With the sun shining and early morning visitors already filling the car park, the Open Day on Day 6 of the Dunwich dig began with a promising start. Fortunately, we had an hour’s leeway between arriving on site and the start on the Open Day in which to set up (or hide yourself away at the bottom of a trench, for those feeling less talkative). First job of the day was setting up a display table in the car park by Trench 4, showing both a representative sample and the best of our finds, and helping our wonderful funders – Touching the Tide – to set up their stand. Aided by the blissful weekend weather, crowds of visitors quickly started amassing for Carenza’s hourly tour around the trenches. Largely due to being on ITV regional news the night before, we were even honoured to have some visitors who had travelled to Dunwich specifically to see the dig!
Having reached natural sand yesterday, most of the Trench 1 volunteers moved on to pastures (or digging territory) new, leaving Jess and Sarah to finish the final trench drawings and records – a process hampered by the best efforts of some moles to collapse one side of the trench. Whilst Jess and Sarah dealt admirably with this unusual problem, the rest of Trench 1 volunteers began digging through the topsoil of Trench 2 in earnest. Under the supervision of Laura, newly arrived from Cambridge that morning, Trench 2 took their archaeological mission seriously and quickly dug through the pottery rich topsoil and less find-filled subsoil only to find natural sand below.
Given the depth of archaeological deposits in the other trenches, Trench 2 was expected to be the same, yet barely went down half a metre. At least the Trench 2 team can now say they’ve managed the impressive achievement of starting and finishing a trench in one day! The excitement of archaeology comes from never knowing what you will find, and Trench 2 has shown that this previously unexplored area of the medieval town was not densely occupied; excavation is never pointless, as even an absence of archaeology tells us something.
Continuing with the discovery of natural sand, John’s Trench 3 along the continuation of St. James’s Street exposed more of the compacted clay layer south of the road, revealing that it is probably a medieval floor surface. Digging through the clay, including a thin layer of burnt clay, the deposit underneath was found to contain comparatively less pottery and of an earlier date than that seen higher up. Predominately dating to the 11th and 12th centuries, the pottery suggests this context relates to occupation at Dunwich from around the time of the Norman Conquest and Doomsday (which is the first undisputed record of a settlement here). Not to feel left out, the next layer Trench 3 hit was natural sand, meaning that this trench can also been recorded and finished now; although there were muttering of a small extension tomorrow, going further across the road…
To return to the busy Trench 4, added excitement came mid-morning with the realisation that the sandy sections are now in need to shoring, due to the considerable depth reached by a lot of speedy digging. Slot B didn’t quite reach the sandy layer seen in slot A, so there is no update yet on whether the stakeholes found yesterday continue between the two. However, a lot of medieval finds are still coming up, suggesting that oysters, fish, cattle and sheep were popular food sources.
In terms of the Open Day, judging by our visitors’ book and the enormous size of Carenza’s five tours, we reckon the Dunwich dig had at least 300 visitors across the day (if not more!). It was wonderful to be able to share our finds and the archaeology of Dunwich with so many visitors and great to see how much our heritage matters to people, regardless of whether living nearby or far afield. We hope everyone enjoyed the Open Day as much as we did!