Planning, leveling, floating, flints and finds

We began the week by planning in the features that were revealed as we cleaned back. Gabor and Roo took charge of this. We produce a pre-excavation multi-feature plan that records everything that we can see at this early stage, and it is much easier to have only one or two people interpret the site in this way.


Roo and Gabor plan the visible archaeological features, one grid square at a time.

Of course, as is always the case, it became clear that some areas had not been taken down enough, and diggers were dropped in on some areas to take another few centimetres off and uncover yet more archaeology!

View from the site office

From the site office I can see the diggers taking off yet more subsoil to reveal the wall trenches of a possible hall building

Slowly the straight lines across the northern half of the site are all beginning to link up. At this stage it is almost impossible without a good deal of rain to show in photographs what we think we might have.

North-west corner of the possible hall building

North-west corner of the possible hall building. The corner is in the foreground, and slightly darker than the surrounding greyish chalk

You’ll have to believe me when I tell you that it’s all beginning to look incredibly like we have an extremely large post-in-trench hall building of likely Saxon origin, oriented east-west. Should this turn out to be the case, this will be an extremely important find, but we have to excavate into the visible features to prove this is what we have. It looks to be about 2o metres long and there are very few parallels for a hall of this length from Anglo-Saxon England.

We now have running water on-site (huge thanks to Headteacher Miss Alison Steel and Lyminge Primary School for helping us with this), and of course the hosepipe ban was lifted recently, so we will be able to water everything down if we don’t get any rain, and the wall trenches should all magically become clear!

West facing

You can just make out the corners of the wall trenches that make up our possible hall building at either side of this photo, with the edge running through the centre of the image.

The running water means we can set up environmental processing on site. I can now introduce you to our environmental processing supervisor, Simon Maslin, who is also in charge of our data and IT side of things.

Simon Maslin

Simon Maslin, our environmental supervisor and data manager

Simon is working a shorter week than the rest of us as he is getting his MSc dissertation finished, but he’s definitely getting stuck in here at Lyminge! He’s spent the morning setting up the flotation tank which is used to separate out biological remains such as charred grain, which can tell us tons about the economy and environment of a site. We want to save as much water as possible in this process, as it’s very water-intensive, so we’re using a pump powered by a generator to recycle the water through the system and not flood Tayne Field!

While the planning was going on on Monday, students and volunteers were washing the finds that had come up in the first week, and I took groups of students to learn how to do some basic surveying, taking levels.

Melissa taking a level

Melissa takes a level from the church benchmark

On site we record the height above sea level of every important point such as find spots or depths of archaeological features. Ordnance survey maps give us the official height above sea level of specific spots all across the country. Somewhere like the parish church (as at Lyminge) will have a mark carved into the building that indicates where the height above sea level was recorded.

Ane and Whitney

Ane and Whitney take a level - it's difficult to keep it steady when it's not on the ground!

Here you can see Ane and Whitney holding the measuring staff on the line indicated by the carved ‘benchmark’ symbol on the western end of the church.

We can project this measurement back onto any point we need to know the height of. We can do this using GPS but surprisingly this is often not as accurate as doing it manually: this was also an exercise in testing out the accuracy of high-tech equipment. Projecting the height back, or ‘traversing’ as it is known, told us that the GPS was out by around 7 centimetres!

On Monday afternoon we got a visit from a local flint specialist, Geoff Halliwell. Keith had invited him up to have a look at the masses of struck and worked flints we were finding.

Geoff Halliwell

Geoff Halliwell inspects some of our struck flints with Keith and Ray

Flint knapping demonstration

The impromptu flint knapping demonstration - everyone stands well back!

Geoff was extremely interested and confirmed suspicions that we were looking at a Mesolithic assemblage. He also gave everyone a bit of an impromptu introduction to flint knapping, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Geoff Halliwell knapping

Geoff Halliwell gives a knapping demonstration




By the end of Tuesday two small exploratory trenches across the east-west ditch had been opened, with in situ finds coming up.

Ditch slots

Two of the 'slots' we put in over the east-west ditch and associated pits.

Slot over EW ditch and two pits

A trench or slot was placed over the east-west running ditch and two associated pits to find the relationships between them

Some lovely Saxo-Norman pottery (below) and this beautiful copper alloy pin typical of the 6th-7thcentury AD were the first exciting discoveries.

Copper alloy pin

Coppery alloy pin dating to around the 6th–7th centuries AD

Wednesday sees the internal areas of the possible hall building more intensively cleaned back. We’re looking for internal features and really getting the whole area as clear as possible before we begin to excavate into the wall trenches themselves. If it turns out to be what we think it is, then we need to be incredibly careful to find and record everything both internally and on the outside of the structure, as nothing like this has been found in Kent before.

Yet more features and finds are already turning up and I will be sure to keep you posted as they arrive!

Saxo-Norman pottery

Very nice pieces of Saxo-Norman pottery are coming up from our first excavated features

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