Finds and other fun

As promised, a blog post about some of the finds that have been coming up over the past two and a bit weeks, but also some of the other things that have been going on! We’ve had a whole range of things, of all sorts of dates but with a great emphasis on some early-mid Saxon items. This post should get you all up to date. Interpretation and excavation is in full swing, with Gabor and the team constantly revising our understanding of what’s going on in our trench.

Gabor and Keith discuss a portion of the site.

Gabor and Keith discuss a portion of the site.

Some of you may have seen a few pictures on Twitter, which we set up for the project

The Lyminge Archaeological Project Twitter page

The Lyminge Archaeological Project Twitter page

about a week ago. It’s been fun to have a new medium through which to share the daily life of the dig. I’ve been able to tweet pictures of what’s happening on site straight away, so do follow @LymingeDig if you are registered with Twitter. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account you can view our posts if you go to https://twitter.com/LymingeDig

Roman tile stamped with the makers name. A parallel exists from Richborough.

Roman tile stamped with the makers name. A parallel exists from Richborough.

I try to put up pictures most days so you’ll get a few ‘action shots’ of what is going on the day, and links to other interesting projects and Saxon-related news. Two interesting finds that came up and were tweeted were this lovely piece of Roman stamped tile, with a parallel from Richborough, and our horse. We do get the odd Roman find but they aren’t particularly common and we have no Roman features on site at Lyminge, so it’s very interesting to see items such as this tile come up.

Many of you will remember that last season we found a horse’s skull and vertebrae at the end of a Saxo-Norman ditch. This season we opened up the continuation of that ditch and were lucky to discover that the whole horse had been placed within the ditch. It was carefully excavated and lifted by Pete and Les, local volunteers who worked on it last year. From the photo you can see that it is in a very awkward position, lying on its back, perhaps just rolled in to the ditch when the horse potentially died of disease, as it seems to have been relatively young when it died.

Peter excavates the horse, lying on its back.

Peter Butcher excavates the horse, which is lying on its back.

Cordelia was tasked with washing the horse skeletion, which was remarkably unfragmented.

Cordelia was tasked with washing the horse skeleton, which was remarkably unfragmented.

It’s already been carefully washed and lifted by Cordelia, and will be examined by Zoe to check for pathologies and sex and any other stories that might be contained within its bones.

I mentioned last time that we had local resident and producer/cameraman Steve Thomas doing some filming on site for our archive and any potential television programmes in the future. We’ve got some great stills from his footage so far which show some of the finds beautifully. In the first week of machining of the topsoil to reveal the archaeology we discovered this lovely miniature radiate brooch, below, which Steve filmed.

A miniature radiate brooch found in the topsoil when machining. It is chip carved and gilded, and although it is broken it is still in great condition.

A miniature radiate brooch found in the topsoil when machining. It is chip carved and gilded, and although it is broken it is still in great condition.

Similar brooches were found in the Lyminge Saxon cemetery a number of years ago, so we have nice comparative evidence from the two different types of sites almost certain to be contemporary to one another.

The high status artefacts have continued, with nearly thirty fragments of glass found this season already. This is a really astonishing number of fragments from a settlement site, especially considering that we are not even half-way through the dig at this stage.
Here you can see the array of colours and types. Most Saxon vessel glass comes from funerary assemblages, so it is great to see that it is used (and broken!) in daily life. Broken glass would usually have been recycled which is why it is quite rare.

Just a few of the high status vessel glass fragments we have been finding this season

Just a few of the high status vessel glass fragments we have been finding this season

The sunken-featured buildings (SFBs) continue to be productive. We opened the second of our three yesterday, and almost immediately began to come up with finds.

A tiny amethyst bead was excavated from SFB 6. It's less than 1cm in length.

A tiny amethyst bead was excavated from SFB 6. It’s less than 1cm in length.

The star find of yesterday was this lovely but absolutely tiny amethyst bead (left), a particularly special find considering Kent’s role in amethyst trade. Amethyst is incredibly rare, although when found it tends to be found in 7th century contexts, so is helpful for dating. Ultimately, amethyst comes from the east, traded from places like India. Kent is at the opposite end of that trade route, and likely the amethyst found in Kent (exceptionally rare) is traded via Frankia’s extensive links.

A lovely piece of raw amber, found in SFB 7 and measuring around 1.5cm long.

A lovely piece of raw amber, found in SFB 7 and measuring around 1.5cm long.

Further examples of this extensive trade across Europe can be seen in this piece of amber also found in an SFB. Amber is reasonably rare, and usually found in the form of beads. This is a raw piece, and would have originally come from the Baltic. These sorts of items help us to understand that the so-called Dark Ages were really full of contacts and activity, with a people full of knowledge about the wider world.

Anglo-Saxon small long brooch from SFB 6, fresh out of the ground.

Anglo-Saxon small long brooch from SFB 6, fresh out of the ground.

 

It’s not just amethyst and amber, we have glass beads and even another Saxon brooch. This brooch (left) came out this morning from SFB 6, and is in near perfect condition although it is missing its pin.

Today we finally started work on the large Timber Hall that I have mentioned in previous posts. Keith and a few volunteers are putting slots over the less complicated areas of the building’s wall trenches to establish what the wall trenches are supposed to look like when not encroached by other features and structures. This will make it easier when we come to disentangle the areas which have very complicated stratigraphy.

In the first half hour of digging Keith found a lovely fragment of double-sided bone comb in his portion of wall trench, so we have high hopes for more finds associated with the building. I’ll put a picture up when it’s looking more photogenic!

Keith and a small team get started on the wall trenches of the c.15m long Timber Hall in this year's trench

Keith and a small team get started on the wall trenches of the c.15m long Timber Hall in this year’s trench

As you can see, finds and features have been coming up thick and fast! We also have some other activities going on on site however, with the visit of Professor Martin Bell (from the University of Reading) to do some coring all the way down to the stream being a highlight for those students interested in environmental sampling.

Professor Martin Bell shows Sofia and Luke how to use an augur

Professor Martin Bell shows Sofia and Luke how to use an auger

Martin examines a core

Martin examines a core

Students and volunteers have gone down with Martin and Simon to the source of the Nailbourne that surrounds Tayne Field to take cores using an auger and learn all about this type of scientific sampling. They’re taking samples all the way from our trench down to the stream to establish the depth of the chalk bedrock and things such as whether stream has moved over time and if any archaeology is present closer to the stream.

David Mudd holding the measuring staff

David Mudd holding the measuring staff

Part of the team are also engaged in working out height above sea level and location of the coring samples so that we can accurately record the samples in relation to this and last year’s trenches.

David Mudd demonstrates excellent staff handling skills and Tom and Richard take readings from the staff using a dumpy level to find height above sea level – the height has been worked out by the Ordnance Survey and recorded on the outside wall of the pub!

Tom and Richard take levels for the auguring

Tom and Richard take levels for the auguring

You can see that there has been an awful lot going on over the last week or so! We still have a huge amount to do but steady progress is being made and everyone is getting stuck in and is well used to our recording system. There are a great many finds (some more below) and I will try to keep you up to date!

A spindle whorl and an unfinished pin beater (for tightening the threads in weaving)

A spindle whorl (left) and an unfinished pin beater (for tightening the threads in weaving)

New students arrive on the weekend and some leave us after a very exciting few weeks. Do remember if you want to volunteer that we only have two more inductions available, as we do not run them in the last two weeks of the dig. This Saturday 10th August and the following Wednesday morning are the remaining dates.

Email comms@lymingearchaeology.org to book an induction or speak to a supervisor on site if you are in the area!

A beautiful copper alloy dress pin from early on in the excavation

A beautiful copper alloy dress pin from early on in the excavation

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3 Responses to Finds and other fun

  1. Helen Knox says:

    As always, full of interesting finds, especially the tiny amethyst bead. So exciting to see! Looking forward to our visit on 17th.

  2. Cheryl Armitage says:

    Fascinating. I think the layout and pics are brilliant too. What’s a RADIATE brooch?

    • Alexandra says:

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog! The term Radiate refers to the style of brooch and distinguishes it from other styles of brooches worn in the Anglo-Saxon period. As you can see from the picture the gilded head of the brooch ‘radiates’ out, with little knobs around the edge – one of the three missing here though.

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