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Investigation at Cox Bank Farm April 2011


The farmer had noticed that in the middle of one of his fields was an area where the molehills were of much darker soil than in the rest of the field. He asked SOTMAS to investigate.


The field still bears signs of medieval ploughing, indeed the ridges and furrows continue through the area under investigation, where the grass is more patchy with large clumps of nettles. The darker soil is very obvious, and it appears to be centred on a ridge. We carried out a resistivity survey of a 30m x 30m square centred on this area.


Here we are carrying out the survey....


Doing survey


....and here is the result. Lighter areas are those with a higher resistivity and vice-versa. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger image.




You can clearly see the furrows as lines of lower resistivity (dark) running from the bottom (approximately South) to the top (North) of the image. On the larger image you can judge the spacing between them using the 10m index marks around the edge - the furrows are about 7m apart which is typical for medieval fields.


Sometimes features are clearer when the resistivity image is shown with the colours reversed i.e. dark for high resistivity, light for low:


Coxbank Resistivity negative


We dug two small (2m x 1m) trial trenches across the centre of the feature (E-W). In this next picture, the first (nearer) of these has been marked out, and Peter is stamping down nettles - just ahead of him is where the second trench will be. The two trenches touch at one corner.


Marking out and stamping down.


When we had removed the turf, dark stony soil was revealed:


Below turf


This layer was so stony that it was very hard to trowel. We decided to spade a section across each trench, about a spade's width wide. Again, this proved difficult due to the very stony soil. Many of the stones appeared to be heat shattered.


Digging stones 1Digging stones 2



Here is one of these sections from the side, showing just how stony this layer is....


Section side


.... and from above, showing the natural clay beneath


Natural clay beneath


The section in the other trench looks very much the same


Other section


So, what are we seeing here? The jury is still out. One suggestion is that this is another burnt mound - but aren't burnt mounds always beside running water?

Another suggestion is that this is re-used burnt mound material, possibly taken from a burnt mound somewhere in the vicinity to fill a hole? I may return to this as other ideas and/or more information emerges.


12 May 2011

Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, May 2011.