Diggers' Diaries: Fulford Battlefield
Our Dig It! excavation competition winners Liam (10), Anwen (10) and Syd (12) joined the archaeological team from the Fulford Battlefield Society on Sunday 17th July for a fun-filled, action-packed, and beautifully sunny day of archaeology. Our winners were looking for evidence of the battlefield from the Battle of Fulford, which was the first of the three famous battles that took place in 1066.
About Fulford's Battlefield
The year is 1066 and the Viking King, Harald Hardrada, and his Viking warriors have travelled across the North Sea to begin their bloody campaign in England. The Vikings landed near Scarborough on the coast of modern-day Yorkshire, and then sailed south to head inland along the rivers Humber and Ouse towards the important city of York. They stopped at Riccall, about 8 miles south of the city, and then began to march towards York.
Meanwhile, in Fulford just outside the city of York, Earl Morcar of Northumbria and Earl Edwin of Mercia readied their English troops. They had chosen a spot along the banks of Germany Beck, a tributary of the River Ouse.
It this spot near Germany Beck that Liam, Anwen and Syd were involved in excavating, trying to find definite proof of the battlefield.
Unlike other archaeological sites, the Fulford Battlefield only saw 'action' for one day; the archaeologists aren't looking for structures or monuments that were built to last. The archaeological team are looking for clues about one event, that took place on one day around 950 years ago! And what's more, battlefields tended to be cleared after the fighting, with the winning side reclaiming and recycling all the weapons and objects that could be reused.
So what have the archaeological team actually found?!
So far there have been tantalising clues turned up by the archaeological team. They've found metal objects which appear to be a set of metal-working tools that might have been used to repair armour and equipment. And a fragment of horseshoe dating to between the 11th and 13th centuries (the correct date to be contemporary with the 1066 battle) has also been uncovered There's evidence of a road surface leading down to Germany Beck, and there is a ground surface that appears to have been trampled by lots of people in a very short space of time.
Our young archaeologists join the hunt
Liam, Anwen and Syd began their day with some hard work. They had to open their trench, which meant using shovels to remove the vegetation-covered topsoil. Before they began, archaeologist Martin showed them how trenches are positioned, and how to get them laid out straight. This meant a bit of maths! To get a right-angle (of 90 degreees) and to ensure that the trench sides were straight, we used a '3, 4, 5 triangle'. This uses Pythagoras' Theorm; if a triangle has sides which measure 3m, 4m and 5m the corner where the 3m and 4m sides join must equal 90 degrees.
After our maths lesson, and once the topsoil was removed, Liam, Anwen and Syd got trowelling. They were using their brand-new trowels, kindly supplied by YAC's friends at Past Horizons, The ground surface that dates to the period of the 1066 battlefield is not very far beneath the current ground level, so our young archaeologists didn't have far to dig.
In this trench, our finds included a piece of flint, uncovered by Liam and some 17th century pottery spotted by Anwen. We also found lots of charcoal and a piece of possible slag, which is the waste material from working with metal.
After lunch Syd, Anwen and Liam worked in a different trench nearer the Beck and alongside the road surface. Here Syd discovered a piece of bone.
Archaeologist Jon taught our young archaeologists about how measurements are used on archaeological sites to ensure that accurate records are kept of where the trenches were and the different finds and features that were discovered.
Anwen, Syd and Liam learnt how to set up a machine called a Total Station, which uses a laser to measure distances and heights.
Today was awesome! I had a wonderful time using my new archaeological tools and making new friends! However, it was very hard work, taking the top layer off our area and then using our trowels to try and find… finds. I found some brick and pottery to start with.
After our lunch, we relocated to the other area where we helped to get rid of loose dirt and start linking two trenches together. We also set up and used a theodolite. Meanwhile, my mum (who said she had given up archaeology) was busy murdering vegetation with a mattock.
When we arrived back at our original site, we had to start some delicate work- removing all the dirt from the clay (making interesting shapes) whilst trying not to get sunburnt. The purpose of this was to try and find footprints that were said to be there. In short, we didn't find them. However, when we were packing up, I found a large-ish piece of pottery!
All too soon, it was time to go home. I had a really great day and would love to come back!
My favourite bit was definitely digging; removing the top layer of soil, and then digging down. It was interesting to understand the process, and what happens, and what to look for. I was very happy with my flint find!
I enjoyed using the laser measurer and learning about measuring 3,4,5 to make a right angle. Maths is very important!
Thank you very much for my tool roll and trowel, and for such an enjoyable day. My mum and I have made new friends too!