Day 18

7 Sep

Tuesday has been declared a day off for both trenches. Neil is in, however, catching up on his recording (admittedly at a distance of over 100m from the trench), while Giles takes advantage of the absence of his team to carve some post-holes in the sunken-featured building. He finds a lovely big one which is the “classic” central post-hole at one end of the building. This really is the smoking gun as far as sunken-featured buildings go, meaning the SFB goes from “Almost Definite” status to “Absolutely Confirmed”. This is truly a top result and means that for the first time, Anglo Saxon occupation areas have been confirmed at the Roman town.

Ian and Wendy draw the sections in the lovely and absolutely confirmed sunken-featured building. Famous post-hole not shown.

Meanwhile, oblivious to all this excitement, the Dear Leader and Heather have decided to have a happy hack in the north ditch to try and bottom it out. All is going well. The sun is shining, the cricket is on, soil is being shifted and a rich variety of trains are being spotted. Then disaster strikes. Dishy Dickie, who is manfully manning his sieve, announces the discovery of a human toe bone. “Pah”, say Heather and the Dear Leader, not pausing to consider how a single toe might end up in a large ditch. Some more toes, however, this time attached to a leg, bring their cheerful day to an abrupt halt and they are forced to face the fact that an articulated human skeleton lies between them and the bottom of the ditch. Luckily we have a license in place to deal with human remains, due to the discovery of the headless body (copyright all newspapers) in week 1, but it will cause unnecessary delay, not to mention a bit of head scratching as to how a body ended up being thrown into the north ditch.

Richard: guilty of discovery of unwanted toe bone.


Day 17

7 Sep

Just another manic Monday, as the Bangles so succinctly put it. The ditches team, encouraged by Heather, have taken to shouting “train” every time said means of transport goes past the site. We are on the main line from Norwich to London so this happens quite a lot (every 20 minutes or so at peak times). Visitors are bemused by this behaviour but the trench guides just tell them we don’t get out very much. The Anglo Saxon team, who are almost right next to the railway line, remain steadfastly unamused by this childish behaviour and go stoically about their business ignoring the continual excited cries of “train” from across the river. They are perhaps not yet over the cake injustice of week one.

Heather and Lydia develop a train typology of which the salient features can be viewed below.

“train”! The SFB team is not keen on such frivolity, however.

“Little train” (in snow)

Baby train

Day 16

29 Aug

Sunday is marked by a huge increase in the amount of Saxon pot coming from the now Almost Definite sunken-featured building in Giles’ World of the Anglo Saxons. We now have two sherds instead of one, which represents a statistically significant increase of 100% in our Anglo Saxon pottery sherds.

Neil recovers from Saturday’s penalty travesty

Meanwhile the ditches are going down and down and the Dear Leader exhorts his team to greater effort, even resorting to digging himself. John P accurately sums this up as “leading from the front in a futile gesture” and indeed the DL soon gets bored and wanders off to point at something and scratch his chin reflectively. Everyone is cheered up by Heather J. finding a monumental piece of our gladiator Samian bowl. She takes a picture and sends it smugly to Dave G as it is bigger than his lion bit the previous week.

The Dear Leader gets down with the workers

It’s the Bank Holiday weekend but amazingly it hardly rains at all. The visitors come out in their droves. This is much needed as we still have quite a lot of merchandise left, including the tasteful Guantanamo Orange T-shirts, which thus far have not proved a great seller despite Chrissy’s modelling efforts. Peer is told that he must buy one as he is Dutch and therefore genetically disposed to like orange. The Dear Leader, meanwhile, tells his students that anyone using gladiator transfers in their essays next term will get extra marks but they remain similarly unmoved.

Day 16

29 Aug

It’s Saturday which is the day that Gwladys the Samian Lady comes to admire our splendid collection of red shiny pottery. This includes some sections of a very bloodthirsty Dragendorff 37 (big fruit bowl type dish) which has all sorts of lion devouring gladiator stuff going on. We also have a lion-spout mortarium (mixing bowl) in which the potters have made the lion resemble Micky Mouse by using their thumbs to create ridiculous looking ears.

Mickey Mouse mortarium


A bit of beast munching gladiator action

The North Ditch is getting ever deeper and even more excitingly seems to be later than the others. The south and middle ditches have a road running over them but the north ditch seems to cut the road. This is thrilling stuff and just the sort of thing that archaeologists get very excited about. It’s now a sequence with a story, instead of just being three great big ditches.

Neil has the day off to watch Norwich City vs QPR. His devotion to the Canaries is such that it amounts to religious belief and thus we must make due adjustment to working practices. Sadly, however, it is a 1-1 draw after City were ROBBED by Bobby Zamora being inside the box while a penalty was taken. Boo, hiss etc.

Day 14

29 Aug

Giles’ World of the Anglo Saxons is a reality. We have Anglo Saxon pottery from the possible sunken featured building, which can now be upgraded from possible to probable. Soon even Kathryn of the Small Finds Tent may believe it, although as a lawyer she thinks that archaeologists make most things up, particularly post-holes. Early Anglo Saxon pottery is unmistakably rubbish. It is hand-made rather than wheel-turned and tends to be poorly fired and much softer than Roman pottery which will generally survive a nuclear attack. In the olden days before the Anglo-Saxons were reinvented as Germanic lifestyle advisers (© Heinrich Harke) this was seen as an indication that they were beastly Teutonic barbarians, with their inability to turn out a nice pot a sign of wider inadequacies. Now, however, it merely shows that they were expressing their diverse identities through different media, which apparently included making pottery that fizzes like Alka Seltzer if you drop it in water.

Expanding the ditches trench to create a sweeping vista

Elsewhere the extension trenches to Giles’ empire on the other side of the river are being staffed exclusively by people called Tony. They are finding the enclosure ditches around the probable Anglo-Saxon building plus a lot of gravel.

In the World of the Big Ditches, the trenches into the ditches are now being expanded to sample the material on the edges of the ditches and also to enable us to reach the bottom in an Elf and Safety compliant fashion. They are also being expanded because the Dear Leader wants a glorious sweeping Mortimer Wheeler-style section through all the ditches and doesn’t think the current trench width looks impressive enough.

Friday is also quiz and barbecue night. Heather and Giles come to join the campers with Giles armed with a luminous frisby. The quiz is riven with dispute over the correct name of the Chinese currency, but Ian is quizmaster and his decision is final.

Day 13

29 Aug

Thursday is truly a day of innovation as we are visited by Elliot from Hexcam and his amazing Octocopter. The Octocopter, as the name suggests, is a small helicopter with 8 rotors. This makes it buzz around in the manner of a little airborne spider, looking like something that the Americans would use to spy on the Taleban. The 8 rotors, however, make it an amazingly stable platform for low level aerial photography, with the capability for video and some interesting 3D effects. As well as being very effective, it is a top quality boys’ toy and arouses great interest from all in the vicinity. The team are given strict instructions not to look up as there is nothing worse than an aerial photograph of a site with a load of people staring gormlessly up at the aeroplane.

Elliot and the Octocopter

Elliot and his amazing Octocopter

The Octocopter has arrived at a fortuitous moment as the trenches are looking quite pretty (at least from the point of view of someone who doesn’t get out much) and the streets of the Roman town are showing up very nicely as parch marks in the ground. The Octocopter also proves to be very useful for chasing sheep which interestingly follow the lines of the streets as they run in panic across the landscape.

Elliot’s work at Caistor can be seen below and also at plus some amazing 3D stuff at He is available to hire for all your aerial photography needs and comes with the Caistor seal of approval, although if he crashes through your conservatory roof it’s not our fault.

The view from above

Days 11 & 12

24 Aug

Tuesday and Wednesday is when successive trenches have their days off so it all gets a bit quieter than normal. The Dear Leader and Dr Dave go to lay out the new trenches using a sort of “here be dragons” plan that involves a lot a tape measures and finding of grid pegs. Previously the grid pegs had proved hard to locate and in his absence Keith’s colleagues in trench 11 (aka the trench of the sunken-featured building) had suggested that he had removed the pegs from the ground because they were red and shiny and he liked red and shiny things. Keith had thus been unfairly maligned, because the Dear Leader and Dr Dave couldn’t find the grid pegs, so their rediscovery meant his honour was restored.

One the trenches were in position, the Dear Leader went for his once a year photo opportunity with a mattock and removed some topsoil aided by Brian, Alex and Ian. Having exhausted himself by mid afternoon he was relieved to see Andrew Selkirk from Current World Archaeology appear over the horizon so he could return to his traditional activity of wandering around pointing at stuff and scratching his chin.

The ditches trenches are being expanded to allow us to reach the bottom and Lydia scores find of the day on Wednesday with an ace bronze pin. She is congratulated on her find by Chrissy’s mother, who at 98 is probably the oldest visitor we have had on the site. She gave Chrissy a good telling off for spending all her time with a bunch of reprobates and gave the Dear Leader a good telling off for keeping Chrissy away from house and home.

The cake count is on the up and Brian provides a cracker of a cake complete with edible trench. Sword sales are not looking good however and the Dear Leader may be forced to make the students buy them as compulsory material for their course.

Chrissy’s Mum (Frances) visits the trenches

Brian raises the bar for cakes in 2012