Week 4

Week 4 can be a challenging week for Silchester ‘old hands’…we have been on site long enough to feel the tiredness creeping in…..but we still have one third of the excavation to go. Monday 25th July saw 24 people leaving the excavation as their digtime was up, and 28 new people arrive. So, a net gain – and this week’s total on site is 148. I gave my usual Monday morning timetable: an hour’s welcome and introduction to the project – everyone looks so apprehensive! At 10am I gave a Site Tour to the 14 people who had never been before, whilst the 14 who had been before were able to go on site and be re-acquainted with their Supervisors. After tea, I gave them a Site Tour, and the 14 newcomers had an introduction to Finds Processing with Elise, followed by an introduction to Science@Silchester with Cindy. At 12.30 I gave the obligatory Health and Safety briefing, talking about the perils of Silchester flint (very sharp), sitting on your trowel (ditto), and the ‘Silchester Smile’ (painful sunburn between the top of your work trousers and the bottom of your t-shirt). At 1pm it is lunch, and after lunch all digging newcomers are in the trench with their area supervisors uncovering Silchester’s late Iron Age and early Roman archaeology. It really is that quick!

Week 4 is an important week – at the end of this week we lose the main University of Reading undergraduate cohort, who have now been with us for 4 weeks…and are therefore valuable! They have learnt the ropes, and many of them have discovered a lifelong passion. Even if they haven’t, 4 weeks on site will have turned most of them into good, reliable excavators – and we will miss them when they go. So, we need to make the most of week 4…how much archaeology can we get done?

The eastern half of the excavation is still in the early Roman period. The amount and detail of archaeology here is astounding; Natalie, Matt and Rob are painstakingly recording a number of clayfloored buildings which apparently relate to the very earliest Roman street, running north-south through the town. This early street seems to be set directly onto the natural geology and represents a striking symbol of Roman authority; we speculate that this street is laid in place in the early 40’s AD. The buildings relating to this street are complex, and those being excavated by Natalie are certainly industrial, to judge from the foci of burning all over the clay floors. These wooden workshops of mid 1st century AD date are being recorded – written about, drawn, photographed, sampled and excavated – in extraordinary detail. Rob and Matt’s buildings just to the north of these workshops are perplexing – and multiplying in number! We started the season with possibly 2 buildings here, and by week 4 we have increased the number to possibly as many as 6. These buildings are identified by their clay floors and their central hearths – but little else is known as yet. We are uncertain as yet about their exact date (although they are definitely Roman), function, alignment – but their existence is demonstrating just how busy this part of the town was in the 1st century.

Looking north from the cherrypicker: Natalie's buildings in the foreground; Rob's and Matt's to the north

It was a busy Monday…..a steady stream of interested visitors; I think our Open Day did the trick! Laura and her Visitor team worked tirelessly welcoming everyone, and we had a school visit from Sherfield School. It is going to be a good week.

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