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Cox Bank Farm, 2013: Pictorial Dig Diary -
updated to the final (for this year) day - 11th July.


Now includes Winston's summing-up of our 2013 dig - find it here


This year, we have been excavating another area of the burnt mound that we were working on this time (May) last year.  To see some pictures, and read what I wrote about that excavation, click here. For a pictorial week-by-week diary of this year's excavation, read on...


The area we investigated this year is the SW quadrant of the mound. It is S and a bit W of last year's excavation.


Click on any picture to enlarge it.


Week 1: 20th - 26th April


First session of trowelling, just below the turf The next working day - the stones are just starting to show After a bit more trowelling, this odd feature appears in the middle of the area


This is a close-up of the feature that has appeared. It seems to be clay. During excavation of this feature (see pics below), a few small sherds of creamware ca 1830  were found in it, showing that it is relatively modern


Week 2: 27th April - 3rd May


This section of the feature shows it is made of orange clay, with a layer of brown loam between it and the original pale yellow clay surface (with its own black feature) Most of the orange clay removed (apart for the top R corner) showing more of the underlying surface. And a black-filled hole in the bottom L. (This "lobe" is at the top of the picture above) Dave filming the section


Week 3: 4th - 10th May


At this point, Winston wanted to compare stone sizes between different parts of the area. So we took stones from two small (ca 500cm square) sections for him to count stones of various sizes. This is one section .... ... and this is the other, in a different part of the area. More detail later, when Winston has released the results...



Week 4: 11th - 17th May


As the surface of the natural clay emerges, we start to see the dark lines similar to those we saw last year. Some sinuous, some straight. Colin has exposed what appears to be a piece of wood or charcoal in the NE corner of the area (top RH corner of the previous picture) Dave photographing Colin's find. Disappointingly, this later turns out to be compressed ash and charcoal fragments. Shaped by being compressed in a groove? (of which more later)


We have been finding a lot of pieces of charcoal, some quite large. Here is a selection.
We sent some of the charcoal from this mound to a lab in New Zealand for carbon dating. The results are in: 1300 BC ± 46 years. This is the same date as the mound we excavated in 2006. Download the report using the link in the Reports section at the bottom of this page



This week we found this large piece of flint, which Dave has photographed so that you can see it from all four sides. You can see what appears to be wear on one face. Could it be an ard point? (An ard was a light plough. Having no board to turn the soil, it was used in lines one way, then again at right angles to break up the soil)



These dark lines in the top of the natural clay layer are intruiging. Some experts say they are made by an ard (plough lines), some sceptics say they are animal burrows or mole runs. Maybe we have both here - ard lines would be straight and crossing at right angles (roughly), animal runs more likely to be sinuous. We need to investigate further.


Week 5: 18th - 24th May


Looking N. You can see two small sections cut across some of the interesting lines. The furthest one (E of the top ranging rod) is pictured next. The nearer one (at the S tip of the N-S ranging rod) is pictured to the right of that. So, here is the northmost of the two sections, cut across a straight dark line. It has a V-shaped section, suggesting it is an ard mark (plough line)... ...whereas this one, nearest to us in the leftmost picture, appears to have a rounded cross section, suggesting it was made by an animal burrowing under the burnt mound material


In the leftmost of the three pictures above, you can see we've made a start on a northerly extension. This week we deturfed it, and at the time this picture was takem, we were starting to hit heat-shattered stones - very hard trowelling!


Week 6: 25th - 31st May


We did not manage to do much work on site this week as the weather was so wet, but Winston did take the opportunity to mark up the picture representing the results of our magnetometry survey, to show the areas we have excavated so far (areas A and C which you can see in the lefthand picture above, looking north across area A to area C). He also marked out another area beyond area C, which will be area D.

He matched the scale of the resistivity survey view to that of the magnetometry survey, and the middle picture below shows the resistivity result in place of the magnetometry of the mound area. Also shown is the area we excavated in 2012.

Click on any of the pictures to expand it.


This picture shows the magnetometry results and the excavation areas in outline only. Here the resistivity results replace the magnetometry over the excavation areas only. And this one has the excavation areas labelled


Week 7: 1st - 7th June


Working in Area C. This view is looking roughly S - you can see Area A in the top LH corner of the picture Area C later the same day, looking the other way, roughly northwards where you can see us working in Area D Later, Area C looking towards the S. Some features are emerging. The nearest one (R of the board) is filled with plough soil, the large feature S of it with burnt mound material.


In Area D, Winston found this small worked flint - a borer or a piercer?

We now believe this to be the broken barb of a bronze age arrow head.



Week 8: 8th - 14th June


Area D has some almost circular festures filled with plough soil. Here's a close-up of one of them, you can see it in context in the next picture, which shows the whole of Area D (Area C is off to the right). Subsequent excavation revealed these features to be shallow, possibly stone holes - post pads??? You can also see some of the original clay surface (bottom R), similar to that in Area A.


Colin is removing part of the baulk between Areas A and C. Somewhere just in front of him  and to his left, the clay surface of Area A (behind him) stops, giving way to a fill of black burnt mound material in Area C... ...but the clay surface continues to Colin's right (on the left of this photo, looking S)



Week 9: 15th - 21st June


We have sectioned the feature which lies just in front of where Colin was trowelling in the picture above this one. The horizontal ranging rod lies parallel to, and just in front of the top of the section. Seen from the other side, so we are now looking W. From this vantage point, it looks as if the feature runs up to the right i.e. roughly NW-wards. This view is from the top of the spoil heap S of Area A, looking N across Areas A, C and D.
You can see the feature in Area C, which we think may be the trough.



Although it may look as if Winston is praying to whoever the god of archaeology may be ... He's actually showing us how high we need to hold the sheets to cast a large enough shadow that Dave can get a clear photo of the feature!


Here's Dave's picture showing the excavation of the feature so far. Colin is holding the staff for Winston to measure the heights around and in the feature using the dumpy level.


The main feature in Area C after a little more work. We have retained the section on the right. For the time being, we are also retaining a small baulk between the nearer part of the feature and the part beyond (northwards). Clearly the feature extends below the the undug NW corner of Area C, and here you can see that we have now almost completely removed it.


At this point we had a week off. Resuming on the 29th June, we started to trowel down the still slightly raised NW corner of Area C, intending to investigate what happens to the "trough" feature under that corner. Do we have a small trough with water supply channels to/from it (one of which may lead under that NW corner), or do we have just one large trough (with water channels in/out which we haven't seen yet)? Or maybe it is not a trough at all...!


Week 10: 29th June - 5th July


The area being trowelled here is that NW corner of Area C, which seems to be a working surface - a floor? Marlene (in pink, nearest the camera) found this piece of pottery amongst the stones of this surface. As you can see from these photographs, this sherd has a very course texture with many inclusions, and it is surprisingly large. We understand that only tiny fragments of pottery, if any, have been found on other burnt mound sites. That is, apart from cremation urns, and this does not appear to be a piece of one of those.


Winston found this small flint in the same surface. Is it a small scraper?


Meanwhile, we have reached what appears to be the bottom of the trough, with sandy silt between the stones. We have removed most of the black fill (the sides still need some attention in that respect). We are leaving a baulk between this part of the feature and that beyond so that we can photograph the section later.

The trough as described previously, with the baulk separating it from ... more of the trough! The stony surface has been largely removed to reveal more of the trough beneath it. Look at the very top of the picture, where Janet is cutting a section through the "floor" surface - what is that dark patch she has revealed at the base of the baulk? (see later) We have now removed the stones from the bottom of the nearer part of the trough. The further part is continuing to take shape, suggesting that what we have here is one large trough

Looking back at the southern end of the southern part of the trough: in removing black fill from the clay sides, we reveal what appear to be signs of timber revetting - no wood remains were found, however - only the shape. The enlarged corners of the trough (giving the whole a suggestion of fishtail ends) suggest there may originally have been wooden corner posts to hold the revetting in place.

We have extended the area slightly northwards so that Janet can investigate the dark feature under the northern baulk. Dave meanwhile is photographing the trough This is what Janet has been excavating. It seems to be more than just a post hole - could it possibly be the corner of another trough? We'll have to find out next year... This is the northern end of the whole trough, again showing the enlarged corners that may have held posts to support revetting


Week 11: 6th - 11th July (the final week for this year)

Before we close the site for this year, here first are some pictures of the entire trough, with the fill removed as far as possible to reveal the sides cut into the natural clay. Then some pictures taken during backfilling on the final two days, 9th and 11th July. We would have finished the job in one day if it hadn't been so hot (mid to high 20's Centigrade)!


This is looking NW, showing Janet's intriguing feature beyond. We will have to wait until next year to find out what this is This is looking in the opposite direction, towards the SE

This is taken from the W baulk. You can see a horizontal line running from end to end which may indicate a wooden floor laid end-to-end? This is the NW end of the trough, clearly showing where we think two of the corner posts to support wooden sides may have been ...and this is another view from the W baulk. Again you can see the end-to-end line of maybe the central timber of a possible wooden floor?

And finally -

We had more than a little help from the farmer with his tractor & bucket - Thanks, Graham! Dave putting on the finishing touches
The final day team You'd hardly know we'd been there

I'll post reports here as they become available. First, below is the report on the radio-carbon dating of the charcoal we found here last year.



Click on this link to download the Radiocarbon dating report on the charcoal, as a pdf file.


You can read Dig Director Winston's interim summing-up of the 2013 dig in this report (in pdf format), in which he discusses what we have discovered about this site and how this fits with current knowledge and theories concerning the purpose of burnt mounds in England. Most of the finds and features he mentions are pictured above.

In conclusion, he adds the hope that we will be able to return next year to carry out further geophysics surveying and excavation in pursuit of more information concerning possible bronze age occupation in the vicinity of the mound. And of course to investigate the late-discovered feature that may be a second trough .... or may not!


Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, 18th August 2013.