Clare Castle excavation, day 5 – Monday 27th May 2013

Another busy day at the Clare Castle excavations.  With supervisors Cat and Matt having a well-earned day off and pottery expert Paul Blinkhorn joining us, there’s been quite a bit of moving around on the staff side, with John Newman on Trench A, me (Carenza) on Trench B, Jessica Rippengal on Trench C and Paul on Trench D.

Trench A has had a very good day, having yesterday finally got down to medieval layers across most of the trench, with masses of animal bone and some amazing pottery that was so unusual that Paul (who carries an encyclopedic knowledge of medieval pottery in his head) had to consult a book to formally identify it.  It’s a form of Mill Green ware (http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/ceramics/pages/subcategory.asp?subcat_id=702&subcat_name=Mill+Green+ware&page=1), very popular in the late 13th and early 14th century, and it looks at the moment as if we have really quite an unusual type, anthropomorphic (in human form) decorated with ‘raspberry prunts’ – for anyone who doesn’t know what these are (99.9% of the population, I’m sure!), we’ll post some photos of this ornately decorated very posh pottery tomorrow, as more pieces are still coming  out of the trench.  But still no sign of any human bone…

Trench B has had a hard day’s digging to get the northern half of the trench down to the medieval layers. Mission now achieved, and we are looking forward to a more medieval day tomorrow!

Trench C has continued to surprise and puzzle us, but has now turned up a series of chevron-shaped cuts which appear to be the remains of water channels or the edges of ornately shaped ponds.  The main challenge is going to be dating these features – they could be medieval, but they could also be quite modern…

In Trench D, a section across the possible wall has finally produced clear evidence that some of the original mortared wall core does remain in situ, but only a tiny amount, buried in the very centre of what is otherwise a rubble-filled robber trench (or, more charitably, a recycling trench, as this is what is left after any reusable materials (eg unbroken floor tiles, roof lead etc) have been removed for reuse elsewhere.  Laudable perhaps, in environmental terms, but a pain for archaeologists!  And at the very end of the day, the Trench D team discovered a couple of sherds of floor tile which may have the Clare family coat of arms on! Both fragments were broken when the building was demolished , and therefore not re-usable so were (fortunately) left on site for us to find.   And the discovery of a sherd of Cistercian ware cup, discarded by thirsty demolition workers, has suggested that this demolition itself probably occurred in the 16th century.

Piece by piece, our knowledge of this important site is being advanced.  And who knows what will turn up tomorrow?

Carenza Lewis

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