Lots and lots has been going on on the Lyminge dig in the past week! We’ve been extremely busy with a whole range of activities, and today we finally finished the last of the cleaning back and students and volunteers began to excavate into archaeological features. A whole host of archaeology has been revealed in hand cleaning, from Second World War mess hut foundations, Medieval ditches and Saxo-Norman pits, through to some top notch Anglo-Saxon archaeology.
We’ve had local metal detectorists come and check over our spoil heap – things in the
topsoil sometimes get missed in the machining of the site and as well as our usual detectorists Steve Harmer and David Holman, Barry and Maurice who are very experienced detectorists joined us this year.
We finished cleaning back and put up the photo tower to get shots of the site pre-excavation. This was the cue for the sun to come out and of course the best archaeological photography needs a bit of cloud cover! You can clearly see the clinker foundations of the WWII structures which were built as mess huts for soldiers posted in the village, and demolished after the war.
The other features are a little more difficult to pick out! You can see in the photo above that there are some rectangular dark shapes, and the two furthest of these are two sunken-featured buildings (SFBs), small timber buildings that were built over a rectangular pit. After they were demolished they were back-filled with rubbish and midden material, sometimes with whole objects placed such as the plough coulter found in 2010 in the bottom of an SFB.
In the photo below you can see the first proper glimpse of our second large timber hall! The wall trenches are difficult to see but in the foreground is the southern end wall trench, with several post holes with packing material in them along the way. The whole building is cut through by a dark line in the middle which is a Medieval ditch as well as several other features, but it seems we have the majority of the building, at around 15m long by 8m wide. The north end wall trench is just before the large dark rectangle, one of the SFBs. In future photos it will be easier to see as we begin to excavate into the walls. There is also another potential timber building cutting this hall structure, but it is very difficult to show it to you in these shots! I’ll keep you updated as we begin to disentangle the jumble of features in this area of the site.
The other thing we were able to do just before beginning excavation was to get local
resident William Laing in with his new and improved helicopter drone! Bill provided us the fantastic aerial shots of the Great Hall last year and this year his kit has a tracking device and relays video back to a screen on the ground. This shot using a fish eye lens gets almost all the site in (it was too windy to go any higher) and you can pick out a whole host of archaeology.
In revealing the features and finishing the cleaning we began to notice that lots of the dark areas of archaeology had pebbles in them, something we didn’t seem to have in last year’s trench. We immediately began to wonder where these pebbles were coming from, as they don’t occur naturally in the chalk and clay natural geology of Tayne Field. Tom Lawrence is doing his dissertation on the mesolithic flint assemblage from Lyminge, and went down to the stream at the bottom of Tayne Field to investigate the geology of
the riverbed with Les Moorman, one of our local volunteers. After a bit of rummaging in the undergrowth, they found almost exactly the same pebbles, and although we have yet to investigate these ‘pebbly’ features, it seems we have found the very local source for the stones!
We opened one of our SFBs yesterday and we’re already starting to get interesting things out of it – Anglo-Saxon pottery and Roman metal fittings. There’ll be a separate ‘finds’ post soon to show you the kinds of things we’re getting up across site, but although we’ve started slow on the finds front we certainly won’t be short on them in the next few days! The finds team will have plenty to do! We already have some exciting looking pieces of glass which is indicative of high status lifestyles such as we have found in past seasons of digging in Lyminge.
Finally, I want to show you some of the impact we’re having in the village on a ‘younger’ scale! Andy Macintosh is one of our supervisors on site, and he works for Canterbury Archaeological Trust. At CAT he often works with education and outreach, and this year at the beginning of the dig he went into Lyminge Primary School to tell the schoolchildren all about the dig and introduce them to the Anglo-Saxons.
As you can see from the photos, the day went really well and although most of the dig occurs in the school holidays the children were able to come and see the 360 plant digger stripping the site before we began, which the little ones were particularly excited about! We’re really pleased that we can share the results of our project with everyone in the village and indeed those further afield too. If you are interested in bringing your children to the dig we have an open day on the 17th August with lots of things for children to do and see, as well as Saxon re-enactments too, and I will post more information about it very soon. Check back for blog updates very soon!