So much happened during Day 5 of the Dunwich dig that we are spoilt for choice of where to begin. To keep things fair, we’ll go in reverse trench order to yesterday (and arguably keep you waiting for the best until the end… ).
Trench 4 in the car park, supervised by Cat, began in full force with an extension towards the harbour edge – if you imagine a mattock and shovel-welding soil shifting competition between several members of the team, you practical saw the extension underway yourself! The sophisticatedly-named A and B slots, either side of the pipes, have also continued downwards at a rapid rate, with undisturbed medieval layers producing lots of oyster shells and animal bones now reached. Slot A, the furthest from the car park, also hit a yellow sandy deposit containing several small stakeholes (i.e. small circles of slightly darker soil). As the three stakeholes are in a line, it will be interesting to see if they continue into slot B when the same pale sandy layer is reached tomorrow.
Up in the trees at Trench 3, John and his team of volunteers have also made it through the post-medieval deposits and are now into a layer producing only medieval pottery. As the sherds are larger and less well-worn that the medieval pot found higher up in the trench, we can be confident that they haven’t moved far and that this is not just a post-medieval layer with earlier pottery still hanging around in it. Tantalisingly, a compacted clay surface is starting to appear south of the hollow-way – this may prove to be a floor, although more of it still needs to be exposed.
However, the most exciting finds of the day came from Trench 1. With the fallen section of Greyfriars’ boundary wall taken up the day before, excavation of the deposits underneath continued and by tea break a collection of exciting finds had been amassed. John’s pottery expertise came to the rescue and he identified several sherds of much speculated over pottery as Iron Age and another as Anglo-Saxon – whilst made about a thousand years apart, both types of pottery are relatively poorly made and thus are comparatively rare finds.
Even more amazingly, two flint tools were also found (along with medieval pottery, showing that they have been moved from where originally deposited). One is a flint flakes several centimetres in length that has been beautifully retouched – flint-fanatic speak for chipping off small pieces along an edge – to make a scraping tool. Despite being a bit bashed at the top, the skilfully retouched edge implies that it was made between three and five thousand years ago during the Neolithic or Bronze Age.
The other flint tool is our star find of the day – a hand-sized flint nodule worked (well, more bashed than nicely worked) on both sides of one end to create a chopping type tool. It is possible that this crudely made tool dates from hundreds of thousands of years ago, during the Palaeolithic era which began before the appearance of anatomically modern Homo sapiens. We need to hear back from a specialist before anything can be said for certain, but it certainly proved to be an exciting day of many surprises!
As Trench 1 has now reached natural sand (a layer with no human-made finds in it at all), final recording work for it has begun, allowing Trench 2 to be opened up at the end of the day. Tomorrow we have the open day and several new volunteers joining us, so hopefully the lucky streak of amazing finds will continue for a little longer!