Author Archives: Dr Ros

About Dr Ros

Dr Ros Cleal is the National Trust Curator for the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury. As well as caring for and sharing the internationally significant musuem collections Ros has found time to become a leading expert in Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery. She is also co-author of 'Stonehenge in its Landscape. Twentieth Century Excavations'.

Avebury Dig 2014 – Days 14 and 15

We’ve been having some technical difficulties and haven’t been able to post for a couple of days – but the digging has been progressing nicely all the same!

Day 14 (Tuesday) saw lots of visitors : in the morning the dig was open to local residents to visit, and in the afternoon members of the Avebury & Stonehenge Archaeological & Historical Research Group (ASAHRG) and of the Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site Steering committees visited. One of the ASAHRG members even kindly supplied cake, which looked curiously like a certain ancient monument ….

 

 

Silbury Hill in cake form. It was soon totally excavated.

Silbury Hill in cake form. It was soon totally excavated.

Tuesday also saw the appearance of two new artefact types: a medieval coin, not yet fully identified, and a new type of pottery: Fengate Ware.

Two rim sherds of a Fengate Ware vessel

Two rim sherds of a Fengate Ware vessel

Fengate Ware is a type of Peterborough Ware and dates from around 5000 years ago, so is Middle Neolithic and goes with a lot of the other things we’ve been finding. Alexander Keiller found sherds of several vessels in his excavations 80 years ago on the same site. It’s not that common, partly because the pottery is often rather friable and doesn’t survive as well as Mortlake Ware or Ebbsfleet Ware, which are the other types of Peterborough Ware, so it’s really nice to get these sherds. The photograph shows the outside of the vessel, which seems to be decorated with rows of short incised lines, in a sort of herringbone design.

Josh (Pollard) excavating the Fengate Ware.

Josh (Pollard) excavating the Fengate Ware.

At the point when Josh was taking it out of ground we didn’t know what sort of pottery it  was and it was really quite exciting – you can never have too much pottery, I say, as long as it’s Neolithic.

Day 15 (Wednesday) saw more of what is probably the same Fengate Ware vessel come up, and it became obvious that it has some incised decoration on the inside as well as the outside.

Work also continued on a small new trench to the south-east, on the far (eastern) side of the Avenue, but wasn’t very far advanced at the end of the day.

 

View looking south east, showing the new trench in the background.

View looking south east, showing the new trench in the background.

Not long to go now.

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Avebury Dig 2014 – Day 13

Quite a nice day today on the weather front – lots of sun, but not too hot. Some Peterborough Ware turned up this morning, but of the ‘looking like half-chewed digestive biscuit’ variety, although one piece had the remains of a small impression made by someone’s little fingernail 5,000 or so years ago (photographer Mike (Robinson) despairs every time I say there’s another bit of pot to photograph, and you can see why..).

You see - chewed biscuit. but hte little rounded impression was made by someone decorating the pot 5,000 years ago

Chewed biscuit seems a pretty fair description. but the  rounded impression was made by someone decorating the pot 5,000 years ago; pits made by fingernails are usually in the neck of a pot, but that’s impossible to see here.

But this rather nice quern (for grinding cereal grains) proved more photogenic:

A stone showing the characteristic smooth dished surface of a 'saddle quern'

A stone showing the characteristic smooth dished surface of a ‘saddle quern’, found this afternoon

This type of quern is very typically Neolithic and is very simple: another smaller stone would be used to grind the grains in the dished area (there is a saddle quern and rubbing stone on display in the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury which shows them together).

We also had a visit from another member of the Between the Monuments team: Dr Mike Allen. Mike’s specialism is molluscs, but he’s also responsible for the environmental side of the project.

Dr Mike Allen taking samples

Dr Mike Allen taking samples

Avebury Dig 2014 – Day 10

 

Looking north-west across Trench 2 today, showing hte depth of the hillwash

Looking north-west across Trench 2 today, showing the depth of soil we’re having to deal with. For once – no blue sky.

It’s actually raining as I’m writing this (I’m back in the Museum office, not out on site), and it’s really welcome, because the site is getting very dry. Talking to Mark (Gillings) this morning he said that it’s good to see that we’re coming down into a layer where we can expect to see cut features. Two of the students are also just starting to take out the other half of a tree-throw hole which was half-excavated last year (tree throw holes are where trees have been blown over in the past; they sometimes contain finds so we’re hoping there might be something in it).

Day off tomorrow – so next post Saturday.