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  • David Quick

Day 5 - Sometimes the weirdest things happen

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

I was quite surprised when I got up this morning to see that it was raining hard enough for me to have to wear a coat while walking through Alton to the Public Gardens. After the daily briefing Keith had sensibly decided that this was a good reason to try erecting our new shelter for the first time. It actually went quite well despite the instructions being fairly incomprehensible and meant we were able to keep all our displays and finds dry until the rain stopped.

The new shelter, funded by a grant from Alton Town Council.

Juliet and I were absolutely delighted that our first visitors of the day were David Graham and his wife. David was the local archaeologist who did so many of the local excavations in the 1960s and 70s at Neatham, and in so many other parts of the local area. We showed them both around our test pits in the Public Gardens and at Barton End, and David was able to go through our finds trays and help identify or date some of the items the diggers were unsure about. We do hope he will continue to drop by as the rest of the dig continues.

David Graham visiting our site this morning.

Digging continued in Davy's and Carol's test pits in the Public Gardens. I think that Davy was a bit fed up yesterday at finding himself in a test pit with WW2 foundations and mostly 20th Century finds. However, Juliet had told him to keep digging down and this was obviously smart advice because he looked much happier when I saw him this morning. He has at last started finding some Roman pottery beneath the WW2 concrete. He also seems to have commandeered most of the buckets in the Gardens!

Davy is finding Roman pottery below the WW2 concrete.

Things were also looking cheerful on Carol's side of the Gardens too, in the area where Roman items were found during the 1988 dig.

Carol and her trainee dig team.

The other half of Carol's team in the second of her two test pits.

Carol's diggers have started turning up some of my favourite finds so far, of which these are a few examples:


A fragment of James Green & Nephew Ltd porcelain.

What looks to us like a child's toy candlestick from a doll's house.

Romano-British pot base (New Forest ware)

Side view of the New Forest ware pot base seen above.

Copper alloy coin. At first I though it might be a farthing but it is too small and I now think it might be Roman based on its diameter.

Tesserae

A bright red bead, believed to be glass.

Below is the inside and outside of the bowl of a clay pipe which from its shape and size David Graham dated at about 1650:


A stone that is incredibly smooth and appears to us to have been highly polished by hand.

Here are two views of the stem of a clay pipe - not related to the pipe bowl shown above, because it is later and machine made.


Three sherds of Tudor pottery, judging by its glaze and design.

Today's finds team did a great job of cleaning and recording all the finds.

Meanwhile we yet again had lots of visitors and children wanting to explore the children's test pit. Keith is seen below with Jane Hurst from the Curtis Museum, talking to some of our visitors.

Keith chatting to passers by who stopped to see what we are doing.

However, the irony of today - and what I refer to in this blog entry's title - is that at lunchtime Carl stopped to chat to one of the workmen involved in replacing the fencing around the children's play area elsewhere in the Gardens. In conversation the workman mentioned to Carl that he had found a few bits of pottery while digging the post holes for the new metal fence. Carl asked to take a look and this is what he saw!

Roman pottery found today by the workmen replacing the fence around the children's playground in the Gardens.

These are beautiful pieces of rim and bases from large Romano-British storage jars! Moreover, the numerous different rim types show that they are from quite a number of such jars. I was straight on the phone to Leah, the Town Clerk, and we hope that tomorrow she may give us permission to put a test pit in this area as well. At the very least it is excellent evidence that there were indeed "Romans in the Gardens"; but obviously we need to explore this area further.

The workman replacing the playground fencing finding Roman pottery at his feet.

I think it is likely that tomorrow we will also close down some of our test pits in Kingsland Road and Barton End. The whole idea of test pits is to discover whether there is archaeology and I suspect that the answer in some of them is that there is not enough to merit digging further.

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Alton Big Dig

East Hampshire's community archaeology group with 160 volunteer members working under professional archaeologist supervision, exploring sites at Alton, Colemore and Stroud near Petersfield.

Email: altonbigdig@gmail.com

East Hampshire Community Archaeology

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