Day 1: A funny thing happened on the way to the forum

12 Aug

So it is August 10th 2011. The cities of Britain are burning, with the streets temporarily in the hands of feral numpties. The western world has been brought to its knees by the growing realisation that an economic system that combines a public sector with levels of taxation low enough for the population to buy plasma tellies cannot be indefinitely sustained by borrowing money from somewhere else. But England are winning in the cricket and the Caistor excavation season has started. So for the next 4 weeks we will ignore the ongoing fall of civilization and concentrate instead on matters such as cake, sales of plastic swords to an eager public, and pushing back the frontiers of knowledge through the use of trowel and spade.

What are we looking for this year? After not finding the Iron Age in 2009 or 2010, we’re giving Boudica a rest this year and looking for the Anglo Saxons instead. So we’ll probably find the Iron Age after all. We are digging a massive FIVE (that’s right FIVE) trenches. Three of these will be in the forum, previously dug by Donald Atkinson in 1931 and 1933. We are hoping to clarify some crucial details about the forum, such as:

1. When was it built?
2. Did it burn down in the 3rd century and lie in ruins for 100 years as Atkinson suggested?
3. When was the second forum built?
4. Was there something before the forum? Like … err Boudica’s palace or … erm … something else Iron Age? Or a wooden forum, like they found at Silchester?

We’re also digging two trenches in the north-west of the town. This is where the geophysics showed a D-shaped enclosure cutting the surface of one of the streets. It’s tempting to think this might be a Middle Saxon D-shaped enclosure as all the Middle Saxon bling from Caistor comes from outside the north west of the town. We’ve dug geophysics features before and ruined a perfectly decent story, but undeterred we’re having another go. We’ll also get another section through one of the street Roman streets as a bonus.

So far all is going according to plan. The marquee is up (just) as is the massive directorial tent, with its added conservatory, and three trenches have had the topsoil machined off by Peter, the magician of the 3 ton digger. Still no BT internet coverage at Caistor so this will be posted by carrier pigeon in the next 24 hours. Come on BT. Must try harder. This would never have happened when Busby was in charge.

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