Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Chester Farm

In theory, I should be writing part 2 of my Kent trip, but I haven't had time because for the last two weeks I have been at Chester Farm from 8.30am - 4.00pm and have been too tired to do anything when I got home.  Needless to say I did have an evening social life but that just compounded my tiredness.  Why a full two weeks; well here goes.

For the last years Chester Farm have invited the public to "Come and archaeologically dig for a day" during the last two weeks in July and that is how I first got involved.  This year I was asked, with another volunteer J, to be responsible for 'Finds Processing' because there was a backlog.  I love doing this as I am no longer able to crawl on the floor trowelling the ground and would prefer to be upright.

The area being 'dug' was the site of the Victorian tennis court and the archaeologist was not expecting to find much!  How wrong he was.

'Finds Processing' is actually a posh word for, amongst other things - Pot Washing and we have seen some lovely pieces of Roman pottery and some that were everyday pieces -

This rough bowl would have been cut down from a larger storage vessel perhaps because it got damaged at the top.
A triple vase ...

... from the bottom which was missing
The triple vase would have had three vases at the neck.
Three pieces make up this vessel
An almost complete storage vessel that probably broke when it came out of the ground.

The two photographs above show the full extent of the dig.  In the bottom picture on the extreme right you can see a number of people standing talking.  Well they have discovered a human skull and since the photo was taken another one has been discovered and a baby.  I have taken photos but they are not allowed to be shown on the Internet.  Skeletons are treated with great respect.

The two photos above were taken at the beginning of the week and it was hot and the skies were blue; what they do not show is the wind and by Thursday we had a gale blowing making it very difficult for us washing pots.  Our egg trays where we dry items, blew away, everything had to be weighted down and we were beginning to get irritable.  Some artefacts are in small finds bags and very light so we couldn't allow the wind to blow them away and we moved indoors to a big barn.  So much easier.  However the next day we moved out again under our tent and carried on washing, but this time I was responsible for 'Doris'!

'Doris' was uncovered in February and named after our hurricane of the same name.   She is a human skeleton and when found the contractors stopped working.  After reassurances to the police that it was NOT a murder but a Roman skeleton work continued. The archaeologist advised us that she was a teenager, because a broken bracelet was found with her.

So I had to clean 'Doris' up by washing the soil off her and the first bag was the skull.  Immediately the archaeologist realised that she was not a young girl but probably an older woman as her lower mandible had no teeth and no sockets where the teeth should have been which indicated that the holes had grown over.  Her upper jaw did have sockets and I cleaned two teeth.  It was very delicate and painstaking work as the bones were in a poor condition after so long in the ground, but it was a very satisfying task and I treated her gently.

After this I had to wash a far weightier item that had a slight hollow in its top.
A 'Saddle Quern' sitting in a wheelbarrow after washing, made of gritstone

The grain would have been put in the centre and then rubbed with another stone to make flour.  If limestone had been used large pieces of the stone would have broken off and gone into the flour.  With gritstone they are finer, but regardless of the stone used Roman flour was quite adulterated and hence their teeth became quite ground down.  One of 'Doris's' teeth was.

There were other interesting items found.  This was about 0.5 inches wide slightly curved and made of bone and quite delicate -
Could it be part of a Roman comb?

Barbotine  pottery
Barbotine decoration was made using a 'piping' method.

This is a tray of Late Pre Roman Iron Age (LPRIA) pottery washed and drying and a great deal of this has been found this year.

Straight edge is the foundations of a house bordering a Roman road that runs North/South, but a Roman road running East/West had already been uncovered on the site, with houses beside it.

This final photo could be a Roman Kiln.

Notice the dark red splotches - these are ironstones (our local stone) that have been burnt by something very hot, placed in the pit.

It has been a very exciting two weeks and our archaeologist has now revised the size of the town from 600 people to 1,000 because of the area of the suburbs that were uncovered this year.

The 'pot washers' were always one step ahead of those digging but now we have a lot more artefacts still to wash.  A worthwhile two week dig.


  1. you have been busy...most interesting. no time for hooking or stitching

  2. Wow, how interesting that is. Reminds me of a Time Team episode. Thanks & now you can wind down, relax & craft a little. Take care.

    1. Don't mention Time Team to our archaeologist as he says this work cannot be done in three days!!! Red rag to a bull!!

  3. More great finds Carol - it looks a really interesting site.