As week three gets underway we’re continuing to progress steadily with the cleaning up and revealing of the features identified in previous weeks. It’s slow going at the moment, due to the dry conditions. The ground is so baked that it is incredibly solid and discerning the changes between the colours of different contexts – so picking apart the sequence of events on the site is taking a lot of effort. Our volunteers are all embracing the challenge though, and are working incredibly hard to reveal more of the Roman features – in between petitioning Jupiter (the Roman god of the sky, amongst other things) to send down some rain!
Several areas of the trench are becoming increasingly interesting. In the centre, we’re uncovering the multiple layers of cobbling that form the very well preserved road. To either side of this we’re investigating slumps of material that line the road. It appears that coarse cobbling has sunk, possibly into earlier ditches – potential a sign of the early fort defences lurking beneath. Whether this is the case is unclear at the moment, but is one of the main questions to investigate over the next few weeks.
On the other side of the road we have a strange deposit that includes lots of clay, and overlies the road. There have been some suggestions for what this could relate to – defensive or industrial activity, but none are especially convincing at the moment. Given that we’re working to identify differences in soil colours here, the weather is making it especially hard – Eddie who is an Archaeological Supervisor at NAA, has been hard at work with watering cans to try and catch sight of what is happening here!
We have had a number of coins coming out, alongside more sherds of pottery, but expect more finds when we start to investigate the road ditches more thoroughly. For now one of the interesting spots has been fragments of a Roman altar poking out of a section of rubble!
With week three drawing to a close, our volunteers have continued to work hard at exposing the various areas of metalled surfaces, and we are starting to get an understanding of the narrative of the site. Alongside the revealed road, we have several areas of cobbling that may represent industrial activity. In places these have slumped into earlier ditches – some of which may relate to fortifications of the early fort – only time and more persistent work will tell. The pottery we have found is largely from the fourth century AD, so corresponds to the later Roman activity in the area. Today Elizabeth, one of NAA’s finds specialists, is one site to do some workshops with the volunteers – she will be able to tell us more about the finds that have been coming out.
This weekend, both The Auckland Project and NAA are helping with Durham County Council’s fantastic Roman event at the fort. There will be re-enactors demonstrating elements of Roman military life and warfare, which some visitors will be able to get involved with, as well as tours of the site (including our dig) by Dr David Mason. NAA will be showing some of the finds from this year’s Binchester excavation, as well as some objects from other sites they’ve been working on, and Auckland Project staff will be offering family friendly archaeology activities including pottery handling and mosaic making.
Check back in a few days to see how things are progressing!