Cleaning back – finds from all periods

It’s now Thursday and the dig has well and truly got underway. The whole trench has been stripped, students and volunteers have arrived and we’re cleaning back the site.

Cleaning back

Cleaning back - the volunteers and students get on site

As the spoil came off with the digger we had the services of local volunteer metal-detectorists Steve Harmer and David Holman who scanned the topsoil for anything of archaeological and local history interest, and found all sorts of remains from the more recent history of Lyminge. A 15th century jeton, perhaps used for commercial transactions or games as a substitute for coinage was found.

15th century jeton

15th century jeton

Lots of burnt remains came up, which according to local knowledge is likely to relate to a big bonfire that was started on VE day, 1945, in celebration of the end of war. A discussion at the local pub revealed that some of the pieces of machinery we found might relate to ‘Lyminge Day’ lawnmower races!

David Holman metal-detecting

David Holman metal-detecting the spoil heap

The recent evidence is fascinating, but we’ve also found much more ancient archaeology. Almost the first archaeological remains that we found relate to the prehistoric past. We’re here to investigate the Anglo-Saxon past of Lyminge, but we’re already able to say that people were living in Lyminge in the Mesolithic which stretched from 10,000-5000 BC. Worked flint is coming up in great quantities and is a very exciting addition to our knowledge of the area.

Worked flints

Worked flints are beginning to turn up in great quantities

Finds washing

Helen and Eileen get stuck in to finds washing

Thankfully we do also have some pretty convincing Anglo-Saxon evidence too! A lead loom weight was found in the spoil heap by David Holman, exactly the same kind as was found in 2010, and Saxon pottery is coming up too. Most excitingly we seem to have a very particular kind of Anglo-Saxon building, known as a sunken-featured building (SFB). This is a small timber building for craft-working or storage which had a rectangular pit cut underneath it. There is debate in the archaeological world about whether the floor was

Lead loom weight

Lead loom weight found in metal-detecting the spoil heap.

raised over the pit or people stepped straight onto the pit floor. Excitingly for us, rubbish and waste material was often placed into these pits after the building went out of use, and we even have evidence for ritual deposits (such as our plough coulter from last year) having been placed into the pits. You can see in the picture below the dark rectangular area that is just the right size and shape for an SFB.

Sunken-featured building

The rectangular shadow of a sunken-featured building appears. Any finds are put in the finds tray

Now that the whole trench is open we are cleaning back the site. This is a difficult but important process that removes all the loose soil and helps us see the archaeological features clearly in the natural clay and chalk. We’re steaming ahead as you can see!

Cleaning back

Cleaning back to reveal the archaeological features. The SFB is in the foreground

Temporary shade

Andy and Peter enjoy our temporary shade at lunchtime

The weather has been glorious until today (Friday) but perhaps a little hot for such hard work – we’ve had to rig up some temporary shade for the hard-at-work diggers at lunchtimes, and we’re putting up our tents that have been used for many archaeological campaigns. Our army tent dates to 1952!

Army tent

Our seasoned campaign tent went up just in time for the first rain of the dig!

We’ve been checking the weather and hurriedly got the tent up in time for some rain this morning. Of course as soon as we pulled back the plastic to get the site nicely wet it stopped raining but more is forecast, which is good news for both our diggers and seeing the archaeological features.

Not only is the site up and running properly now, but our signage has arrived too! We now have smart canvas noticeboards explaining our presence with information about the dig and pictures from past excavations in the village.

Excavations signage

Our excavation signs have arrived and are going to help all the visitors and passersby understand what we're doing here

Everything is looking good so far, with almost half the site cleaned back by the morning of Friday, week 1, a Lyminge record! Blisters are forming and boots are getting muddy – those who haven’t dug before or even in a while are feeling achey but everyone seems to be having a really good time.

Cleaning back today (Friday) without the plastic, hoping for a bit more rain

Cleaning back without the plastic, hoping for a bit more rain

Gabor digging

Proof that our director, Gabor, is very hands on!

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3 Responses to Cleaning back – finds from all periods

  1. Clive Bowd says:

    I’m undertaking some research into the evidence for the use of lead loom weights throughout the Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods here in Britain and see what appears to be a find made during your excavations. Can you confirm it is indeed a loom weight and not a spindle whorl? I would appreciate the dimensions and weight if possible of this find, and any others, even if you believe it to be a whorl.

    Many thanks.

    Clive Bowd.

    • Alexandra says:

      As you’ll be aware, there is some debate about these lead weights and their exact function, but at Lyminge we believe them to be loomweights as they are of a similar weight to the familiar clay bun-shaped loom weights from Anglo-Saxon settlements and have grooves that appear to show they have been suspended. We have around 16 of these lead weights thus far. They are far too heavy to be spindle whorls. If you would like to get in contact with us for more information please go to the ‘contact us’ page on the main website where you can find out staff pages.

      • Clive Bowd says:

        Thank you Alexandra for your prompt reply to my query.

        You have more than satisfied my doubt as to the use of the weights, loom weights being almost certainly what they are. As you say, the wear groove is a key clue to their use, as is the weight and size. The use of lead is quite practical as it lasts longer than equivalent clay ‘doughnuts’ in that they do not break when knocked together. Presumably their occurrence on excavated sites may have gone unnoticed to some degree if the buildings in which they were used have burnt down, the result being the equivalent of lead dross!

        Once again, thanks for the info.


        Clive Bowd.

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