoon: we’d invited anyone who wanted to volunteer to help on site to a meeting in the Tayne Centre behind the Methodist Church, to let everyone know how to take part, and we put out chairs for around 30 people. We were very pleasantly surprised! Rosie, Roo and I went to point people in the right direction and a steady stream of people arrived before 2.30pm. An estimate put attendance at about 60, which is a fantastic turnout. Lots of questions were asked and answered and there was a good range of expertise and local knowledge being contributed. You can see from the photos that the sun was still out, our luck with the weather appears to have turned, for this week at least!
On Monday the fun really began: we opened the trench. We got out our high-visibility vests, put on our hard-hats and met the supervisors from CAT, Keith and Andy. Things started slowly, but features began appearing, and finds began turning up too – unexpectedly we started off by finding quite a large selection of prehistoric flints which will need expert analysis to date accurately but look very promising for investigating the very early prehistory of Lyminge. A few pieces of Saxon pottery have shown us that we definitely have Saxon features, but we’ll need to begin cleaning back the trench and excavating properly before we can say what sort of structures or features we have yet.
Neil stripped back the topsoil to reveal a natural orange clay. The archaeological features show up nice and dark against the orange of the clay just after the topsoil is removed. Unfortunately this also means that it dries grey very quickly in the hot sunshine, and bakes almost solid. We’re having to put down black plastic over the site in order to keep the moisture in and encourage it to ‘sweat’ a bit so that we can see the features more easily. Archaeology is about being able to discern the contrasting colours that indicate something has been dug in the past, be it a ditch, a post hole or a pit, so we need to make sure we can see things properly.
By the end of today (Tuesday) the whole 30x30m trench was stripped, in time for volunteers and students to start turning up tomorrow morning. Rosie and I will be taking the first induction meeting tomorrow morning and are really looking forward to meeting the people who’ve expressed an interest in excavating and the other on-site activities. In the next blog I’ll be updating you all about the first finds that have been coming up from the topsoil which are already indicating that we have a very exciting site, as we hoped.
Don’t forget that if you are interested in digging you need to attend an induction meeting on either a Wednesday or a Saturday morning from 9am, and after that you can attend as little or as much as you like. Those interested in non-digging activities such as finds washing or environmental processing can turn up when they have time and be given a shorter, on-site induction, and if you can’t help out, then I hope you will have fun following the blog and coming to our weekly public site tours at 2.00pm on Saturdays.