This really really is the last day. The machine is coming to backfill and the marquees are gone. Even the earwigs have run away. The only thing which is still obstinately present is the skeleton in the north ditch, which is engaged in a battle of willpower with Heather. The skeleton (now christened George after his plastic namesake which we use in the kids’ excavation) seems to have been rolled or placed into the north ditch after it has begun silting up. There is no obvious sign of a grave cut although all the extremities (fingers, toes, etc) seem to be present suggesting that the body wasn’t left open to scavengers and so was presumably covered. The chances of us hitting the one body in a massive ditch system seem remote so the ditches may well have more dead bodies in them. More weird dead people from Caistor. If only we could find some normal burials then we could work out just how odd our other burials were!
As the machine backfills the rest of the trench, the body is finally lifted and that’s it for Caistor (apart from a load more finds processing and a couple of years of post-excavation work).
After 4 years we have really changed our understanding of Caistor. It’s changed from being a simple Roman entity, put in place after the Boudican rebellion, to something much more complex. Caistor followed its own path, “doing different” as they say in Norfolk, and was as much a town of the Iceni as it was a Roman town. We’ve shown how it developed gradually (rather than the street grid all being laid our at once) and showed how it reached its zenith in the late Roman period, when it was the focus of intensive activity in the 4th century and when a new forum was laid out on the levelled ruins of the first forum which had been abandoned 100 years previously. We’ve also conclusively located Anglo-Saxon occupation adjacent to the town, which really justifies the Norfolk Archaeological Trust’s purchase of Dunstan Field (focus of Anglo-Saxon activity). Finally, we’ve called into question the navigability of the River Tas, previously a cornerstone in all discussion of the Roman town.
It just remains to thank again our sponsors who have shown such faith in the project, particularly the British Academy who funded much of the 2010-2012 excavations, May Gurney who supported the excavations throughout, South Norfolk Council, the South Norfolk Alliance, the Foyle Foundation and the John Jarrold Trust who sustained the volunteer programme, the University of Nottingham, the Roman Research Trust, the Roman Society and the University of East Anglia who have supported different aspects of the research programme, Norfolk County Council’s Historic Environment Service, Norfolk Museums Service and English Heritage who provided much in-house support and advice for the project, and BAM Nuttall and Anglian Home Improvements who respectively provided a bridge and a van for the 2012 season. Finally the project would not have been possible without the consent and encouragement of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust who have ensured that Caistor will be preserved for future generations.
The biggest debt, however, is to all those who have participated in the project, as diggers, pot washers, trench guides, tent helpers, supervisors, and finds specialists. Their efforts and enthusiasm made the project what it was and its success is due to them. They will not escape, however, as the landscape aspect of the Caistor project is about to get bigger and better. To paraphrase the words of the legendary Arnie, “We’ll be back”. Keep an eye on http://www.caistorromanproject.org for further details.