September 9, 2019
by Clover Little (IAFS intern 2019)
July to August 2019
For the past few weeks I’ve been working in our new cutting, Cutting 5! It is inside the ringwork’s ditch. Claire Cotter excavated much of the ditch in 1986-7; however, a portion was left intact as a “baulk,” which is the location of Cutting 5. This baulk is of great interest to us because it is the only part of the ditch fill that remains.
Before we could excavate Cutting 5, we first had to clear the underbrush off the baulk and ditch. This was a tricky task, as the baulk was unstable at times! Once the area was clear of vegetation and roots, the soil layers within the section of the baulk were clear, especially on damp days; for example, while F5006 was chunky light grey rubble, F5007 was a dark gray/black layer, indicating a high charcoal content and probably burning. These layers were visible from the bridge and distinguishable even to park visitors, making for some great educational moments.
New students arrived the following week and two (Zach and Frankie) joined us in the cutting. Before we could begin excavations, we took photos of the cutting for recording purposes. After a week of excavations (and a fun Open Day!), we took a column sample for paleoenvironmental analysis. The column was about 20cm wide and we took samples at increments at 5cm; we ended up with a total of 29 bags. This sample could help us build a profile of each layer and indicate how conditions in the cutting have shifted over time. It also provides us with an opportunity to carbon date different layers more precisely.
Once the column was finished, we took a few more mid-excavation photos and then started excavating the baulk. Two of the other interns, Chris and Alyssa, joined us to clear topsoil out of the ditch. It was great to see the ditch evolve from overgrowth to a well-manicured cutting! While excavating the baulk, we found a few interesting finds, including 19th-20th century pottery sherds and a 19th century horseshoe. Hopefully we find more before the season ends!
The summer season is quickly closing in on us, but I have faith that we’ll be able to get it done before we close the site next week!
This blog describes the IAFS’s excavation programme with the Institute for Field Research. For more details or if you are interested in participating visit: iafs.ie/ifr-summer-4wk