Bristol Dig Berkeley Final Week Roundup

The third and final week ended in torrential rain but thankfully we had finished recording the features on Thursday evening in the glorious sunshine!

The sump, still holds water!

Over the course of the week the team worked very hard to finish excavating and recording all of our remaining features. The feature thought to be a well was bottomed and it is now being interpreted as a sump rather than a well. It was only 85cm deep and has two stone lined channels leading into/out of it. 

The sump, with its two channels, one of which runs alongside the E-W wall

It may well have been dug to help dry out the surrounding land to make it more suitable for building. We know thanks to the many drains excavated in this part of the site and from stories told to us by local residents that a number of springs exist in this area of Berkeley and so water management must have been an ongoing issue for the town's Medieval inhabitants.

The West end of Trench 8 with the sump and wall in the centre

The sump is just to the side of a large, well built E-W wall. We excavated slots on either side of the wall hoping to find associated features such as floor layers. Unfortunately we had no such luck, instead we stumbled across a huge new N-S ditch which was over 4.5m wide! 

South facing section of slot excavated on the north side of the E-W wall - the section shows the Western edge of the ditch cut
The angled red line shows the cut of the ditch in section and the straight line shows the ditch cut in plan  - visible as the fills are darker than the natural clay to the left of the line

We had no idea the ditch existed and due to the lack of time we still don't know what date it is or what function it served as we were unable to fully excavate it in time for our last day in site. The E-W wall was cut through the backfilled ditch and as the wall is around thirteenth century the ditch must be earlier but by how much we don't know. Digging down alongside the E-W wall revealed that the wall continues for quite a depth and that it was beautifully constructed. 

The north face of the E-W wall cutting through our new N-S ditch
South face of the E-W wall. The upper dark deposits in the slot were directly below remnants of St. Michael's Lane, which can be seen above the slot on the right hand side

We dug a slot in the very south-west corner on the trench hoping to finally get below the Tudor levels, which we achieved! The students found a very large pit sealed by the Tudor deposits. The pottery suggests it is a medieval rubbish pit but we will know more once the finds have been analysed by our experts. The students also appear to have found another ditch in this corner, which the pit cut through. It may well be the same ditch mentioned above but we can't say for certain.
Possible Medieval rubbish pit
The red line shows a possible ditch cut which may be the same as that seen further North, cut by the E-W wall

The team found a second new ditch just to the east of the possible Anglo-Saxon ditch we finished excavating last week. This ditch is sealed by a stoney layer through which the Anglo-Saxon ditch was cut, so we know it predates the A-S ditch. The eastern edge of this new ditch is cut into bedrock and the feature runs to the north-west along the line of this bedrock outcrop. 

The second ditch which cut through an outcrop of bedrock, clearly seen here

This second new ditch is at least 1.5m wide but again due to time constraints we were unable to finish excavating the slot through it. We let our imaginations run away with us a little though and decided it was prehistoric in date! Unfortunately we can't prove that but it is nice to imagine that we may have pushed the story of Berkeley back into prehistory. Maybe one day someone will prove it for us!

Trench 8 after final recording on Thursday evening

This season will go down as one of the very best of the Berkeley Castle Project although we end with two unexcavated ditches and more questions than answers. That is often the way with archaeology and it can be frustrating at times. We have achieved an awful lot in the last fifteen years of the project though and I think I speak on behalf of all the team members when I say that although it is sad the project is ending it has been an absolute privilege to have been able to dig at Berkeley. 

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us throughout the project including the Berkeley family, all the staff at Berkeley Castle, the Edward Jenner Museum, the residents of Berkeley, the local historians, David and Peter in particular, and all of our students past and present. 

Team Shot 2019

Finally, thank you for following our progress over the last few weeks. Although the digging has come to and end, we haven't finished this season quite yet! There will be some updates on the project and the upcoming post-ex over the summer so please keep an eye out over the next few months.

Dr Siân Thomas


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