2008 Dig Diary

Week beginning 24th August

My students started the week doing some experimental archaeology research for a paper I am writing for a publication following the World Archaeological Conference on the feather pits I thought it would be interesting to see just how easy or difficult it might have been to make a votive pit in the rushes in another of my fields. So their challenge was to go into another field with spades and buckets and make a pit and fill it again. We thought some ferns might replicate the feather lining. They then had to back fill the pit and carefully put the rushes on top. The idea was to see just how noticeable it was or not after they had made the pit also how long would it take for any signs of their presence in the marshland to disappear. As usual the experiments did not go as we had expected. It was very easy to hide where the pits had been made by arranging the herbage over it see picture 2. It was however incredibly difficult to cut the pits out with a spade or even with a half moon lawn edging cutter (which I doubt they would have had in the 17th century). This was because the ground was water logged you could not get any leverage to lift the rush turf. It also made it difficult to keep the sides of the pit straight too as trying to leave out the turf with a spade widened the edges. After making one pit and laying ferns in it to replicate the swan feathers or fur we filled it in and replaced the turf. It took 25 minutes to do this and it was relatively easy as I just said to hide where the pit had been with herbage. Also pollen analysis of one of the pits shows it was put in about this time of year when a lot of the marsh plants are falling down and dying anyway. We discovered the best tool to cut out the turf and the reed roots was a long kitchen knife. It went through the turf with ease and the root system so it looks likely if they wanted to dig a pit quickly and hide it effectively that that was the tool they would have used. It is always when doing this sort of experiment that one comes up with interesting answers. I would not have imagined that a kitchen knife would have been better than a spade to dig a pit with!

 Well that was the last week of the 2008 Saveock season it has been busy and surprising in many ways. Especially the fact that the votive pits were still being put in the ground since 1950! We have a booking form on the education page if any of you want to join the dig on our 2009 season. No experience is necessary just an enthusiasm to discover what people did in the past and meet interesting people from all walks of life in the trenches.

We have an article in Archaeology Magazine in America in October, a big article in the German equivalent of National Geographic and an article in the Saga magazine for our more mature students. So if you are thinking of coming next year I suggest you send a deposit for the week you want as it looks like it is going to be a busy season.

 My very Best Wishes to all Saveock followers,

 Jacqui

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week beginning 17th August

Well after planning the features in area Wall we took off the red subsoil only to find the base of a clearly defined wall feature. At the eastern baulk there was a gap in the wall indicating either the end of the wall or a gate or doorway. On the geophysics of this area we had done a few years ago it looked like there was a gap in this feature with a spur of stone across the opening. So on the last day we decided to take out another square at the edge of the trench to see if we could find it. As usual at Saveock you start looking for something and find something completely different! As we took off the top soil we started to find animal bones and when we looked at where they were from there was a clear cut into the top of the red subsoil. Rectangular and north south aligned. We excavated it carefully and found some teeth and a skull and lots of bones that did not seem to be an intact skeleton. The skull indicated it is either a young sheep or goat skull. But the bones look randomly placed we are going to open up this area more next week. I think it highly unlikely that it is an animal burial like we have on the main site at Saveock it is more likely just a buried farm animal. But the bones do look odd.

Jacqui

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week beginning 10th August

We have been excavating an area called Wall this week. We started this particular trench in 2006. The trench is under the remains of a medieval wall between the area we call Hovel with all the stones and Apple excavated in 2004. In Apple/3 we found last season the remains of a Bronze Age roundhouse that had had most of its stone robbed in antiquity. When we went under the remains of the mediaeval wall we found a shillet layer just like we excavated over the faced granite stones in the Hovel. When we took the shillet off we found the same features as in the hovel so it appeared that under the wall was the most southerly extremity of the ruined building that was under the hovel.  By mid week we had taken off all the topsoil on the Apple side of the wall and discovered a deep layer of red subsoil. As we were cleaning up the red subsoil in order to fill in the context sheet and plan  we discovered that deep under the tree it was not the same red subsoil as at the front of the trench. The dappled shade of the apple tree above the trench made it very difficult to see the colour properly. At first I thought if might have been mixed by worms or moles with the topsoil but on closer inspection there was a clear cut. So we took of the soil and found some flat stones. As usual at Saveock it is not a clear picture. We appear to have a split level spread of faced granite stones then a cut into it and on the Apple side random stones. These stones appear to be split by a layer of shillet that looks like it has been laid there as a pathway. Next week we will have more students and will finish this trench as see if it has any features that are contemporary with the roundhouse next to it.

 

 

 Jacqui

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week beginning 3rd August

It has been so very wet we are all getting a bit fed up with pot and stone washing! The photographer  from Paris and the reporter for the American Institute came on Sunday and it was raining in the morning when they arrived. So we thought it would be best to photograph the finds he needed to do indoors as the forecast said it was going to get better in the afternoon. It dried up a bit by late morning but we were in the middle of arranging the finds for the pictures so we carried on doing that. I wish we hadn’t though because when it was time for me to show him the pits it absolutely poured down for the rest of the afternoon. He only had that afternoon to do it so we just had to get totally drenched to get his pictures. The pits which were previously nicely cleaned were all full of water and had to be sponged out while the photographer stood taking pictures under an umbrella. That was not too bad as it was warm and you can only get totally wet once! The worst bit was when he wanted me to point to the contents of the pit with a trowel whilst looking up into the camera and smiling. Not usually a problem but he had very long exposures on his camera because it was so dark and I had to hold the pose while huge drops of rain went straight into my eyes! Incredibly when we saw the pictures later they looked fine. We have had so many photographers and TV people on the site this year and it has always been nice weather so I suppose we have been very lucky until then. The Times article is still not in print so maybe they decided they had covered the story enough or maybe it will be in this weekends issue we will just have to wait and see.

  We now have a bone specialist from Canada Kate Peach that is helping us to identify the bones and teeth from the pits and she thinks that in pit 43 the pig fur pit I talked about on the 15th June there is a dog tooth. The other teeth from that pit appear to be piglet teeth. So now we have a dog pit with a pig jaw bone between its legs and a pig fur pit with a dog tooth in it. Obviously there must have been some significant link between dogs and pigs for the people making the pits. One thinks of Animal Farm and how it is said that pigs and dogs are as intelligent as each other. Kate also identified an odd tooth we found in pit 28 which had been emptied in antiquity as a cat tooth. So now we have two possible cat pit offerings.

Last week I re-excavated pit 17 which had not been dug deep enough like pit 14 that I told you about in the 29th June dig diary. This pit had brown soft fur in it and brown and white feathers and a bird claw.

 Jacqui

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week beginning 27th July

Well you are probably wondering what our big news was that brought a Times reporter to the site last week. We finally received the dates for three of the pits from Miami and one of them is really startling!  The Swan feather pit with the Magpies and the eggs in, was dated the same as the other swan feather pit we have a date for around 1640’s to 1680’s.  This has made me wonder about the newspaper scraps that we found, we originally thought these were from that pit. During that period the ‘s’ were very often an ‘f’ apart from capital letters that is. So I took a look at the remains of the bag of wet sieving that the newspaper was found in and found the silts that we have found only in the votive pool. So I think the wet sieving bag must have been mixed up with the wet sieved contents from the votive pool in area B/1 which were being sifted through on the same day.

The next pit we got a date for was the cat pit and that was over a hundred years later 1740’s to 1780’s which we were really pleased with because it meant that this particular belief system had been going on for at least four generations. Then we looked at the date for the dog pit and were completely taken aback! The dog had been alive since the 1950’s!!! It showed what they call ‘Bomb Carbon’ which is as a result of the thermo-nuclear bomb testing in the 1950’s. So we have over 350 years of this practice of depositing various bits of birds and animals in either north south or east west aligned pits in our valley.

So I immediately phoned the Times reporter that had written the article about the pits in March with the news, which is why he came down with an agency photographer to look at the pits for himself. He was not however convinced about the dog pit thinking it was just a pet dog that had been buried there. But when I pointed out that the pit was lined with fur skin side out and the bottom jaw bone of a baked pig was placed between the dogs legs he did not really have an answer for that.

  He told me that the article would probably be in the paper the following Saturday the 26th July and when it wasn’t in the paper I phoned him up to ask when it was going to be in it. He said it would probably be in this week’s paper the 2nd August instead and told me he was still not convinced about the dog pit. He had been in contact with an archaeologist that specializes in animal bones and he had said it was likely a pet dog burial and that the pig bone was probably the animal’s favourite bone. The bone however showed no signs of being chewed at all, far from it, it had its fur still on it (we know the bone was baked as it was white and floated when the pit was filled with water, but as the hair was still on the jaw so must have been baked very slowly to keep the hair intact).

    This expert also said that as the site was over peat the cat pit was probably a cat that had been buried and the bones had dissolved! I should imagine that if that had happened and  if the fur had also not dissolved it would remain over where the bones were originally. As you know the pit was rectangular and lined skin side out with the fur, the teeth and claws were sprinkled on top of the fur and the quartz and the eggs (all 22 with baby chicks in them) laid above the quartz. I asked the reporter what were the eggs doing there and he told me about how the next  village used to hatch chicks and send them on the train up country. He then suggested that perhaps some unhatched chicks were for some reason put in the pit the pet cat was buried in!

  I love it when people question the pits because only through valid discussion do we move our knowledge of such things forward. But honestly these wild suggestions are really silly!

However, there has since the reported came been a new development on the Witch front. A student of mine from Exeter University John Gates has spent the last five weeks living in a tent just outside the village of Blackwater. When he told the people in the local pub The Red Lion about our pits they all seemed to know that there had been witches living in the area of the pits. They said there was a man that was thought to be a witch and that he lived in a cottage the other side of the railway line next to our land. He died in 1945 though so he could not have put the dog pit in as it is clearly dated since the atom bomb testing. He left his cottage to his two nieces and the general consensus in the pub was that they were certainly Witches. There used to be a footbridge over the railway line when the sisters lived there which gave them easy access to our land, which was demolished in the 1960’s. That is the reason I knew nothing about these sisters as there is no way across the railway track to their cottage now and in the country if you live on a farm and do not share a track with people you rarely get to meet them. The sister’s nephew inherited the cottage around 1985 and he lives there today. I told the reporter what I had found out but I really have no idea what he is going to print about it all anymore. We will just have to wait and see. This week the  reporter from De Spiegel is doing an article about it on the magazines website and we have a photographer and reporter form the American Institute magazine coming on Sunday to look at the site.

 So watch this space…….

 Jacqui

 P.S. It has been really wet this week so we have done a lot of post excavation work indoors. Caught up on nearly all the back log of pot washing too!

 

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week beginning 20th July

This week we started taking back the eastern side of the trench where the feather pits were excavated. On this eastern baulk in 2004 we excavated half a pit which appeared to have been emptied with just a few  traces of fur in it to show its previous contents. The reason we decided to excavate this side of the trench was to see if we could find another pit, prior to a Times Newspaper reporters visit to the site on Tuesday. The reason for his visit I am afraid you are going to have to wait until next week to find out as I promised him an exclusive on the astonishing news as a result of our radio carbon dates coming back from Miami.

 We found the clay platform was not even at all showing possibly the end of the clay platform. No more than 5 metres from this edge are the 2 metre deep silts of what was the shallow lake that was there in the Mesolithic.  I spent most of Sunday cleaning the moss growth off the clay platform and emptying silt build up in previously excavated pits. On Monday I started excavating the rest of the pit on the eastern baulk. It was an east west aligned pit and quite long by comparison to the other pits. As usual the pit surprised me! The half that was previously under the baulk was lined with swan’s feathers and sprinkled with bird claws. There was a disk of iron placed at an angle between the excavated part with the fur and the new part with the swan’s feathers in a way dividing the two parts of the pit. So it appears to be a feather and fur pit. Whether this was a transitional pit between the fur pits and the feather pits or a specific fur and feather pit for some particular reason is impossible to tell.

 The Times reporter and photographer came on Tuesday as arranged and the article should be in the Times on Saturday hopefully. If you miss getting a paper it will be on the Times online website and I will tell you when it is on the website.

 This week some of our students that were particularly interested in Experimental Archaeology offered to repair the thatch to the last roundhouse I have on my land. This particular house is interesting as it has an upstairs floor in it. It was based on a roundhouse excavated in the 1990’s at a site near Newquay called  Trethellen. This roundhouse was fully excavated and the wattle and daub structure had a third of its wattle walls missing. As the wattle walls are what you rest the rafters on for the roof this was a challenging house to build. I worked out that the only way to build this house was to put an upstairs floor in it to tie in the back rafters in order to support the front of the house. This house was almost finished 4 years ago needing just another 4 layers of thatch on top when I suddenly received a lot of work in eastern Europe and had to leave the house to the elements. It lasted surprisingly well but finally the string that was exposed started rotting and the last layers of thatch that were tied started to slip. It has been slipping for over a year and was in serious danger of falling off completely. So John, Holly and Jo and Joanna took on the job of taking off the slipping thatch and re-tying it. When they had finished  they had the opportunity to have their dinner in the roundhouse cooking over the central fire and they slept in it that night on a pile of sheepskins. Their comments the next morning was that they thought it would be very easy to just slot into a prehistoric life living in a roundhouse with nothing to worry about but making sure they had enough to eat and they were warm and comfortable.

 

Jacqui

2008 Dig Diary

Week beginning 13th July

We started the week working on the stones of the hovel as that is a good place to learn how to use a trowel properly. It was a lovely hot day so we also got on with some wet sieving of the pit contents so John and Miranda and Holly and Joe did that for most of the morning. When we get another wet day we can sift through the wet sieved material as we did the other week. On Monday we took another slice of the trench off on the area near the feather pits and came up with another section of the Mesolithic clay platform. It was not as smooth as the areas we have excavated before so we have to be more careful when excavating and only use the small leaf trowels.

The weather became very misty and drizzly the next day so we returned to the Hovel area because it is so much more sheltered there. We discovered (yes you guessed it!) more stones but some really nice big ones this time. Bowen one of our students found lots of notched stones and my cat Indie found him a comfortable cushion while he worked.  We do not know what these notches were made for but they are undeniable man made.

The weather was better on Wednesday so we carried on digging in the hovel and I taught the new students how to do some planning.

We went back to the Mesolithic platform on Thursday and continued excavating the clay platform. It was still very bumpy in places and it appeared in others that the floor had eroded and had been patched up with more clay. When we fully excavate this area we will be able to see if this was the case because the floors at the edge of the walls would be smoother than the floor in the middle.

I continued to clean out the silt build up and found another pit previously thought to be empty pit 23 had a feather lining and the typical pile of gravel on the side of it.

Jacqui

2008 Dig Diary

Week beginning 6th July

 The weather was really terrible this week so we spent a lot of time indoors pot washing, sorting previously washed pots and writing the contexts on the terracotta finds. We also had an opportunity to catch up on our stone washing! We do find clearly worked stone tools on site but to the untrained eye when excavating they just look like stones. So we tell our student to put anything remotely interesting in the trays. Hence when it comes to pot washing people understandably prefer to wash interesting pots rather than what looks like and very often turns out to be quartz gravel. But it needs to be done because only when you wash the dirt off the stones can you tell if they have been used as a tool or not.

    It was so wet this week that we really caught up on a backlog of pot washing so I went into some old archive boxes in the store and found a few bags of the dried wet sieved contents of the votive pool on site and pit 9 (the one with the eggs and magpie bodies in them). We did the votive pool first and it is painstaking work flicking just a few grains at a time to see if there is anything interesting in it. I was amazed when Holly found another pin and two finger nail pairings. We only have 6 pins from the pool to date and two finger nail pairings so that was a great find. John and Jo then found a cherry stone and some hazel nut shells too. So a rewarding day!

     In between the showers on the next day we worked on the stones in the Hovel, but then the rain set in and we decided to retreat indoors again. We still had some more wet sieved bags to sort through so the students got stuck in with hot cups of tea and hot chocolate at their sides. John then found what appeared to be a few scraps of newspaper of some sort in the contents of pit 9! They were very small fragments of paper and after soaking them overnight we started the careful work of prizing them apart to see if we could make out any words from the text. I got the digital microscope out and we spent a really enjoyable day finding odd words and looking at them on my laptop. You really had to be there to feel the excitement when we found the word ‘gangs’ or  ‘4ft’ or ‘Fox’, ‘fate’ and so on! Anyone looking in on us would have thought we had gone mad, but it really was exciting. There were parts of drawings of a ladies cuff off a dress and the tantalizing date 19.10. Which helps us to know that it might have been a paper from around the 19th October. We think it might have been a bit of a penny dreadful with adverts in it. We are getting a book on typesets of early printers next week so that might help us with a date. However by the end of July we should have a AMS date for this pit anyway. But if the newspaper was early Victorian  then we have over 200 years between two of our pits which would be really exciting if that was the case.

Jacqui

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week beginning 29th June

 We started the week clearing some vegetation from the area above the Mesolithic platform so we can extend the trench more easily. We took another slice of the baulk off  and found some nice pieces of flint when we reached the floor. Clint who has been with us for four weeks finally found two pieces of flint himself on his last day which he was delighted with. 

 While the students were in that area, I spent my time clearing off the creeping mosses that would cover the clay platform every year if I did not keep it in check. I decided to clear the build up of sediment that had formed over the last few winters from some of the pits. When I did this in pit 14 (which we believed had been emptied in antiquity ) I found that Marie who excavated the original feature had not gone down deep enough and I found another intact feather pit! It was different from other pits as it had a bowl shaped depression in it lined with iron stained white feathers and the feather lid to the pit was still hanging off the side of the pit. On the other side of the pit was the impression of a small egg but there was no egg membrane. Next to this  on the south east side of the pit was a clearly placed piece of white quartz shaped like a leaf pointing north west. The pit itself was east / west aligned. Lizzie and Emma wet sieved the contents of the pit and found a decomposed egg membrane so there had been an egg sitting in the depression. It is odd as the other two pits with eggs in them 9 and 36 have lots of eggs in them. Also in the wet sieved slops from the pit was a small pile of soft brown fur maybe that had been the contents of the feather lined bowl in the pit? Who knows what was going on in the minds of the people making the pits, one thing for sure with 43 pits to date it was a well established belief system for someone.

 Next week while we are digging in that area I am going to take another look at the rest of the pits to see if they have been excavated fully or not.

Jacqui

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week starting 22nd June

  We began the week by going back to Oak to remove the topsoil from the new trenches we had started at Easter. We excavated to a  red subsoil with flecks of charcoal in it and clusters of stones.  After planning these features we are going to take the subsoil off and see if it is in fact natural or re-deposited natural. We have aerial photography and geophysics in the field behind this trench that indicates a roundhouse settlement. This field is extremely flat for this landscape, so it is possible an area was levelled to accommodate this settlement. If this is the case the trench could well have re deposited subsoil in  that might have preserved the archaeology beneath it. We will have to wait till next week to see if this is the case.

 Midweek Clint and Bart taught the rest of the group how to do a section drawing.

 We spent most of the rest of the week widening the trench on the Mesolithic platform. Another possible dwelling was revealed with a ditch on the side of it which could have been a drip gully. Unfortunately we could not extend this trench further without moving a huge pile of spoil from our original 2001 excavation. Mathew Westaby was team leader for this activity and really motivated the group with his witty banter. So that they appeared to have enjoyed spending a day with  mattocks and shovels moving away a few tons of topsoil. But I bet they slept well that night though!

 

Jacqui

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week starting 15th June

 

Well the weather was still good so we took another slice of the trench near the feather pits and revealed yet more of the Mesolithic clay platform. The next day it was so hot two students Clint from the USA and Bart from Nottingham university wet sieved the contents of pit 43 that I excavated last week. The weather took a turn for the worst so we went indoors the next day to do some post excavation work. The first thing they all did was to flick through the dried wet sieved pit contents and found some tiny bones as yet unidentified. Here is a picture of the golden fur and the organic layer between it where we found the tooth. Also there is a picture of the claws from the dog/ wolf pit and one of the cat claws from pit 36 so you can see how big they are.

   The rain really set in so the students sorted some previously washed finds from other trenches, then labelled all the terracotta pieces and did some pot washing themselves.  We never quite catch up with the pot washing during the season, so it is left to the local team sometimes to come in out of season to do it.

    We also spent a day this week in the Hovel taking the shillet off the stones which is something that is very popular with the students surprisingly enough. It is just that there appears to be nothing there then these wonderfully faced granite stones appear and as you follow them they always reveal more. This week they found the biggest stone we have excavated to date.

 

Jacqui

 

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week starting 8th June

  Well it was a beautiful day on Sunday not a cloud in the sky. Which meant I had to keep checking that the students drank enough water and put sun block on!

  We went back to the area we call Oak on that day where most of the Mesolithic flint has been found in the past. This area is on a reasonably flat bank overlooking what would have been a shallow lake in the Mesolithic and ideal place to situate a  hunting camp. We opened up two new trenches there at Easter but when the snow came with the north wind it was just to exposed to dig. All the soil in this area has to be sieved as it is very easy to miss flint flakes, but we only found  one piece of flint all day. We are not down deep enough to be at any habitation layer yet so it is not surprising really.

   We moved over on Monday to the area where the feather pits are found because when I have students that are just coming to us for one week I like to get them to dig in all the areas of the site. We found another pit and I excavated it on Tuesday. We had a reporter and photographer from a Magazine like National Geographic in Germany with us for two days to do a feature on Saveock in the travel edition of their journal. The majority of the pits had been emptied in antiquity and you just can’t tell if it has its full contents until you dig it. So it was really surprising to find it was yet another type of pit when I excavated it. This one was lined with a golden coloured hair. The pit seemed to have been made up of layers of some organic matter ( possibly leaves) with the fur and on the organic matter we have found 3 teeth. They are molars but we are not sure from what animal as yet. We are going to wet sieve the rest of the slops from the pit this week so we might find something else in that. 

   As the weather was so hot we did our annual pool cleaning. We need a lot of helpers to empty the pool as the drain that comes out of it is just for overflow water. It is now crystal clear again.

   We are going to take some more off the area where the pits are and the Mesolithic floors this week if it stays dry so I will let you know what we find next weekend.

Jacqui

 

2008 Dig Diary

Week starting 1st June

Well the weather is certainly an improvement to the Easter snow. We spent the first part of the week continuing to dig a trench we started at the end of 2006 under a medieval hedge. This area is between the stones under the hovel (picture in last dig diary) and an area we call apple. We wanted to find out if the stone feature in hovel continued under the old hedge and found that it did.  It appeared that there was some remains of a robbed out stone floor on the apple side of the trench which we are going to investigate more this coming Sunday. Here is a picture of our diggers enjoying the shade of the apple tree as the sun was very fierce that day and here also is a picture of Cathy from St. Mary’s in Canada learning how to plan.

      We also cleared another area down where the feather pits are on the main site. Since my last dig diary I excavated a pit that was only partly excavated last season due to the wet weather. Yet again Saveock has shocked us with its macabre pits. If the cat pit was not unusual enough we now have a dog or wolf pit! The pit was north south aligned and more than 90 cm long which is much longer than the other pits found to date. This pit however was also lined with black fur with the skin side down, but on top of it was the complete body of either a dog or wolf. We thought it might be wolf due to the ridge on the top of the skull, but we have sent pictures to the expert at the local zoo and are waiting for his reply. It had its paws tucked under its chin and its body was curled round and placed on top of the fur lining. Many of us have buried our faithful pets in our back gardens, but I doubt we would even contemplate skinning it and placing its carcass on top of its own fur. We now have 45 pits and I cannot image what we will find in the next one! Here are some picture of it and the top of the skull. We have some funding for a few radio carbon dates now so we are going to send off to Florida  some of the fur of this animal, the cat fur and some of the feathers in the egg and magpie pit. When the dates come back we will get an idea how long a time span there was between these ritual deposits. I say ritual deposits quite safely now as I cannot think of any practical reason for the last two animal pits. At the end of the week we found the top of another pit near the cat pit. I will excavate that next week and let you know what we find.

 

Jacqui

6th April 2008

After all the excitement of the cat pit last week we were brought down to earth by the terribly cold weather. The students valiantly kept digging while it snowed, but eventually we had to abandon the area where the feather and now cat pit is, because the clay floors became too soft to walk on. So while the hail and snow did its worst outside we spent a warm and cosy day drinking hot chocolate and processing finds from last season in the workroom. The forecast for the rest of the week was terrible, but then Cornwall rarely does what the TV weather programme says it is going to do.

So we have had a glorious three days digging in a south facing area we call Hovel. We call it that because in the 19th century it appears to have been a semi detached one up one down mill workers cottages. The strange thing about Hovel is what we found underneath the primitive lime ash floor of the old building. We started digging this area in 2002 when we found under the floor a shale or decomposed slate layer, which you might think is not out of the ordinary in Cornish geology. But we found that the shale layer had been purposely put there to cover a huge pile of large faced granite stones. Really good stones, far too good to make into a house foundation as they would be enough to build a rather large house themselves. Over the years we must have taken over 30 tons of this shale layer off the granite stones and apart from one piece of flint and numerous strange notched granite and quartz stones nothing else! So the tentative conclusion is that the structure is early prehistoric of unknown origin.

     So we have been happily taking off this layer of shale off the stones and extending the trench to see how extensive it is. Well the trench is now quite big (see picture above) and we don’t appear to have got to the edge of it yet.

 The wonderful thing about our dig is we don’t need to worry about the time or years it might take us to dig as the archaeology is not going anywhere and neither are we. We are not digging now till the first of June at the end of that week I will let you know what we have found.

Image of pit with small stones Image of claws Image of fur Image of pit with small chicks and fur Image of remains of eggs

 30th March 2008

Well we have just finished the first week of our dig season and as usual Pit 36 Egg PitSaveock has not disappointed us! The main part of the week we were removing the topsoil from the trenches in an area we call Oak (because it is surrounded by Oak trees).

In this field on previous occasions when field walking, we have found lots of Mesolithic flint, so this season we are going to investigate it in more detail to see if we can find any flint working floors. The middle of the week was taken up by teaching the students planning and section drawing. On the last day I thought we would dig in the area we found the feather pits, as two of the students were only with us for a week, so I thought that might be more interesting for them. As usual it is the last day for some that the most interesting finds are discovered as it is with Time Team. We found two pits in the clay platform one small and one quite big both were north/south aligned. I excavated the small one and found it to have been emptied apart from the base of it which had a large spread of the tiny beach stones we have found on the other pits. This was unusual because we only unusually find a small pile of them in each pit.

   The other pit Stella, one of our regular team excavated and as she took the top off  she called me over to say she had found an egg with a baby chick in it.

       I don’t know why but as we have only found one pit in the 35 pits we have excavated with eggs in it I thought it was going to be the only one like that.

So I was really surprised to find a rectangular pit with eggs in it too, as the other pit that had eggs in was round. But that was not the most surprising thing we found. A spring  started filling the pit as Stella excavated it so we saved all the muddy slops so we could wet sieve it. You have to always do that when it is very muddy as it is very easy to miss something otherwise.

Then we found what we thought were black bird feathers, but as it was so wet is was difficult to identify them at first. But it was the end of the day so we covered the pit up for the weekend. Today I wet sieved the slops and found claws and teeth, but not bird claws and teeth, cat claws and teeth! My own cat was happy to oblige with identification of the claw and the back bottom teeth so there was no doubt about it. I then went back to the pit and cleaned it up and found that it was not black feathers that covered half of it, it was black fur! Now you are probably thinking well people do bury their cats in their gardens, but they don’t bury them with eggs with baby chick in them in a north south aligned rectangular pit.

We are going into this area next week weather permitting so I can’t imagine what we will find if there are more pits there, but I will let you know.

Jacqui

Image of pit with small stones Image of claws Image of fur Image of pit with small chicks and fur Image of remains of eggs