MONIKA: Today we embraced the beautiful weather for our second long hike along Hadrian’s Wall. Embarking not so early this morning, we set out from where we ended our hike last week, across from the Mile Castle, to continue our trek along the Wall. Today we hike about 6.5 miles crossing over 7 of the 9 Nicks of Thirlwall and the Sycamore gap ending the day at Housteads fort. Along our hike today, Tanya and I hiked what felt like what was a rollercoaster constantly hiking up and then down. Today on our hike I noticed more the geological features of the landscape because of the talk we had from Mike about the geological formation of features in Britain on Tuesday. It was interesting to consider how such amazing and defining landscapes of the country were shaped. My favorite part of the hike was being able to see the continuation of the Wall for miles. The weather today was great, about 19° and completely blue skies. The beginning of the hike we were all optimistic about the day, but there were definitely some butterflies about how difficult the hike would be. By lunch, all fears about the hike were diminished and it seemed like we had all built up how difficult the hike would be and shocked ourselves.
TANYA: As Monika mentioned the weather was absolutely beautiful! I didn’t know it would be this nice early on and had on many layers. About 3 minutes into the hike already I began losing layers and was down to a couple tank tops! It was absolutely gorgeous out and we could see all around us! We decided to stop for lunch at the Sycamore gap under the famous Sycamore tree (that everyone recognizes from the Robin Hood TV show). Going up the 7 nicks was exhausting and we could all feel the burn in our legs but felt so accomplished after we reached the top each and every time. All around me the group had giant smiles on their faces as they marvelled at the spectacular view for miles all around us.
My favourite part of the hike was taking a small break in the most completed milecastle (number 37). You could even see a significant portion of the gate still in tact. We took plenty of pictures and goofed around in this area. After finally reaching our destination at Housesteads I was in disbelief and a little sad that it had come to an end so soon. We may coax Alex to plan out another hike for next weekend! I will allow someone else to fill you all in on the beautiful site that was Housesteasds!
I know that posts have (or will soon be) up about our most recent hike on Saturday, but I thought I’d share an interesting find from our hike up Barcombe Hill on Tuesday. Beneath an old memorial (consisting of a large stone cross atop large blocks of limestone) for a coal worker killed while working, an unexpected discovery was wedged beneath the heavy stones.
Geocaches can be part of an organized ‘scavenger-hunt’ like activity, but many individuals leave them out in unusual places for adventurous souls to find. This one had a lovely card on the inside explaining what it was, and even contact information for the person who left it! There was a little notebook inside where we left our mark.
Overall, one of the many wonderful experiences during the hike!
This week was all about the reality of archaeology for me. I started the week with my first pottery find! The pieces I found had rims, which means that they are diagnostic pieces and can be used for dating.
The rest of the week I continued digging without finding much in my area. To my left, however, a stone feature was being uncovered (exciting!). On Friday, I found a smooth stone, which I hoped belonged to the stone feature. It is a beautiful stone…
Unfortunatly, the stone was a lone ranger and had to be removed with the rest of the area I was digging up. With this said, this week has taught me that archaeology can at times be unpredictable. What is initially thought about the layout of the trench with one find (e.g. the lenght of the stone feature), can very easily be changed by another find (e.g. my lone stone). On the bright side, Norman’s wife made cupcakes! 🙂
I look forward to working in the North Field again next week!
So this week we have finally gotten the opportunity to begin the excavation of our new 3 metre section of trench, which we deturfed last week. We started the week by digging out the first layer of topsoil, which is referred to in archaeology as the first layer of stratum. The term stratum is the singular form of the word strata which refers to each individual layer of soil type as you dig down through the earth. Each new layer is characterized by its composition and is described by the colour and contents of the soil. Each new layer must be recorded, and it is important in determining which period of occupation each new layer of stratum corresponds to. After removing the first layer of topsoil we found a new layer of clay and sandstone, which needed to be excavated to see if there were any artefacts dating to Roman occupation. After finding a few small finds, including a piece of “black shiny stuff” (which may be a material called jet, but needs to be tested before it can be labeled as such), and a piece of lead slag along with some pottery sherds, we began excavation into deeper layers hoping to find more.
My job for most of this week has been to explore a section of the trench which was thought to perhaps contain a larger section of clay tiles, which were uncovered last year in a much lower section of the already dug trench. In order to reach this layer and perhaps uncover more of the tile, I was required to dig about two feet down into the next layer of stratum. After a few hours of clearing away clay and sandstone carefully, while at the same time sifting the dirt for artefacts, I had reached what we hoped to be a new layer of these clay tiles. Now that I was closer to the surface of what we hoped were the tiles, I put down my spade and picked up a trowel to do a bit of fine digging.
Unfortunately, after uncovering an area that we had hoped to contain these tiles, we were disappointed to find out that they abruptly ended just an inch into the new section I had dug. But today proved a more fruitful day, and after digging further to the north of our trench on the same level of the clay tiles, I managed to uncover a rubble course of sandstone, a main building material of the Romans. This may be a wall of some kind, but due to weather restrictions we could not fully uncover this rubble course. Hopefully tomorrow will prove to be a better day, and we will able to explore this rubble course further, but it does look promising. I will post some more pictures tomorrow with our findings!
I think that many in the group today were hoping that the morning would be bringing lots of rain, as the weather report called for, so we could take a bit of a rest from digging and learn how to wash pottery finds. But a new lesson that I learned today was that the weather forecast is usually unreliable and the weather can change quite rapidly. So the morning was spent removing another layer of soil from our trench and seeing if we could find any new features or artefacts. I was working with Monika and Emily today and we began to uncover an interesting feature that sparked our excitement and gave us more motivation to work through the indecisive misty weather. We had found a difference in soil from the surrounding area and upper levels, plus larger rocks and pieces of brick that seem promising to finding a possibly larger, connected feature.
However, after lunch the rain came and put a hold on our new interest. But the afternoon also proved to be entertaining as the crew and I learned how to clean pottery sherds and animal bones. One object of interest that I was lucky enough to have in my bag to clean was a sherd of Samian ware with a design on it. The design is not full but seems to have two men on it: one on the left, which only the legs can be seen, that looks to be seated, and a second figure that appears to be partially draped and dancing, although this is just my own observation. It was very interesting to finally see in person and touch an object that has been discussed in class and seen in textbooks. So even though it was rainy, the day proved to be full of surprises and excitement.
So today was the beginning of our first full week of excavation and it flew by. This week we plan to be on site all week digging down to the Roman level in the areas where the trench was extended. After the deturfing of last week, this week we are more concentrated on slowly removing levels of soil while sifting through them.
So far we have dug another half a foot off the extension of the trench. Already in soil so high up and potentially part of the plow-zone we have found some remains of the Romans. Things we found are pottery sherds, some potential jet and pipe stems. Mostly from this upper layer we found remains from the Victorian or Medieval periods. The only thing I can report finding was shards of Victorian or Medieval pottery which was very delicate and shiny. In part this is how we can tell its not from the Romans because of the glaze used.
Tomorrow we are continuing to dig down and I’m sure as the week progresses we will continue finding more and more Roman remains.
Ps. The title refers to the probing question we have all been constantly asking as we sift through the dirt and try to distinguish from Roman remain or rock!