What a very exciting few days we’ve had! We’ve been looking carefully for the presence of post holes in the wall trench of the hall that we opened last week. A similar hall building at Cowdery’s Down, Hampshire, had two rows of planks, burnt in situ, forming the end walls of the hall. Would we find anything similar?
At first it looked doubtful, but as the trench was taken down we started to see darker patches appearing. We extended the slot and suddenly saw two clear rows of rectangular post hole slots, exactly what we had hoped for! They were very difficult to see from above, so it was only at this lower level that the began to appear clearly.
We’re now a couple of days into week three of the excavations and the floor plan of the hall is looking just as it should with the lovely plank-in-trench end walls. The planks would have formed the back wall to the hall building. This would have been a non-load bearing wall, which explains the small size of the plank holes, and it even seems like the backfill on the inside of the wall planks contains domestic debris.
Progress in all areas of the excavation is coming along brilliantly. The SFB is throwing up huge amounts of animal bone. In order to excavate this feature as carefully as possible we divided the rectangular-shaped SFB pit into quarters and began to remove opposite quadrants to get a profile of the layers across the whole pit, taking down the infill of the pit 5cm at a time.
Even though we’re only 5cm down on one quadrant and just about 10cm on the other, you can see the large amount of animal bone scattered through the fill of the SFB, as Melissa, Frances, Alan and Emily dig down into the pit.
The quantity of animal bone, pottery, daub, metal-working slag (waste material from smithing and smelting) and even Roman brick and tile is remarkable. We also had a beautiful piece of what looks to be very early Saxon pottery out of the SFB, with these lovely ridges of decoration.
Emily shows off her sherd which could be as early as the 5th century AD. It is thought that some SFBs were backfilled in one or two episodes from nearby surface middens after they went out of use or were abandoned, so often there are quite early finds mixed with later artefacts contemporary to the period of use or abandonment of the building.
At the other end of the site, pits and post holes are being excavated. Gianluca’s very small post hole appears to have more than its fair share of finds, with a lovely shale spindle whorl and two pieces of probably Saxon glass. A spindle whorl is a specially made or adapted item with a hole in the middle that is used to tension and weight the wool in spinning by hand, producing a length of usable yarn from the fluffy chunks of shorn and carded wool.
This spun yarn would then be used for weaving. Spindle whorls are found the world over, made of all sorts of material. In previous years we have found examples carved out of chalk and bone, and sometimes Roman tile or pottery is pierced and rounded.
Keith is busy with Les, Max, Joe and Dave cutting slots into the linear features that project across the hall building, finding lots of intercutting features.
We’re looking for good dating evidence to help us date the hall building more accurately, but lots of intercutting pits are coming up as they dig into the ditch-like features.
Other finds have been coming up over the past couple of days. This beautiful bone needle is only missing its point, and is a lovely example of the items related every day crafts, and we also have lovely decorated pieces of bone, most likely from a bone comb. These are often some of the prettiest and most delicate items from the Saxon period.
This piece is decorated with horizontal lines, extremely fine, less than a millimetre apart.
The skill is very advanced – the decoration is perfectly aligned, and you can imagine how hard it would be to do yourself with the materials available in the Anglo-Saxon period.
Everyone has got into the swing of things here, getting used to what the archaeology and geology are like here at Lyminge, and the systems that we use. The first few weeks are involved with making sure everything is set up properly and getting everything revealed, but now we can finally say excavation is fully underway, and some of the smaller pits and post holes have been fully excavated. Now that we have established what is going on in the end walls of the hall building, we’re excited to see the construction method for the load-bearing walls. Over the next few days we’ll be opening a portion of the southern side of the hall building and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for post holes and datable finds!