Day 1, Monday 6th July
This is the first of a series of short posts about W.A.S' excavations at the Sompting EPIC site which began last Friday (3rd July 2020)
Having laid out the grid and chosen targets last week (the elite survey team of Connie Shirley, Chris Lane and Jon) excavation began on Friday with test pit "A19" and "E19", parallel with the new stream. The aim of these test pits is to ascertain if the worked flints (and possible knapping site) first seen on the stream bank by Theresa Griffiths continue under the top soil into the field.
Both A19 and E19 have produced flakes, blades/bladelets and even cores during the excavations up until this afternoon, and Martin Simons is now firmly into an interesting alluvial layer in A19 (and excavated/recorded the first Small Finds today)
Another two test pits have been opened since Friday - L14 (south and slightly nearer the stream than E19) and O9 (Just west of L14 and very close to the bank)
L14 has produced flint debitage etc and is now coming down onto a large amount of flints and rolled flint pebbles - more to come on this tomorrow we hope.
O9 was opened yesterday and despite some nice flint blades etc we have also had a plastic bag from the first layer - hopefully less of that as we go down!
Meanwhile on the bank itself we have two sites of interest - SS1 & SS2. We are restricted with what we can do here as we can't affect the integrity of the bank - however we are permitted to scrape and clean. SS1 is the site where blades/bladelets were originally noticed - today Jacqueline Lake and Theresa Griffiths carefully cleaned this area with trowel and brush (see photo) Tomorrow the flint finds will be bagged and recorded (and there are some beauties!)
SS2 is south of SS1 and nearer to our test pits - it's a promising "scrape" and Gill Turner bagged and recorded all finds within the area today (see photo)
All in all a great start to the dig, and as we go down through these alluvial layers we just might find a knapping site (with a bit of luck!)
Another fruitful day at Sompting with a smaller team continuing to work down in the test pits. Martin has recorded over 25 small finds in A19 (including a lovely microlith) so this is still our most productive test pit.
John mattocked down in E19 to reach the alluvial layer so we hope to start uncovering more worked flints from here on Thursday.
James quartered L14, an interesting test pit full of larger flint nodules and rolled pebbles, whilst Connie took the opportunity to put down the Total station and dig out O9 (the test pit furthest south and nearest the pit)
Theresa continued scraping and cleaning SS1 and SS2 (with Patricia working on SS2 this morning) A large mix of worked flints to water rolled pebbles have been recorded and await washing on Thursday.
Meanwhile Jennie found a lovely flint core just over in the field (which naturally is outside the area of the project!)
We're not on site tomorrow due to the nasty weather forecast but will be back stronger than ever Thursday morning!
Wednesday was rained off.
A rather damp start today but a lot of progress made on this enigmatic site south of Sompting village.
Martin has continued uncovering small flint debitage/flakes in A19 (with over 40 Small Finds now recorded!) which unlike our other three test pits doesn't contain any larger flint inclusions which may be significant!
John dug down in E19, coming onto the same layer (Context 10) where we've decided Small Finds procedure is necessary to properly record any knapping episodes - there was also a small lump of ochre(?) in this test pit (see 'war paint' photo)
Vicky joined us on her birthday today (happy birthday!) and excavated down in L14, uncovering plenty of small flakes and blades but even more large flint nodules and rolled pebbles - possibly brought on to site by human hands, or part of a single flood event.
Malcolm took O9 down to a new context layer - a grey clayey silt (or is that silty clay?!) upon which a thin layer of flint and gravel lay - again this *could* be part of a single natural event, though debitage was recovered. This test pit could be key to understanding the site as it seems this layer is the same as the exposed one in the bank nearby.
Meanwhile along the stream Theresa and Patricia expanded the clean/scrape at SS1, whilst Richard and Lyn carefully cleaned and collected small flint flakes and blades from SS2.
Another great day on site and I'm looking forward to better weather tomorrow!
Beautiful sunny weather on site and another productive day at Sompting Brooks.
Martin continued to carefully trowel down in A19, with the lovely dark clay producing a total of 99(!) small finds, of which he vast majority are the result of knapping according to Bob which is fantastic.
Richard worked in E19 and has started revealing more small finds, including a lovely flake (see photo)
L14 was photographed with it's large flint/pebble layer before this was removed to reveal even more grotty gravel/flint - Connie's surveying work has showed that this area was on a meander of the old watercourse so perhaps this explains the different nature of this test pit.
Vicky found a microlith in O9 whilst carefully taking the level down to the grey silty clay (or clayey silt!) uncovered yesterday by Malcolm.
Theresa and Jacqui continued the delicate scraping of SS1, with small blades, flakes and other worked flints collected and recorded by the end of the day.
Finally Lyn began a field walking odyssey to the immediate south of the site and collected a large number of struck/worked flints, though many seem to belong to the Bronze Age.
We also had a visit from Alex and Alastair from the EPIC project to see how we were getting on. They recorded some footage on camera and drone which we hope to see in the future!
Another lovely day on site with clear sunshine and a fine breeze!
Martin continues to find and record small flint flakes in test pit A19 - there's over 120 bagged from this small 1m squared pit already but there are indications that the frequency is decreasing.
Richard also carefully trowelled down in E19 with more small finds emerging from context 10 (the same context Martin has been working through)
Meanwhile in L14 myself and then Brendon mattocked down into nasty damp clay filled with flint gravel. The purpose of this is to get a nice bulk with the stratigraphy clear enough for photography (see photo) We have very nearly reached the water line in this test pit and plan to close it tomorrow. Few finds have emerged since reaching this layer.
In O9 John continued Vicky's collection of small finds from the grey silty clay in half section which will be continued tomorrow.
In the afternoon Connie and myself laid out a new test pit just west (and nearer to the stream edge) of A19. This new test pit is designated A10 and during the clearance of the topsoil some lovely flakes were uncovered, along with a whole colony of extremely peeved ants.
Work on cleaning, scraping and collecting at SS1 is paused for the weekend so Theresa and Jacqui have the opportunity to finish their delicate work when they return on Monday!
A lovely sunny Sunday at Sompting Brooks today where the excavations continue apace...
Martin now has over 150 small finds from test pit A19. The context remains the same (10), a brown silty clay with small flakes, debitage and uncorked flint found.
Brendon worked in E19, where we've seen small finds emerge, a painstaking process as we inch down further into the silt.
When we arrived this morning L14 was holding water after Brendon's sterling work mattocking down yesterday. The different contexts were clearly visible in the bulk but as a retouched flake of Bronze Age date was found in the damp bottom we decided this test pit would be closed. Amy dug down further onto wet grey clay, it was photographed and recorded before being filled (see photo)
John continued working into the grey silty clay in O9, recovering some beautifully small flint blades throughout the day.
I slowly removed the topsoil from the new test pit (A10) and found a number of nice flakes and even a scraper, though these seem to be from a later Neolithic/Bronze Age episode rather than the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition seen in our blade finds. We have high hopes for this test pit in the coming days!
Finally Lyn continued her field walking search and recovered a number of lovely blades along with chunkier Bronze Age flint, all adding to our knowledge of the landscape thousands of years ago.
Another hot sunny day on site at Sompting Brooks - with plenty of invertebrate visitors, some (dragonflies, butterflies!) more welcome than others (horse flies and their ilk)
A different approach to the test pits today - after analysing the small finds from Martin's A19 it was found that few were worked or showed evidence of a knapping episode. Similar patterns emerged in E19 over the last few days, with both test pits producing nice knapping evidence from the top layers only. Therefore both A19 and E19 were mattocked down to the wetter clay, with all view to photograph and record the stratigraphy.
The deepest point of L14, which was closed yesterday, produced a Bronze Age retouched flake. With similar contexts emerging low down in A19 and E19 we now think the area was a pond or small oxbow lake during the period. The later Meso/early Neo worked flints/debitage we were finding seem to have been brought to this particular area by either flood or plough.
O9 demonstrated a similar story, with beautiful bladelets emerging yesterday but the finds decreasing the further we went down, though we hope to excavate more in this test pit tomorrow.
In A10 we have the same story, some lovely worked flint and debitage of various patinas in the upper layers but much less as we went down through the clay.
Jacqui and Theresa completed their careful cleaning and collecting at SS1 today. With some lovely finds from this area of the stream bank we are now thinking that the best way forward will be to search the bank northwards, plotting in all small finds to create a better picture of the scale of this site. Though we don't believe we've found the knapping area itself we know we are very close by. The alternative theory is that a much larger area was utilised for knapping, possibly between tides or flood events, which would explain the scattered nature of our discoveries.
All still to play for tomorrow!
We had a transitional day on site today with the closure of A19, E19 and O9 after they were photographed and levels recorded on the total station.
A10 produced a few clustered flakes which may be of note but we'll wait until Bob has had a look tomorrow. The plan with A10 is to take the final context (again a brown silty clay with few inclusions) and record/photograph tomorrow before refilling this test pit.
Tomorrow we change tack and target the stream bank to the north of the test pit area - careful find-spotting with labels, nails and the total station will hopefully give us a good idea of how far this general knapping area extends.
It's a jungle up there but with such eager flint-hunters I'm sure a few bramble wounds won't stop us!
All change on site today as the team moved north along the stream with a view to carefully collecting more blades & flakes.
Early on in the day A10 was recorded and filled, making that the last of our 4 test pits to be finished after some mixed results across this area.
However, the stream bank produced some lovely finds later on! Careful brushing/scraping and collecting meant that we recorded over 60 small finds from a small area of the east bank. Using the Total station was difficult at first due to the vegetation but we succeeded in plotting a nice scatter by the end of day.
Tomorrow we plan to take some further auger samples from the test pit area to better understand the varied soil depositions, and maybe we'll make it to the western bank where a few beautiful blades have already been spotted!
A short blog post for today as we near the end of our time at the beautiful Sompting Brooks.
Most of the team were carefully brushing and recording small finds in SS4 and SS5, the east and west bank of the stream respectively.
Gill, Jennie and Patricia recorded over 130 confirmed flakes, bladelets and flint debitage. Again we know we're very close to the original knapping area, with numerous finds coming from both banks (its worth bearing in mind the EPIC Project stream cuts through the general area of knapping, hence its discovery during field walking last year!)
Simon and Sue helped Vicky with the augering this afternoon, giving us a better picture of the soil contexts in the area of our filled-in test pits.
We have the final grids to complete in SS5 tomorrow, then perhaps some light fieldwalking after lunch!
Today was our last session on site at the Sompting Brooks EPIC Project. We finished off collecting and recording on the bank (SS5) with a lovely core fragment being uncovered..
Meanwhile Vicky, John and Donna finished augering in the area of test pits O9 and L14, proving that the soil changes occur south of a Victorian(?) drain, but remain much the same to the north.
Connie and Chris plotted the EPIC Project stream banks to give us a useful background for plotting the finds from the last few days.
It's been a wonderful couple of weeks from my point of view (and hopefully everyone else's!) It wouldn't have been possible without Connie and everyone who attended for however long they could (including our hard-working finds team of course). Thanks are also due to the Sompting EPIC Project for inviting us to excavate at this beautiful site and their support throughout.
Unfortunately we didn't come down onto a knapping floor but we know we can't be far away from a significantly large area of flint-tool making activities, most of which seems to date to the Late Mesolithic/Early Neolithic. We now have a better understanding of the landscape in this little-investigated field, and can say with confidence that this small area of the Sussex coastal plain was visited by people time and time again thousands of years ago. The hunting opportunities in this wetland environment would have been worth exploiting, and I can't help but conjure up an image of a small mobile community settling down for a while on this spot some 6000 years ago.