hand-axe production site

A Shovelbum Story: Commercial Excavation in Deepest Darkest Kent…

Working on site all day gives you no chance to compile a minute-by-minute beautifully crafted blog post.

Thankfully, we have Twitter!

My life on Twitter began at around the same time my archaeological career did. I had promised myself that I would set up an account once I had handed in my BA dissertation and, co-incidentally, my first job in fieldwork started on the very day of that deadline. Usually I tweet every so often about what’s happening on site – if we get any good finds, if something unusual turns up, if I’m working on a particularly interesting/beautiful feature, or if  when we shovelbums develop fever-like symptoms (‘trench’ and ‘cabin’ varieties, depending on the weather) – but today, of course, was an exception. My aim was to document everything I was doing. Yes, even my breakfast!









The palaeochannel is FULL of Early Mesolithic flint. The main features in this area – predominantly ditches – were excavated and recorded a few weeks ago. It is thought that we may have a hand-axe production site, as several were found when the area was first opened by machine. Now we are using test pits into the palaeochannel to sample this material and see if we need to develop and implement a different excavation strategy for the whole area.



The other test pits had produced nothing from the 3rd spit!













Trench-fever kicking in…??



We finish early on a Friday – usually to maximise the time available to spend in the pub at the end of a long week…!





A ring ditch in Area 5 turned out to be two-in-one! There were 8 slots dug through it. That’s a lot of section drawings and context record sheets to amend… And that’s before you even get started on the matrix for the area…




I’d say today wasn’t entirely an average day in the field for this site, and for commercial archaeology in general. An average day in Kent would be whacking the fill out of a ditch/half-sectioning a whole load of postholes and recording it all (filling in forms, doing scale drawings of the feature, and photographing it). The fiddly nature of our excavation strategy for these test pits means your speed is limited – something which is usually a problem for a project that is developer-funded as there is always a schedule and a budget to stick to. But this Early Mesolithic stuff deserves the time we’re spending on it, and it just means my ‘Day of Archaeology’ submission describes one of those rare days when you never really put your trowel down!