Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group
The Swaledale Project 7000 Years of a Landscape and its People
 Registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation Number 1155775

The Swaledale Project: Harker Mires Excavation Blog 6th - 10th August 2012

Dig Summary           Harker Mires Information      Blogs:   Aug 6th     Aug 7th     Aug 8th     Aug 9th     Aug 10th
Harker Mires is the general area of a number of major earthworks of uncertain age. They have been reported as Middle Bronze Age / Iron Age / Romano-British / Medieval or later. The earthworks are a scheduled monument. The scheduling report can be read here.
A section of this particular earthwork has been washed out during periods of heavy rain. As it has been damaged by natural events SWAAG together with English Heritage and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority are taking this opportunity to review a clean cross-section of this linear earthwork so that a variety of environmental and dating samples can be taken and analysed.
This excavation will be managed by Archaeological Services Durham University (ASDU). The lead archaeologist from ASDU being Mark Randerson. Coming to join us or to see how we are getting on? then see this page.

©SWAAG (swaag.org) 2012
Images © S Eastmead (swaag.org)
Use the Contact page for © permissions. 
Monday August 6th
The weather was kind to us. The forecast of heavy showers with thunder didn't materialise, just a couple of light showers.
The first 3 images show you the 'washed out section of the ditches and banks.

Image 1 Peter and Mark from ASDU sizing up the task whilst stood on a subsided section of the main bank.
Whilst near left of the image the 'wash out' has cut through the lower ditch and bank.

Image 2 A better view of the subsided main bank with the upper ditch not very obvious to the right of Peter and Mark.

Image 3 A view down the 'wash out' towards Swaledale in the distance.

Image 4. Mark and Duncan winning an argument with some heather (eventually).

Image 5. Rob and Alan making good progress on the lower bank and ditch whilst I bunk off taking the photographs.

Image 6. In this section you can see the cut of the ditch. This isn't the actual section we will be recording as it is in a section that has subsided. We will be extending back a little more until it is a true representative section, as we do we will be collecting samples of various layers.

Image 7. A close up of the cut.

Image 8. The lower section is now ready to be recorded tomorrow. The natural boulder clay and stone made it hard going.

Image 9. A close up of the lower ditch.

Image 10. End of day and whilst it has been quite difficult under foot at times, we have made good progress on the main bank.
Tuesday August 7th
Apart from one 10 minute fairly heavy shower the day was a perfect one and we made progress on all fronts.

Image 1: Alan freshened the section across the lower bank and ditch prior to photography and recording.

Image 2: Alan, John and Mark start on drawing the section.

Image 3: This is the section being drawn. You can see in the background the Bank and ditch. Ideally this section would have been excavated about 10 metres back across the full height of the bank, however because this is a Scheduled Monument we have excavated in this position so as to have as little impact as possible on the structure.

Image 4: Images 4-9 are of the upper main bank and ditch.
Here Mark is taking the first bulk sample from the upper of the 3 distinct layers in the bottom of the main ditch.

Image 5: These are the 3 layers in cross section.

Image 6: The upper layer being collected

Image 7: The middle black layer being collected.

Image 8 The lower grey clay layer being collected by Shirley and Robb.

Image 9: At the end of the day the lower grey clay layer has largely been removed leaving the profile of the ditch.
Wednesday August 8th
A beautiful day, dry, sunny, warm with a slight breeze and a beautiful view from Swaledale to the Yorkshire Moors!
You will have read at the top of the page that we are trying to confirm the age of these earthworks by taking a variety of environmental and dating samples of key deposits obtained from a clean cross-section of the earthwork. It is difficult to imagine the nature of the 'washout'. These washouts only get water in them occasionally when there has been an extraordinary amount of rain. The day before we started the dig there was severe thunderstorm activity across this area with local flooding. When we got to the dig site the 'washout' was bone dry! To give you some idea what they look like I walked done the 'washout' from about 50 metres above the dig site to opposite the main earthwork. The washout in placed is more than 2 metres high. Forgive the jerkiness as it is not an easy walk down the bed of the 'washout'. Take a look at the video below:

Image 1: In this section we were hoping to see some evidence of the material dug out of the ditch being deposited on top of the main bank. Alas we didn't, however as the top of the bank wasn't the same height as the bank about 1 metre further back due to subsidence caused by the washout, it was decided to recut the bank 1 metre further back.

Image 2: Half way through cutting the bank back a further metre.

Image 3: Nearly complete.

Image 4:The new section showing evidence of ditch material being deposited on top of the bank. This will be sampled.

Image 5: If you have watched the video this is the view up the 'washout' which sometimes is up to 2 metres deep.

Image 6: Turning around this is the view down the washout towards where Mark Randerson and Duncan are working on the main bank.

Image 7: The main ditch in section showing what looks like a 'V' cut in the bottom of the ditch

Image 8: A close-up of the ditch.
Thursday August 9th
Yesterday's blog started with a video of a short walk down the 'Washout' above the dig site. You may be wondering where does all that water come from? Todays short video shows the open heather moorland catchment area, followed by a short walk down the upper section of the watercourse. Here there is a small amount of peat stained water trickling down the washout, but just beyond where this video ends the water disappears down into the sedimentary rocks of the Yoredale series.
Today's images start with the watercourse. The walk down the washout takes you over a multitude of sedimentary rock types of the Yoredale series, which are mainly carboniferous limestones interspersed with layers of cherts, sandstones and shales with millstones grit occurring at higher elevations.

Image 1: Stones of the Yoredale Series in the Washout

Image 2: The upper part of the Washout does contain a small flow of peat stained water before it disappears underground into the limestone.

Images 3: Fossil example from the Washout.

This fossil and the circular one with the 5 pointed star in the images below have both been identified as fragments of a crinoid stem by Roy Shepherd

Images 4: Fossil example from the Washout.

Images 5: Fossil example from the Washout closeup.

Image 6: Everyone mucking in to give this section a final spruce up before recording.

Image 7: An organic layer found at the bottom of the main ditch.

Image 8: As image 7 but in cross-section.

Image 9: The bright sunshine and the dark consequent  shadows made it a difficult day to take photographs.

Image 10: Mark Randerson (ASDU) photographing the main ditch.

Image 11: After photographic records have been made comes drawing the section of the main ditch and also finalising the context sheets.

Image 12: Mark setting up an horizontal line prior to drawing the section.

Tomorrow is the final day which should see the completion of both the documentation and sampling of the earthworks.
Friday August 10th
The final day was a lovely hot summers day with just a slight breeze, and what a place to spend it - marvelous.

Not too many tasks left to do. Duncan and Justin complete recording section 2 of the main bank prior to further samples being taken.
Whilst the short stepped section in the foreground was recorded.

Section 1 of the main bank and ditch required some context sheets completing before taking further samples.

Mark takes some core samples from a rich organic layer both here and in the other sections.
In all a comprehensive amount of samples were taken from the 3 sections. These included bulk, core and monolith tin samples.

All that remained was an accurate GPS survey of the site.
(And a beer of course)
What happens next?

Well Mark will write a report on the excavation, and the bulk samples will be analysed by ASDU. SWAAG will also get an assessment regarding the other samples regarding which may be suitable for Carbon14 or Chemiluminescent dating.
When the dating results are back, ASDU will issue their final report. SWAAG in turn will publish the ASDU report on this website and almost certainly publish a follow up SWAAG report outlining possible interpretations of the data.
©SWAAG (swaag.org) 2012
Images © S Eastmead (swaag.org)
Use the Contact page for © permissions.