And, no doubt, some of you have already been following our excavation exploits over at the forum. However, working on the assumption that most of our readers can’t be bothered clicking the link in the right hand column (well…it’s hard work on the index finger) it’s time for a recap (albeit pracied considerably) here at the ‘main board’.
First up, then, our ‘Small Finds’ scan:
One: An old rusted mudguard. (Definitely not Roman. Probably off a kid’s bike or a ladies’ shopper, if the length’s anything by which to judge.)
Two: A flat piece of bone. (Most likely a cow’s rib buried by Mick Sanderson’s overenthusiastic dog.)
Three: Now this one’s a bit unusual. It’s a lump of ironstone. Not the sort of thing you’d expect to find occurring naturally in soil. Ironstones were often placed into graves in prehistoric times to act as protection from evil spirits. Perhaps that wasn’t a cow’s rib after all then. Ah well, it’s too late to call the police in now.)
Four: A shard of brown pottery glazed on both sides. Looks like it might have once belonged to a teapot.
Five: Two bits of coal. (Not enough to sink a mineshaft and follow the seam it must be said.)
Six: Several bits of broken blue and white pottery. The drawing of the bird on one fragment tends to suggest the plate was probably Willow Pattern…fitting really, considering it came up next to the Willows.
Seven: Some rusted bits of something or other. Probably connected to the annoyingly stubborn length of old wire we found a couple of inches down.
Eight: Two fragments of glass, one green, the other white, milky and twisted. Haven’t got a clue what they were originally but I think we can safely bet that it wasn’t anything important.
So, you’re probably thinking, that was a waste of time then. Fill the trench back in and head for the pub. That’s where you’d be wrong of course. All of this junk came up in the topsoil and was the sort of detritus you’d typically expect to find ‘marling’ the fields of Wyre.
No…what was really important about this trench was the stratigraphy; those layers created by variations in the soil colour and consistency. You see, below the top soil was the pale base clay which, far from being flat as you’d expect in any other old field, actually formed the classic shape of a cambered Roman agger and ‘V’ ditch.
Here’s a photograph that we’ve borrowed from David Ratledge, taken at the east end of the trench, showing the ‘V’ shaped ditch in all of its archaeological glory.
It’s always difficult to see the differences in stratigraphy on photographs, so you’ll just have to take our word for it that we’re not making any of this up.
The pegs were there to help us with the measurements. The way to take an ‘Interior Trench Face Contour Record’, you see, is by levelling a string along the side of the trench (and it has to be perfectly level otherwise everything goes completely out of whack), placing pegs into the ground at regular intervals, then measuring down from the string to the stratigraphy being recorded. After transferring the data onto acetate/tracing paper overlaid on a graph board, you end up with an accurate scale diagram.
Here’s one we made earlier, showing the same ‘V’ shaped ditch, along with its accompanying pale yellow, clay agger.
Now, that’s what we found in Trench 001! Obviously we have to extend the trench to the west to uncover the rest of the road, and the other ditch and stuff. But that, to all intents and purposes, is what a genuine Roman agger looks like when it emerges for the first time after two thousand years underground.
A couple of days after we’d backfilled the trench, Frank Smith took a few willing members of Wyre Archaeology up in his plane to obtain some aerial shots of the site. There are plenty of them already posted over at the forum if you want to take a gander, but we thought that we’d leave this article with one final shot captured by Ivan Carey:
At the time of writing we’ve still got a long way to go with all this, but I strongly suspect there’ll be a number of articles on this board in the near future detailing our further endeavours to build up the fattest casebook for the existence of a Roman agger ever to land on the County Archaeologist’s desk.