Binchester Roman Fort Excavation Week 5




Rebecca Cadbury Simmons

Our fifth week on site has seen an extreme change in the weather! Heavy rainfall on Tuesday and Wednesday transformed the trench into a very slippery site with large ponds forming within the features! This meant that on Wednesday morning it was too hazardous for people to dig, so the volunteers who turned up spent a few hours washing finds in the welfare cabins. By lunchtime the rain had greatly eased, and we were able to resume on site in the afternoon and continue work in some areas, but not before we had bailed out the flooded features! The rain wasn’t all bad though, as it has made the soil much easier to dig through, especially after the last few weeks of it being baked solid by the sun. The different colours in the soil have also been brought to life, as the rainfall has made the hues of different deposits stand out very clearly.

The rain has helpfully revealed that some of the soil layers we’re coming down to are more complicated than we originally thought. In the west corner of the trench, we knew that we had part of the 1st-century AD rampart, which has been exposed since early in the 2018 digging season. Since the rain, we have been able to identify and excavate part of a small linear feature and gully in this area, which we’ve walked over for weeks without recognising it due to the colours being bleached out of the soil by the sun!

On the opposite side of the Roman road, the gully exiting the 1st-century ditch that we began excavating last week has proven to be a large cut into the side of the ditch. It is likely to be the terminus (end) of a large ditch that would have formed a boundary. While we have no dating evidence for the ditch yet, it was not overlain by the big cobble spread that covered most of that side of the excavation, suggesting that it might be contemporary with the cobbled surface. Excavating the boundary ditch has provided us with a view into the 1st-century ditch, which is very large, and its corresponding bank has several layers of deposits that we will need to try to work our way through by the end of the digging season.

As we continue the excavation, it’s clear that there is a lot more 3rd-century occupation here than we anticipated. A second oven has been excavated, this one on the opposite side of the road to the first, and much cruder in construction, although it does have an associated waste pit. In the east corner of the trench, where we had several layers of cobbles covering a secondary road, we can now clearly see the alignments of both this and the main road. There also appears to be a building platform next to the secondary road, which is constructed of another large layer of cobbles. We look forward to seeing what other features are revealed before the dig ends!

We’re on site until 23rd August 2019, so come along and visit us. On the Monday the 26th August Roma Antiqua, Barbaratus and assorted mercenaries will be at Binchester displaying their fighting skills and weaponry (for more information click here).

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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