YAC North Wiltshire Project Dig Diary May-June 2015


In May 2014 North Wiltshire Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) were invited to help the team from Broad Town Archaeology investigate an intriguing site in North Wiltshire. The excavation set out to explore a series of walls unearthed in the front garden of a cottage following the felling of some old trees.

The walls are the remains of a substantial building, considered to be medieval, oriented on an East-West alignment. Documentary evidence speaks of a chapel from the 13th century, which was in ruins by the 17th century and the 2014 excavations sought to answer questions as to the layout, date, size and purpose of the building, could this be the "lost" chapel? YAC supported the overall project by opening a trench to investigate the North-West corner, seeking to locate the corner and confirm the western and northern extent of the building.

The 2014 excavations were highly successful; the artefacts, structural elements and building layout all combining to suggest the building is both medieval in date and could have had a religious purpose. Returning to the site in 2015, over 2 weekends in May and June, YAC have been tasked with further investigating the western end of the building, whilst the wider team seek to locate its' eastern end and to confirm the initial interpretation of the building as the "lost" chapel.

This newsletter represents the "Dig Diary" for YAC involvement in this wider project, with updates posted daily during the YAC project. The diary entries and photographs represent the work of the YAC dig team themselves.

Dig Diary

Day 0 - 10th May 2015

Onsite today preparing for the dig. Removed the turf and cleared the trench, which is extending the work done by the YAC team last year. This year's trench is lovingly labelled Trench 5A and is now ready for the YAC to get stuck in next weekend.

Day 1 - 16th May 2015

We (YAC) have been doing a dig, we might have found a chapel and a lot of bones and pottery. We was here last year but today we have got very far : we've uncovered a wall and even found a tooth. The holes are quite deep and a lot has been dug out. There is a picture of the mound our findings and what we've dug out.

While digging in the trench I found a orangey grey lump. After careful excavation it began to take shape. It was a tooth. An animal tooth. A pigs tooth (pictured top left). To my great surprise I found another attached (top right), though there was no jaw or body sadly.
During day 1 we uncovered and cleared a section of the wall including the NorthWest corner. The above photographs show the southern end of the trench and a section of the western end which has been robbed.
These pictures show some of the scenes that you could see at our site. The first is one side of our trench ,where we have dug a wall and there is a hard layer of clay. The second is our very large spoil heap which is growing by the minute. The last photo is of the other side of our trench ,with a gap between the wall and the side of the trench.
The picture on the left is of the YAC trench at the beginning of the day, and the right of the trench nearer the end. We used our trowels to reveal the, now, pretty obvious stone wall, which we hope belongs to the lost Chapel but we can't be certain yet. We found pigs teeth and pottery over the course of the day.

Day 2 - 17th May 2015

It's Sunday, day 2 at the Bicknoll excavation and all is well.

This is some ancient pottery that I Found whilst Searhing through charcoal.

It is black on one side and more red on the other. It was very muddy when I found it and I almost mistook it for charcoal!

The finds tray is filling up and Trench 5A is getting deeper.
Before and after

Mainly been digging deeper today which has been hard work. The soil is very thick and clayey making digging hard work. The use of spade (big trowel) helped keep it level. Due to the effort required to dig deeper we're now focusing on just one end of the trench and now come across a stony layer. Only problem we now have is the bottom of the trench is too deep for most of us to reach!

The robber trench next to Trench 5A.
This is the deepest part of the site so far. We dug through the tough clay layer. This layer has lots of decomposed mortar, which has started to fall apart. This is still not the natural layer, as there's is still finds hidden.

Day 3 - 6th June

The end of the granola!!🔮

The flotation device helps us sift through some of the spoil so that we can find artefacts that we would otherwise have missed. We have found things like flint and wall plaster. There is lots of manual labour needed as there is lots of spoil to sort through.

This machine uses waTer to clean some oF the spoil to hopefully produce FinDs.
This is a section drawing of the trench edge for the internal side of the wall. It includes the robber trench.

Today we did some recording of the trench we had already dug the last time we were on site. We drew a section drawing for the trench edge. To do this we first had to set up a string level which we could measure down from to record the depths of the main stones sticking out of the trench wall and the line of the top soil robber trench. The pins we used for the string level are shown by the stars on the drawing. To draw the lines for the trench bottom, top soil and grass edge we measured the depth every 20cm. We then added in the main stones and the curve of the robber trench which we found by wetting the soil to see the difference between the contexts. Finally, we used the dumpy level to measure the level at certain points which were then added to the drawing. This part was interesting because as we were taking our base level we found that the archaeologist who had recorded the base level before us had read the level wrong and was out by 10cm! Luckily no other levels had been taken today so we could correct the level to our reading and then take our other levels.

We dug in this trench all day and we dug most of the second half. Most of what we dug was the second layer of mud, which was like clay. We also cleaned off the top of the wall of any mud and small stones to make it look like the first half of the wall. Most of the day was spent doing this and it was very fun and productive!

Day 4 - 7th June

Our last day on site and we had a lot of recording to do! We had to finish the section drawing we started yesterday, plan our trench by drawing it to a scale of 1:20 and take readings of the depth of our trench using a Dumpy Level.

We had to do planning and taking measurements of the depth of our trench using a Dumpy Level. This took a long time!
Trying to find the bottom of the wall

Today we've also been trying to find the bottom of the wall in our pit but it's been pretty tricky because of this stuff...Sarson Stone! It's a red stone with sugary grains on the top And it's really hard and tricky to get out of the soil. Another problem is hardened clay which isn't only tough to dig through but can also look like other stones which can be really confusing because you think you've found a special stone but it's just a lump of hardened clay!

A large piece of sarson

Unfortunately the dig to the bottom of the wall could not be continued because it was too hard to dig through the clay and sarson.

But we have done a lot in our four days at the site...

We've gone from this on Day 0 (before we got here...)

To this on Day 4. This is how our trench looked at the end of the day.

Pretty amazing! 😀


YAC North Wiltshire would like to thank the Broad Town Archaeology group for their hospitality, support and enthusiasm in allowing YAC North Wiltshire to participate in this fantastic example of a true community archaeology project.

Part of the Council for British Archaeology, the Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) is the only club for young people interested in archaeology. YAC have a network of local clubs across the UK where children aged 8-16 can get their hands mucky and engage in real archaeology to help discover their shared history and heritage. Find out more by clicking the link below.

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YAC North Wiltshire

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