Saffron Walden Common Dig Day 3

A much better day today, weather-wise, with a mildly warm morning which enabled a lot of digging to get done, followed by a hotter afternoon when, perhaps strangely, even more spoil got shifted.  As before, Cat Ranson was supervising Trench 1 and Jessica Rippengal Trench 2, ably helped by archaeology graduates Emma and Christina.

By mid-morning, in Trench 1 the eastern-most (outer) side of the castle ditch was clearly visible, with its primary fill evident as a brown fill looking very much like a buried turf/soil line from a period when this side of the ditch was not being kept clear of vegatation and a humic layer gradually built up.  The western side of the ditch was much less clearly defined, however.  As the morning progressed, careful examination of the features in the trench and a re-reading of previous excavation reports suggested that the ditch may have been wider than it had first appeared when seen in plan as the sub-soil was removed.   Some careful working into the deposits soon revealed a solid edge of chalk natural a metre to the west.   A hard afternoon’s mattocking and shoveling by an impressively determined team meant that by the end of the day a considerable amount of the remaining ditch fill had been excavated.  All the spoil from the ditch fills is being sieved through a 10mm mesh, and has shown that there are very few finds present.  But finally, just as we were about the break for the end-of-day upsum,  the sievers began to produce a few fragments of bone, with pig and cow certainly represented, form the lowest two fills excavated so far.  We are now hoping that these layers, now that they are producing domestic material, may tomorrow produce some pottery which will allow us to date these features…


Trench 2 has presented more of a challenge.  The ditch here is much less clearly defined, lacking the brown turf-line which characterises the edge of the ditch in Trench 1 (and elsewhere to the east and north of the castle where it was seen in previous excavations).  A ditch (or cut feature of some sort) certainly is present here, and it is filled with a variety of dirty chalk deposits which do not seem to be very well structured, and may result from dumping of material back into the ditch, rather than gradual infiling.  It is not entirely certain that it is part of the same ditch present in Trench 1, although the geophysical survey suggesting the two do join.  The Trench 2 ‘ditch’ does have other charactersitics which it shares with the ditch in  Trench 1, most notably a marked lack of finds, but this is obviously something of a mixed blessing in the circumstances!    More encouragingly, like Trench 1 it also has a great team of diggers, who ensured that a lot of fill was removed today which can only help advance matters tomorrow.

Some additional geophysical survey (resistivity) has also been carried out today, by students working with Tim Dennis.  The results will be ready tomorrow morning, when we may find out more abot how the two ditch sections are related!  We are now more than half-way through the dig, with just two days to go!

Due to a major technical problem, it is unfortunatelynot possible at present to add images to this post, which is a shame as we have some great pictures of stduents from Saffron Walden County High and Newport Free Grammar School working hard, for which they deserve recognition.  As soon as we get the problem sorted, we will get some images up-loaded!  In the meatime, the Saffron Walden Museum blog (  is not affected, and there are some pictures there!

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