Wednesday, 11 July 2018

We're not exhausted yet - Open Day (Saturday 12 - 5 pm)

We are getting closer to the end of things: the World Cup is inching to its finale, the heatwave is slowly cooling, and (sadly) we only have a week and a half left in Dorchester. 

The lack of time and the growing sense of ends and of limits does not however mean that there is any break or ebbing of the number of finds that are coming out of the ground. For example, in the first three hours of the day, over 25 small finds (objects of metal, worked bone, and stamped pottery) have been recovered and recorded. Town sites are meant to contain a good number of finds, and yet, even after ten years, this aspect to Dorchester is not showing any sign of being exhausted of objects. 

In terms of those key finds, those which are most cooed and coveted, we have had a strap-end, a lump of plaster with a painted flower/star, another with a leafy decoration, and two contextualised coins of the Emperor Hadrian. In addition, last week our metal-detectorist Shaun (who works our spoilheap picking up metal that has been dug up and accidentally discarded by us) picked out an extra special find which seemed to come from soil under the Roman road. I will keep mum about it to try and entice you to the Open Day (this Saturday, 15 - 5pm, Dorchester Allotments), I am certain though that it is the find of the season. However, it certainly is one of those finds which brings the past closer at the same time as it makes it more intriguing. 

So, as I have mentioned it, let's repeat - we have our tenth and last Open Day occurring this Saturday (14/7/18) and it promises to be our best yet. We have a whole host of activities tailored to children, a whole number of our best finds returning to be looked over, and a whole set of excited archaeologists ready to tell you all about the site. 

Please come along!

(as ever, pictures to follow)

Thursday, 5 July 2018

"Feelin' hot hot hot"

It is coming to the end of the week here and our last set of undergraduates are on their ways out. They have dug hard (the record for the number of barrows 'run' in one day fell twice), and we have progressed in most parts of the site. There have been a number of beautiful finds: a copper ligula from a toiletry or medical set, a bone pin, and an antler knife handle have all rather caught the eye - see the photos that will follow. 

However, as ever with archaeology, it is not the finds that really make an impression but the features themselves. For, underneath the middle road slot, we have come across a line of stake holes (or 'voids') set into the ground and stretching from north to south. They are linearly scattered into the northern road slot too and once made up the wall from some kind of early building. Near this area we also had a Claudian as, a copy of the type with the Minerva reverse, and this find places the feature slap bang in the middle of the 1st century CE. It therefore looks like we are beginning to uncover and untangle material that might provide parallels and nuances to the 1960s and 1970s excavations that took place in this picturesque village. 

Working with this feature we might begin to provide some answers to some of our original questions - what were the origins of Roman Dorchester? And, was there a military phase here? 

All exciting and all still very hot (the heat wave continues)!

Friday, 29 June 2018

We are going potty for our pottery

The archaeology, in mimicry of the general weather, is beginning to get hot in Dorchester. The usual and typical large amounts of pottery and nails are spilling from a whole host of new and old features. And, most importantly and significantly, we are starting to see a rising proportion of material that is 1st century CE in date. 

Yesterday was an especially good day for finds. Around four pieces of stamped pottery came out (three of samian and the other on an Oxfordshire reduced ware). And, on one of the former (a dish from South Gaul), there was a graffito: a scratched inscription of a name and an X from 2000 years ago. Obviously, it has caused a huge amount of excitement and is (so far) our star attraction. Today brought a renewed number of 'special' small finds including a deep blue shard of Roman glass from a vessel, an antler knife handle, and a huge piece of iron slag.

Other than that - we have more pits coming through and a new gravel spread under the road. Dorchester keeps on giving. 

Check out our instagram (you do not need an account to access it) to see some of our photos!

Monday, 25 June 2018

All fun in the sun

On Sunday we were joined for the last time by a team of university students originating from a whole host of institutions spotted across the globe. And, inevitably, we used their youthfulness to set to with our heaviest tools on the remaining clods of earth and soil that lie over the tarp and the archaeology. The sun is shining hot, the grass is tinder dry, and the carrion-eating red kites are circling us; but we are getting through the required work at a rattling pace.

Soon, I hope, we will be able to show you pictures of actual archaeology. For now, though, I leave you with some pictures of toil and soil. Please wish us your best as it gets steadily hotter!


Monday, 18 June 2018

Have we been missed?

What with the football and all the political turmoil you might be forgiven for thinking that Dorchester did not have its fair share of drama this year. However, we have (also) kicked off – the Discovering Dorchester Project is up and running for its final year!

Please see below some of the pictures below of our poppy strewn field. There is not too much to report at this stage, this is very much the time of watching our site slowly begin to reveal itself beneath the soil we put back in last season (as those of you who have been following us for years will know). But, what I can say is that the weather was fine and we are mainly concerned at the moment with working out the edges of our trench.

We are quite close to the centre of Dorchester on Thames, among the allotments, and would welcome visitors at any time. Please come to say hello if you are in the area!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Discovering Dorchester is open for registration for the 2018 season

Hello all,

Even though I’s gazing out at another rainy, grey day, but I am pleased to announce that the Dorchester on Thames excavation is now open again for registration!

This is the last year of the Discovering Dorchester project and we would love to have as many new and old faces there as possible.

We need to work out the tricky stratigraphy around our pit complexes in the north of the site and burrow our way through those greyish green silts that emerged below the Roman road – so there is still a lot to do.

The dates this year are 24th June – 6th July for the undergraduate field school, and 8th – 13th and 15th – 20th July for Weeks A and B (respectively) of the Public/Continuing Education dig. I hope that some of you can make these times.

There is a slight change this year. Could I direct all your queries and interested emails to the dig’s official email:

Whether you are an undergraduate looking for an excavation or wanting to get ‘in’ on one of the public fieldschool weeks, if you email then I will be more than happy to send you over the relevant documentation, including the information packs.

For now, though, see below a picture of the excavation from the air taken during the course of last season.

Hope you have a wonderful week and I look forward to hearing from some of you,

Thomas (Assistant Director)