Hello old friend

Today saw a smaller crew than some days, but we still managed to collect mag data and a little GPR data.  Many thanks to everyone who joined in.  Mike Langton from Mala came to see how we were getting on with the GPR.

The mag crew are working south into the bottom corner of the theatre field.

The mag survey after day 9.

The mag survey after day 9.

As we might expect from the pattern we saw in the park, this area is quieter than the area nearer to the theatre and the temple, although there are some rather large positive anomalies, very large pits, perhaps?

We encountered an old friend: the ‘1955 ditch’.  The first few squares we surveyed in Verulamium Park in June 2013 encountered this feature.  The ditch is the late first century boundary of the town constructed in about AD 80.  It is called the ‘1955 ditch’ because Sheppard Frere found it under a building in 1955.  It surrounds the town on three sides.

The survey area showing the line of the '1955 ditch'.

The survey area showing the line of the ‘1955 ditch’.

In 1959 and 1960 Martin Aitkin used magnetometry to trace the line of the ditch.  He was assisted by Rosalind Niblett (see the picture in Alban’s Buried Towns’, p. 52, see also Internet Archaeology, 6, 2002).  At the time, the technique seemed incredibly fast, although now it would seem painfully slow.  The results were published in the journal Antiquity in 1960 and 1961. The mapping of the NW corner, which we have yet to reach, looks pretty basic compared to today’s images.

Martin Aitkin's survey of the NW corner of the 1955 ditch. Black dots are highly magnetic, open circles moderately magnetic, and blank is the background.

Martin Aitkin’s survey of the NW corner of the 1955 ditch. Black dots are highly magnetic, open circles moderately magnetic, and blank is the background.

It did, however, work and thus began the development of a technique which is a mainstay of archaeological prospection in the 21st century.  Martin did, however, have problems with the southern corner of the ditch as he did not want to hammer pegs into that most hallowed of ground to an Englishman: a cricket wicket.  He went on to survey areas in Verulam Hills Field south of the town (Antony 1968), and at the King Harry Lane site to the west (Stead and Rigby 1989).

 

Aitkin, M. J. 1960. `Verulamium 1959: the magnetic survey.’ Antiquity 40: 21–24.

Aitkin, M. J. 1961. `The magnetic survey.’ Antiquity 41: 83–85.

Anthony, I. E. 1968. `Excavations in Verulam Hills Field, St Albans,
1963–4.’ Hertfordshire Archaeology 1: 9–50.

Niblett, R. & I. Thompson 2005. Alban’s Buried Towns. An assessment of St Albans’ archaeology up to AD 1600. Oxbow Books, Oxford.

Stead, I. M. & V. Rigby (eds.) 1989. Verulamium: the King Harry Lane Site. English Heritage Archaeological Report No. 12. English Heritage in association with British Museum Publications, London.

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