18 Jul 2023
2023 Summer Dig - Day 9
"So it's like fishing, but for history." was one member of the public's take on archaeology this afternoon, as we returned to the woods by the lime tree avenue of Forty Hall after yesterday's brief break from digging, to resume on the 9th day of our two-week exploration of Elsyng Tudor palace, and the hunt for the inner gatehouse.
If that is the case, then today we caught a few whoppers!
Excavation and recoding continued in Trenches 4 5 and 6, which contain the stretch of narrower wall and octagonal pillar bases leading to the larger octagonal turret.
Our current interpretation is that the narrow wall may be a boundary wall dividing the outer and inner courts of the palace, and that the north end with the octagonal turret may be connected to the elusive gatehouse.
Ideally we would like to extend the trench north to test this theory, but a dense holly bush is in the way, which is why we opened Trench 7 a few days ago on its far side to try and pick up the line of the wall and any associated structures.
Excavation in Trench 7 on Sunday was inconclusive, even though there had been early signs of a possible mortar-rich line crossing the trench where we'd expect a continuation of the wall.
So far in trench 7 all we had seen was another nondescript layer of rubble, but this afternoon it became much more interesting.
At the west end of the trench the rubble began to reveal areas of ashy-mortar and this eventually disclosed a large patch of stone fragments, which grew in size until we were eventually lifting quite sizeable fragments of dressed stone.
The fragments included several pieces bearing prominent tool marks and some with soot discolouration and probably came from various architectural features including window surrounds and at least one from a fireplace.
This is possibly the largest collection of dressed stone ever found at Elsyng - the 17th century demolition crew were extremely thorough in removing the palace's valuable masonry for reuse or resale, so to find so many pieces in one trench is extremely pleasing and will add a lot to our picture of the architectural look of the palace buildings.
The big question of course is where did these stones come from and was it far away?
A possible answer may have begun to emerge from the other end of the trench this afternoon, as the rubble layer gradually revealed a line of in-situ bricks beneath it.
We've only just uncovered one course of the feature and so know nothing yet as to what kind of structure it represents, and its alignment is not quite right to be a direct continuation of the nearby turreted wall.
Tomorrow promises to be another exciting day as we reveal more of this wall and perhaps evidence of the structure it belongs to.
We may also extend Trench 4 at its southern end where the larger of the two octagonal columns are, to see the complete outline of the column and hopefully more of the line of the wall.