Under the leadership of Alex Whitlock, thirteen intrepid explorers crossed the border into the rather windy (and occasionally wet) Yorkshire Dales to join the Ingleborough Archaeology Group to view the widely publicised Gauber Viking Settlement. However, a slight detour above Settle on our outward journey allowed us – like a flock of sheep – to follow AW to view Kinsey cave, which excavations have shown to have been inhabited in the paleolithic era.
Half an hours drive then brought us to Ribblehead Quarry where we were taken on a fascinating walk by archaeologist and author David Johnson who led us out of the quarry onto a fabulous area of limestone pavement to view what was obviously an old settlement. But why on earth would you build on such uneven ground? Answer – they didn’t! Soil erosion transformed the landscape from good to unusable land leading to a relatively short period of habitation. With walls 2 metres thick and an internal length of nearly 20 metres the main building has long been considered to be of Viking origin but the relatively recent discovery of two 9th century coins has led to it being reassessed as pre 900AD which is some years before the Vikings invaded! This theory is supported by the layout of the building which appear to have been for human use only (the vikings are believed to have kept livestock in one half).
So ended a most interesting trip with the sun coming out to light up Ingleborough. The change in the weather must have been even more welcome to the dozens of walkers attempting the Three Peaks walk!
A small but elite group did a very low speed walk along the northern edge of Widdop today.
We lunched in Orthostat Bay before walking out along Barn Point.
The walk was a break from the usual field walks that are part of the vaccary & PHV projects. Today was about enjoying the rather excellent views, bimbling along looking at the features of a preserved upland landscape & beachcombing.
Find of the day was pretty much split between Steve and Ken – the final decision possibly going to Steve on a numeric basis.
Our day started with a slight twist. Having finished our pre walk meeting in the Heritage Centre Café (aka The Office) – we were invited to take a look at the newly renovated cruck framed barn. This has gone from an agricultural use to a marital one. Today it was being bedecked for a wedding (see image). I hope it was a happy event and went without a hitch (except the official one).
The walk itself started near Old Hall Farm, Roughlee, and initially followed Pendle Way west north west, roughly. There seem to be a number of old building platforms in the hay meadows above the village. No detail was discernible due to the height of the flora. Higher up we encountered numerous quarries before briefly joining the road that runs north out of Roughlee. Just before we did that we spied a set of old gate posts (image above) that are either medieval or early post medieval. After our brief stint on the road we headed along the north east edge of Brown Hill. This afforded us a fine view (image below) of the subject of two walks from earlier this year – Admergill.
At the north end of Brown Hill, running up to its summit, we noticed an old double ditch and bank. The image above shows it in section (courtesy of erosion) with its crown elegantly highlighted by legs. The feature becomes better defined the lower you go. It warrants further investigation. We stopped for lunch nearby and enjoyed the excellent views – like the one in the header image looking west along the Hidden Valley toward Spen Brook. After lunch we headed north east along the ridge, stopping for a look at Hollin Top Laithe Barn (one for recording) and its ancillary features – stone gatepost, walls, troughs, pitched track etc (image below). At Bank Ends we dropped down to Blacko Foot and paralleled Blacko Bar Road. In fields near North Farm we saw platforms & a banked ditch that need some research. They are on the old aerial images of the area but no clues are offered by the early OS maps. The ditch defines the edge of an area of intense ridge & furrow activity. From here we followed the old, possibly medieval, road back to Old Hall Farm and the end of the walk.
One objective of today was to look at a possible chert knapping site identified on one of the fieldwalks that comprised Phase 1 of the Pendle’s Hidden Valley Project. More material has eroded out of the site in the past year or so. I am now happy to upgrade the site from possible to probable.
I know I keep banging on about joining us on these walks because you never know what secrets of the past you may discover, or what surprising sights you may see, but it really is true. So join the Friends of Pendle Heritage and join us one of our field walks, digs, or other events. On which note, the final image was possibly the oddest thing seen today – not sure what Mother was saying to our kid but possibly summat along the lines of “Dunno what it is, but its been there since Noah were nobbut a lad”
Post excavation news – I have started the conservation of the bones from the dig.
The first stage of the work was to remove the soil carefully from the bone. This was a slow painstaking process and somewhat frustrating as the bone is very soft & fragmentary.
The next stage is to allow the bone to dry slowly, brushing off any remaining soil as it dries and loosens. This will take a few months. When that is finished the bone will be given a stable coating to preserve it.
While removing the soil from one skull’s cranial cavity I found a fragment of leg bone from what was once a sheep (probably). It has been artificially split and is in much better condition than the dog bone – probably due to having been heated. The interior face of this bone is very smooth suggesting that it have been the handle of something. It is so smooth that initially I thought the fragment was from a pipe bowl.
Remember to keep an eye on the events calendar – we have a field walk in the Hidden Valley coming up, and also a session with the finds from the dig (more post ex).
Tata ’til then.
Final day & it was spent backfilling the trenches – many thanks to Pam, Mike, Fiona, Steven, Idris, & Rhiannon for their help. The image above is the filled T2 & the series of images are of the various stages of backfilling T1.
Few little things to ask those of you who attended – 1) someone has left their trowel behind; 2) someone has wandered off with one of ours in error (red & black tape); 3) someone has left their brush behind – such things are easy today when tired at the end of the day, especially if one’s mind is on other things. Anyway, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the little fellow below.
As you can see below we ended up with a bit Victoriana & Georgiana. We still have the post excavation to do & this will be done as a training event. Its a bit like doing a dozen jigsaws at once, with loads of bits missing.
There were a few nice finds made in the course of backfilling. I’m going to leave it to you gentle reader to cast your votes for the final Find Of The Day by making a comment below or emailing email@example.com and I will add the result later. Vote by listing the number of the finds in descending order of preference. For your edification: 1 is a sherd of an imitation Etruscan ware teapot, probably Victorian; 2 is part of a Victorian decorated pipe bowl; 3 is a fragment of Victorian Cranberry glass.
Any questions about anything to do with the dig or the groups activities, please email the above address or come along to one of our events.
Many thanks to all those who helped make the dig what it was & to those of you wise enough to join Pendle Heritage we have the post excavation & the report writing to look forward too. There will also be mid week walks to help the new members (& older if they want) to understand the wider context of the dig they participated in. The dig has been part of the Pendle’s Hidden Valley Project (details elswhere on the site) and the next event that is part of that is a field walk on the 25th of June.
Final full day of digging today, we were a small but perfectly formed crew, and the sun continued to shine upon the righteous. Before we started digging I took some photos (header image & below) of some of the artificial looking shapes that the sandstone off the site splits into naturally.
Trench 2 was left to its own devices today. It got some attention at the end of the day when we took some pictures of it – see below. The ‘butterflies’ are marking the interfaces of the different contexts.
Trench 1 received the same attention – see below. All the digging took part in T1. We took the sondage down to 1300mm and its still deposited material. At about 1100mm and below there was some gritty water washed material & thin lenses of grey clay. These continued down for another 150mm then voids started appearing again. At this lowest level we are getting small bits of burnt material. From about 800mm the stones started becoming more massive too. Two of the three oddly shaped stones in the images at the start are from this level.
Meanwhile in Pet Sematary, the dog burials continued to be excavated & finally Find of the Day went to some not on their first day. The dog bones have been an ideal opportunity to teach some of our excellent new recruits a few of the more technical points about lifting soft bone. The Find of the Day (see below) was the also the final find of the day and it was a team effort to lift it. As you can see – the dogs back!
Most of the bone has been reinterred where it was found. We will hold the skulls for a short while but if we cannot get funds to preserve them they will go back too.
Final day tomorrow & its backfilling – good therapeutic stuff & much easier when shared so please come along in the morning to help if you can. Trench 2 will be the last to be backfilled so you can have a last minute dig if you want. I predict Find Of The Day will come from the spoil. Anyone who helps with the backfilling can take a small memento of the dig home with them.
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who came and joined us – we hope you enjoyed it & possibly even learned a little about the secrets of Pendle’s Hidden Valley.
Today the weather was scorchio! And there were plenty of people out to dig under little fluffy clouds (header image & below).
Things were happening in both trenches today & our trainees are learning fast. Trench 2 has had the slab lined feature cleaned up (see above – & below with approximate alignment of the slab line structure marked by the ranging rods on the ground) and removed.
The new context (3) has been lowered & levelled (see below). There are very few finds in this context – just one in fact, a pancheon sherd.
Context 3 in Trench 1 continues downward (see section photo above). The nature of the context and depth means it is no longer a place for beginners. The rest of T1 is still fine and progress through Context 1 has slowed due the amount of bone now being found. The upside of this is that it has afforded the opportunity for people to learn how to excavate & lift fragile bone. Made up a few more doggy bags to take home today. One containing half a leg & the other a skull (see below).
Find of the day was voted on in the end and went (obviously) to another debutante – its a rather sweet little ceramic applied vessel decoration in the form of an acanthus leaf.
One more full day of digging left then backfilling Sunday – all help gratefully appreciated.
The weather played another blinder today. On the way to the site today I mused that for the last three days the Find Of The Day had been won by people on the first day of their first dig. Yet by early afternoon it looked to be going to a particularly nice sherd of Staffordshire Combed & Trailed Ware (c1675 to c1770 AD), from Trench 2, found by someone on their second day. More of that later.
In Trench 2 today they bottomed out Context 2. This has confirmed that the slab question mark found previously is actually a structure And most of it is resting on the top of Context 3. The bigger slab toward the centre was originally a roof set with the downward side now pointing upward. Views of the structure in the images above & below
Meanwhile back in Trench 1…..we removed most of Context 2 and delved into Context 3. This contains a myriad of jumbled sandstone from pebbles to good sized rocks with a lot of voids and a small amount of brown/orange soil similar to that in Context 2.
In the afternoon one of our younger volunteers was clearing back to the top of Context 2 in Trench 1. About an hour before we finished she found a lovely little rim sherd of a hand painted square jar with recessed lid (it sat on the lip to the left & was kept in place by the rim to the right – see pic below) – probably C18 and English but there is a very slim chance it could be earlier & Dutch or Chinese (see the header image as well). Surreally enough she was digging at a proper excavation for the first time……spooky eh?
Another vigorously breezy yet sunny day with lots of enthusiastic diggers helping out.
Trench 2 has revealed what may be the first proper structure (not counting the pet cairn in T1). If you look in the photo above its the top of the question mark. Two slabs have apparently been set on end and packed into place with smaller more rounded stones. It is quite possible that this represents reinforcement of a more temporary structure – possibly an attempt to fox/mustelid proof a chicken pen.
Competition for find of the day was between two things found in Trench 1 & by the same person. The rather sorry recycled copper alloy band above was the likely winner for the first part of the day. This was superceded by the discovery of the object in the header image – and no its not a fire baked spud. The top of a skull was revealed. I took over its excavation so that we had a chance of getting it lifted safely by close of play. This was managed and its now ensconced in its spud disguise. The picture below shows it during excavation. It had been underground for at least a century before we disturbed its rest. It would make a great display in the Heritage Centre museum but that is unlikely unless funds are donated for is stabilisation & preservation.
Elsewhere in Trench 1, more of context 2 was removed (see below). This is now nearly as deep as context 1 (topsoil) and is full of voids, not orange soil, between the stones. I am beginning to suspect it may have to become a new context.
If you want to have a wee delve into Pendle’s secrets, come and join us. The trenches will remain active until the weekend. You could even help pick a name for the piecemeal pooch.
It was a bit of a wild start to the day – the fertilizer sack I was a using as a toboggan (whilst waiting for the others) on the steep slope of the dam wall kept trying to blow away. However once on site we were nicely sheltered and above the gods tried to come to get their heads around how to play noughts & crosses (see above).
We opened a second trench on a lower platform. The top soil here was very thin and the first proper context (Context 2 T2) (see below) was similar to that of Trench 1 but the type of stones are more random & the soil is much like the top soil.
From here the pick of today’s finds came including two sherds of trailed & combed, two sherds from a child’s rhyme or motto cup, a sherd with EMPLE on it, & the find of the day. This last (pictured below) was a stylus used on a writing slate.
And finally back in Trench 1 (T1) we continued down into context 2 – of the meagre number of finds the most significant was a small rounded pebble of sandstone that had been very heavily heat effected. As you can see in the end section below this context is also quite thick – what lies below?? Why was this material placed there? Come along & find out – see you there?
We were joined today by some budding future diggers who all produced some interesting stuff. Find of the day went to a rather sweet little suspended weight (top row 2cnd right in the pic below) – possibly from a clock. More Victoriana today, including some more cranberry glass, part of a commerative tankard, & a complete glass stopper. Some bones were also found associated with a small pile of stones. They appear to be from a pet lamb or puppy. In the bottom left of the picture are three sherds that date to the late eighteenth century. The average age of objects at this lower level is older though small pieces of early twentieth century pot are still present (probably due to worm/mole activity).
Today trench was extended east by 500mm but at the west end the direction was down. The image below shows the top of Context 2 (the first one below the rather deep top soil) before excavation started on it.
As you can see in the one spot near the section wall – the material between the myriad pieces of flat sandstone is an orange colour. The lie of the stones prove this layer is not natural but so far the context has been rather sterile. The header image shows the sum total of finds from this strata so far. The slipware is a sufficiently large sherd to allow to presume it was probably contemporary with the surrounding material. It probably dates to the 1600s. This is about the time that stone buildings were erected in the settlement.
Target tomorrow is to find context 3 – we may also open a new trench over a tantalising pile of stones – come on up & have a dig or a look – the views are still fantastic.
The sun warmed us today we continued clearing back to the context discovered at the end of yesterday. We were joined by a few debutant diggers both young & older (see below).
One of our young diggers found our largest piece of metal to date. Its a …. thing.
While the rate of finds has slowed we have been adding to our own Monte Testaccio (see above) and have found a tiny but pretty piece of Staffordshire Combed & Trailed Ware. Dating to between c1675 and c1770 AD, this is our oldest artefact from the trench so far, and was flash stuff in its day. Hopefully tomorrow will take us another century or two back in time. Hope to see you there.
Broke the ground on the new dig today – loads of Victorian pot in the top soil – down to our first proper context by day end. The dig will be open until next weekend 10:30 am to 3 pm (at least) each day (unless overly inclement). So please feel free to wander along for visit or dig if you have some spare time. The view from the trench is pretty good too.
As you can see from the header picture the top soil is very deep – the photo below is a closer view of the first proper context. Come & join us tomorrow to see what lies beneath.
Well the kiln dig is finished – well the digging stuff out bit is.
In classic archaeological fashion things revealed themselves as we ran out of time. However what we have found is the bowl & flue from the last firing (see pics), charcoal (hopefully dateable), and a tiny sherd of gritty ware pottery which probably isn’t contemporary.
After wind, sleet, hail & snow, our last two days on site were beneath sky like this (from the morning of the last day)
Welcome to the first Pendle’s Hidden Valley blog of 2016. The first fieldwalk – around Admergill (thank you Brian & Richard) – takes place this Saturday & we have already been digging up at the Craggs kiln site. Behind the scenes things have been happening too. Lynn H has been doing sterling work raising funds & working with David T and others on a database. Gayle & Janet have been trawling the reference libraries for clues. Paul & I have been doing mid week forays with Dot the chert hound into the hills while the vegetation is down. Now back to the dig. In the last week we have joined the top & middle trenches. As usual no questions have been answered yet but more have been raised. We have made a few interesting discoveries.
Firstly the wall above – 3 courses deep so far & 5 pieces of charcoal recovered. Secondly another wall (2) – pictured below – where another piece of charcoal was found. This takes the total tally so far to 8. Thanks to a generous grant from the Robert Kiln Trust we will be able to submit some of these for C14 dating.
Finally, near close of play today – we uncovered what appears to be a heel impression (below) in a clump of clay fill between the two walls. The second of the two pictures below shows the impression clumsily outlined in yellow. It would appear to be from a right foot, 50mm across (my size 10 is 65mm in the corresponding place), and either a bare foot or one with an item close fitting footwear. There is a series of lines in the impressed material. Given that this later group of charcoal pieces come from above this heel print we may have discovered Pendle’s oldest human footprint so far.
If you want to join us in any capacity please contact us. We will be onsite at the kiln for another week (at the whim of the weather) after which it will have to be back filled. There will be further digs this year at Craggs, mostly near the site of Great Craggs (a far less strenuous walk in) and there will be a week long excavation at the end of May and into June. No experience is necessary as we can give you training on site (non digging roles are available – and essential). Don’t be shy and keep an eye on the events calendar. Alex Whitlock 21 April 2016
Yesterday Dave Oyston (United Utilities) and I went up to the Cragg’s kiln dig site for probably the last time this year. The sun shone brightly and it was a joy to be there patching up the fencing and taking in the ever changing scenery. As you can see from the photos the light was beautiful and one was almost tempted to have a dip in T3b. It seems a fitting conclusion to this year’s activities in Pendle’s Hidden Valley.
Here is a recap of things to date. We have completed the first phase – a series of rapid survey field walks to identify sites for further study. Each of these field walks produced sites worthy of further investigation. Phase 2 – schedule and prioritise identified sites – has to some extent been done on the roll so that we could make use of the summer to start the next phase. Phase 3 is to carry out further investigation including full survey and/or possible excavation of the targeted sites.
Many of the sites identified in phase 1 were post-industrial. These have been noted & it is intended to produce a gazetteer of these later features at some point. Possibly the two most productive walks were to the north of Sabden, a village at the Western end of the study area, and the very last one. The rapid survey above Sabden was to establish if the area known as Craggs warranted more intense attention. It did & it does – of which, more later.
The final walk produced evidence of some of the earliest human activity in the valley bottom. Stray bits of Mesolithic chert debitage were found on opposite sides of the valley near the possible Iron Age site at Water Meetings. Right at the end of the day we found a possible chert knapping site, with a scraper and borer/awl amongst the debitage. The majority of this material is Mesolithic too. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reliable evidence of a Mesolithic site at such a low altitude in the study area.
The Mesolithic returns us to Craggs. Here we’ve found evidence of a Mesolithic microlith knapping site which we may excavate at a later date. This is at a more typical altitude of c1000 feet. On our initial survey walk of Craggs we realised that the site was far more complex than previously understood to be. It is probable that this area was the nexus of activity in the Early Mediaeval and immediately post Conquest. Further research needs to be undertaken on this. As it stands, we decided to make this area the focus of our excavations in 2015. To date we have carried out three digs in the vicinity. The latest is ongoing. In this excavation we have been unearthing what appears to be a double kiln feature. It is not giving up its secrets easily & at time of writing we have no firm evidence of what was being burnt. More of the feature will need to be excavated. We are most grateful to United Utilities and the tenant farmer for their continuing co-operation & assistance in our work at Craggs.
We are now well over a year into Pendle’s Hidden Valley Project and it has already thrown new light on the distant past of the area. We look forward to increasing local involvement and expanding the picture of the early history of this beautiful part of the North West. The search for funds to pay for the services of experts continues. We still need help with research and digging/walking. In the new year we will continue the programme of walks, the kiln dig will continue and there will be a series of more easily accessible digs too. Please feel free to join us. My thanks go to all those who have participated in any part of Pendle’s Hidden Valley Project or any of the other activities of the Friends’ archaeological group including those in Wycoller & the Rossendale area.
I hope you all have the Christmas and New Year that you desire and deserve.
Hopefully see you in 2016, including those of you outside the Pendle area.
PENDLE’S HIDDEN VALLEY PROJECT – 15 August 2015 – FIELD WALK
It was a day of mixed conditions, with a general trend to improve as the day wore on, all in all quite a pleasant spring day – in high summer. The object of the day’s walk was to have a look at the western flank of Bank Hill & see if clues could be found in the area that would explain the presence and purpose of the kiln we are currently excavating above Craggs. Continue reading “Hidden Valley Field Walk – 15 August 2015”
In the last month or so the Archaeology Group has concentrated on the Hidden Valley project. We have completed Phase 1 – the initial field walking – and have been continuing with our excavations up at Craggs.
The latest excavation involved opening up a kiln site. What was being produced is still a mystery, the most likely candidates being potash or lime. We are revisiting this trench with a view to reaching the natural and hopefully discovering more about its purpose and date. More excavations & field walks are planned over the coming months, but we could do with some help on the research side. Continue reading “Archaeology Group Update”