ARD Site Diary (2024)

Saturday 24th February
Early start this year as a combination of good weather and the availability of Chris Drabble’s Border Heritage Archaeology Group (BHAG) from Cheshire, provided an opportunity to do some coring. The team included Don and Gill Wilson, Penny Jones, Cath Harris, Phil Cox and Chris’s partner Denise German, joining Chris, Bill and Patrick to carry out the work.

Following on from our coring exercise in the South Quadrant, we always had plans to do the same on the East Quadrant. Coring, although not definitive, gives us a good idea where we have the ditch and where we haven’t. Last time it showed that the ditch seemed to be continues in the South Quadrant although there may be one or two areas where there are interruptions similar to the one in Trench 5 / 5a. Our approach on the the East Quadrant was slightly different in that, instead of traversing the ditch at 1m intervals, which was very time consuming, we did one long scan south to north along a line that theoretically would dip in and out of the ditch. This in theory would reveal our main aim i.e. was there an entrance on the east side similar to the one on the west (which is often the case with henge monuments). Core reading were taken every metre starting 7m north from Peg 7a for 26m on a line 1.5m east of the a baseline joining Peg 7a with Peg 1. As before the material in the core wasn’t recorded, just the depth at which the corer bottomed out on the bedrock or hard natural (or not as the case maybe if no bottom could be detected). The result seem to show that, as in the South Quadrant, the the ditch was continuous (i.e. no sign of an entrance) and more or less where we had predicted it to be. Although also as before, there were a couple of areas were there may be an interruption in the ditch similar to Trench 5 / 5a (only excavation would prove this which we will do if we get chance). We also took the opportunity to do a couple of perpendicular traverses in the middle of the scan to see if the ditch profile could be detected but the results were a little inconclusive.

It was a lovely day and, as there were so many on site, Chris thought we had the resource to look at an area in Trench 3a which he had previously identified has may provided more evidence of burials. This was at the northwest end of the area stripped of its plough soil which had not subsequently been excavated. The area is close to our first urn which was found lying just under the plough soil embedded in the mottled sandy clay layer. It was thought therefore that others could be revealed without much effort (if the existed), by removing the remnant of the topsoil. Two members of the BHAG were tasked with this and before long an area of the mottled sandy clay was uncovered stretching almost as far as the previous urn. They didn’t find another urn but they thought they might have when a strange pattern in the soil emerged. Its octagonal shape was defined by a thin band of bright orange clay and lined on the outside by an even thinner band of organic or burnt material. There was nothing in the interior to suggest it was a container of any sort and, as it was too late in the day, the feature was covered up to be investigated at a later date.

Bill, meantime, had been having a closer look at the stones with the inscribed parallel lines on them. There had been a suggestion that they could have been produced by Sigillaria a fossilised plant from the Carboniferous period. Both Chris and John Smalley had made the suggestion and John had enhanced the image of the one of the small stones to show the possibility of tell-tale ‘leaf scars’ on the ridges. Bill first looked at the large stone but couldn’t identify any further clues to its origin.
However the small stone that John had looked at certainly seems to have fossil traits, i.e. a thick surface ‘skin’ and in the the low sun light, the leaf scars on the ridges mentioned above.

Another stone with grooves, which had previously been dismissed as natural, on reflection also looked to be a fossil.
This seemed to suggest that even the large stone, despite its manmade appearance, would also be a fossil (it certainly seems a plausibly explanation for these unique and otherwise unexplained carvings).