The Excavation (6/8)
When I reported my observations and finds to the monument protection authorities they liked to hear about it. The archaeologist even mentioned the option to drive there together and have a closer look. But then weeks passed and I did not hear from them. It became clear that there would be neither a common excavation nor C14 dating. When my hairdresser told me she had read in the newspapers that archaeologists discovered an old furnace I was not sure whether this was my discovery.
To make a long story short, two more years passed. Other search projects had priority and the old searcher’s rule Do not procrastinate was proved again. Then I decided to finish this project by doing an excavation on my own. Luckily, the exact place was well documented in my notes and I found it very soon though it did not contain any metal pieces.
The picture gives an overview of my little excavation. The hole indicates the place where the big piece of sponge iron was found. The big knife was found on the high ground in the background.
The same scene from a different angle.
After I had removed the loose earth re-filled by me years earlier this photo was made. The “N” sheet with the compass points north. Every segment on the footrule is 10 cm long. A small brush can be seen above.
So much to dig, so little time. If little else, my first little excavation brought back the joy of digging considered lost since the days of childhood.
The tool’s blade was very useful to slowly remove layer after layer without smearing in order to reveal any interesting structures.
To make it short, I dug for several hours until I came to an uneven layer of stones. Some of those stones were 50 cm under the surface, two large ones (which had been discovered at the first attempt) 35 cm. I did not find remains of a furnace. No pipes or other manmade structures. However, embedded in the loam layer between 30 and 50 cm depth I found several small pieces of slug with possible traces of sponge iron, some small (1 cm) pieces or charcoal and some coin sized pieces of baked clay.
We all know red-orange brick stones which are produced by baking clay. The same process occurs when the clay used to form the furnace is exposed to the intense heat. So pieces of the furnace wall looking like potsherds are to be expected at a furnace site. They were not found. But I found coin sized thin red layers of baked clay imbedded in the loam. To sum it up, I found traces of iron ore processing using a furnace but I did not find the furnace itself.
How long does it take before 15 cm of loam are deposited and additional 15 cm of dark soil? This is roughly the amount of time that elapsed since iron was made at that creek, some estimated 700-1000 years.
The sketch shows the encountered layers. The depicted small pieces of red brick, charcoal and sponge iron/slug are symbolic and do not mirror the exact position of found items.
The picture shows the stone layer when all clay was removed which was a tedious process. Very soon the brush was saturated with loam and had to be cleaned in the creek. Left of the center the two high stones can be seen also visible in the sketch. The tops of these stones were encountered along with the large piece of sponge iron two years ago. The marked spot shows where the big piece of sponge iron was located. The stone layer looks natural though to substantiate that statement it had been better to dig another hole some 10 m away at the same distance to the creek to ensure the same geologic conditions.
Example for charcoal pieces and orange baked clay imbedded in the loam.
During excavation I became excited when I thought I had found two large pipes. But the “pipes” turned out to be some sort of cylindrical sandstone. Hard surface, soft, sand-like interior. On the “hole last phase” picture above the sandstones are located on top of the footrule.
(C) Thorsten Straub www.metal-detecting.de 2006-2011.