After the enforced 24 hour delay owing to the ill-timed arrival of Storm Katie yesterday we hit the ground running with high hopes for our first Test pit of 2016. Ignoring the squeaking pigs and attendant aroma immediately to our rear we made good progress and initially were rewarded with the occasional small abraded pot sherd and lots and lots of stones, although trowelling did not prove too challenging. The author confidently makes this claim having spent all of ten minutes wielding a trowel during the course of the day.
At a depth of 46cm the two most noteworthy finds turned up next to each other in the north east corner of the Test Pit, just after Heather had finished digging in that area. Ah well you win some and then again you lose some. The lucky finder was Val who as you will see from the photograph below is holding the very nice blade that looks very similar to the one we found last year in the Test Pit at Whiteford Hall Farm. The second star find was a stamped rim. The fact that these two objects were found next to one another suggests that there has been a fair degree of disturbance in this area at some time in the past.
Spotted by a passer-by in a field somewhere in Norfolk, the location of which has not been disclosed in the interests of protecting the identity of those involved!
Fortunately your correspondent has been researching ancient rituals recently and recognised this as an example of the little known ceremonial practice of pole planting. The customs believed to be associated with this enigmatic ritual have been handed down through successive generations via the “Keeper of the Pole”. The current holder of this prestigious post is believed to be the person in the foreground of the photograph wearing the green jacket, possibly his mark of office. Clearly he was keen to protect his identity when the photograph was taken.
The ritual of pole planting is practised every Maundy Thursday in a field pre-selected by the Keeper. Members are summoned to the site by an as yet little understood system of communication. If this rare insight in to the practice is typical it seem to attract members of a more mature disposition.
The re-enactment society does not claim that it’s ceremonial costume is a faithful representation of the original. Equally the poles and pennants are best guess replicas based on petroglyphs observed in the cave system recently discovered under Doggerland.
Spring is in the air and a new season of Test Pitting is almost upon us. Can it get more exciting than that?
The first three Test Pits this year will be at:
4 Markshall Cottages, Markshall
Belvedere House, Caistor, and
The Old Hatchery, Markshall
Teams are in place and raring to go!
Given the locations of these three we have a good chance of an interesting two days at each site so watch this space. Ian will be supervising the two Test Pits at Markshall and Rhiane the one in the village.
Having dusted off memories of Test Pitting at the recent workshop we’ll hopefully hit the ground running with some nice Spring weather for good measure.
Well we are up and running again. Thanks to all for coming to the field walking workshop.
A few of us were out with Barbara and apart
– from the preliminary hiatus we had with our hypotenuse
– yours truly getting seriously worried about extricating herself from a boggy section which came over the top of her boots, finally getting out with great difficulty, walking back with relief to a safer area only to find she had dropped the radio, returned to find it, only to sink in the same place again!
12 Members attended a Test Pitting Workshop co-presented by Chrissy and Ian. Chrissy took Members through the contents of the Test Pitting box and circulated a handout covering basic Health and Safety Guidance, a handy flowchart of the entire Test Pitting process, finds handling and labelling and an example of a test Pit drawing, with all of the required elements highlighted. She also emphasised the importance of assigning roles from the outset so that all Members of the team are fully involved over the two days on site. Key amongst these tasks are that of photographer, paperwork recorder, finds recorder and drawer.
Ian ran through the nuts and bolts of the digging process from arrival on site, orientation and tips/reminders re: good practice such as the importance of maintaining straight edges and vertical sections. He also circulated draft Guidance Notes on Test Pitting together with background information handouts covering archaeological activity within the village since the early 19th Century and the historical and archaeological record of the village, as evidenced by the data currently residing in the Norfolk Historic Environment Record (HER). He stressed that these documents are in draft form at the moment and invited feedback on the content.
Yesterday a dozen or so Members attended a very interesting Workshop on the topic of slag! Neil Hall from Nottingham University yomped all the way from the vicinity of Norwich Station with a rucksack full of the stuff! How many of us can remember what it’s like to be young and fit!
Neil took us through the subject in a fair amount of detail, but without overwhelming us with the science, so I think we all came away with a much better understanding of exactly how the stuff is formed, what it looks like and how to go about identifying it in a systematic way. Hopefully a copy of his presentation will be available in due course as I think his basic ID flowchart will be particularly useful.
Getting to handle the various samples of slag from our Caistor trenches was very helpful and we should now be in a better position to suggest the origins of this material when we haul it out of the ground in the future. Chrissy was so taken by the material that she was moved to describe it as “beautiful” which produced few questioning looks from those of us party to the conversation.
Wednesday 2nd March saw a good turnout of Members keen to freshen up their field walking skills after a lengthy hiatus. It is principally thanks to Gwen’s sterling efforts that fieldwalking has risen phoenix like from the ashes. Some of us had already had a reminder of just how important organisation is when there are perhaps eight individuals keen as mustard to tear off across a muddy field with ropes, poles and tapes in hand. Suffice it to say that we had an invigorating morning and the weather was reasonably kind to us.