Our excavations commenced with the arrival of team, welfare and plant on Monday morning.
The first stage with archaeological works such as this is to remove the overburden which seals the archaeological features, this is referred to as stripping the site. In this case it constitutes the removal of the current plough soil from across the excavation area. The removed material is stockpiled away from the excavation area. Removal of the overburden is carried out under constant archaeological supervision . This way the attending archaeologist can ensure stripping is done to the correct horizon and any features exposed are identified.
The team started the stripping in the south-east corner of the site, just beyond where expect the remains to be present, safely establishing the correct stripping horizon before progress into the area with archaeological remains. So far we are removing approximately 0.3-0.4m of soil from across the site, however, this depth may vary as we progress and it will be up to Paul our Project Officer to ensure the right level is maintained across the site.
Removing the overburden exposes the natural geology. At Sibford Ferris this is a mix of Sandstone, Limestone and Ironstone which formed 170-174 million years ago in the Jurassic period. Paul is looking for variations in the geology, either changes in colour or texture, which represent archaeological features such as ditches and pits. Based on the result of evaluation (click here for more information about the evaluation) we know we are looking for Iron Age settlement remains and by opening up the larger area we will get a better understanding of how the settlement was organised and information on the people that might have lived there. As the week progressed we started to expose the remains of ditches that define the extent of the settlement activity.
Early next week one of our Surveyors will be out on site to start mapping the features with a GPS so that we can create a plan of the exposed remains.
Given the size of the excavation area we anticipate it taking approximately six weeks to fully strip. At Sibford Ferris this process is made slightly more challenging by a series of electrical overhead cables that cross the site. Thankfully, through careful planning, conversations with Western Power, and the use specialist plant stripping underneath them can be achieved safely.
We did have one unexpected surprise when we arrived on Monday morning in that we were greeted with signs advising of a cycling event and restricted parking. We were unware that the Tour of Britain, one of the leading cycling events in the UCI Women's World Tour, would be not only be passing by the site entrance but that it marked the completion of the Queen of Mountains section. With all deliveries occurring in the morning and the race not due till the afternoon there was no conflict and the team were able to enjoy the spectacle of around 100 of the top female cyclists in Europe completing one of the most challenging section of the days racing.