North Duffield Conservation and Local History Society

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DIG 14

North Duffield Conservation and Local History Society has been investigating an Iron Age roundhouse which shows up in aerial photographs. Excavations at the site South of Parkhouse Farm, commenced in 2012 when a linear ditch containing Iron Age pottery and a small section of the ring-ditch of the roundhouse containing similar pottery, were uncovered.

We returned to the site in 2013 to discover that the ring-ditch, at 20m across, was much larger than we had expected which meant that our trench did not uncover as much of the Northern section of the ring-ditch as we had planned. Once again we uncovered Iron Age pottery but this time found evidence of iron working and a single worked flint.

Determined not to make the same misjudgement in 2014, we returned to the site, this time allowing two weeks rather than the one week of earlier years to hopefully, finalise our investigation of the feature.

We also employed a mechanical digger driven by Patrick Murphy of Thorganby rather than the farm machinery which did more damage to the higher archaeology than we would have liked in previous years. This was a good decision as it turned out, as we saw features at and just below the interface of the plough-soil with the 'natural' not previously seen. It also meant much less hard labour for us diggers in over-burden removal.

We uncovered the complete circumference of the Southern section of the ring-ditch and part of the  area outside the ditch plus two short sections of the ditch excavated in 2012 and 2013 to ensure continuity.

Many of the volunteers from the previous two years returned to the site and all overseen by Jon Kenny of York Archaeological Trust. However, on this occasion I did not publicise the event or make it part of the Festival of Archaeology as the number of visitors in previous years distracted staff from carrying out their work.

Once again we were lucky to have mostly hot and sunny weather, the downside being that the drying winds turned the sandy silt of the natural into a sand storm filling up the excavated features with drifting sand on occasions.

We established that the SE facing entrance showing up in aerial photographs was a reality although, at 6m across, was substantially larger than practical as a doorway unless there was some other structure or porch as protection from the weather. No such structure was evident but may have been obliterated by ploughing.

We noted an undulating surface to the interface between the plough-soil and the 'natural' across the site which was interpreted as relict ridge and furrow. This does not show up in aerial photographs and is therefore assumed to have been truncated by ploughing. This was not visible in years, in all probability due to destruction of this layer by the farm machinery used.

The series of postholes seen in earlier years approximately 1/3rd of the way towards the centre was found to continue for the area uncovered in 2014 and confirms the belief that these are postholes and not just pits. This relationship will show more clearly when plans are finally digitised for 2014.

Due to time constraints not all of the ring-ditch was excavated. Both terminals where the SE entrance was situated were excavated, as were the two points where the excavations of 2012/13 met those of 2014, plus three other slots. Iron Age pottery and some worked flint was recovered from each slot and terminal. In particular the slots and terminal on the Southern side of the ring-ditch produced what is believed to be iron slag indicating smelting and 'prills' which, if confirmed, would indicate iron forging. In the most Northerly slot several pieces of burnt daub were recovered where the imprint of the bark of the  wattle could be clearly seen. Every slot or terminal also produced quantities of  what appears to be fire-hardened clay which it is tempting to view as burnt daub although the intensity of the heat applied appears to be less. Experiments and formal identification is awaited. In the S terminal and adjacent slot it appears that iron working material had been disposed of in the fill and interestingly, what appears to be a stone 'anvil showing signs of surface percussion.

Several of the post-holes/pits produced Iron Age type pottery, some produced worked flint or flint showing no signs of working and thick areas of pliable clay as opposed to the 'hardened' variety mentioned above. It is likely that this material was used as post-packing.

The site was visited by three members of the Young Archaeologists Club who had won a competition: Marsha Mae Balfour, (aged 10), Piper Shackleton,(aged 13) and  Emily Walton (Aged 15) accompanied by family members spent the day with us, excavating and seemed to have a great time. They were each given a 'goody bag' together with a Certificate to mark their visit.

We were delighted to welcome Dr Melanie Giles, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Manchester University and a leading expert on the Iron Age of East Yorkshire as well as respected author and TV personality, to the site. She had already visited the village to present a paper at our recent Conference and had shown great interest in the work we are doing.

We also had a visit from Dr Cath Neal who also presented a paper at the Conference and has been interested in the Project from the outset. Melanie spent a couple of hours of her busy day with us having travelled from Sheffield and Cath spent the day digging.

Both these experts made valuable contributions to our understanding of the site and opened our eyes to things we might not otherwise have recognised. Thank you to both of you for your keen interest and for spending your valuable time with us, we greatly appreciate it.

We also had an 'A' Level  student from York College, Lacey Findlay-Bell and her mum. An invitation to the College had been made early but, circumstances beyond our control meant that none of the other students were able to attend.                                 

The processing of the artefacts continues apace. Tony Austin will again review the ceramics. Soil samples are being prepared for environmental analysis. Consideration will be given to whether we should seek professional opinion on the metal working materials, carbon 14 dating and flint examination and who will carry out  this work for us should we decide to do so and where the funding might come from. This Report is an interim version and a fuller version will become available in due course.

NE Secttion of Ring Ditch

YAC winners learn how to draw site plans from Jon Kenny

S Secttion of Ring Ditch

Dr Giles (standing 2nd L) discussing the site with diggers

Dr Cath Neale on site

Lacey learns about the site

The Official Photographer takes his own pic with some of the team