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The only thing that gets dirty is...not quite their boots!

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Introduction

“Day One and we’re here in Norwich, Norfolk, excavating a site in a part of the city traditionally called ‘Norwich-over-the-Water’,” Tony spoke animatedly into the camera before turning to the man beside him. “Francis, what can you tell me about why this site should interest us? Why aren’t we over by the castle, or the cathedral?”

“Now Tony,” replied Francis, “you should know better than to ask that by now. This map showing the street plan and layout of buildings from the late 18th C shows how significant this part of the city used to be. See – we’re here.” Awkwardly he wrestled with the open map in his hands, clearly needing three of them, before he gave in and spread it on the ground at their feet, anchoring each corner with a large pebble, and pointed toward a crossroads on the map.

“City?” asked Tony, “I thought we were outside the city here.”

“No,” Phil chimed in, gesturing northwards, “you can’t see them from where we are; but there are remnants of the old Mediaeval city walls over there. Though, you’re right in that this part of the city was never as built up as the part the other side of the river. But there was still quite a lot here; it was part of a city after all – probably the most important city outside London at one stage. The problem nowadays is that there was a lot of change in the 1960s and 70s and a lot was destroyed.”

“Like that church,” said Tony, pointing to the point of the map marked ‘St Olave’s’. “From where we’re standing I should be able to see it, if it were still there.”

“Well, yes...but no really.... Now, don’t look at me like that,” Francis protested jovially. “You’re right we would be able to see it; but it wasn’t demolished in the 60s; it was pulled down in the 16th C. Just the foundations were there.”

“So if that’s what we’re excavating, why are we over here – not over there?”

“Because we’re not after that; the city that tourists come to see today is really the Mediaeval town, from the 11thC onwards. We’re after much earlier: the Saxon settlement that was slightly to the north and was incorporated into the Mediaeval town at a later date and built over.”

“And here?” Tony asked, pointing at the ground directly beneath his feet. “Why this spot?”

“Well this is St Crispin’s roundabout; and you know that’s an odd name for it. Because there’s no St Crispin’s church hereabouts, nor ever was that we know of, and St Crispin was a Roman saint. Although, as we all know from our history, there were Romans hereabouts, as East Anglia was the centre of Boudicca’s revolt and this was the land of the Iceni.”

“So you’re after Roman remains, not Saxon!” exclaimed Tony. “But you still haven’t answered my question: why here?”

“Oh that’s simple," said Phil. "They were doing some road works a month ago and dug up a Saxon sword, so they called in Time Team.”

"So there's the question," Tony said, turning to face the camera, "will we find evidence of Boudicca's revolt - or Roman ruins and evidence of Roman saint - or Saxon swords in Saxon burial hoard - or will it 'just' be more Norman artifacts? It's up to Time Team to answer the questions and we have just three days to find out!"

Day One – Morning – Trench One – Outtake

“So, Matt, talk me through what we are looking at here,” said Tony. To his lay eyes it looked like a dismal muddy oblong hole that cut right across what had been (before their arrival) quite a nice display of plants and flowers in the centre of the roundabout. But he knew better than to say that on camera. “I know you wouldn’t have called me over for anything that wasn’t significant. What have you found?”

“Nothing significant,” replied Matt. “No really, Tony,” he protested, seeing the announcer’s look of exasperation, “not everything can be significant.”

“Yes, but you called me over, so you must have something to tell me,” Tony responded, not entirely unreasonably, adding, “besides this is a television show. We must give the punters something for their money, even if it is just a TV licence fee.”

“Yes, but we don’t work for Auntie Beeb; this is Channel 4!”

Tony rolled his eyes. “For fuck’s sake, Matt! Don’t say that! Look, here–” He picked up an artefact lying by the side of the trench and handed it to Matt, “a broken potsherd! You wax lyrical about these bloody things all the time! What can you tell me about this?”

“Not a lot.”

“Matt...” Tony almost growled in his frustration. “You know what I need!”

“Bleeding hell! There’s thousands of these – complete ones – all over England. If you don’t believe me, why don’t you join Auntie and produce the Antiques Roadshow instead! The only important thing that tells us is we’re looking in the wrong place!

Day One – Morning – Trench One – Take Two

“So, Matt, talk me through what we are looking at here,” said Tony.

“Well, Tony,” responded Matt, on cue, “it’s not so much what we’re looking at as what we’re not seeing.”

“Come again?”

“Take this, for instance,” said Matt, holding out a terracotta-coloured bit of broken pot. “It’s from the 17th C, which we would sort of expect to find in the higher layers. But we haven’t found anything higher up and just this kind of thing lower down. More and more I’m thinking whatever used to be here – with the exception of the sword – was destroyed when they put through this road.”

“So what you’re telling me is we’re looking in the wrong place.”

“Exactly.”

Day One – Afternoon - Geo-Phys

There was a surprisingly large group of people, all hunched over a large chart with green, yellow and red blotches and patterns, in the middle of the roundabout (beside the trench). Until a few minutes ago, cars had been whizzing round the road; but a little traffic jam had developed when a cyclist wobbled dangerously close to a car, causing it to swerve into another car, and.... Now everything was stopped while two ambulances and three police cars dealt with the collision which completely blocked the north side of the traffic circle. It would obviously be some time before it was cleared. Normally motorists would have been turning the air blue; but the novelty of a Time Team dig was somewhat more interesting than simply looking at rear of the car ahead and the police had had the happy notion of suggesting all the motorists go have a look.

“John, I understand you had to use considerable ingenuity to complete a geo-phys survey this time,” Tony introduced to the camera, and his impromptu audience.

“Yes, Tony,” John explained. “Normally I just send out someone with the equipment to walk over a field; but, as you can see...,” he gestured to the road and beyond to the buildings on its edge, “this area is too built up for that. So instead, I had to negotiate with all the owners to allow me access to their grounds.”

“I see,” said Tony, “so you got a bunch of little maps.”

“Yes, and then we used the computer to join them all up so we could get this map that gives us a complete geo-physical profile of the area.”

“And what does it tell us?” asked Tony.

“Well, we’ve just been debating that,” broke in Phil Harding and Francis Pryor, “and we think this looks the most interesting.” He pointed to a small red circle near to a wide semi-circular orange shape in one area of the geo-phys map.

“And where is that?” Tony queried, gesturing round him, rather as John had done a few minutes before.

“Over there,” explained Francis. “Those two houses.” He pointed.

“You can see them marked on this map,” Phil said, spreading out his plan of roads and buildings from the 18th C. “They date from well before the period shown in this map, which means any remains from earlier may have been left undisturbed.”

“Yes,” Francis broke in, “Phil and I are agreed that our best bet at finding something significant is over there.”

“And just what is it you expect to find?” asked Tony, before stepping slightly back to allow the cameras a better angle with which to focus on the two archaeologists debating possible finds. When the discussion petered out he stepped in to summarise.

“So, if I’ve heard that right: it could be a graveyard – that’s because of its proximity to the church – or maybe a mediaeval dovecote, or possibly a Roman temple.”

“Well, yes, though I’m not convinced we’re looking for a temple; I think it’s too small,” asserted Phil.

“A wayside temple,” retorted Francis. “After all – we know there were some important Roman roads hereabouts, though not at Norwich itself. Venta Icenorum was the seat of Roman power in this area; but it is a little to the south of Norwich. We think it is likely there was some sort of settlement round Norwich – not necessarily Roman – and that is partly because of the river Wensum which runs through it, that connects to the Yare and out to the sea; but also because later the Saxons settled here. However, we’ve never quite been able to figure out how Norwich was connected.

“I see,” said Tony, “so, basically, what you are saying is: you don’t know.”

“That’s what we’re here to find out,” chorused Phil and Francis.

Day Two – Morning – Trench Two - Outtake

The houses on St Martin's Lane were flint and brick buildings dating from the 16th and 17th C respectively - listed buildings - and formed the only two remaining sides of what must once have been a Mediaeval quadrangle. Given the generally good quality of landscaping in both gardens, Tony had expected to have to exert quite a bit of charm to convince the house owners to let them in. After all, there was a certain amount of mess that was inevitable in a dig; and although the gardens were a fairly good size, particularly when one considered how very close the houses were to the city centre, they were just gardens and the dig – and resulting chaos – would be, quite literally, on the owners’ doorsteps. Tony knew well that people who already owned a bit of history often made the best hosts for a dig; but that was usually when the owners had called in Time Team, not when the show came knocking on their front door. And, always those owners who did ring the programme had bigger properties and the dig could take place at a comfortable distance from the house (like the next field over). However, Andy – who owned the house on the right – said he’d been planning to dig out the hedge anyway; he was just as happy for Time Team to do it instead. (The angle of the trench was adjusted to incorporate more of the offending shrubbery.) And Flo – who owned the house on the left – said her sister was a fan and would never forgive her if she said no. So they were on!

The archaeologists had risen with the larks; but Tony had slept in. After all, the start of any new trench was a slow business and there really was nothing much to see, still less present on, until after the dig was well along. By mid-morning, having had a nice leisurely breakfast plus a wander through the market, Tony made his way to Trench Two. Well...he made his way to where Trench Two ought to be....

There was, of course, no room for any mechanical digging equipment. It wasn’t the first time they’d had to use muscle power, digging with shovels, and it did tend to slow things down. He now realised the red barberry had slowed things down further. Flo seemed to be doing a bang up job with first aid on the half dozen workers whose scratched faces and injured hands bore testament to the battle of the barbs. No wonder Andy had been eager to have Time Team visit his garden. The trench was barely begun. As he viewed the slow progress in dismay, a small whirlwind pounced on his feet: a small grey dog barking hysterically.

“Rufus, no!” Andy called (totally ineffectually, Tony realised, as the dog proceeded to growl and try to bite his ankles, before finally his owner dragged him off and locked him away in the house). Tony looked on astonished as Andy coaxed and gently admonished the animal, all the while the little dog tried to fight free.

“And now you’ve met the little shitbrained poo-bag,” Francis commented from beside him, in a pleasant conversational tone. “That happens, on average, every half-hour. First the little furry cock, a-growling and a-biting, asserting mastery over this, his garden – then his master, all apologetic for letting the nasty beastie give him the slip, again.

“I take it, this has not been the easiest of mornings,” remarked Tony, “and you are perhaps, not quite ready for commentary yet.” He was not surprised as the air turned blue around him.

Day Two – Afternoon – Trench Two - Outtake

“Normally we use machinery to open up a new trench,” said Tony to the camera, “but that hasn’t been possible because Trench Two is in a back garden, so today had a slow start. However, as you can see...,” he gestured and the camera panned to show an L-shaped neat hole in the ground, “we have made progress. Francis, tell us what you have found.”

“Well, Tony,” said Francis in a dry voice, “it appears we have discovered poo – cat poo to be precise.”

Tony blinked in surprise, then looked in the direction Francis’ finger pointed to see a large fluffy calico cat defecating in the trench.

Day Two – Afternoon – Trench Two – Take Two

“Normally we use machinery to open up a new trench,” said Tony to the camera, “but that hasn’t been possible because Trench Two is in a back garden, so today had a slow start. However, as you can see...,” he gestured and the camera panned to show an L-shaped neat hole in the ground, “we have made progress. Francis, tell us what you have found.”

“Well, it’s early days Tony, but nonetheless we are really excited by what we’ve found so far. Over here, where the geophys was showing some sort of semi-circular formation, we’ve found two post holes typical of a round house.

“A round house!” exclaimed Tony, “so not the Roman wayside temple you were hoping for.”

“No,” said Francis, “come and I’ll show you.”

He helped Tony step down into the trench and pointed to the indentations. “One there – then that’s two– ”

“And that looks as if it could be a third,” broke in Tony, waving his hand at Helen Geake who was gently using a soft brush to remove soil from a familiar looking round patch a few feet away.”

“Precisely,” confirmed Francis.

“So does this mean you have found the British settlement that was just north of Roman Venta Icenorum? Could this be Boudicca’s own town, perhaps!”

“Unlikely, I think,” Francis explained. “We have not found much as yet but, notably, nothing to suggest the Roman period. In fact, though of course it is all still speculative for now...”

“Of course,” chimed in Tony, on cue, “but we are in the business of speculation – and then of using the dig to confirm or refute that speculation.”

“We’re actually quite excited by this dig, and hoping that as we uncover more we’ll be able to confirm these remains are from a much earlier period – perhaps even the Bronze Age!”

“Which would mean...?”

“That we would have found one of the oldest settlements in Britain.”

“My, my!” Tony beamed. “But how likely is this, really?”

“Well, we do know there were very early settlements in this part of Britain. Remember they found Flag Fen in Peterborough which, in archaeological terms, is not that far from here,” Francis sounded cautiously optimistic.

“So, a round house at this arm of the trench – and over there?” Tony pointed to the other side.

“It’s too soon to say,” Phil butted in. “The owner of the house has said that she was told there was an old disused well buried round about there, which would fit with the geophys; but I have to say we’ve not found any evidence of any well; and if there were one, even covered over by topsoil for the garden, we’d have seen it by now. The structure surrounding a well is pretty much at the surface and we’ve gone pretty far down from that.”

“So: inconclusive,” summed up Tony.

“For the moment, yes,” admitted Phil. “But you know me, Tony; I never give in and we have another day to find out.”

Tony turned to the camera, summing up, “So, all in all, a productive day for Time Team. This second trench is proving much more successful than the first, revealing a round house, possibly dating from the Bronze Age, with signs of another structure as yet to be determined. There are plans to extend the trench further at its eastern side to see if we can uncover a full roundhouse; and we look forward to what the western side of the trench - which corresponds with this structure here on the geophys survey - reveals tomorrow.”

Day Two – Evening – In the Garden of the White Lion Pub

“Didn’t I tell you – didn’t I?” It was not the first time John had said this, in exoneration.

“You did, John, you did,” Phil shook his head sadly.

“It’s not that they’re mad exactly,” Tony shook his head slowly from side to side. “I mean, we’re used to people being a bit mad, particularly in this business. I mean, look at you, Phil.”

“Me!” Phil exclaimed, “I’m a veritable benchmark for sanity, I am!”

“With that hat?” retorted Tony.

“Yes...well...hmm....” He thought for a few seconds. “It’s not as bad as Mick’s jumpers.”

“True,” Tony conceded, “but then that’s my point. We’re used to eccentricity. In fact, given the pace of modern life, one might say that any archaeologist is at least slightly eccentric simply by deciding to study the past.” He paused to take another swig of cider, before opening his mouth as if to continue, then clearly thinking better of it, raised his glass again. He did not put it down until it was empty; it was not his first.

“The dog was bad enough,” opined Francis, “and the prickly bushes.”

“But then the cats had to get in on the act,” mourned Phil. “I’d thought Flo was relatively sane ‘til that point.”

“They were at least friendly,” pointed out Tony.

“To us,” retorted Phil, remembering the repeated hissing and spitting between the little striped female and the black and white tom.

“Just how many dead cats do you think Flo has buried in that garden?” Francis wondered. “We found two in just the small corner we dug. If she has that many in every square foot....”

“It wasn’t the finding them; it was the reburying them....” Phil remembered.

“With all due honours....” echoed Tony.

“And mourners....” Francis added.

There was a moment of collective silence as the group recalled the events of the day, before, finally, Matt gave their feelings expression, “The best thing about this dig is the real ale and cider in this pub.”

Day Three – Morning – Trench Two - Outtake

At last a real find, thought Tony, as the camera crew set up for the take. Given the space constrictions in this site, doing this at the edge of the trench meant everyone else downing tools to enable filming to take place. Normally he would have chosen some other way to present the find but this dig had been quite dull, from a presenting perspective that is. The archaeologists clearly were becoming more and more excited about the site; but he knew that no matter how much they tried to talk up round house post holes to the viewers, they would find them a bit dull – on camera at least. One camera focused on him; the other camera was pointed toward the trench, artefact tray just to the left of it. Tony reviewed his crib – notes given to him (and carefully explained) – by Francis. It was Helen Geake who had found this artefact; he waved her over, signalling the start of filming.

“I understand you made a really exciting find this morning, Helen,” opened Tony.

“Yes, one which not only confirms this is a round house from the Bronze Age, but is a superb artefact in its own right,” said Helen.

This was the point where camera two was supposed to start, with a distance shot at first, that zoomed in for a close up. He and Helen would walk over to kneel beside the artefact box to continue discussion. The red light on camera two showed it was filming but there was no sign of the lens zooming in and the camera crew were laughing as hard as blazes....

Sure enough, when he turned round, Tony found the artefact box full of one large calico cat.

Day Three – Morning – Trench Two – Take Ten

It had taken several tries but at last they could be quite certain of no unexpected additions to the filming. Flo stood watching, carefully off to one side where the camera was not filming, calico cat cuddled on her shoulder. The others were shut in the house.

“I understand you made a really exciting find this morning, Helen,” opened Tony.

“Yes, one which not only confirms this is a roundhouse from the Bronze Age, but is a superb artefact in its own right,” said Helen.

Tony looked interestedly at the artefact box Helen held out to him, and the greenish coloured object resting within. “What is this precisely?” he asked.

“A Bronze Age knife,” explained Helen. “One of the best specimens I’ve ever seen, in fact. See here,” she pointed, “there would have been a wooden, or perhaps bone, handle that the blade fit within.”

Day Three – Afternoon – Trench Two - Outtake

The local historical society had turned up – in droves. They had, of course, known from the start about the Time Team dig; and Tony had filmed a few off-site clips with the spokesman for the Norwich Society, talking about the historical significance of the area and these two houses in particular. Until the 19th C they had been properties of the Great Hospital, and there was a lot written about that institution, which had enabled him to fill in quite a few gaps in the show’s timing. Without them, he thought this show would have probably been a bit thin, notwithstanding the excitement generated by the artefacts that had been found on Day Three. Of course, someone had phoned the Norwich Society to let them know something big had been found; of course, the word had spread like wildfire throughout the society’s members; of course, they had all wanted to see and to be in on the final filming.

But they were trampling on Andy’s vegetable patch; and even without that, they were newcomers, lots of newcomers. Tony sighed, just waiting for the inevitable. Sure enough, a whirlwind of snarling, barking, growling, snapping grey dog appeared, followed shortly by his apologetic owner. It would likely take some time to resolve. If nothing else, Tony thought, as he sat down to wait it out, this site had taught him a lot of new swear words he hadn’t ever heard before.

Day Three – Afternoon – Trench Two – Take Two

A selection of historical society members stood in a semi-circle near the deep open hole of Trench Two, providing a human backdrop to the scene. Flo – in whose garden it was – had been offered a place amongst them but declined; she didn’t like her picture taken. Andy had decided he needed remain indoors with Rufus, whose furious barking could still be heard – faintly – permeating through the closed windows. The cats were equally confined in their house.

“What have you found?” Tony asked Phil. The camera zoomed to a close-up of the dig.

“A kist,” said Phil. “That’s a Bronze Age burial,” he explained. “And finding it makes sense of why Flo was told there was an old well under this part of the garden, because to the uninitiated, if they discovered it by accident – say, while landscaping a garden – it could easily be mistaken for a well.”

“But it isn’t a well? How do you know?” Tony asked.

“First of all, it had human remains in it,” Phil explained, “quite well-preserved remains as you can see.” He pointed to a largely complete skeleton lying in a crouching position on a very large wooden board. “Plus, we found grave artefacts too.” With this, he pointed to the other side of the trench where a more usual size artefact box rested, two broken halves of pot – not making a whole – inside. “We’ll send all this for carbon dating which should give us a firm timeline; but all of it is very typical of high-class burials from the Bronze Age.”

Conclusion

“We’ve run the gamut of excitement and disappointment during this dig,” Tony opened the segment. “We came here because a broken Saxon sword was found a couple of months ago when the road was being repaired. We expected to find Saxon remains, partly because of that, and partly because we know ‘Norwich-over-the-Water’, as this was called in the Mediaeval period, was an important settlement in Saxon times. But our first trench on the roundabout, was a disappointment."

"Our second trench, however," Tony continued, "has led to some really significant finds: a Bronze Age round house, with a bronze knife; and a kist, with an almost intact human skeleton and grave goods; and what we now think is that while the remains of any Saxon settlement must have been destroyed when the ring road was put through, there must have been a Bronze Age settlement here before the Saxon, buried deep, and the evidence of that is what we found in this dig. So what would this Bronze Age village have looked like?”

Tony turned to Victor Ambrus who had been standing patiently through this monologue, and who now unrolled his drawing of a cluster of round houses, farmland, and meadow leading to a river.

“Of course, I appreciate we cannot know this is precisely what this village looked like,” introduced Tony.

“No,” Victor concurred, “this is based on what we know from other Bronze Age settlements elsewhere in England, but as you can see, the River Wensum is here, and the village there, with the round house Time Team found here.” He pointed to various places in his drawing as he spoke.

“That's all very illuminating. Thank you Victor," said Tony, before he summed up. "All in all, another successful dig for Time Team.”