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Discussion report from the digs beside Germany Beck

This work was undertaken with generous support from the Mick Ashton Archaeological Fund.

This is a short paper to describe and discuss the work at Germany Beck that was completed last week. It is not, and should not be quoted as, the results of the work as the detailed analysis is still to be done. There are two exceptions:

1.     A causeway was identified in trench 1, proving that this was an active fording place. The causeway aligns with the modern Fulford Road.

2.     A layer of iron artefacts was identified in trench 2. They have all emerged from a context (6) that lies above the natural clay base of the ford and below a layer of with many laminations of iron pan (5) which is itself capped by a layer which pottery can date to a century after 1066.

                    i.            It is worth noting that the iron was found exclusively in this layer and was not found throughout the profile suggestive of a one-time loss rather than routine losses.

                  ii.            Only iron items were found. No non-ferrousor ceramic finds emerged from this layer.

                iii.            In archaeological terms, the amount of material found in the small area excavated seems remarkable.

The work

Two trenches were opened over three weekendsplus a programme of augering and surveying was undertaken.

The aim of the first trench was to expose the stone surface and investigate why the soil profile previously examined using auger samples was so different from the area 10m to the west. This sondage produced few objects and this is consistent with the previously published interpretation of land use in this area. A profile of the stones in the causeway also produced no artefacts but did provide a number of what appear to be datable carbon samples.

The second trench was near the trial trenchof August 2013 designed to confirm the exceptional layer of iron objects that had previously been noted and which was the motive for this excavation. The results have been noted above.

The augering work was designed to plot the various layers down to the natural boulder clay along the beck. By surveying the levels it is hoped that the natural surface, the various layer and the extant of the iron objects can be plotted and ultimately, so the whole fordcan be explored with excavation.

Between the two trenches was a depression that was previously believed to be man-made. However, among the many visitors to the site were two old residents who noted this was known as a dangerous quicksand. Barriers had been placed before living memory to prevent people falling in.

Analysis planned

·        Attempts are being made to have the larger iron objects examined using CT. The smaller items and washed debris will be xrayed. The items are all covered in a deep concretion making identification and any conservation challenging. So economic techniques will be explored to reveal the iron surface for both the large and small objects. (See image 2)

·        Quantitative analysis of the ferrous layer (5) will be undertaken to investigate if its formation is consistent with the biological origin of iron pan and to map Fe concentrations horizontally and vertically. The cause for the clear boundary above and below will be explored.pH levels will be measured.

·        The stone samples taken from the causeway and from the iron-finds context (6) will be assessed for size distribution to help understand their construction or formation.

·        The role of the causeway in actually creating the hazardous discontinuity between the two trenches will be investigated using hydrological modelling.

·        Particle size analysis between the various layers will be quantified to see if this shed any light on the penetration of alluvium and therefore possible help assess the time taken to build the layers. This data will be used to link the layers across the discontinuity and provide data for assessing the material in the discontinuity when that is investigated.

·        A methodology for further investigation of the iron layer will be prepared in the light of the experience with metal detecting and the quantity of fragmentary iron encountered to guide future excavations.

Some of the ideas that will be tested

The effect of the causeway in actually causing the hazardous  discontinuity, noted earlier, will be checked since the removal in recent years (2011?) of the stones from the base of the modern beck quickly led to the base being eroded and the formation of a dangerously soft base. Did the removal of the stones to build the mediaeval causeway create the discontinuity that is visible today? Was the very soft base the reason that material was lost here and not recovered from this area immediately west of the causeway?

The interpretation and location of the ford set out in Finding Fulford(p 79-84) will be checked in the light of the  discovery of the causeway to see if it consistent with the evolution of the use of the ford that was described.

Once the nature of the iron objects found is better understood, explanations for their accumulation will be tested. This will certainly include investigating the possibility that they are debris from the 1066 battle as the contextual dating makes this a feasible explanation. Evidence of investigations at other fording places will be sought for comparison.

Timetable

It will take several months to produce a preliminary report(the target is December) with the target to produce the full report before July 2015. But the analysis is unfunded, but an invitation to apply to EH for funds has been received. Meanwhile I am still dependent upon the generous help offered by The University of York and York Archaeological Trust, among others, for which I am immensely grateful.

I have written to the City Planners to tell them that the area adjacent to Germany Beck is rich in archaeology and the north bank where road construction is soon scheduled to start requires a thorough examination. However, they have ignored this and agreed a scheme of work (WSI) which will ignore this area. Persimmon, the would-be developer’s conclusion, that there ‘would appear to be no need for further archaeological work’ is based on their failure to do acceptable archaeology. They note ‘the land was much firmer than expected’[1]but then failed to expose the layers. They literally scratched the surface according to the work they submitted. This erroneous opinion has been accepted by the City Planners.

I ampreparing to challengein Court the way the way the public archaeologists have continued to accept the conclusions of the developer’s work despite so many errors being reported.

Chas Jones

18 September 2014

 

Trench 1

The causeway showing the slope to the west and the surface after some stones and a profile section had been removed.

A profile from the causeway surface. The larger stones were set in a matrix of smaller stones with flat stones on or near the surface.

 

A section of the pebbly clay (context 6) was removed and these fragmentary pieces of iron were removed after washing.

 

 

These stones come from a sample of the pebbly-clay layer removed and washed. Almost all of these stone have encrusted iron on their surfaces.

The iron fragments (above) were removed from this sample after washing.

Soil profile of trench 2.

Some of the larger iron objects from trench 2. They are on a 1cm squared sheet for reference.

(Photos documenting the recovery of each item will be published in due course – the items were assembled for this photo to save space)

 


[1] Persimmons archaeological contractor MAP report 1996,352: Page 10 for both quotes.

 

Related sites Facebook  Twitter (@ helpsavefulford)        Visiting Fulford        Map York

There is a site devoted to saving the battlesite: The site has the story of the process that has allowed the site to be designated an access road to a Green Belt, floodplain housing estate.

And another website for the Fulford Tapestry that tells the story of the September 1066: This tells the story embroidered into the panels.

The author of the content is Chas Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com  last updated June 2015

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