Monday, 15 June 2009

Day 3 - First Full Day on Site

First day on site with a full team including students. And what an opening day!

Rod Scott of No Mans Land kicked off with Health and Safety overview of the types of explosive devices typically in use by the Home Guard.

Showing and describing some harmless examples of decommissioned devices the dangers of handling anything similar that might be found during our work here were discussed. Although the likelihood of finding any such device is almost infinitesimally small on this site, what to do in such an event was explained.

Then the dig proper commenced. It didn't start particularly auspiciously: four trenches open (and even the project director working furiously) and before lunch -- NOTHING.

And then, the archaeology started to play its trump cards.

- what had looked like a tree-root bowl became a WW1 (?) rubbish pit with the usual delights of broken CBM, glass and ... a dry-cell battery (probably for use with an early phone), collapsed aluminium alloy, and a rivet bolt for a Great War military installation.

- WW1 concrete firing position with associated military inlet. Is this our Aak-Aak position? Do we have a replica of Monkham's Hall anti-aircraft/anti-Zeppelin battery.

As is often the case early on in digs like this we are producing more questions than answers.

Throughout the afternoon some team members were given the opportunity to learn how to use a metal detector in field work of this type. Although no substitute for painstaking conventional archaeology, in the right hands the metal detector can be a valuable tool in site surveying and location of significant metallic features and artefacts. The first two students who tried their hand turned were successful and found a 1942 threepenny piece and, significantly in terms of this project, two pieces of driving band from WW1 shells.

We look forward to tomorrow and further finds and theories from this fascinating site.

WW1 Shell driving band fragment. (Pound coin for scale)

And from Andy Brockman:

I rang Martin and Anne at ArchaeoPhysica earlier to say that if they were here with us at Eaglesfield I would be standing them a Pint [or Beverage of choice]. We had the first full day on site today with the whole team in place and it was a treat. Even the weather held off until this evening so we got in a full day of archaeology and more to the point, features in every trench that ArchaeoPhysica had given us the Heads Up on.

In terms of the research Project the headline is probably the beautifully laid concrete floor and a rather more manky set of concrete with military grade 2" bolts in situ, from Cat's Trench. This is almost certainly the holdfast from the WW1 anti aircraft battery and to get it on the first afternoon is a real bonus. We will extend the trench tomorrow to half section it and see if we have any of the pit surround in place. This was probably brick if Eaglesfield is like its sister battery at Monkham's Hall. We also want to see if there is evidence of more than one phase as it may well be that the Battery was "Up Gunned" in the course of its active life.

We also had a trench with some dry cell batterys which could be of the type used in equipment such as field telephones in WW2 while Roger Ward and Teresa Emmett located one of the concrete mooring points from the ring which encircled the Barrage Balloon Bed.

So we have had hard evidence of the use of the site during both WW1 and WW2, exactly what we wanted hoped for and pointed up in the Project Design.

Almost my favorite find of the day though was a fragment of, probably early, porcelain with a delightful image of a well turned out couple in Regency dress, which came out of Rod's trench.
The other real thrill for me has been the response of the public to the work. We have had had a steady stream of people visiting the site, all interested and some with some really useful information, including the suggestion of the probable billet for WRAF Personnel from the Barrage Balloon site [we suspected it had female crew later in the life of the site but this is the first evidence]. Another man gave a lead on a possible feature which had been on the Golf Course and may be part of Stop Line Central. We even got overheard in the Pub after work by another local who had done building work in the House next door to The Bull. He told us that he had been told the house had been an Army billet in WW2. It is right next door to the Pill Box at the Bull and overlooks the "Killing Zone at the summit of Shooters Hill so if we can stand this one up in the documentary record it may be that we have evidence for the garrisoning of the Stop Line.

We have also had an enthusiastic response to the invitation to visit the site sent out to local schools. Plumcroft Primary are bring nine classes from Year 6 down to Year 1 and the Negus Sixth Form Centre are also bringing a group of AS Level Archaeology students.

It all goes to show what I and I know many of the DDA Team believe. Give people a chance to see and enjoy archaeology and they will respond with interest and enthusiasm and they have a real sense of ownership of this kind of community based archaeology which is about a story in which virtually everyone has a stake through family memory and experience.

All that and a decent pint of Adnams- a good day and job well done by everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent news - glad to hear that amongst the very 'ferrous' magnetic data, the weirdly anomalous resistance data and the simply cryptic GPR data we found something useful!

    Good luck with the rest of the project.

    Now what was that about a pint......?