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Return to Cox Bank Farm, May and June 2012


This time last year (May 2011), we found what appeared to be burnt mound material in two small test trenches.  To see some pictures, and read what I wrote about this investigation, click here.


Then in July 2011, we had some training in the use of the fluxgate magnetometer which we have on loan from English Heritage. As part of this training activity, an area of this field which contains the test trenches was surveyed and the results can be seen below. Click on the image for a larger view.



The area in the NE quadrant certainly looks worth further investigation beyond last year's test trenches. Our Dig Director, Winston, rotated last year's resistivity results to match the orientation of the magnetometry chart above, and marked on it an area for us to excavate. See below (again, click on it for the bigger picture):



This area, initially 5m x 7m, was immediately adjacent to the test trenches, so we expected to find burnt mound material. We were not to be disappointed!

What follows is a week-by-week photographic record of the excavation.

Click on any picture to enlarge it.


Week 1: 12th-17th May


Marking out - the ridge and furrow can be clearly seen Quick check for metal after we'd removed the turf and the first layer of plough soil After a bit more trowelling, this is what the surface looks like


Continuing to trowel down reveals a back-filled field drain trench running N-S. This view is towards the W, showing where much of the burnt mound material has come from so far, in the SW corner


Week 2: 19th-24th May


The original clay surface below the mound is beginning to emerge - almost fully exposed in the near (NW) corner The clay surface being revealed (L) contrasts strongly with the black mound material being removed (R) Putting the previous photo in context (the information board and ranging rod have not been moved)


Week 3: 26th - 31st May


As we trowel through the burnt mound material, we find pieces of charcoal (more charcoal pics later) ... ... and of course we remove lots of heat-cracked stones. Here is a shot of the spoil heap... ... and a close-up of the stones on the heap


                           Looking towards the west, we see that there is still some burnt mound material to be removed. A feature of some sort is beginning to appear at the S end of the field drain. Here's a close-up of that feature. Maybe it's a post hole?


Week 4: 2nd - 7th June


Sectioning the "post hole" feature - half way down The section completed The feature in context - note the lines on the surface of the clay - some may be animal runs, some seem too straight


Week 5: 9th - 14th June


A view of the excavation prior to back-filling, looking W ...with a close-up of the baulk in the SW corner... ...and of the posthole, now with most of its fill removed


Now looking towards the N... ...with a close-up of part of the N baulk showing burnt mound material in it Back-filling in progress - Colin operating the barrow




We found a lot of pieces of charcoal... ...and here are some of the larger pieces Our oldest find was this fossilised piece of root of the extinct giant tree-fern stigmaria ficoides.


The fossil, from the Carboniferous, is possibly about 320 million years old. We hope to have the charcoal carbon dated, and I will report here on the result and on any conclusions we may draw. We will probably return to the site next year, in an attempt to locate any trough associated with the burnt mound, and we would also like to locate more post holes - maybe there are three more to be found!

Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, July 2012.