Monday, 29 July 2013

Nearly done...

Well, it seemed an age until the dig finally began, and then the weeks flew by in a blur. Now, it's all over in the field, save for a couple of days prep for the backfilling. Finds are bagged and sent off for storage and analysis, samples are headed for the lab, and tomorrow we take down the site tents.

A big thank you to all who participated in this years dig, from the potwashers and excavators, to the guest lecturers and the Team Leaders. I hope everyone had as great a time as I did.

There will be a few more daily posts as we put the site to bed, and then regular updates on how the season's post-ex work is going. Make sure you add us to your RSS feed!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

And it's out!

Happy digger Sally got to lift her pots from the upper fills of an early Roman well! Here is one with holes drilled in the bottom. A Late 1st/2nd century strainer or a cheese drainer?

Friday, 26 July 2013

A little rain must fall...

A heavy shower has brought out many of the colours of soil which had been baked to a single grey. 

A collection of pots

Nearly the end of the dig, but the finds and features are still coming on fast and thick. An early pit which had been cut by a much later ditch revealed its full extent today, thanks in part to the rain. 
These lovely pots lie at the bottom!
Also we have found an unusual spindlewhorl made of limestone and an Iron Age coin!!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Open day was sensational!

More than 500 visitors came to see us on Saturday between 12 and 5pm. 
Highlights were the site tours:
The artefact displays:
And the Roman foods stall that Team Leader Peter Forward laid out with pompeiian breads and various recipes from classical texts. 
Even the BBC came to see us for Inside Out South. 
All in all, a great day of fun. There would be more pics , but I was too busy talking to all our visitors!!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Another scorcher...

We continue to battle on in the intense heat. 30 degrees again, but our field school students are doing an exceptional job revealing new features everyday and finding a ginormous quantity of animal  bone and pot. No more brooches yet but there's another week to go! :-)

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Lifting a Roman beaker

The little beaker residing outside the stone structure (featured last week) was finally lifted today by one of our Continuing Education students. Nick looked very pleased with himself, and the potsherds. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

An exciting first day for our new group of field school participants! After a morning briefing by Paul Booth in the finds tent, they headed out to the trench...
...where  in  addition to loads of lovely Roman pottery and animal bones, they also recovered this 2nd-3rd century plate brooch with enamelling still in place and with the pin sharp and catch plate intact!

They also found this 1st century Colchester brooch! A good day for finds. 
Tomorrow we press on despite the heat..

Friday, 12 July 2013

End of week two

Paul Booth gives his "end of week" site tour to the outgoing field school participants. 
We'll take Saturday off to relax (and catch up on the cricket!) before returning Sunday at 0830 to meet a new crew off field school diggers. 

The summary for the week: the singled wall footing is actually likely to be a secondary phase of construction which began life as two separate buildings (one which may have been a kitchen) and at a later time (in the 4th century AD ) it becomes desirable to join the two buildings under one roof. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

A household goddess?

Part of a 'pipe clay' figurine - a seated female deity in a wicker chair. 

Recording the site

Today, in addition to finding an inscribed gaming piece and two more lovely bone hairpins, our students got to hone their recording skills. Our director Paul Booth from Oxford Archaeology is here seen guiding some through the process of section drawing.  
As week two winds down, we have found ourselves still dealing with 4th century late Roman deposits, but also beginning to see early material in greater quantity ... Can the early Roman phase be far away?

Monday, 8 July 2013

Beginning Week 2!

After a restful Saturday away from the trench, we returned on Sunday to battle the heat and pursue some more archaeology. 
We not only more clearly defined our Roman wall footings but also found a row of iron nails (here represented by the line of white tags) which were probably left by the decomposition of a timber part of the structure.  
Also, this bronze coin of Gratian, Roman emperor from AD 367-375
Monday brought it's own rewards - a lovely bronze brooch which is probably 3rd century in date, although we will confirm this after some research. 
One of our Directors, Professor Helena Hamerow, joined the students in the trench despite the hot sun. 
They all made excellent progress as we dig down through the Late Roman layers. 

Friday, 5 July 2013

A bit of wall?

Our Director, Paul Booth of Oxford Archaeology, is checking out a Roman flagon incorporated into the structure we are thinking may be a small shrine. This is just a hypothesis - we won't know until we dig a bit more. 

Today is the day!

June 30:
We arrived at 0830 to begin proper cleaning of the site. Our director Paul Booth gave an excellent summary of the known archaeology of Dorchester, followed by the obligatory health and safety induction. Then, to the trench!!

By lunch break, our students had shifted tonnes of soil, rolling back the geotextile 
and exposing the archaeology. Amazing work, guys!

Lovely Features

Isn't this a lovely wall footing? Today we started exploring a trench through it and recovered two 4th century bronze coins from the interior 'floor' surface!

The we have the gorgeous pit, half excavated last season. One of our students will be taking out another 1/4 of the fill to help us understand the extent of it. It's filled with domestic debris and demolition detritus.
Later today, some pictures of some artefacts!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Today's finds: lots of pot, bone, and copper!

We began today to put interventions across the some of the features and deposited layers in our trench. 

Our finds team was kept busy with the copious amounts of animal bone and later Roman pottery which was recovered. Additionally, we found many fragments of bronze (copper alloy) and some slag produced during the manufacturing process of bronze objects. 

Tomorrow we will begin to unpick the wall footings and interior surface of the Roman structure on the western edge of the trench. (pictures tomorrow- too rainy today)

Monday, 1 July 2013

Keen diggers at the ready

Our enthusiastically energetic team is tearing through the backfill remnants and at this rate we will be digging some proper features by tomorrow! Well done, team! 

Our spoil heap is a tidy thing of beauty thanks to the "spoil police" , John and Alan

Friday, 28 June 2013

Day -2: we're ready to dig!!

Thanks to the tireless efforts of digger driver Adam and dumper driver Kevin, we now have a site ready to dig! The cabins arrived and we set up the finds tent, so this is going to be the focus of a lot of activity in the next 4 weeks. 

We have already had lots of supportive passers-by at the trench - people are very keen to learn more about Dorchester's past!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Day -3: almost there

Well, we didn't quite make it today. Almost all the backfill is out. And the site cabins have arrived! By tomorrow midday we'll be all prepped for the Sunday start!
It was really rainy at the end of today, making the spoil heap very slippery. So today's end of work pic comes from the opposite side of the trench (looking northeast)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Day -4: more site exposed

More backfill has come out- only a small strip left. Will we finish by tomorrow night?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Day -5 view from the spoil heap

With five days to go until the dig properly begins, here is the first in what I hope will be nearly 30 consecutive end-of-day shots from the heap. Early days...

We're really diggin it...

Over 750 cubic metres of backfill need to come out before we can resume our archaeological investigation of the Roman town. We've set ourselves three days to do it!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Tomorrow is the start!!

At 0800 tomorrow morning, the machines will be on site, to turn 600 square metres of grass into an excavation trench. I'll be posting pictures live from the machining as we kick off the seventh season of the Dorchester project. Follow for updates during our setup week and be sure to join us from June 30th through July 26, for daily info on what we find in our excavations!

Thursday, 16 May 2013


This upcoming season the project will continue in the Village Allotments, led by Paul Booth. We will be pursuing the story of Late Roman life within the town walls and unravelling the complex of ditches and pits that likely date from that period. We will try to put our fragmentary structures in context, explore the construction of the Roman road, and begin to peek at the earlier phases of Roman activity on this site. Additionally, a series of test pits will be dug in village gardens, adding even more data – threads to be woven into the story of Dorchester. If you would like to learn more about how you can join the excavation at Dorchester, please email
Please visit our Open Day (July 20st, 1200-1700) in the Village Allotments. Bring artefacts you may have found in your own garden to be identified and see the objects we have excavated. Take a site tour with the Director and see what we have been digging. There will also be hands-on learning activities for children of all ages.