After a busy Open Day the day before, day 7 of the Dunwich dig began with a quieter start. Having said goodbye yesterday to some fantastic volunteers who had been with us since the beginning, it was good to see several new faces this morning.
With Trenches 1 and 2 speedily backfilled and numerous diggers now trench-less, the decision was made to open up several test pits (mini trenches only a metre square). Test pits are great for quickly gaining an impression of what was happening, so one was opened up in the woods south of Greyfriars and another two in-between Trenches 2 and 3. The former (Test Pit 5) is outside the town ditch, Pales Dyke, and next to a hollow-way that may be Middlegate – one of the medieval town’s western entrances, along with St. James’s Street. Medieval pottery started appearing from the first sieveful, and by the end of the day and at a depth of 60cm, topsoil rich in medieval pottery is still continuing.
Test Pits 6 and 7 are part of series being dug at 10m intervals between Trenches 2 and 3 (with test pit numbers working from low to high, where Test Pit 6 is the nearest to Trench 2). The depth of archaeological deposits above the natural sand varies drastically from Trench 2 to Trench 3, so one of the purposes of these test pits is to see where this change occurs. Unsurprisingly, Test Pit 6 hit natural after circa 40cm of top and subsoil, as did Trench 2, although Test Pit 7 reached the slightly deeper depth of 60cm before hitting sand sterile of human activity.
This seems a good point to break for a cake update, which has unfortunately been missing for the last few days due to exciting archaeological finds. Despite a lot of hard work, our volunteers have not been wilting away due to a steady supply of wonderful cakes – mostly provided by Bill, from Touching the Tide, our funders. The cakes haven’t lasted long enough to photograph, but we had amazing Victoria sponges on Friday (one kindly made by Julia), honey and ginger cake yesterday and flapjack today.
Returning to the archaeology, Trench 4 has now hit the water table at its western end (slot A) so can go no further. Intriguingly, the cut of a feature sloping towards the harbour and a possible posthole were seen before the slot had to be abandoned, but as only a little of the features were exposed they are hard to interpret and Cat, Trench 4’s supervisor, is still dwelling on what they might mean.
At the car park end, slot B, a depth of 2.5m (8 foot 3’’) has now been reached and another feature cut has been found – as the cuts in slot A and B both slope in the same direction, they can’t be either edge of the same feature, so must relate to two different things. On a visitor note, we were still fairly busy in the car park today with lots of people coming to see what we’ve found, and Trench 4 even had a visit from a newt!
Last, but by no means least, John’s Trench 3 did start an extension further north across the hollow-way this morning. Surprisingly, instead of finding a road surface as expected, a clayey layer began to appear that looks suspiciously like another floor surface or the natural. Either way, road surfaces of any date are lacking, implying that the hollow-way is post-medieval rather than the medieval continuation of St. James’s Street. Whilst the hollow-way can be seen on the 1880s Ordinate Survey map, which is reliably accurate, it may be that an earlier 16th century map showing St. James’s Street continuing along the present hollow-way is not as accurate as previously thought. Hopefully tomorrow more will become clear!