25 Aug 2021
Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 3
No great breakthroughs today, on the third day of our hunt for the inner gatehouse of Elsyng Palace, though we did make good progress in both trenches.
We finished removing the stony deposit that covered all of trench two, and at the west end of the trench this revealed a distinct line of large dense rubble next to a much cleaner brickearth deposit. We took this as a positive sign, although it was not possible to tell if the rubble was the fill of a cut or perhaps overlaid something structural, so we cut a 50cm sondage through it at the very end of the trench to find out what was beneath it.
We were slightly disappointed to find the rubble lifted to reveal a mostly sterile brickearth, but at the north corner of the trench there is evidence of the rubble layer dipping much deeper, which may be tentative evidence of a deeper cut just outside the trench, perhaps a rubble-filled pit.
We didn't have time to explore this any further today, but tomorrow we plan to look at this corner more closely and if there is indeed evidence of a deeper cut here, we may extend the trench slightly to see more of it.
The going was tough at the other end of the trench, as we spent most of the morning picking between the myriad of tree roots to fully remove yesterday's stony context and clean the revealed rubbly context for planning and photography.
Although we did begin removing the rubble in the afternoon it's still too early to say what kind of archaeology it is likely to reveal.
Meanwhile trench one made excellent if disappointing progress - we successfully located the second tarpaulin from 2019 and removed all of our previous backfill by the end of the morning.
We then excavated most of the extended area of the trench to the same level, but unfortunately drew a blank on the expected line of the brick water conduit (see day one for explanation).
Since this trench is less than two metres from the last trench that revealed a stretch of the conduit, there are only a few reasons that this trench can contain no sign of it - either the conduit is not as straight as expected and runs slightly south of trench one, or it makes an abrupt change of direction before reaching the trench, or maybe even comes to a sudden end, although that would be a remarkable coincidence.
The easiest hypothesis to test is the first one, so late in the day we opened a small 0.5 by 1.5m southerly extension, at the east end of trench one. If this contains no sign of the conduit we'll assume it makes a sudden course change somewhere west of trench one, and will open another extension in that direction. In a worst case scenario we can simply work back to our old trench where we know the conduit exists.
The archaeology of Elsyng has always been inherently unpredictable and we're only on the third day of our two-week dig, so we've still got plenty of time to find the conduit and hopefully something structural in trench two.