WHITEHALL ROMAN VILLA AND LANDSCAPE PROJECT

AN OCCASIONAL PROGRESS REPORT
of the 2012 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! Guest bloggers are, of course, always right.

WEEK 1


Pre-dig

Guest blog and photos by Sandra:

Hi Jeremy

I see from the Whitehall website that you are going to do a blog for 2012. Here are some pics you might or might not like to open it with.

The first is of us painting the roof of the "office", not sure why we had to do this before the excavation but we did, on a very hot sticky day.

The others are of us actually taking off the covers.



Nick brought the Matbro to take away the tyres, as we shall not be needing them again, which halved the time it took us to fo the job.





There was an unfortunate family of voles nesting in the straw on top of the tessellated pavement, who ran for their lives when we took away their home, unfortunately too fast for me to get my camera out.

Lastly, I was away myself, but I understand that because of the weather they were unable to get the campsite up on Wednesday , so its all to do on Monday.

Sandra



Day 1 of 20: Monday 11 June

Experimental archaeology today:

AIM: to establish a roman camp in Britannia, in the pouring rain, in June. Photos by Barbara...


METHOD:

1. Dress in authentic Roman army uniforms. Admittedly there are a few details wrong on that score.



2. Try water divining with the tent poles.

3. Try knitting with the tent poles.

OBSERVATIONS: ******* *********

CONCLUSION: (At 11.00am) Might be best if we all went home.

So it took the experimenters only two hours to establish what took the Romans over 400 years. That's progress!


Click for a larger version


Barbara says "sorry" about the drop of water on the lens. You just can't get the staff these days!

Now here is an historic photo:

This is the steam narrowboat President (the only steam narrowboat running?) on it's way home to the Black Country Museum after participating in the Royal Jubille Pageant on the Thames.

Hoping for better weather tomorrow - the menu will be:------

- clearing the site;

- letting Dave and Tony check the context labels to see if any are past their display by dates and replace any missing ones;

- drinking some coffee.


Day 2 of 20: Tuesday 12 June

Leveson kept me at home again today (I have to watch, or it won't count) but my Whitehall mole tells me that:

1. there was more tent up putting.


Photo by Fred

I know it looks as though Barbara is "just" supervising, but if you look carefully you'll see that she is providing essential anchorage for a tent pole - if you see what I mean.


Photo by Fred

2. there was a good deal of bailing out - the EU might like to compare notes.

3. the site was "lightly trowelled" all over (sounds like a beauty palour treatment). Also Shirley and Margaret polished the hearth, sorry I mean the flagstones, between the pilae till they could see their faces in them. Right lovely it is.

4. There was talk about the T-shirt - there will be one, but the design is yet to be finalised. I suggest 5 circles and 2012 somewhere, but preferably not so it looks like a wonky swastika.

By the way - Steve confirmed yesterday that this is definitely the last month-long, open-area dig (unless we find another villa underneath BH2...): from the end of this year's dig the only work will be focussed, small-scale investigations.



Day 3 of 20: Wednesday 13 June



I actually went up to the site today even though the House of Commons bun fight over Hunt junior was whizzo fun.



Barbara (in green) is making a section in a very stony and muddy bit of the drain. Here's the end product:



Margaret was back on the praefurnium she worked on last year.


Here's the not quite finished west-facing section...



... and here's the north-facing section (finished, at least for the time being)...



I won't be on site tomorow as I have (genuine) responsibilities elsewhere. But I dare say one of my stringers will provide some piccies.


Photo by Alan Standish


Photo by Alan Standish
The annual tussle with the gennie.




Day 4 of 20: Thursday 14 June

My wifely stringer provided the photos and stories.

It was digger day!!

Olie (the gentlest digger driver in the world) and Nick removed the top soil along part of the eastern edge of the site...

Dave and Fred surveyed the results - Bath House 3 perhaps? We shall see.

And here's the tractor quadrille performed most elegantly...

Meanwhile Margaret carried on working on the praefurnium, closely observed by Dave and Steve ...



... including planning it with help from Adrian.

There was an accident on the M1 this morning, closing the Southbound carriageway. It was still blocked at the end of the day, so the A5 (which parallels the M1) was at a standstill too - Barbara drove home across country, taking three times longer than the usual half an hour..

However, in spite of Olie's presence, the digger/driver of the day is undoubtedly Ken. He motors down from Leicester each morning, which is bad enough; but today, his journey took 4 hours!! Now, that's devotion to duty!

 


Day 5 of 20: Friday 15 June

Last day of Week 1 already (now when have I written that before?).

I tried a little experiment today - seeing how well I could manage without my digital camera. OK, for the very frist time ever, I forgot to pack it - I won't bore you with the existential problems of having too many bags to hold cameras! Anyway, my wifely stringer lent me hers, and I must say that even though it cost more than 100 times less than my kit, it produced some excellent results. The first photo is hers - the rest are mine.

It was wet under trowel this morning ...

It was windy too!! Sitting in the white tent was (I guess) a bit like sitting in a tea-clipper in the Roaring Forties, with the sails poorly set - deafening, and quite exciting. At one stage bits of tent frame started to fall off, and Norman and Lesley did some rope weaving to help hold it all together ...

At the eastern edge of the site they carried on trowelling ...

Nothing much was revealed except what might be pits of waste materials. The square patch is one of the test pits we dug back in, we think, 2006.

But there was a substantial cluster of nails, each of which was carefully surveyed ...



Today was possibly another first, at least at Whitehall - Tony K on his knees and trowelling! Margaret is probably kneeling in wonderment at the unworldly spectacle. But it was a fleeting vision.

This was the trowelling line-up at the end of play ...

Note that Steve at far left has found a hole to sit in while he explores one of the possible pits - much more comfortable.

At the south end of the site, Fred was establishing that what the geophys suggested is in fact the case - that there are no more buildings under the baulk ...

Just as well - if there were any more structures, we'd (i.e. Nick) would have to move the spoil heap AGAIN.

Steve began the site tour at Fred's bit.

We had a look at the new excavation along the east side and finally we studied a trial trench started by Olie yesterday ...

It's beyond the eastern baulk up against the crop line. It will be excavated further to see what might be going on in the mound under the crops a bit further east. There is a feature across the middle of the trench (at the very bottom of the photo frame) which is probably a "modern" field drain.

Otherwise, Steve outlined the detailed work to be done next week - apart from trowelling down further all over the newly uncovered eastern section of the site, it's mainly a matter of small investigations here and there to confirm theories and puzzle out some of the more intriguing areas of the site (it was VERY windy, and I couldn't hear every word Steve said). The drains will be examined and the main drain excavated all the way to the northern baulk.

But my best of the day was the Red Arrows flying over towards the South West - a wing of five and a wing of four. They were very noisy too. Time for new batteries in the hearing aids after they've been so busy

Have a good weekend.

















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