Day 26 and 27

Welcome blog watchers to what will be the final instalment of the 2009 dig diary. Such was the excitement of finishing and packing up that the writing of the blog got sadly delayed, so this last episode will attempt to be a bumper finale with pictures and all sorts.

Day 26 was the last official day of excavation. We were deluged with visitors with the final count standing at more than 3,600 over the course of the project. The church trenchers continue to dig furiously to finalised the exciting complex of late Roman gullies that have been revealed. The church trench has been a good result with the dominance of late Roman features and finds suggesting that this area of the town may have been sparsely occupied in the early Roman period. Which we didn’t know before. Alice of the mystic pottery skills is excited to find a stamped mortarium of a prolific Colchester mortaria maker (mortaria are big mortar things as in mortar and pestle with gritty interiors to aid the grinding process). John P. is so thrilled by this that he trumps his old lady incarceration feat of the previous day by falling spectacularly into the trench, an act from which he emerges miraculously unscathed. John P’s life continues to unravel on the following day, when he puts his watch in the washing machine and his saucepan rack falls off his kitchen wall.

Ian cleans up the mess left by John P's dramatic trench dive

Ian cleans up the mess left by John P's dramatic trench dive

In Giles and Mick’s wacky world of gravel in trench 1, we are faced with a surfeit of visiting geologists who broadly confirm that we are looking at a complex sequence of periglacial features, in which gravel banks were formed by summer glacial melt waters. A later hollow was probably used by Mesolithic flint knappers (or hopefully it was, otherwise we will have 3 dimensionally recorded a million fint flakes to no purpose whatsoever). Although less spectacular than the weird ritual world of trench 2, trench 1 has contributed a huge amount to our understanding of the formation processes of the Caistor landscape and its use in prehistory. And it did have Boudica’s small gulley.

In trench 2, Francesca, the human bone lady (which sounds like an excellent circus act) causes consternation by announcing that Elvis, a deeply buried body in the lovely pit, is in fact female and so has to be renamed Priscilla. She causes considerably more consternation by saying that we need to lift the exposed sections rather than rebury them, as they are likely to decompose if left. However, star that she is, she volunteers to do the job herself, disappearing into the pit to clean the bones. This later causes the director to GET DIRTY for the first time in the whole season, by lying face down to take pictures of the exposed legs (which sounds worse than it really was).

The director. With the eye of faith some dirt can be glimpsed.

The director. With the eye of faith some dirt can be glimpsed.

On day 27 the last recording jobs are continues and the marquee is sadly taken down (a process not without comedy value). Materials are transported back to the barn, while the supervisors frantically record. The first church trench is backfilled (and remarkably all the material goes back in the hole) while the terram is cut to protect the features in trench 2 prior to backfilling.
Can we do a sailor's hat? Or maybe a lovely swan?

Can we do a sailor's hat? Or maybe a lovely swan?


Hazel wrestles the marquee to the ground

Hazel wrestles the marquee to the ground

Thanks to all those who have followed our progress on the blog and who have visited the site to encourage us and buy plastic swords. We were all stunned by the level of interest and support that was shown to us.

The project wouldn’t have happened without the support and encouragement of Peter Wade-Martins and the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, together with David Gurney of Norfolk Landscape Archaeology and John Davies of Norwich Castle Museum.

We owe an enormous debt to May Gurney and their chief executive, Philip Fellowes-Prynne, who not only provided equipment but brought cake as well! Mike Dixon of A-Plant was also a star, responding positively to ever more cheeky requests for equipment. The project was funded by the Foyle Foundation, the Roman Research Trust and South Norfolk Council. Mikey Bentley of South Norfolk Council, a long-standing supporter of the project, was always willing to provide whatever help was requested.

Chris Skinner of High Ash Farm provided the centrepiece of our visitor display with his wonderful collection of stone axes. Thanks too to Caistor Hall Hotel and the Framingham Earl leisure centre for the vital use of their showers.

Giles Emery, Mick Boyle, Sarah Bates, Jon Cousins, John Percival and Heather Wallis were a star supervisory team, while Dave Bescoby surveyed, shared blog responsibility, argued with geologists and withstood the testing of his geophysics. The finds expertise of Alice Lyons, Francesca Boghi, Gwladys Monteil, Sarah Percival and Peter Robins was also fundamental to the success of the dig, providing the facts to counteract the director’s deranged imagination.

Finally, the success of the project owes everything to the hard work and good humour of the many volunteers who made it work, in particular Hazel and Dave Leese, who were the first to arrive on site in August and who will be the last to leave tomorrow (they hope).

Final sword count: 25

Final slow-worm count: 2

In an excavation marked by great cake, this one stands out.

In an excavation marked by great cake, this one stands out.



Filed under Dig Diary

9 responses to “Day 26 and 27

  1. Thank you for the “easy to read” daily blog, all the facts with a hint of humour…followed avidly by myself and grandchildren…..

  2. Avril

    I have enjoyed the blog very much; the exciting tales of slow worms and plastic swords…can’t believe it is all over now. I filled in a form at the marquee when I visited and I make really good cakes, does this qualify me to volunteer next year?

    • Will (blogmeister)

      For sure. You need to do some fieldwalking over the winter, to do penance before the fun of digging. But cakes definitely count in your favour.

      • Avril

        hurrah! Have fond memories of scrubbing bits of iron age pot in a washing up bowl in France too! Know nothing about field walking but happy to have a go… Thanks blog mestre.

  3. Caroline

    I am sadly not any good at cake making – am probably better at filling water carriers and washing tea towels, which I would be happy to do again next year! I will do some field walking over the winter (so long a someone gets in touch!) – then just maybe will be allowed to push a barrow around next year?

  4. Barbara Marriage

    Just caught up with you all from a strange Australia,dust storms and cold but lots of Rock art in the very warm North. The blog has been very entertaining and I can’t wait to hear what you have really found! sorry to have missed all the fun still maybe next year Barb

  5. Stephen Roberts

    Excellent blog. Who knew that plastic swords and cakes could be more interesting than the archaeology? Next year, perhaps you can get Tony Robinson to recreate the famous “Church Trench Fall” and accidentally fail to remove him before backfilling the trench? If you were to film it you could get £250 from you’ve been framed, and maybe some money from “I’m a celebrity – get me out of here”!

    Maybe next year, you can all dress up as
    Boadicea – that would surely ensure more press coverage and would no doubt be great fun!

    Seriously, very entertaining blog. You’re a good writer. Have you anymore on-line or in-print stuff I can amuse myself with?

    • Will (blogmeister)

      Sorry, didn’t see this for a while as got a bit sidetracked with new term. Thanks for the comment – it’s appreciated. Previous attempts at non-academic writing consist of a book about playing music badly – “We’re in the Band”. Sadly this failed to find a reputable (or disreputable) publisher. It’s at

  6. Sarah

    Hey, great blog! Has kept me very much entertained. I’m an excellent cake maker (and I have pictures to prove it) and I’m now registered as a volunteer field-walker. I’m really hoping to help out with some GIS stuff as well!

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