The 3rd year of digging at the archaeology site at Hunting Hall finished in July with the covers now back on the exposed levels, and the year’s finds transported off the site for careful analysis over the winter.
Paul Langdale, the secretary of the Heritage Group, invited us up to the site during the last week of the season, and explained the significance of this year’s work.
We started at the temporary headquarters in the meeting centre at Hunting Hall Farm – generously lent to the project by the Burn Family. Here the true heart of the operation was made clear, as we peered through microscopes at the features of one of the artefacts.
The tiny object we were viewing was the tooth of a rodent – evidence that this was, back in the iron age, a human settlement – with attendant vermin. Pointing to the boxes of soil and samples the dig had so far produced demonstrated that the real work takes place when the finds are examined and categorised. It might not be as exciting as “digging” something up, but it is the the bread and butter of the work, as Paul pointed out, and every bit as fascinating to these “time detectives”.
After leaving the boxes of winter work, we went up to the site, with its carefully marked out trenches and cuttings. Paul described the variety of people who had come to the dig this season, some of who had spent weeks under canvas and come back day after day. As we looked on, an excited member of the team produced a small brooch that had just been unearthed, from a layer in the early iron age.
Pointing out the carefully excavated trenches, Paul was understandably excited at this latest piece of evidence that had been discovered. Hunting Hall was an extensive settlement, in acreage as well as time, with so far discovered iron age layers, and hopefully bronze beneath.
The dig’s professional archaeologist, Dr Kristian Pedersen, joined us at the trench side for a discussion of the many issues the dig had illustrated – not least the climate and conditions for settlement that had existed here since the end of the last ice age. He added: “A preliminary interpretation is that the evidence of earlier occupation of the site is still insufficient at this stage to be confident about Bronze Age and earlier. For the time being we’re limiting our confidence to a protracted period during the Iron Age.”
Both Kristian and Paul are enthusiastic about the site and its importance. So is Natural England who consider the site to be of major significance, and are keen to support further digs here, with possible resources for a reconstruction project in the near future.
Soon, the Heritage Group will be looking for winter quarters – a disused space somewhere that it could move into to continue the vital analysis of the summer’s work. If you have such a space, or know of a workshop or office that could play host, please get in touch with Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.