“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Uncovering an Unknown Building

Over the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of August I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time helping a local archaeology team who are seeking to understand an unknown building that has been discovered in the hamlet of Bincknoll in Wiltshire.  

Bincknoll (pronounced Bynol) is a secluded rural hamlet that lies in the shadow of a former 11th Century (Norman) motte and bailey castle (Bincknoll Castle). The castle is believed to have been the seat of power for the local land owner of the period and today all that remains of this castle are some partial earthworks, which hint at what the site used to be. Bincknoll is also believed to have once been home to a medieval chapel and there is some documentary evidence that hints at its existence. However the location of this chapel has never been identified.

Finding the location of this medieval chapel recently became a possibility when a local home owner removed some trees from her lawn and uncovered what appeared to be a wall and some rubble from an previously unknown building. The wall that has been uncovered is made from chalk stone and has a west-east alignment, which interestingly does not align to any other local features (e.g. the road). Buildings with a west-east alignment are typical of Christian places of worship.  

With the possibility that the unknown building is medieval and may be the previously unlocated Bincknoll Chapel the excavations on site began.

The main aims of the excavation are to understand the extent of the building and its relation to the local landscape and to find features of the structure and contextual evidence that will enable it to be dated with some degree of confidence. Finding the original floor level of the building is a key objective, as the construction of the floor is likely to shed considerable light on the nature of the unknown building.

During my 2 days helping on the dig the wall and rubble field were uncovered to begin to understand the extent of the site and to enable the features to be charted and recorded. During these initial excavations a number of finds were made, which included:

  • Fragments of roof tiles.
  • Pig and sheep bones.
  • Pieces of mortar, and also what seems to be some mortar in situ on the outside wall of the building (this possibly shows that the outside of the building was once rendered?).
  • Oyster shells, which are apparently typical of Roman occupation in the area.
  • Flint cores and flint shards, which typically date from the Mesolithic era (10,000 - 4,000 years BC).
  • A possible piece of plaster with a thin surface of paint on it. If the building did have painted plaster it would hint towards it being a place a worship. 
  • Pieces of early medieval pottery. 
  • A return wall, enabling the team to be confident that they know what is the inside and what is the outside of the building.   

The dig will continue for a number of weeks, and once the team have planned and documented the exposed walls and rubble field they will slowly remove sections of the rubble field to explore the building. Painstakingly the team will remove layers from the site and eventually they may reach the original floor level. Hopefully during the dig the team will uncover suitable evidence to enable them to date the building and understand its former purpose, and maybe they might even be able to prove that it is actually the medieval Bincknoll Chapel.

The Bincknoll dig is being organized and managed by Broad Town Archaeology and the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group, visit their Facebook pages to find out more!

Day 1 - The site ready for excavations to begin. The home owner had already uncovered some of the rubble field after removing some trees from the lawn. The wall of the building is on the right hand side of the picture.

Day 1 - The wall of the unknown building, which runs along a west to east alignment.

Day 1 - The other end of the site, marked out and ready for exploration. 

Day 1 - The wall and the rubble field are slowly uncovered. A trench is opened on what is believed to be the outside of the building to explore the depth of the wall.

Day 1 - At the end of the first day. The team continue to slowly uncover the rubble field and the trench outside the building is prepared for documentation.

Day 2 - Mrs J continues to expand the trench downwards. 

Day 2 - The wall and rubble field are cleaned ready for planning and documentation. 

Day 2 - Planning commences, objects of interest are marked using flags and a grid is used to enable the site to be sketched.

Day 2 - The hard job! The rubble field and wall have to be documented and planned before any rocks can be lifted to enable the team the excavate deeper. 

Day 2 - Some of the finds from Mrs J's trench, a flint core and some flint chippings - evidence of flint knapping on the site. 

Day 2 - Some of the finds from Mrs J's trench, mortar from the unknown building. 

Some of the remaining earth works at Bincknoll Castle.

The view from Bincknoll Castle, looking towards the M4.

Pictures, Wiltshire (August 2014).

If you find this post interesting please share it using the buttons below.

No comments:

Post a comment