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Tollgate Farm 2009

 

Author: Winston Hollins, Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society

 

This year we continued where we left off last year. The “boundary ditch” and the lines of postholes were followed further South. In addition the pit, partially sectioned in 2008, was opened in its entirety with a good margin around, to see if there was a building surrounding or associated with the pit.

As always, the boundary ditch didn’t really behave as expected. It did continue as a wide feature for about 3m with two intrusions, which we are interpreting as postholes. It then thinned to a smaller ditch. The two rows of postholes we found last year did continue (just) to take us to the edge of the pit. They must indicate the line of the walls of a building, that is associated with the pit. Some sort of oven or hearth, with two fire mouths, was discovered but, unfortunately, it is rather truncated by ploughing.

The pit turned out to be the star of the show.

 

Early pit sectionThe fill of the first couple of metres was very uniform, a hard, black material with very little in it.

 

 

 

 

Marks on Stone

 

 The centre did have some large sandstones, one of which has an engraved mark on it (an M or an XX depending how wildly you let your imagination wander).

 

 

 

 Ring in Pit

 

The fill did yield a coin dated to about 275 A.D. and a super silver (or silvered bronze) finger ring.

 

 

 

 

Cow bones in pit Then things changed; the skeleton of the body, neck and head of a cow was discovered. This may well be associated with some sort of closing ceremony for the pit.

 

 

 

 

Cow bones on table At first we thought these were horse bones, until we were corrected by an expert.

 

 

 

 

 

A little lower down were 2 part skulls of cow, with horn cores. Again, the nature of the fill changed and became what we think is latrine waste. Leather was found in these 2 latter layers.

Shoe loops Most, if not all, of the leather seems to be from shoes. Some of the pieces have the ankle loops and the loops for lacing the foot still in place.

 

 

 

 The condition of the leather is quite remarkably good. It has been rushed to the conservators at the York Archaeological Trust, who will freeze dry it after treating it with glycerol. Some of the fill of the pit showed traces of a bright blue material. Analysis of this proved it to be an unusual phosphate of iron II (found in reducing conditions). Indeed, most of the iron nails found in the pit were coated with this bright blue substance.

The wall of the pit proved to be of great interest. Pit wall lining After the hole had been dug a thin layer of clay had been plastered around the cut to provide smooth clay walls. In certain places (to the N and E) a rougher, thicker layer of clay, was applied around oak supports. It is not clear whether this secondary coating was added initially or applied as a result of a failure of the existing wall. The timber was taken for identification at Keele University (it was mostly hazel twigs and oak) but it may be travelling to Manchester for possible dendrochronology.

The pit surrounds were partially excavated but, due to safety considerations, this could not be completed. However, we have seen enough to be sure that it is contemporary and associated with the buildings we have been discovering in previous years. It may well have been surrounded by a square structure.

 

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Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, November 2010.