20 Jul 2019

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 5

trench 2
Rubble deposit mostly removed from trench 2

We made surprisingly good progress today despite the dire weather forecasts, work only having to stop briefly in the morning for a heavy downpour which had moved on by lunchtime, allowing us to make good headway in excavating the rubble demolition deposit in trench 2.

The east end of the trench (left in pic) is relatively featureless, although there may be signs of a gravel floor in front of the barn wall, the relative dating or purpose of which is not yet clear.

Some work continued in trench 1, mostly to verify that the small scatters of brick and tile were ephemeral (which they were) - there is now not much more to do other than record and eventually backfill the trench.

vaulted drain
Large vaulted drain at east end T2

The east end of trench 2, closest to the palace boiling house is an altogether different story, which is becoming more complex by the day.

So far we've uncovered one and possibly a second brick column base apparently built against the exterior of the barn, as well as the remains of what looks like a brick floor beneath them. Yesterday we had identified and began to define a deep rubble-filled cut in front of these, and today we continued to remove the rubble fill and better define the cut. To our surprise the removal of the rubble revealed a large vaulted drain running at an angle towards the barn wall.

antler excavation
antler tine emerges

Substantial vaulted drains are not uncommon at Elsyng - we've seen several and the extensive complex of drains and water conduits that supplied Elsyng are a well documented and defining feature of the luxuries of a royal Tudor palace.

What's surprising about this one is that it seems to head to somewhere very close if not in the boiling house itself, which we saw no evidence for last year, and also that the cut it occupies is filled with demolition rubble, almost as if it was dug up during the demolition and then refilled. Tomorrow we'll continue excavating the cut and hopefully get an idea of how deep the drain's sides are.

Today's star find emerged at the far eastern end of the barn where we did some more work, further excavating in front of the projection from the barn's eastern end (see previous blogs).

deer antler
The deer antler

It is a deer antler, provisionally identified as from a male Fallow Deer, and is the first time any antler has been found on this site.

It is difficult to think of a more iconic find on the site of the one-time headquarters of the Royal Chase, and long time favourite hunting lodge of the Tudor dynasty.

It is particularly tempting to imagine the carcass of this very animal having been served to royalty, perhaps after preparation in the nearby boiling house!


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