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Prehistoric enclosures in southern Ceredigion Dig Diary 2005    

PREHISTORIC ENCLOSURES IN SOUTHERN CEREDIGION


Over the past few years a group of between 20 and 30 small rectangular cropmark enclosures in north Pembrokeshire and south Ceredigion has been recorded by aerial photography. Their date and function is not known, although their shape suggests that they are late prehistoric or Romano-British settlements.

Dyfed Archaeological Trust is currently undertaking a programme of investigation of these sites in partnership with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and the University of York. During the summer of 2004, geophysical and topographic survey was conducted on eight sites and demonstrated that important below-ground archaeology has survived. In particular circular gullies, probably indicating the location of round-houses, hearths, post-holes and internal divisions of the enclosures were detected on some sites. This evidence is similar to that obtained by excavation on Iron Age defended settlement sites.

During July and August 2005 both topographic and geophysical survey will be carried out at a further five or six sites. One of the sites examined in 2004 will be further investigated by excavation. The project will be undertaken in collaboration with the University of York and with the support of funding from Cadw.

 

The illustration shows the geophysical plot of the site that will be excavated during the summer of 2005.

Cropmarked Enclosures Project page

THE EXCAVATION OF IRON AGE DEFENDED ENCLOSURE NEAR CARDIGAN

This is a joint project between Dyfed Archaeological Trust, the University of York and the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments in Wales. It is grant-aided by Cadw.

In 2004, geophysical survey was undertaken on six small rectangular defended enclosures near Cardigan. These sites show only as crop-marks during dry summers; there are no earthworks or other remains to indicate their presence. The 2004 demonstrated that important below-ground archaeology is likely to survive on most of these sites. In 2005, therefore, several more sites will be surveyed and one of the sites surveyed in 2004 will be partly excavated.

Day 1 – 17 July 2005
A set-up day. Tools were taken to the site and the trenches marked out ready for mechanical excavation.


Dave Williams laying out the trenches

Dave Williams laying out the trenches

 

 

Day 2 – 18 July 2005
Mechanical excavation started with the excavation of Trench 2, located over the entrance of the annexe to the main enclosure. Topsoil stripping then started on the main trench, Trench 1. The only archaeologists on site were Ken Murphy, the site director and Dave Williams, a recently graduate of the University of York. Even so, part of Trench 2 was cleaned.

In conjunction with the excavation, geophysical survey is being carried out at several other small enclosures in the area. Day 2 was a slow day, as Bex Carver who is supervising the survey had only arrived back from Ireland the previous night, minus some vital equipment. Nevertheless with Hubert Wilson a grid used to locate the survey on Site A was laid out.

Dave straightening the edges of Trench 2

Dave straightening the edges of Trench 2

 

 

 

Day 3 – 19 July 2005
Mechanical excavation continued and finished. A small team of archaeologists – Gwynaeth McIntyre from Canada, Stephanie Corrigan and Erika Palmer of America, Dave Williams and Ken Murphy – cleaned up Trench 2 revealing the tops of the terminals of the annexe ditches, and started cleaning up the main trench.

Hubert Wilson, Bex Carver and Lloyd Bosworth finished laying out a grid on the geophysical site and completed a topographical survey.

Cleaning up of Trench 2, with the terminals of the annexe ditches visible

Cleaning up of Trench 2, with the terminals of the annexe ditches visible

 

 

Machine stripping of Trench 1

Machine stripping of Trench 1

 

Day 4 – 20 July 2005
A small team – Ken Murphy, Hubert Wilson, Dave Williams, Mike Brack, Anna Schwartz, Kate Davies and Noah Letter - continued to clean up Trench 1. The morning was very wet, but the weather cleared during the afternoon ending in a sunny evening. The main ditch terminals of the entrance were clearly visible, and several smaller features such as post-holes and gullies began to be revealed.

The geophysical survey started with the enclosure ditches starting to be revealed.


Initial cleaning of Trench 1

Initial cleaning of Trench 1

 

 

Bex Carver undertaking the geophysics on Site A

Bex Carver undertaking the geophysics on Site A

 

Day 5 – 21 July
A team of 12 people on site made good progress cleaning over the bedrock to reveal archaeological features in Trench 1. However, given the size of the site this task is going to take two more days at least.

Bex Carver and Lloyd Bosworth completed the geophysical survey of Site A revealing a double ditched enclosure – a rectilinear inner enclosure and a curved outer enclosure.



Cleaning continuing of Trench 1

Cleaning continuing of Trench 1

 

Bex Carver and Lloyd Bosworth completed the geophysical survey of Site A revealing a double ditched enclosure - a rectilinear inner enclosure and a curved outer enclosure

Bex Carver and Lloyd Bosworth completed the geophysical survey of Site A revealing a double ditched enclosure – a rectilinear inner enclosure and a curved outer enclosure

Day 6 - 22 July
Cleaning continued of Trench 1 revealing ditches, post-holes and pits dug into the shale bedrock. A wide but apparently shallow ditch showed as a clear soil-mark running from the enclosures entrance. Excavation began on one of the large ditch terminals flanking enclosure entrance. Several sherds of what is probably late Iron Age pottery were immediately discovered. This type of pottery is rare in the county of Ceredigion, with just three sherds known from other sites.

Geophysical survey started on Site B, a site discovered by aerial photography. Initial results indicate a circular enclosure, as shown on aerial photographs, with bivallate defences on one site. Work is continuing on this site.


Geophysics Site B. Initial results of the geophysical survey of Site B with the double defensive ditch clearly visible

Geophysics Site B. Initial results of the geophysical survey of Site B with the double defensive ditch clearly visible

 

 

Day 7 - 24 July
A wet day. Very little was possible on site. Some work was, however, was done, and more sherds of Iron Age pottery were found in the ditch terminal.



Anna Schwartz and Mike Brack holding sherds of Iron Age pottery

Anna Schwartz and Mike Brack holding sherds of Iron Age pottery

 

 

 

Day 8 - 25 July
Final cleaning of the site was completed during this overcast but dry day. Post-holes of what appear to several phases of enclosure entrance gates were revealed plus several smaller features, including a rear revetment trench to the, now gone, defensive bank.
Work continued on excavating the ditch terminal and a start was made on excavating other features.



Final cleaning showing entrance gate-way post-holes, ditches pits and other features

Final cleaning showing entrance gate-way post-holes, ditches pits and other features

 

 

Day 9 - 26 July
Excavation of the ditch terminal on the south side of the enclosure entrance continued. Because more Iron Age pottery was discovered it was decided sieve all soil from the ditch. This strategy proved immediately successful with the discovery of pottery rim sherds. Excavation started on the north ditch terminal. Within the enclosure a small rim sherd of Romano-British Severn Valley ware was discovered immediately on the excavation of a presumed pit.

Completion of the geophysical survey of Site B revealed a circular enclosure with what may be an overlapping entrance. A start was made on the laying out of the survey grid in preparation for the geophysical survey of Site C.


Excavating continuing on the south ditch terminal

Excavating continuing on the south ditch terminal

 

Geophysical survey of Site B. The survey measures 80m x 80m

Geophysical survey of Site B. The survey measures 80m x 80m

Jenny Arnold, Marie Pousset and Judith Van Roemburg sieving for finds

Jenny Arnold, Marie Pousset and Judith Van Roemburg sieving for finds

Doing geophysics.  Undertaking geophysics on Site B

Doing geophysics. Undertaking geophysics on Site B

 

Day 10 - 27 July
More sherds of presumed late Iron Age pottery was discovered in the upper fills of the ditch terminal on the north side of the entrance along with a 1st-2nd century Roman coin. A spindle whorl was found in the south ditch terminal. Excavation of enclosure entrance post-holes started. Soil samples taken from various layers were processed by flotation with the intention of recovering charcoal and other charred material such as plant remains and seeds. These will be later analysed to provide an indication the environment and economy of the site.

Geophysical survey of Site C revealed a circular enclosure within a larger oval enclosure. Work will continue on this site over the next few days.

Lloyd Bosworth with the Roman coin he found in the ditch terminal

Lloyd Bosworth with the Roman coin he found in the ditch terminal

Mike Brack, Stephanie Corrigan and Gemma Challis floating soil samples

Mike Brack, Stephanie Corrigan and Gemma Challis floating soil samples

Louise Austin with a sherd of Iron Age pottery from a post-hole.

Louise Austin with a sherd of Iron Age pottery from a post-hole

Laura Proctor examines the download of the geophysical survey of Site C in the field

Day 11 - 28 July
Little site work was possible owing to heavy overnight rain and almost continuous rain during the day. Most of the day was spent in the mess hut. During the brief drier periods part of a post-hole and a palisade trench were excavated. The palisade is considered to have formed a rear revetment to the defensive bank, but further work is required to confirm this.



Excavation of the palisade trench

Excavation of the palisade trench

 

Where most of the day was spent - drinking tea and reading Harry Potter

Where most of the day was spent – drinking tea and reading Harry Potter

A selection of Iron Age pottery and a spindle whorl from the site

A selection of Iron Age pottery and a spindle whorl from the site

 

Day 12 - 29 July
Work continued on excavating two of the enclosure entrance post-holes. Pottery of late Iron Age/Romano-British date was found in both. Further progress was made on the entrance ditch terminals, and work started on other pits and gullies within the enclosure.

Problems with the magnetometer meant that only limited progress was made with the geophysical survey.

 



Excavation continuing on the south ditch terminal

Excavation continuing on the south ditch terminal

 

 

General view of the excavation

General view of the excavation

Day 13 - 31 July
Following a well-earned day off a reduced team made steady progress, with excavation continuing on the ditch terminals, post-holes and gullies.

Geophysical survey of Site C was completed.

Completed geophysical survey of Site C


Completed geophysical survey of Site C


Dominic Sharrock excavating a narrow fence-line gully

 

Dominic Sharrock excavating a narrow fence-line gully

 

Jenny Davies working on a trench. This probably would have held a palisade revetting the rear of the defensive bank

Jenny Davies working on a trench. This probably would have held a palisade revetting the rear of the defensive bank

Day 14 - 1 August

Work continued on the ditch terminals and entrance post-holes. Two sets of two post-holes, probably representing two phases of entrance gate construction, were partially excavated and recorded. Small sherds of late Iron Age/Romano British pottery were discovered in one of post-hole pairs.

Geophysical survey began on Site D.


 

 

Astrid Caseldine palaeoenvironmental archaeologist of St David’s University College examining the northern ditch section

Astrid Caseldine palaeoenvironmental archaeologist of St David’s University College examining the northern ditch section

 

Excavation and recording of the enclosure entrance post-holes

Excavation and recording of the enclosure entrance post-holes

 

Following the day’s excavation everyone enjoyed a trip to Y Foel Drigarn hillfort on the Preseli Mountains

Following the day’s excavation everyone enjoyed a trip to Y Foel Drigarn hillfort on the Preseli Mountains

 

Day 15 - 2 August

Excavation of the ditch terminals reached a depth of 1.70m and therefore because of safety concerns it was decided to step out the sections to avoid having a single section greater than 1.70m high. This strategy has the bonus releasing more of the upper artefact rich ditch layers for excavation. Within the north terminal large stones are probably from a collapsed revetment wall to the defensive bank. In Trench 2 final excavation of the northern annexe ditch terminals was completed.

The completed geophysical survey of Site D revealed a small strongly rectilinear enclosure. No internal features were detected.


 

 

Geophysical survey of Site D

Geophysical survey of Site D

 

Excavation of the north ditch terminal showing the stones from the collapsed revetment

Excavation of the north ditch terminal showing the stones from the collapsed revetment

 

Naomi Henderson excavating the north ditch terminal of the annexe – Trench 2

Naomi Henderson excavating the north ditch terminal of the annexe – Trench 2

 

Day 16 - 3 August

A day of recording and consolidation. Work began on stepping out the sections of the ditch terminals and recording of several post-holes and gullies continued.

Geophysical survey of site E, a large inland promontory fort, began.


 

 

Excavation in progress in Trench 1 with Trench 2 in the background. Note the post-holes of the enclosure entrance gate-way

Excavation in progress in Trench 1 with Trench 2 in the background. Note the post-holes of the enclosure entrance gate-way

 

Xanthe Hayes-Yapp, Dom Sharrock And Gwynaeth McIntyre excavating and recording post-holes

Xanthe Hayes-Yapp, Dom Sharrock and Gwynaeth McIntyre excavating and recording post-holes

 

Kate Davis and Stephanie Corrigan beginning the geophysical survey of Site E

Kate Davis and Stephanie Corrigan beginning the geophysical survey of Site E

 

Day 17 - 4 August

Continuing excavation of the ditch terminals showed them to be at least 2.5m deep with a V-shaped profile. A spindle whorl and a sherd of Romano-British Severn Valley Ware were found at over 2m down in the south terminal. The bottom of the ditches has not yet been reached. Extending the excavation of the tops of the ditches produced more Romano-British/late Iron Age pottery. A sherd of Romano-British mortarium was discovered in a shallow hollow within the enclosure.

Geophysical survey of Site E was abandoned owing to a malfunctioning gradiometer. This was the last site to be surveyed.


 

 

Sue Ingold and Rhiannon Comeau with a mortarium sherd

Sue Ingold and Rhiannon Comeau with a mortarium sherd

 

 

The defensive ditch of the promontory fort of Site E showing faintly prior to abandonment of the geophysical survey

The defensive ditch of the promontory fort of Site E showing faintly prior to abandonment of the geophysical survey

Anna Schwartz and Mike Brack with a spindle whorl from the

Anna Schwartz and Mike Brack with a spindle whorl from the north ditch terminal

 

Day 18 - 5 August

Removal of the top layers of the ditch terminals produced more including two sherds of Samian Ware and a rim sherd of Romano-British Malvernian Ware. Continued excavation of post-holes and gullies did not reveal any clear structures.

 

 

 

Removing a boulder from the fill of the north ditch terminal

Removing a boulder from the fill of the north ditch terminal

 

Lindsay Deuchars with a sherd of Malvernian Ware from the south ditch terminal

Lindsay Deuchars with a sherd of Malvernian Ware from the south ditch terminal

Excavating continuing in the north ditch terminal

Excavating continuing in the north ditch terminal

 

Day 19 - 6 August

A return of the hot summer weather ensured that good progress was made in excavating smaller pits and post-holes. The bottom of the north ditch terminal was reached. A start was made in cleaning up the sections of both terminals in preparation for photography and recording.

 

 

Enjoying the sun during lunchtime

Enjoying the sun during lunchtime

 

 

 

Fully excavated section of the entrance north ditch terminal

Fully excavated section of the entrance north ditch terminal

 

 

Day 20 - 7 August

Excavation of Trench 2 was completed. Apart from the ditches two small post-holes and a shallow fence-line gully were excavated and recorded. In Trench 1 the section of the south ditch terminal was cleaned in preparation for drawing. Excavation of several small post-holes was completed.

 

 

Trench 2 fully excavated

Trench 2 fully excavated

 

 

 

Fully excavated section of the entrance south ditch terminal

Fully excavated section of the entrance south ditch terminal

 

 

Day 21 - 8 August

Almost all excavation was completed, apart from the removal of more of the upper fill of the south ditch terminal with the intention of recovering more artefacts, and work concentrated on recording and the cleaning of the site for final photography. At the end of a hot day a visit to the local beach washed away the dust from the site.

 

 

Noah Letter and Pwyll ap Stifin recording the section of the north terminal.

Noah Letter and Pwyll ap Stifin recording the section of the north terminal.

 

Sieving for finds from the south ditch terminal.

Sieving for finds from the south ditch terminal.

 

After work – watching the Cardigan Bay dolphins.

After work – watching the Cardigan Bay dolphins.

 

 

After digging all day Naomi Henderson and Cat … find the energy to construct a sand sculpture, admired by other members of the excavation team.

After digging all day Naomi Henderson and Cat … find the energy to construct a sand sculpture, admired by other members of the excavation team.

Day 22 - 9 August

The final day of site work – photography and completing drawings.

 

 

View of part of the completed excavation.

View of part of the completed excavation.

 

 

The excavation team on the final day of site work.

The excavation team on the final day of site work.

 

Day 23 - 10 August

Back-filling the site.

 

 

Back-filling the site

Back-filling the site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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