As we approach the beginning of the final stretch of the Clare Castle dig, today saw a new addition to the team (briefly) – Ian the mini-digger driver. After all the hard work of the last few days, by the end of bank holiday Monday, Trench A had got to a depth when it needed to be stepped out to ensure it remains safe. As doing this involved removing tones of material which we know from the excavations we’ve done so far by hand is re-deposited railway demolition rubble and ballast, we decided to get a mini-digger in, to do in an hour what would have taken the team most of the day. It also gave us the chance to add another 5 square metres to the 12 or so already excavated, keeping us within the original 5m x 5m area, but enabling us to increase the area of the medieval deposits we can investigate in this area. Many more sherds of the Mill Green ware with the raspberry prunts mentioned yesterday were found, along with animal bone including food remains and also a bovine horn core, stripped of its outer coating – evidence of craft production as horn was the medieval equivalent of plastic, malleable when heated in water. The medieval deposits here have been exclusively 13th / 14th in date, but although rich in finds have not included any features. But towards the middle of the afternoon, the first hints of a possible feature had begun to appear – looking at its shape, it is possible this is a grave cut, and we will look at this further tomorrow. A gratifying discovery at the end of the day came from initial scanning of the animal bone by Jessica, which revealed at least one limb bone from a red deer – a classic indicator of a high-status site, as deep-keeping and deer-hunting were strictly the preserve of the upper ranks of medieval society. Less spectacular but particularly intriguing were several fragments of razor clam shell – an unusual find on inland sites, which we need to look into more.
Trench B also benefited from a littler help from Ian, allowing us to expose more of the cut feature with the possible post hole which first turned up on Sunday. This revealed another cut feature immediately to its south, and tomorrow we will look at both of these in order to try and establish whether they are associated, and what exactly they are!
The team in Trench C has continued trying to puzzle out the possible medieval garden features, with careful sectioning of the bank, in order to try and date this and see what relationship, if any, it has to the V-shaped gravel feature. We are wondering if it is too fanciful to see a relationship between the shape of this feature and the chevrons of the Clare family coat of arms – a possibility given some possibel support by the dicovery of medieval pottery in the nearby bank…
In Trench D a section across some of the flint rubble of the robber trench has revealed a spread of light-coloured gravel. This is very similar to the gravel in Trench C, which it interesting in itself as it hints that this may have been brought in at the same time. However, it also clearly butts up against the edge of the former wall. At the moments, we think this is part of either a gravelled terrace outside the building, or of the footings for the (demolished and robbed) wall – hopefully tomorrow will enable us to find out which.
Despite a dull day with rain at the end, spirits remained high – due in no small part to fabulous cakes provided by volunteer digger Phil’s wife. Do have a look at the video to see these and get a feel for the warm buzz of the dig base during the coffee break this morning!