Rain, Pits and Taphonomy

My usual habitat is the sieve room at Archaeology South East’s Braintree office; however, for the last five weeks my flotation tanks have stood empty, the usual bubbling of water silenced… why? I have been deployed to site.  Let out to play!!  I usually write a blog about my experiences in archaeology, which can be found here: bonekicker28.tumblr.com

The site I’m on currently is a large area, full of medieval pits and ditches that seem to be getting more and more complex as time ticks by.  The hot weather a few weeks back has baked the top crust of the site, masking the features underneath so every day we set to work hoe-ing back an area to allow us to see.  The Day of Archaeology, for me, began this way.

The usual cleaning back had exposed not only a linear feature, which needed a slot at each terminus and the centre, but also what resembled a large slodge across the surface of the gravelly sand natural.  I decided to tackle this first – in for a penny, in for a pound eh? I set up my string lines and mattocked my way across the slodge, leaving a metre long void behind me… there were no finds 🙁

It turned out that while I believed, upon seeing the perfect edges, that i had excavated a linear feature that i couldn’t be more wrong and that what sat before me was a large pit.  Somehow I had managed to place my metre slot at exactly the middle point, any movement either side would’ve revealed the curve in the edges, hinting at a pit.  My supervisor now wanted me to 100% excavate it.  There were still no finds 🙁

the large pit, once 100%.  shovel for scale.
the large pit, once 100%. shovel for scale.

Whilst digging this oval pit the heavens decided to open and I must confess I spent the rest of the day looking like a drowned rat.  Still, whilest I didn’t get any finds we returned on monday to find one of the nearby pits had been excavated for us by a fox or something similar… exposing a load of pig bones… and modern glass.  The site had been used for keeping pigs up to 30 years ago.  A lesson in taphonomy if anything.

after being exposed...
pig pit – after being exposed…