Mucklestone excavation 2016

We last visited this field in Mucklestone in 2013 and early 2014, when we carried out magnetometry surveys and trial excavations. We discovered what appeared to be evidence of a bread oven. At the time we believed we would return later in 2014 to do a more extensive excavation, but unfortunately the gaps between crop planting and our availability never seemed to coincide - until now.  We have been here for a couple of months and on the rest of this page are photos and text describing our progress. We started on the 11th of September, after the landowner had very helpfully used his machine to remove a few inches of the plough soil and stubble over a 10m by 10m square. Winston, our dig director, had positioned the trench to cover the area where we found evidence of the bread oven in 2013's trial excavation. We finished on the 3rd of November, after a very interesting and rewarding dig, in the course of which we confirmed that this was indeed the location of a bread oven, which from the pottery sherds we found in and around the debris seems to have collapsed, apparently following a disastrous fire, sometime in the 17th Century. We hope to be able to return next year to investigate what appears from the magnetometry to be a building immediately to the north of this bread oven. We will soon be carrying out a resistivity survey over this area in an attempt to confirm the existence, and clarify the extent, of any remaining wall bases or ditches.  - Click on any of the following images to enlarge it

Weeks 1-3 (September 11th - October 2nd)


Start trowelling
Start of the first day's trowelling. Looking NW


Large stones emerging Pipe bowl
Looking W. As we continue trowelling on the first day, some large stones start to show (lower right hand side of the picture) ... ... as well as some finds, including this pipe bowl with its maker's mark
Stony area Large stones and daub
A few days later, looking W. You can see that the large stones appear to be in a line - the ranging rod is beside them. Two days later, looking E this time. Colin is working around one of the large stones. You can see an area of broken pieces of daub nearer the camera
Skillet leg Skillet leg
We found several small pieces of bronze, plus a couple of what appear to be legs of a skillet (a heavy saucepan-shaped cooking pot) or cauldron These two photos are of one leg, which shows that the pot was made all in one, rather than the legs being attached individually to the pan
Sherd in situ Sherd selection
Here is one sherd of pottery as the troweller discovered it, ... ... and here are some other examples of sherds after they've been washed. All late 17th or early 18th Century.

  The following picture shows the whole trench on the 20th September, looking south.
You can see the line of larger stones up the middle, with a darker area with a lot of broken daub to the right of them.

Whole trench looking S


Week 4  (2nd - 9th October)


  In October, a large number of interesting pottery sherds were discovered in an area in the NE corner of the trench. This area appeared at first to be a rubbish pit or midden, but on further examination proved to be a relatively shallow linear feature which became known as "Keith's ditch". You can see one of the finds from this area under Week 5 below, and more in Weeks 6 & 7. We found relatively little pottery in the black ash material near the centre of the oven itself, but the next picture is of a nice piece of decorated blackware which Dave found there. It is probably late 16th or early 17th Century slip decorated Cistercian ware.

Slip decorated blackware

Line of stones Line of stones 2
These are two views of the line of stones in the middle of the trench. The line runs roughly N-S, with the point of the ranging rod pointing to the north. The stones are seen now to be more of a continuous line, possibly the base of a wall. Is there perhaps a parallel line to the west of them (above them in these views)? There is a line of darker material alongside them, too

Painted glass
Among the finds this week was this piece of painted glass

Ring Ring 2
This toroidal find ("ring") may or may not be man-made. It fell into two pieces when it was lifted, and the picture on the left shows that it seems to be made of stone or slate
Thread Thread close-up
These two pictures are of what was once a ball of thread, about 10cms across. The left-hand photo is of an approximately 5cm width. The right-hand photo is a close-up of a single thread. The whole is extremely delicate, as it has been burnt and what we see is all carbonised and falls to black ash when handled. Congratulations to Janet for excavating it so carefully!

Week 5  (9th - 16th October)

9th Oct 11 Oct
A view of the whole trench, looking N. You can see the line of stones in the centre of the trench, and top right (in the NE corner) are Marlene and (nearly) Keith working in "Keith's ditch" A couple of days later, looking NW. Another view of the line of stones. As we remove the rubble (mostly brick-like pieces of daub) from the W side of the stones, another large stone emerges - you can see this more clearly in the larger picture - click on the thumbnail.
Pot with stir mark Mottled ware flagon
A small cooking pot, or maybe a posset pot, emerging from Keith's ditch. A nice mottled ware flagon neck with part of its handle

Weeks 6 & 7 (16th - 30th October)

18 Oct 18 Oct close-up
Here is a view of the whole trench, looking N. We have removed much, but not all, of the daub material. Note that we found almost none of the daub to the E of the line of stones Here is a close-up of the central oven area taken from the same viewpoint as the previous photo. If you look closely, you can see a splash of what appears to have been molten pewter across the top of one of the newly-revealed stones to the left (W) of the original line.
Daub samples Daub samples reverse
Here are some of the pieces of daub. The right-hand picture shows the other sides of the pieces in the left-hand picture. You can clearly see where the wattles ran through the daub, as well as the smooth faces on the other side suggesting that these faces were located on the outside of the top of the oven, or its front face, or inside the mouth of the oven (where the dough was put in and the bread taken out). Some pieces are more curved and are concave, suggesting the latter location.

 On the 20th October, Terry used his drone to take the following aerial photographs of the whole trench. North is to the left (in both pictures). The second picture is a close-up of the central oven area, in which you can see what is now clearly a second line of stones parallel to the first. Notice the once-molten pewter splash across one of the stones, looking like an exclamation mark diagonally across the stone. You can also see clear indications of areas of black ash and charcoal.

Aerial view

Aerial view close-up

Keith's ditch Keith's finds tray
Keith's first sight of the sherds of another posset pot in his ditch The contents of his finds tray so far today
Posset pot first sight Posset pot turned over
Close-up of the posset pot sherds  as found Those sherds turned over

Posset pot cleaned
The posset pot sherds washed and joined. What a lovely piece!

Oven view Oven close-up
Looking N. We have removed nearly all the daub rubble to reveal the shape of the oven. We assume that the front is to the right. The back seems to have been semi-circular, levelled on the nearer edge by a line of clay pads In this closer view, now looking westwards from the front side, notice the remains of a burnt timber beam which runs between the two lines of stones. We assume the stones steadied this timber which presumably formed the bottom of  the front wall.
Midland yellow pot Anoher clay pipe bowl
Some more finds: a pot of (perhaps) midland yellow with unusually-angled handles ... ... another pipe bowl, here showing the maker's mark on the underside
Bearded man pot  Squashed thimble
A 17th C saltglazed stoneware sherd with part of the face of a bearded man ... and a squashed bronze thimble

General view All daub removed
In this view of the whole trench looking northwards, you can see a roughly linear feature (of which more later) just above Janet's head, leading eastwards from the western baulk. You can also see Keith's ditch in the far NE corner. The end of October, and we have removed all the daub rubble. You can see the remains of the timber beam running roughly N-S between the lines of stones. A pair of large stones has just emerged, visible just above the information board 

Week 8, the final week:

The penultimate day (1st November)

Post holes? Tree roots?
Recall that roughly linear feature in the picture above? These two pictures show what was revealed when we removed the dark fill ... ... - not much. Two holes which don't seem right for post holes. Maybe tree or bush roots have been removed here?
Twin stones Twin stones removed
Here is the pair of large stones, which we first saw in a previous photo. The stones have been removed, revealing - again, not much. Maybe another tree or bush root hole? 
In the low sun at the end of the working day, you can perhaps see that the roughly linear feature (nearest the camera - we are looking SE now), the line of clay pads, and beyond that the hole where the twin stones were (the largest stone is visible on the same line, just beyond) all seem to be in line. What is more, this line roughly corresponds with a line on the 2013/2015 magnetometry survey (see the first Mucklestone page). Make of that what you will. An old hedge line? Coincidence?

The last day (3rd November)

Mobile drawing board
The final day of this year's dig, and Winston is catching up with his site drawing, using his mobile drawing board. We are looking S. The stones in the next two photos are in the N baulk, just about under where the photographer is standing
Stones in N baulk Stones in N baulk close-up
The middle stone of the main three shown here looks to be solidly set in the surface. We are looking N here - maybe we will find out if it is part of some larger structure in next year's dig!
Last day team
The final day team

Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, November 2016

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