Ditches, drones and geochemical surveys (Milton, week 4)

The discovery of an interesting tooth © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Drone shot over the site © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
One of the parallel ditches © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023

It’s week four and the sun has finally come out for Milton as we explore the remaining archaeological features in our initial strip and look ahead to moving to the next part of the site. We’ve also had ample opportunity to get the drone in the air and began our award-winning geochemical analysis. All in all, a great week.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the continuing work is with the network of enclosure ditches. As we try to carefully figure out the sequence of the site, the curvilinear ditch attributed to the late Iron Age appears to be filled during the early Roman occupation. Items from within the ditch fill are associated with peripheral activity.

Elsewhere it is evident that many enclosure ditches were recut and maintained over an extended period of occupation. At the surface a ditch may often appear as a single feature, but once dug it is often apparent that long-used boundaries were cleaned out, reused or modified. Often the uppermost fill represents final disuse, abandonment, or levelling. Among this material there have been fragments of possible masonry and building materials. Given their highly fragmented nature we are alert to the possibility that a former building stood nearby that was robbed of its materials after abandonment. Many Roman structures were stripped of useful materials in later years and reused in the construction of other structures.

The artefacts, although abundant, are highly fragmented but unravelling their intricate past remains an intriguing and enjoyable task. Among the notable finds this week are numerous Samian, burnished wares, colour-coated wares, and other fine table wares ranging in date from the 1st to 4th centuries AD. Every indication is that a wealthy household was located nearby.

A drone's eye view of the site (no sound)

Aside from the remote sensing using drone footage, we’ve also undertaken geochemical analysis using our portable X-ray fluorescence device (pXRF) to examine specific features. Our goal is to gain insights into the chemical residues within the soils and provide a more comprehensive understanding of their infill. By applying this scientific method we aim to identify chemical signatures of archaeological significance that could pinpoint areas of craft, industry or other processes that warrant further investigation.

Previous geophysical surveys indicated that the highest concentration of archaeology is about to be stripped. So, as the machinery moves back on site to strip more topsoil, we look forward to bringing you some further exciting updates next week!

Don’t forget to follow us on TwitterFacebookLinkedInInstagram so you don’t miss an update.

Previous update (week 3).

Next update (week 5).

See the main project page here.

Assorted pottery finds © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Samian ware © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Another great pottery find © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Archaeological Research Services Ltd