All shore leave has been cancelled as we go ever downwards in search of the bottom of the trenches. But disaster strikes as the Glorious Leader attempts to remove the remainder of the big clay deposit in the lovely trench 8. Although the clay has been producing quite considerable quantities of red painted wall plaster (indicating that it probably derives from the collapsed/demolished walls of buildings made from unfired clay lump), it is all happily in small pieces which can simply be collected up. However, in the second half of the clay deposit there is a massive lump of wall plaster, probably the largest piece of Roman painted plaster ever to be found in Norfolk. There are no dancing nymphs on it, but it’s pretty smart nonetheless.
Now, while this discovery is very exciting and very lovely and all that, the plaster has the downside of being in the way and very fragile. The 2nd century decorators who slapped the paint on, rather thoughtlessly used a mixture of sand and mortar as a backing for the plaster. This backing has the consistency of old shortbread. So try to imagine the possible result of extracting a 40 cm wide piece of old shortbread from solid clay. Did I mention that it was already cracked in dozens of places?
We talk to the nice Man-Yee Liu at Norwich Castle Museum, who advises copious use of cling film. The Glorious Leader is inclined towards covering it up again and leaving it for posterity (usually a fairly reasonable course of action, although once the surrounding soil is disturbed you never quite know what is going to happen). We’ll keep you posted on what happens, although if we do lift it, there will be no cameras allowed. We don’t want to be immortalised on Youtube as the people who broke the 1800 year-old wall paintings.