Anyone new to this blog or geophysics in archaeology is recommended to read the material on the “Geophysical survey in archaeology” page.
The lack of posts doesn’t mean we haven’t been out working…
Enough of that! The lack of posts is simply that we had a friend staying and a BBQ and beer won over working on the blog. Sorry… Well, not very sorry.
The mag team have been working southwards across the “Fosse field”, the proper name for which is Mobbs Hole. The area we have covered in around Verulamium is getting pretty large (Fig. 1)!
The survey has now started to clip the edge of the Fosse itself. In Figure 2 I have used the 2006 imagery in which one can see the Fosse clearly as a soil mark.
Progress is excellent for four and a half days of survey. Figure 3 shows the survey in more detail.
The edges of the Fosse can be seen in the mag data, mainly as a lighter line. This is because the topsoil will be thinner over the lip of the ditch as soil has eroded down into the fill. There is a line of large dark “blobs” along the lip of the Fosse. Although these might be something interesting, I suspect they are tree-throws (i.e., the hole made by a tree being blown over).
The field system which shows in the upper half of the survey is interesting. Jon Mein has kindly shown me the 1799 map of the parish and these boundaries do not match those mapped then. There is a line of woodland following the line of the Fosse a little to the south of the area we have reached. The track which runs along the northern edge of Mobbs Hole was a much more important road at that date.
Wheeler thought that the Fosse represented the “first Roman city” at Verulamium and cut several sections across it (Figures 4, 5 and 6).
We now know that the early Roman town was based down towards the forum where the Museum now is. The Fosse, however, does appear from Wheeler’s finds to be first century. But what was it for? Hopefully, the geophysics within the line of the Fosse may give us a clue.
One aspect of the landscape I had not appreciated was that the dry valley which the aqueduct has to dog-leg across as shown in our survey (the V-shaped long linear feature within the town walls shown in Figure 2), becomes quite a major feature to the west of the walls. The northern arm of the Fosse lies on the crest between the dry valley and the valley of the Ver, and then when it turns to form the southern arm it has to cross that valley. Figures 7 and 8 compares the plate published by the Wheelers showing the view from the crest to a panorama I took the other day. The hedge line shown in the Wheelers’ plate is no longer there.
Back inside the town walls the GPR crew completed an awkward couple of blocks on “sawtooth” Saturday and another 80 x 40m block on Sunday. Figures 9 and 10 show some of the time slices.
On neither day do we have some of the beautifully clear buildings we have seen previously. There does seem to be a small square structure showing on day 5: the NW edges showing in slice 8 (the sixth image in Figure 10) and the bottom edge in slice 10. Figures 11 and 12 show slices 5 and 6 from days 2 to 5 in Google Earth.
Although we have not got lovely clear buildings, the “blobby” bits do have a generally SW — NE orientation which matches the town grid. It is, however, very difficult to interpret. Looking carefully, however, there is more than immediately catches the eye. Lets look at the day 5 data more closely.
It all seems rather dull. Now plot that on top of the mag data. Look at the point the red arrow is indicating in Figure 14. Figure 15 just shows the mag data.
The feature which shows quite clearly in the mag data does show quite faintly in the GPR. The moral: lovely clear buildings are wonderful, but sometimes there is more there than you think.
We have been enjoying our two days off, and will be back at it on Wednesday. The forecast is for it to be a bit cooler. Luckily, our guard dog has been keeping a close eye on the flags…
Many thanks to everyone involved. The heat has made it quite hard work, but the survey looks ever more amazing with each new grid square!