As an archivist, I know that researching local history can be a grubby task – dust on the documents, spiders’ webs in the storage cupboards, the occasional mouse or dead pigeon.
Believe me, I’ve seen some dirty historical evidence in my time, but excavating a large hole in the hilltop clay during the Medieval Abberley Castle dig was a definite first for me…!
Kate Andrew invited me to join the dig on Saturday 25 April 2015, after volunteers had spent a week on the top of Winniatts Way, digging a number of test holes to see if they could find evidence of the medieval castle. I brought Ruby Dog, my labrador, as she is very good a digging holes too.
Sadly for Ruby Dog, it became clear during the briefing that she wasn’t going to adhere to the correct archaeological logging procedures or do the careful kind of digging required, so she spent the rest of the day acting as official observer and squirrel sentry.
As when I work with with archive documents, it quickly became clear that context is all important in archaeology too. Before we measured out our metre-square dig quadrant, we consulted with Rob Hedge, one of the project Archaeologists, to assess a likely spot just above the escarpment of the hill.
Having been shown the tiny flake of worked flint discovered in hole 2, and knowing that the team had made an important discovery concerning the drinking habits of Abberley folk at the turn of the century, we, the diggers of hole 5, were very hopeful that we might find something of interest.
Unfortunately, after a brief flurry of excitement that we might have found evidence of a post hole (i.e. a patch in the clay slightly darker than surrounding patches) it turned out instead to be a rotten tree root and we found nothing more. After 5 hours of digging we found nothing to a depth of 20 centimetres and called it a day. Archaeology is clearly harder to find than we thought…
Despite the lack of finds, the dig itself was great fun – all the volunteer diggers I met that day agreed that it was extremely pleasant to spend a fine day in the open air, carefully digging a hole and finding out a lot about each other in the process. I met several new people from the village and learned a lot from them about the discoveries made by the project team over the past year. Also, Richard showed me the best way to climb a tree, and how swiftly a hungry teenage boy can inhale two Tunnocks Teacakes. As I said… thoroughly educational!
Here is a short slideshow of some photos taken on the day, showing what we did, who was there and the amount of fun we had. I hope you enjoy them too.