WHITEHALL ROMAN VILLA AND LANDSCAPE PROJECT

AN OCCASIONAL PROGRESS REPORT
of the 2008 Excavation

by Jeremy Cooper

The views expressed are Jeremy's own and the information is his own understanding - he has been known to get things wrong!


Day 16 of 20: Monday 7th July

It rained.

Then it stopped raining.

Then it rained... etc...

Not much digging today.

While the office work carried on regardless, Barbara openend Ye Olde Cafe Chez Steve...

... and did roaring business.


She didn't throw it over me!


Come shine or rain, the marking goes on...


Nice here isn't it?


A shot of me from last week (thanks Fred). There is a feeling abroad that I should be seen in this blog as well as heard.

Here's another one, also from last week (thanks Malcolm)...


Day 17 of 20: Tuesday 8th July

Showery today, so again, not as much digging as desired. So not much archaeology to report.

Fred has taken up on-site brewing*.

Shirley unearthed a large piece of pot. (See right too).

Dan Windwood visited - he's the archaeological advisor to Northants County Council.

Glenn managed the wound of the day, dressed by Margaret. He didn't cry.

Dave visited with his grandson and gave him a site tour. He didn't cry either.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is dire!

_______________

*Customs and Excise please note. That was a joke: really he's priming a syphon to drain BH2.
(That was the first ever footnote in the the Blog - old habits die hard).


Day 18 of 20: Wednesday 9th July

Yuk. Rain all day. No dig. No blog.


Day 19 of 20: Thursday 10th July

A few showers today, and a 'last-but-one-day' tension between wanting to dig more and needing to start finishing things off for photography. We were on target for photography at the end of the afternoon, but then it rained, and the fairground ride on the tractor was postponed to tomorrow morning.

Visitors today:

Martin Heath of BBC Radio Northampton interviewed several of us, and recorded Glenn excavating the biggest (I think) pottery fragment ever discovered at Whitehall.


The rod is 25 cms

Paul Quinn of WNDC made a long visit to the site and was shown around just about everything by Dave.

Find of the week - a bronze (or silver) ring with red glass intaglio, found under the courtyard pavement. I'm looking forward to seeing this one when it's been cleaned up.

LAST DAY TOMORROW!!!


The two mugs method


I reckon Norman should patent this


Tell us about you hat...


... and yours.


Digging for England!


Norman and grandson: 'One day all this will be yours... well not actually yours, but...'


Day 20 of 20: Friday 11th July

As it was in the beginning...

Bucket chains, as on Day 1. This time I was there to catch them.

They worked well, and on target at 09.45 all was ready for the Matbro (tractor) shots from on high.


Thanks for the photo, Malcolm.

See more of the high-level shots here.

As soon as we had finished it rained a bit, making us feel very smug that we had planned the day well!

Final finds washing and general site clearance followed...

...until noon.

The Interpretation Boards Launch

The VIP guests were Councillor Joan Kirkbride (Northants County Council), Graham Smith (South Northants Council), Dave Hayward (Nether Heyford Parish Council - wearing a different hat, or not, for this occasion) and David Pritchard and Martin Heathfield from Natural England. Natural England paid for the boards as part of the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship agreement between NE and Nick Adams.


Left to right: Steve, Martin Heathfield, David Pritchard, Cllr. Smith,
Cllr. Kirkbride, Nick, Dave

The boards are aimed at groups (expecially school children) visiting the site: they can be used by guides to help explain the site and it context, and have enough information on them to be self-explanatory.

Much interest was shown in the specially commissioned illustration by John Hodgson, who is one of the country's leading Archaeological Illustrators - visit his website here.

Postcards of the illustration were given to everyone present - they will also be sent to everyone who worked on the site this year but weren't present. after we've taken a breath or two, we will sell the cards on the website - probably as a set of four, like the images on the web gallery of the illustration (click here).

I'll add an interpretation boards feature to this website soon.

Lunch

Lunch followed, with food and drink laid on for the guests - the leftovers were consumed in seconds byt he ravenous diggers.

Group photo

Then it was group photo time. See a bigger version and a list of participants here.

A huge downpour was followed by intermittent showers and more site clearance.

Site Tour

Barbara talked us through Bath House Two. Yes, capital letters at last as we are as sure as we ever will be that this was indeed a bath house.

It was built in the early 3rd century AD at the same time as the earliest development of the villa. It was possibly closed down when it proved impossible to deal with flooding from the spring line: a drain cut right across room two was an attempt to deal with this problem. Materials from BH2 were probably used to build BH1. An interesting titbit is that they built the trenches for the west wall foundations of room 2 and the east wall of room 1 too wide, so the trenches were infilled.

The lower slope above the west wall has an ash deposit all along its length and this yielded many finds of pot, 11 coins, and window glass (most found last year but a large extra bit found this year).

The excavation had proved to be more intensive than extensive - it was slow, going in some very tricky areas because of the delicate floors being revealed, so it had not been possible firmly to establish the line of the east wall, or to reveal more about the space and links between the bath houses: those tasks will be priorities next year.

Steve announced that funding had been secured (today!) for carbon dating and for geomagnetic analysis of the praefurnium (furnace) in BH2 which will pin down dates.

Tony told us about the courtyard area. The various levels of paved surface had been established and the walls clearly defined. (See Week 2 Day 10). Further work on the surfaces had revealed a multiplicity of contexts and it was eventually decided that they were really one context - that of an infill. Phew! The ring (see yesterday) and the large piece of greyware (also yestersay) came out of sealed contexts and might well help with dating. Next year the focus will be on establishing the exact relationships bewteen this area and BH1.

Modern Drainage

A final act of defiance in the rain (mostly) saw the digging of a drain at the north end of BH2. Very stinky it was too! A pipe was installed and the drain infilled - must remember that when we come back to that area next year!

We then dispersed to reassemble later in Nick's grain barn for the traditional barbecue.

The photo I took on my "little" camera was hopelessly out of focus (the only one this year - I put it down to too much Coke Zero!). It was of the three graduates of St. David's College Lampeter (University of Wales) who worked on the dig this year - Steve, Barbara and Jenny. An amazing coincidence (honestly!). If Steve's wife Helen had been there (she'd gone home a bit earlier) there would have been FOUR Lampeter grads together outside Wales - surely one for the Carlsberg Book of Records.

And finally...

The mystery objects - see week2

Well, of course they weren't a mystery at all, really. But the thousands of emails Nick spent days sorting through demonstrated a wide variety of ideas, some of them publishable!

The carved up piece of stone-like material was in fact part of the exterior decorative cladding of BH2.

The strange sandwich was of natural occurance - but since we have not found any more of it occuring naturally, it just might have been part of an ornament.

Quiz Answers*:

1 No
2 Only because it's raining
3a 21 tesserae 3b Beryl
4a Fred, usually 4b Why not?
5 Lengthwise
6a Black bags 6b Malcolm
7a Beeeep 7b Dave Derby
6 Context 936

*Please supply your own questions (the 2nd ever Blognote).

Date of Next Meeting

15th June to 10th July 2009. See you then.

If you have been, thanks for listening.


Photo by Barbara
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