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DIG 13

In 2012, we held a week-long Archaeological  dig reported elsewhere on this site. We discovered a linear ditch containing pottery of Iron Age date. We also uncovered a small section of the surrounding ditch of a round feature showing up in crop marks-it was the NW section of the ditch. Having used a Total Station survey instrument to take data of the site, our Surveyor, Bob Wells, conducted an attempt to estimate the actual size of the feature using the small area that we had uncovered and he got very close to getting it right.

In 2013, from 20th to 26th July, again as part of the CBA festival of archaeology, we returned to the site with the intent of solving the riddle of what we had found-was it hut-circle base or ring-ditch-and of finding more dating evidence.

Using our 2012 survey data we set out the site and then tried a resisitivity survey in an attempt to 'fix' the location of both the remaining perimeter of the round feature and also to have a second attempt at finding a strange feature West of this site which had tried and failed to find in 2012. Sadly, the resisitivity meter  only managed to find a couple of field-drains and resolutely refused to highlight the archaeological features we were looking for. We will enquire into this at some later stage- 2012 it was very wet and 2013 followed a long dry spell-why no anomalies in true Time team fashion?

The day before the start of the dig we used  mechanical means to take off as much topsoil as we could safely do without damaging the underlying archaeology. Due to the dry weather , this proved a task beyond the capabilities of the landowners machinery so the first two days of the dig involved some serious hard labour stripping off the plough-soil.

The results, however, took us all by surprise. The ring-ditch, clearly showing up in the natural glacial sands was considerably bigger than we had anticipated, disappearing, as it did, into the walls of our already large Trench 4. And in line with the first Rule of Archaeology, the feature disappeared under two spoil heaps created by the machine.  We now believe the outer circumference of the feature to be 20m, which is huge by any  standards, and raises the question as to why such a large structure exists in our isolated rural habitat.

Furthermore, it became clear that we had a series of features showing up roughly one third of the way from the ditch to the centre of the structure and spaced evenly in a semi-circle. These were tentatively interpreted as postholes. More interestingly, a break in the circumference at the SE sector appeared to suggest a doorway, not in the SE or E as is customary with roundhouses.

A photograph taken from one of the spoil heaps with a digger standing on each of these features really high-lighted their relationship within the structure. Two very regular rectangular features in the NE of Trench 4 looked suspiciously like a machine dug hole with infill and this proved to be the

case when the landowner confirmed probable calf burials pre-dating the current legislation banning such things.

So we set to work excavating sections through each of the postholes and several other features such as plough-scars and field-drain ditches. Work in Trench 5 continued apace without any startling discoveries, merely field-drains that had shown in the resisitivity images. In fact, Trench 5 proved a disappointment as yet again we failed to find the features showing in the cop marks. This begs the question-were we digging in the wrong place or are the crop marks misleading? We closed down Trench 5 early to concentrate our workforce in Trench 4.

Prior to the commencement of the dig, I had been approached by Nicky Milstead of the Young Archaeologists Club(YAC) asking if we would be prepared to 'host' the winners of a National Competition  for YAC Members. Of course, we delighted to so and so it was that Joe Salmon, 9 years of Leeds, Jenny Evans, 10 years of Stoke-on-Trent and Robert Bate, 12 years, also of Leeds, accompanied by their Mothers, attended the dig on Sunday. We presented them with a Certificate and a goody bag and Tara-Jane Sutcliffe of the Council for British Archaeology also made them a Presentation before they eagerly started work as Young Archaeologists. They clearly enjoyed their with us and very nice messages of thanks were later received from them. They said that their experience in North Duffield had confirmed their wish to become real archaeologists in due course.


On Tuesday we invited Members of the Monday Club of Selby to the dig. These adults with learning disabilities have been part of an introduction to archaeology course being provided by Jon Kenny and myself over 10 weeks with further weeks to come in the future. They were accompanied by their leader Martin Waterhouse and support staff and they, too, seemed to thoroughly enjoy their visit. They have called themselves the Tuesday Time Team as we conduct the course on Tuesday afternoons-they have even had baseball caps printed with the title on them.

As we excavated the ditch and postholes, dating evidence in the form of likely Iron Age pottery, was coming to light. In addition, the supposed doorway mentioned above featured a huge posthole either side of this doorway. At this point speculation ran rife as this doorway was likened to a ceremonial entrance or the posts of two very large doors. The only think of certainty was that the circular ditch did not continue through this 'doorway 'area but stopped to the N and re-started to the S of it.

A fairly uninspiring item, turning up in the finds tray from the NW sector of the ditch appeared to reveal what may turn out to be iron within the core of the concretion and two smaller sections, the whole having the appearance of a socketed spearhead. Unfortunately, as I write, I do not know where the item was found or by whom as it is entirely possible that finder did not realise the potential of what they had found.

A further attempt with the Total Station to pinpoint the 'centre of the roundhouse, if that is what it turns out to be, necessitated the removal of more plough soil in the centre of the trench and the creation of a new trench, Trench 6. Within this trench was a clay feature, the purpose of which is, as yet, unidentified. Since it was not at the centre a clearance of further plough soil, Trench 7 revealed an even larger clay feature and then another huge post-hole or pit from which more pottery of probably Iron Age date and another iron item which appeared also to be socketed with possible decayed wood within the socket. The pit/post hole is not at the centre but the second, larger clay feature is as close as may be to the centre and may indicate a hearth truncated by ploughing. No burning or vitrifying of the clay was evident in either clay feature.

By this time, the dig was rapidly drawing to a close and the usual manic dash to get everything finished took place. During the week, I had received a communication again from the CBA advising me of a young lad from Bradford called Connor Lancaster who, suffering from terminal cancer, had expressed a wish to take part in an archaeological dig in his remaining time.  Not a refusal request of course and the landowner was similarly sympathetic so we held the site open until the Thursday of the following week and a number of our volunteers retuned to the site to give the site the 'busy' look so that when Connor and his uncle attended, they walked onto a working archaeological dig.

Imagine Connors delight when he found a piece of iron slag very shortly after his arrival. It is worth mentioning that two other pieces of iron slag had been discovered in the fill of the ditch suggesting iron working on the site in the Iron Age.

At lunch time on Thursday, I lit a fire in the re-constructed roundhouse and cooked sausages for the assembled diggers and Connor and his Uncle Trevor in particular together with drinks and scones cooked by my wife June. All in all a memorable day for both Connor , Trevor and indeed for us.

And so the 2013 dig has come to close with more questions than answers but a feeling that everything had gone brilliantly well. Once again my thanks to Jon and Hannah of York Archaeological trust, Tony and Elizabeth from York University, Laura from Nottingham University and numerous volunteers from Archaeology North Duffield, York Timeline Plus and surrounding Societies. Thanks to the children from the village who turned up to have-a-go and the many people responding to the Press invitations . We have gained some new members and certainly some archaeological converts. Many people said they had always wanted to try attending a dig and that it had been every bit as good as they hoped.

And finally, a nice gesture from one of our dedicated volunteers, Ken Cole, an escapee from across the Pond who generously donated a 1975 copy of Barry Cunliffe's  book, 'Iron Age Communities in Britain' in recognition of what he calls his favourite dig(he was with us in 2012 as well). So thanks Ken and thanks to everyone from the diggers to the landowner for allowing us to  satisfy our passion for archaeology. Here's to 2014 when we must return to dig the rest of the feature.

YAC Competition winners hard at work

Packing stones(?) in one doorway posthole

Highlighting the post holes

Tuesday Time Team Archaeologists