Sunday, 31 July 2016

Having a dig...

Acting on orders received in 2007, and again in 2008, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16, I have used the first two days of my holiday to start to remove the site of our bonfire, and prepare it for grassing over. 

As Dominique has just got back from a week in Cambridge, on an Archaeology summer school, I was paying particular attention to what I found as I dug out the fire pit.

It was my first pit (hereafter Pit 1), and I have to say, I was astonished at the richness it yielded.  The most exciting find, to my mind, is this amazing selection of fossilised calamari, thus demonstrating that the people of Cumbria were trading with Venice far earlier than was heretofore thought. I pictured them with a garden fork for scale, as I do not own a geological hammer. (Mrs T, incidentally, facetiously remarked that she thought they were curtain rings. Charlie's theory, that they were gold bangles from the arm of the Young Woman [Tutankhamun's mother] was not supported by the fact that they are not gold. So the calamari hypothesis remains).

But that was by no means my only find in Pit 1. Perhaps it is not surprising, given that we are relatively near Hadrian's Wall, and very near the old Roman Road, High Street, that we should have found these carefully shaped bricks, clearly designed for crenelations, or battlements, along the Wall. What is more surprising is finding so many together, and in such good condition.

Pit 1 also yielded this intriguing object; my conjecture is that it is a Roman toy catapult. It was found by the battlements, and is remarkably like a modern catapult, but is clearly of great antiquity. I will be sending this to the experts at Vindolanda for further analysis.

And then there was this, which I can only take to be an early barber's shaving blade. I imagine it had an ivory handle, or decorative knob on the end, as the handle end is a hollow tube. Clearly it is very old, as more sophisticated tooling has allowed much less coarse blades to be manufactured for such intimate and intricate work.

Another extraordinary find was this scimitar. I can only assume that this was brought home as a souvenir from the crusades by a previous occupant of the house; and was, perhaps, banished to the flames of a fire following some domestic dispute (?). It has survived well, and I am carefully cleaning the rust, in the hope of finding some inscription on the blade.

I had decided to keep the location of Pit 1 secret, and had indeed installed a guard dog, for obvious reasons. Pit 1 having yielded such treasures, it might have proved tempting to the less scrupulous of my archaeological followers.

However, following further discussions with the landowner ("Don't you leave that like a big mess in the garden; I want it turfed over, not left half-finished like so many of your projects...") Pit 1 has now been filled and is not available for further excavation. I will have to ensure that Mrs T does not disappear in the near future, as I understand the police take a dim view of freshly dug pits in such circumstances. 


Ttony said...

There is a Mr Pickwick who leads a club which travels around the country and has had experience of archaeological situations such as this. A Mr Dickens wrote about it, IIRC.

umblepie said...

Like it! In our garden we have unearthed significant quantities of buried fishing net, apparently indestructible! Could be of Viking origin, but probably unwanted 'tools of trade' of the previous owner of our house, a fisherman! This is Orkney after all!

David O'Neill said...

We live about 20 feet from Hadrian's Wall near to the Denton Turret where the A1 joins the A69 but all we find are stones. Perhaps previous residents (like me) did not like calamari