Blog by Ryan Swain, Boston University
Today, our brave company of four men and nine women (counting instructors and volunteers!) faced cool, wet, and breezy conditions, which had not been the trend during my first days on site last week. Our spirits were grim at first, since in addition to the damp weather we were down four members – Tara from Colorado finished last Friday, Ciaran will not be with us again until Bective, and sickness hindered Sam and Megan. However, two new student recruits swelled our ranks, as Robert joined us, who has just finished at University College Cork, and Niall with him, who filmed at Bective Abbey when the pin was found last season. They and a warm mug of tea did much to raise our morale this morning.
Additionally, the archaeology continues to excite new curiosity. Perhaps in light of our ‘grave’ start, our Irish students Caroline and Pearl did in fact discover a human skull amidst what is probably collapsed masonry from the southernmost wall feature in Cutting 1 (north cutting). GC suspects a burial may have occurred that cut into our spill of ‘stony rubble.’ Was somebody looking for a holy resting place, or up to unholy mischief? We all remain intrigued.
Teams at both cuttings excavated remarkably deep today by using ‘sondages’ (French word, fancier than ferckling – it refers to a mini-cutting used to plumb strata’s depths and reveal their vertical relationships) to penetrate the loose masonry rubble abutting our wall features. By the end of the day, Kirsten, Elle, Caroline, Margaret and Pearl had revealed at least another metre on either side of the south wall in Cutting 1. Kirsten and Elle showed me a sizeable rectangular stone, easily 50cm long, that lay perhaps 1.5m down the east face of their wall, and which they suspect may be a step in some sort of stairway. In Cutting 2, Emma’s trench on the north side of the wall feature may have reached down all the way to the bottom side of the collapsed wall, where we will have to designate a new feature for the surface on which the wall rests.
Though the wall feature in Cutting 2 remains unplanned – no sooner had we finally set up a grid than we quit early because of the rain – we made important progress today, and not just because we identified our first human remains in this part of the site. Getting to the layer immediately beneath the collapsed wall features should help us date the actual episode(s) when the walls collapsed. And somewhere not too far below that, the enticing floor surface of the church itself awaits our brushes and trowels…