Day 7 Saturday 28th August
A pleasant day for digging, mostly sunny and becoming a little too warm in the afternoon.
This was a busy day with 17 volunteers on site.
Kirsty, Vicky and Jenny were back to continue with Trench 1, extending the trench eastwards to expose more of the Roman road surface and possible stone platform.
Trench 2 is getting more complicated with several cut features starting to be better defined. Steve half excavated a second post hole, while Sonia investigated a complex area adjacent to the stone surface. They were joined by Jayne and Kurt.
Kurt supervised on the mid-1980s Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit fortlet excavation before taking a post with York Archaeological Trust. More recently, he has led a community archaeology project at Ravenglass Roman Fort in the Lake District. It was great to see Kurt again and we threw him into the deep end to try and unravel some of the secrets and complex archaeology of Trench 2.
Steve’s half sectioned post hole, nearly completed.
Work also continued in Trench 7 to look for the edge of the possible fortlet phase road exiting the former south gate of the fort. Margaret and Sue revealed a spread of smaller stones at a higher level than a string of larger, well bedded-in stones. Natural clay appeared to the south of stones (left side of the photo below). After recording, the small stones were removed to better define the lower level. More on this tomorrow.
Test pitting continued at the south side of the site.
Nearby Mark, Carol and Kate dug two more test pits which were also targeting geophyz anomalies close to the fort east rampart. Shown below…
Further east, towards the east edge of the site, mum and daughter team Janet and Becky finished excavating the test pit at the east end of Trench 4. Becky recorded the post hole she dug a few days ago whilst Janet finished digging a cut feature in the corner of the test pit.
This can be seen in the photo below which shows it to be c 50cm deep and full of loose small stones in a grey clay matrix. This deep cut feature could be a pit of Roman date, although we have no finds from the fill and of course we are only seeing a part of the feature. We have not the time to explore this further but it does show that, along with Test Pit 10 just to the east, there is archaeological survival and interest in this area.
In the south-east corner of the site beside the fence by Dirty Lane, Marlene completed the sondage through her test pit – shown above. There is a ‘stripy’ deposit of mixed clays overlying a compact stone layer which in turn overlies a yellow orange sandy clay material over firm clay and shale (natural). The stripy deposit could represent the remains of a rampart. Are we looking at an outer defence for a military annexe?
The land falls away sharply in this area, so Nick and Gill were tasked with putting a narrow trench through the bank to see if it could represent a curving section of rampart. Here they are having removed the turf and topsoil.
(I believe that goes for the entire site! Note by B.)
And so tomorrow came… as it tends to do
Day 8 Sunday 29th August
Mainly overcast and more breezy than yesterday – perfect for backfilling!
There is further news on the identification of the decorated bronze artifact found on top of the ‘road’ surface by Andrew on Day 2. Heather Beeton, North West Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, has kindly had a look at it and considers that it is part of a decorative shoe buckle of 18th century date. So not Roman which makes sense as a parallel was hard to find.
The stone surface looks great and displays several distinct types of stonework. Running along the bottom of the photo is a compact road material associated with a linear depression which may indicate the presence of a drain.
There is also an area of flat-laid, larger stones which are similar to the stone platform found on the opposite side of the gateway in the 2014 excavation. To the left of these flat stones is stone material similar to that seen in Trench 7, whilst over against the middle part of the right-hand trench edge are tightly clustered more angular, smaller stones. Several patches of charcoal and burnt daub/brick were revealed. The current theory is that there is A fort phase stone platform connected with the gatehouse structure which sits beside the fort road edge. In c AD120 the main highway was diverted round the back of the fortlet and here it can be seen as it exits the gateway and loops back to re-join the original highway to climb up to the Pennine pass.
In Trench 2 above Sonia half excavated a post pipe for a stone-packed post hole, seen just left of the photo scale. A clay filled slot was revealed running from the post hole towards and under the stone surface (left hand top of photo). Sonia also part excavated the linear, stone-filled gully on the right of the photo scale. This appeared to have a curving terminus with a flat layer of well packed stones lying underneath the upper level of angled stone packing. These features require further investigation. As does the feature explored by Kurt in the north-east corner of the trench. Careful excavation shows that this feature is larger than anticipated and is more like a pit. Again, further investigation is needed to complete the half section and record this feature. Another stone-filled feature was revealed right against the trench edge.
Clearly, we have an area of considerable archaeological interest with a good deal of evidence for previous timber buildings in the form of possible foundation slots, post holes and pits. There have been no finds but the features are sealed/partly hidden by a shallow deposit of mixed silty clay which could be a levelling up or trample layer, over which has been laid the stone surface. The current interpretation is that the building features relate to the first fort and that the stone surface is of much later date, perhaps fortlet phase. Further excavation within the confines of this evaluation exercise will shed more light on the function and character of these cut features.
Meanwhile, in Trench 7 Sue was clearing the area of deeply set stones revealed yesterday. The smaller overlying stone layer has been removed. The stones site alongside a shallow depression which is infilled with a mixed silty clay deposit which overlies a very shallow dark grey humic layer with plentiful charcoal. This runs under the road material and could represent a former, pre-Roman ground surface. The deeply set stones on the left of the photo are of uncertain function.
Test Pit 12 was completed by Carol and found to contain natural shale bedrock occurring at shallow depth. It is becoming clear that the high geophysical survey readings in this area are due to variable natural geology.
It was a similar story in Test Pit 13 below – located towards the corner of the rampart, where a ditch was anticipated. However, the same sandy clay and shaley stone deposits came to light showing that the ditch was not present here.
In order to determine the terminus of the fort ditch, a narrow trench (above) was dug by Steve a couple of metres east of the one near the south-east corner of the fort rampart where he had previously revealed a drain cut into possible ditch fills. A similar pattern was evident (stones on the right of the picture probably relate to the drain). Time did not allow extension or deeper excavation of this possible ditch fill but we will be returning to complete this work. If this is Roman ditch fill then we have narrowed down the terminus of the ditch to a 3 metre length area.
Nick and Jill continued to excavate Trench 10 across the curving embankment at the south-east corner of the site. Here it can be seen in relation to the house and Marlene’s test pit with possible rampart material showing.
And here (above) is the full length of the trench after excavation, shown as two photos. There was no evidence for a ditch in the lower area (right hand photo) but, conversely, the higher ground to the north contained a cut going against the slope. It was filled with layers of dark grey silt with lots of charcoal flecks and capped off with a thick dump of mixed clay/soil.
The base of the cut feature is around 1.4 metres beneath the turf! A fantastic digging job by Nick and Gill to reveal this interesting section and in such a neat trench! The dumped clay/soil is in the upper part of the section. It suggests that there has been much landscaping in this area. We could be looking at the outer part of an early ditch and will need to return to extend the section northwards to confirm this theory.
Norman gave his final tour in the afternoon before we set about filling in the trenches. Here we are with Norman practising and teaching his archaeological pointing skills!
These are Norman’s initial thoughts which of course may change when the report is written up and further research undertaken. There is likely to be one more weekend of excavation in October to target key areas – which may also change interpretation.
It has been a tremendous effort by the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts volunteers, especially give the remarkable absence of Roman finds – with just a small quantity of burnt daub and brick fragments and no pottery which is very unusual. However, plenty of features were uncovered including some impressive stone surfaces.
The evidence suggests that the area outside the fort’s eastern rampart has suffered from consider landscaping which has truncated or totally removed Roman remains in certain areas. The lack of Roman finds, blank areas on the geophyz survey, shallow soils overlying natural geology and dumps of clay to create a bank along the edge of the site support this theory. The area is quite flat which contrasts with the more undulating terrain to the east of the east gate exit road, where excavation in 2018/9 revealed better preserved Roman remains. The presence of the late medieval and post medieval Husteds cottage and farm may explain the reason for truncation and flattening of this area.
However, we have advanced our understanding of the sequence of roads and appear to have found the fortlet loop road of c AD120 turning sharply out of the former fort east gate. It partly cuts across a stone platform associated with earlier fort gate. There is good evidence for timber buildings, probably of fort date (ie. AD 70s), with the fort phase appearing to be partly sealed by a mixed layer of clay which underlies a stone spread. These stones form a path but may be recycled from the original fort road exiting the gate. Alongside the rampart an area of high geophys readings has been shown to be caused by natural shale rock occurring at shallow and varying levels. Fort ditch fills have been provisionally identified at the south-east corner and an area for the terminus identified, although more work is required here. There is a possible ditch in the south-east corner of the field, close to the fence, which is deeply buried under landscaped spoil. A test pit nearby has revealed possible rampart material so we may be seeing evidence for a defended military annexe attached to the east side of the fort.
The dig saw dozens of visitors and the Friends volunteers are thanked for showing courtesy, patience and enthusiasm for explaining the archaeology to them. Hopefully, some of these visitors will join the Friends and be part of future investigations and enjoy the winter lecture series which is being planned.
Over the period of eight days excavation 24 volunteers took part with daily numbers varying from 9 to 17. They have been an absolutely brilliant team undertaking some very challenging digging at times. So many thanks to: Sue, Sonia, Mark, Nick, Jill, Margaret, Cliff, Jack, Steve, Mike, Carol, Jayne, Tim, Kirsty, Kurt, Roy, Vicky, Jenny, Marlene, Mat, Janet, Becky, Andrew and Katy on the dig, Paul for meeting and greeting visitors, Alan for joining in with the backfilling, and Phil, Jane, Dave and Sarah for the geophysics survey. Thanks also go to United Utilities for permission to undertake the excavation on their land, to Lee at UU for organising the grass strimming of the site, to Historic England for supporting the Scheduled Monument Consent application to allow the dig to take place, and to our friendly neighbour Linda for the welcome supply of hot drinks and cakes!
We may do a couple more days in October so watch this space….
All words and pictures by Norman Redhead
Put together and presented by Bloggerina, till we meet again some sunny day.