A group of people is standing about in a grassy field in the gentle rain, moving slowly back and forward with tiny steps. Perhaps one of them has lost their car keys, and all the others are helping to search for them? Not quite, but they are searching for something. Inch by careful inch, they are feeling with their feet for shallow channels in the ground, the remains of what looks like an irrigation system in a field beside an ancient village. This was the last day of the first part of the hunt for Studmarsh.
Feeling with the feet for tiny ups and downs under the thick grass was just one of the techniques we learned from Dai and Chris, who also showed us how to map the “humps and bumps” that reveal where people have changed the landscape. We have found a deeply worn roadway, pits that were probably a quarry, and several level platforms that show where there were buildings. On the hillside opposite the quarry area and the irrigated field are traces of more houses, and a track leading to them.
All these features have been plotted as a series of dots on a map, using an incredibly accurate instrument that stores the information so that a computer can print it out. We wait with great excitement to see the results, and to discuss the next stage of the search, using the map to decide where to start digging. Some time in August we plan to get down and dirty, trowel in hand, to delve into the soil in search of the truth about Studmarsh. Watch this space!
Post by Malcolm Penny, Volunteer (now hooked on archaeology)