Day 15: Round-Up at Trench C

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Our time is nearly up, as our chance to study the site at Binbrook draws to a close … at least for this season. We are now into the two last days to investigate and record. More here about Trench C as we dig lower.

The Roman stone wall foundation on the west side of the Trench now proves to be impressive and more details have emerged. On the north side the foundation had proved to be disturbed – we think that is due to the stones having been robbed-out and taken away for re-use in later times, and rubble discard thrown back in … maybe. We had thought that sandy marl mottles across the trench might be decayed mortar that had weathered down and disintegrated. However, we now know at the south side of the trench the foundations have survived impressively. Here the foundation is represented by substantial chunks of ironstone rock held together by very hard mortar which still binds these components in a strong matrix (thanks to Paul for the hard work on this). The foundation sits in a broad linear slot (as might be expected) and along the side of this construction slot we can see thin lines relating to the original shuttering. So at least at this level we can see that the building had been constructed with care. There is much mortar here; it contains a high proportion of sand and grit. Its discovery in such liberal amounts tallies with the idea that Feature 2020 at Trench B was created by the extraction of chalk for use as lime in the mortar used to construct the Roman period buildings. Feature 2020 also contained an unusual layer of sand and grit so maybe Roman cement was being prepared very close–by.

Mortar from the Roman building foundation at Trench C.

Mortar from the Roman building foundation at Trench C.

Steve A, a colleague who helped at the Nettleton/Rothwell site, had a chance to be on this site and finished the excavation of the post pit we identified a couple of days back. It is our deepest feature at Trench C and whilst surrendering only meagre finds through most of its fill it finally rewarded when a large tegula tile fragment with flange emerged by the bottom. We think this and the large ironstone blocks near the base were more likely packing rather than a pad in this case, not least as to their side is a deeper round depression likely to be where the post had actually stood. This will have been a very substantial post bearing the weight of the roof and a pair for it could have sat on the pad stones we have already revealed at the top of the trench. Clearly this was a large building.

Given we have little time available to conduct the excavations it has not been possible this season to examine more than a smallish part of a structure that may have been around 25m in length. Clearly it was a major investment project when it was built. For us several questions immediately arise. Was it terraced in some way into the valley slope? Was it orientated with a frontage facing the beck? Is this an aisled functional barn or the main house? Discovery and proof of a stone building of the Roman era is, on the Wolds, a rarity as there has hitherto been so little research undertaken over this vast landscape, yet this building follows on from the discovery of two at the Roman roadside settlement we excavated as part of this project recently at Nettleton/Rothwell (Willis 2013). Everyone involved this year, including our many visitors, hope we can find out more soon.

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