Binchester Roman Fort Excavation Week 4




Rebecca Cadbury Simmons

Now that our fourth week is over we are halfway through this year’s excavation and the difference onsite is dramatic! We are now solidly out of the fourth century and into the third which is great progress. This week has been our hottest yet, Tuesday and Thursday were particularly tropical meaning the digging is slower, the ground harder and the overall work is more difficult. However, the volunteers won’t be stopped and with many water and shade breaks they have powered through!

In the north eastern corner of the trench we’ve been busy recording and lifting layers of cobbles which proved quite challenging for the team. The layers had slumped in different ways meaning it wasn’t always clear where one layer finished and the next began! However, with some help the volunteers made quick work of the excavating and recording and we can now confirm what we thought was a second road heading off towards the east!

On the opposite side of the main road which divides the trench we finished recording the roadside oven and took some environmental samples from the interior. It was quite a rudimentary structure, just a simple wall with a domed roof which had subsequently collapsed. We’ve also now removed the oven and the level of burning underneath tells us that this wasn’t being used on an industrial scale. The oven was overlying a layer of revetment (a supporting layer of cobbles) the ran the length of the road that we can see, this was likely to stop the later road from slumping into the earlier second century roadside ditch. On Wednesday morning, Oskar, one of NAA’s surveyors, visited the site to do some pole photography. This meant that the layer of revetment can be planned from these photographs and now that the oven’s gone we can remove that layer! Hopefully it won’t be long until we have exposed the earlier roadside ditch.

Several other small features have been keeping the volunteers busy including a small pit, a gully exiting one of the 1st century ditches and an unknown slot running across the side road. These small features gave a few of the volunteers the opportunity to practise excavating a half section (where we dig through half of a feature to expose the layers of stratigraphy within it), photographing and recording the section before excavating the other half and recording the whole feature. These are all important skills for an archaeologist and it’s great to see the volunteers getting the hang of it and beginning to be able to do these things with minimal supervision!

We’re on site until 23rd August, and can’t wait to see what the second half of this year’s dig brings us! For more updates on what we’re up to and live information from the site, don’t forget to follow us on social media where we are providing daily updates!

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