HEFA in Daws Heath, Essex – Day 1

Our sixth Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) of 2013 has got off to a good start in  Daws Heath in south Essex, with 40 students from 4 local secondary schools digging 10 1m square archaeological test pits, plus two more pits being dug by members of AGES, the local archaeology group, so 12 pits in all. This is the first time we’ve done any test pit digging in Daws Heath, so we have very  little idea what we will find.  Going on previous experience, we tend not to find very much Anglo-Saxon pottery in the Essex villages we’ve dug in compared to other parts of the eastern region, but Essex villages also seem to be more resilient to later medieval decline. So I am wondering if the digging in Daws Heath will show a similar pattern – or something very different.  There’s little surviving above ground to suggest the village here is of medieval origin, and indeed most of the existing houses look as if they were built in the last century or so, while the place names all point towards an area that was extensively wooded in the later Anglo-Saxon period, and perhaps later as well.  However,  you never know  what the archaeology will turn up!  All the diggers have made a good start, rapidly learning the new skills they need, with some very neat pits!   Most of them have got down to between 20 and 30cm  below the surface, and although most are therefore still digging through layers with modern or Victorian material in them, two of the pits have already produced medieval pottery – including one sherd imported from Germany.  I’ve seen at least one prehistoric worked flint flake and several bits of burnt/fire-cracked flint, so there may well be prehistoric activity round here as well..   Let’s see what tomorrow will bring…


Carenza Lewis

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