The next few blogs are going to be focused on a rather different activity to normal, on the dig at Willingham Mere, written by guest bloggers from the archaeology team.  This exciting project will combine excavation and scientific study of a drained prehistoric lake.  The discoveries could help to develop plans for the design of Ouse Fen, following sand and gravel quarrying that will happen in the next few years.

Tuesday 31st May

What a hectic day.  The first day on a new site is always busy and full of suspense, and today was no exception.  We loaded a vast amount of equipment into our Landover and even had to return for a second trip - check out the photos! 

The sun was shining and the top soiling stripping going well when the first volunteers got to task helping us set up the compound and clean up after the digger.  We got the first indications as to what to expect through a bore hole that had previously been sunk and analysed; they hit the water table at about 1.9m so wellies might be needed later on in the week!  Unfortunately, it started to drizzle and the machine stopped working.  Luckily the rain didn’t last long and an engineer managed to fix the digger so we managed to remove all ofthe topsoil by the end of the day. 

We were able to reveal some possible oyster shells in one of the upper deposits, but these had to be left until tomorrow to properly uncover and record. 


Above: Setting out where the trench is going to be placed

Above: Breaking the ground- possibly one of the most nerve racking moments.  Pete is in the background, metal detecting to make sure we don’t miss anything

Above: Results of the borehole- you can one of the yellower sandy lenses in the more grey alluvium

Wednesday 1st June

Today also turned out to be quite hectic, with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Anglia TV coming down in the morning to see what we are finding.  We also had lots of visitors coming to see the excavation, and they were fascinated by the process of digging and the knowledge that we can gain from this small trench. 

Once the volunteers had cleaned up the site, we were able to confirm that we had located our trench in the right place and were looking at the deposits created by Willingham Mere.   These we will be investigating slowly to see what they reveal to us about the Mere and its surrounding landscape. 

We discovered several layers of sedimentation, including two organic layers that should provide the preserved remains of plants and animals. These should tell us not just about the mere, but also about the surrounding landscape.  Samples of these were taken to be wet sieved - keep your eyes peeled for the results.  In particular we are looking for beetles, pollens and seeds; these should be preserved by the waterlogged conditions that prevent decomposition and rotting.   

The oyster shells that were initially spotted yesterday were properly cleaned up, recorded and lifted today.  It was confirmed that were oyster shells but it is unlikely that these particular ones were eaten by humans.  It is a very early demonstration of the potential and important food resource that the Lake would have represented to prehistoric people.

Above: Bagging and labelling the oyster shells

Above: Trowelling the organic deposit

Guest blogger: Hayley Roberts