Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Trench Warfare

A tale of a trench.  Here we start out with the turf removed.  It looks idyllic, no?
We spent a lot of time removing the upper dark stuff, which seemed to be randomly assorted rather than in nice layers.  It also seemed to be very much an artifact poor area.  Neither of these are unheard of occurrences, but in retrospect.....

Around lunch time yesterday I found a nice clean, straight edge on the western side of the trench:

See the clean straight band of clay that runs across just above the deeper section I have troweled down to?  It was not a natural phenomena, and much speculation ensued.  Was it a drainage ditch cut through and silted in?  Better still, was it a beam slot, something carved into a natural surface?  But the really observant among you may have spotted something else here:

Modern bottle neck.  Here it helps to know, as I do, a few facts about glass manufacturing techniques.  This is post World War One, and likely in the 20s or 30s.  So I did not buy the theory of 19th century antiquarian freelance trenches!

Here you start to see how much of a problem we have:

Note the color change at the lower end of my deeper trench?  All the dark area is simply backfill from a previous, unrecorded excavation, and is a total waste of time and energy.  The lighter stuff in the lower half of the picture seems undisturbed, and indeed has some nice pottery bits showing through.

So, half our trench is at the moment worthless.  We are not yet sure how deep the damaged area runs, but best guesses as to the culprits run something like this:

In the 1930s the site was worked intermittently by an academic who went off to war in 1939.  (British Intelligence officer, really a rather remarkable chap).  At some point he seems to have put his laborers to the same task we are on just now, tracing the water channel for the bath house.  They did not find it.  And having taken the most logical spot and mucked it up for us, we may not either.  And no written record was made.

Ah well, such is life in the trenches.  I suppose it could be worse.  I heard a tale at the pub last night.  We will leave a few details mercifully absent, but it involved hard work, assurances of a virgin area, and at the bottom a trowel marked with the initials of a rather senior emeritus director of excavations!

Marvelous weather forecast for today, I will post pictures and notes of whatever we salvage from the difficult circumstances.

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