Fulford battlefied under threat

July 2014 dig

The Fulford Tapestry

Zones

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Areas which produced ferrous finds of special interest to the battle

Introduction

Ultimately, four areas or zones of special interest have been identified so far following several inspections and the analysis of the finds. These places all have a collection of items that provide an evidential link to the battle. (The term zone is employed here to distinguish it from the larger areas – a zone 1 is part of area 1, zone 2 is part of area 3 but zone 3 is part of area 10 and zone 4 is part of area 9).

Zone 1 – An area centred on grid 602482 produced the tanged arrows and probably the closest river landing to the battle site.

Zone 2 – An area centred on grid 6100486 along Landing Lane. This area overlooks the fording area and the beck so is very close to, but it is probably not an area where, much fighting took place.

Zone 3 - A square block with 160m sides centred on grid 616489. It lies to the east of the shieldwalls and just beyond the flanks of the opposing armies. This was where the largest billets and hearth bottom plus other furnace debris were found.

Zone 4 – An area centred on grid 619491. An oblong zone which is characterised by the density of billets and tools found here. This zone lies along the possible retreat route and is 600m east of the flanks, so some distance from the shieldwall battle.

Access restrictions have so far prevented these areas being defined more precisely. This will require more work. The charts in appendix 1 and 2 suggest that the land has much more to reveal. 

 These two items have been identified, with a high degree of probability, as examples of part made tanged arrowheads. The problem with identifying these items is because there are no known examples of part-made arrowheads. They have a different design with the one on the right having a flat blade while the one on the left conforms to the established morphology as a type 1A. The images are from YAT.

 

Zone 1

This area is just south of the bridge carrying the ring road across the Ouse (part of area 1). The significant finds from this zone are the two tanged arrows and a number of hand-forged nails, some which are believed to be un-used boat nails. There is also one possible anvil.

There was no metal working debris, such as the signature slag or other hearth debris like that found in the other zones, recovered from this area. If it exists, it could have escaped detection because of the difficult detecting conditions as the metal content of slag is low.

But the possibility that the area might have been disturbed is another explanation for the lack of hearth debris so far located (if it was there to be found). Nearby are the ponds left after the extraction of gravel. There is some evidence of a workshop nearby, possibly associated with the gravel extraction, where chains and modern tools were identified. A rusty pair of pliers, a hammer and other artefacts that were clearly modern, masked the interesting material during the early analysis of this assemblage.

But oral research indicates that the area where the arrowheads were found was not disturbed during the ring road construction or by the gravel extraction.

This is the only reprocessing site identified that is not close to the battlefield. One attractive interpretation is that this was a place where seamen were making items suited to their special requirements, so it is important to revisit and investigate this area with metal detecting after some preparation of the surface. It is premature to suggest that the absence of larger billets is a consequence of its distance from the main action of the battle.

Zone 2

This area yielded only two items whose possible significance to the battle was only recognised recently. One item, initially identified as a possible weight, was not sent for expert appraisal and only when the XRF data linked it to the composition of similar samples was it reassessed as another hearth bottom. This area did yield five lead shield-weights and was also the site of the Water Fulford settlement, which poses a problem.

Any interpretation suggesting metal working associated with the battle has to recognise several issues: the area has been cultivated, we found a cluster of horse shoes from the same area, plus the hearth-bottom was located beside a putative ancient track. There is a suggestion that in later medieval times metal-working was exiled from the urban environment. Locating a smithy beside the ford would make sense and, indeed, a building identified as a smithy the other side of the ford is identified on early maps. It has also been suggested that horseshoes might have been fitted prior to a journey and removed when entering towns.

Consequently, the hearth might have come from later metal working on the site. From the substantial amount of pottery, charter evidence and maps we can recognise that this place was occupied about three centuries after the battle and declined as a residential centre about a century ago.

Zone 3

This was the first area where a smithing hearth was found. The later identification of billets, tools, slag and some items coated with what appeared to be hearth-flux confirmed this was an area where metalworking had taken place. It is very unlikely that so many hearth-related finds would be found together if the material had been dumped in such a location. It has no easy road or track connection to the city and lies south of Germany Beck.

If the location and course of the battle that has been proposed, based on the landscape and literary evidence, is correct, then this zone would be among the nearest accessible areas on the south bank of the beck that was just outside the ‘killing area’.

The hearth-bottom does not show any banding, suggesting that it was not subject to repeated heating and cooling cycles.

There were 28 billets identified from the field. They were distributed around the place where the hearth bottom was found, concentrated in one area of the field.[ii]

The area also produced one tool and one possible anvil along with a 20+ pieces of slag.

Three lumps of iron, with a V shaped profile, have led some to suggest that they are parts of weapons. It is further speculated that they had been deliberately cut as such fragments have been reported from some battle sites in the Skåne area (now southern Sweden). The tentative interpretation given by their local archaeologists was some ritualistic breaking of weapons but this context of weapon recycling offers an alternative explanation.

These weapon-shaped fragments on the southeast edge might have been moved to the hedge by the action of ploughing, although such movement is not suggested by the density distribution, some north/south spreading rather than east/west spreading.

The size of the hearth bottom and the large size of the billets located around it, invites the interpretation that this was one of the larger reprocessing sites. Until these zones are fully investigated it is unclear if there was a hierarchy of sites, but the limited evidence available suggests that the central area was producing larger billets than the peripheral sites.

This site produced all of the items termed ‘triangular’ and ‘oblong’, although the weights of the items varied. Our modern thinking would favour standardising the shape, size and weight of manufactured items. It will be fascinating to explore this area fully in order to provide a better picture of whatever metal working was going on. A full survey of this field was not allowed when these finding were disclosed. Only the northern fringe of this field has been surveyed.

This area has the ‘charcoal pits’ discussed in chapter 2, just beyond the northern edge, close to Germany Beck. 

Zone 4

The hoard of billets was found close to trench serial-2 that was excavated by MAP in late October 2003. This excavation was supplementary work on the site of what is called the ‘on-line pond’. This is a hydrological device to hold the water from any deluges on the planned housing development in this area in an attempt to prevent flooding. A basin would be excavated that would provide a buffer during heavy rain to prevent Germany Beck being overwhelmed by storm-water run off from the planned estate. This scheme did not form a part of the original building proposal. Consequently we were not initially prevented from working in this area. By good fortune, we had already done a preliminary and two more detailed surveys before the area was closed to further research.[iii]

Trench 2 is described in the report in these terms:

“In [the trench] a natural hollow had been filled with modern topsoil, context 5, which had removed the topsoil from the northern end of the trench. According to the farmer, this had been done very recently, within 30 years”.

Grey silt, 1.10m deep, which included organic remains, was recovered from this trench and subsequently analysed.

“The assemblage comprised terrestrial and wetland plants, several of which would not have been out of place in an alder swamp. An unusual species recorded as water purslane (Lythrum Perplis portula), a species found at the edges of ponds, and represented here by a single seed; it is otherwise only known to the authors from waterlain deposits from a medieval moated site near Liverpool.”[iv]

The environmental evidence suggests that there was a wetland here in medieval times. It is evident that the topsoil has been landscaped by farmers to fill what was a waterlogged area. The movement of soil from the north of the trench towards the south has probably taken place over several generations, with major work being conducted since WWII to raise the level of land that was subject to regular flooding.

But nearby, two pieces of medieval Gritty ware of 12th – 13th century were found along with evidence for land use from pre-historic times.[v] So any metal worker after the battle was working on the fringe of a wetland and this could account for its preservation since plant growth and burial by flooding would have quickly concealed the area. In the context of the battle, this area is interpreted as on the route of the retreating English army and therefore possibly a rich place to find battle debris. This in turn would make it a good site to assemble and reprocess the debris after the battle.



[i] Subsequent inspections increased the number of finds associated with this reprocessing site.

[ii] As noted in the discussion of the work done in each area, there is the suggestion of a distribution pattern in area 10, with data missing from 2 rows.

[iii] The report published by MAP on behalf of the developers claims that the spoil from the trenches was surveyed by metal detectorists. What really happened is discussed in the essay about the planning process.

[iv] The result of this work by Harry Kendrew,  Alan Hall and others, formed part of the MAP pond evaluation

[v] MAP Ponds evaluation

 

 

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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 February 2015

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