Condition of the archaeological deposits

Broad character of biota

Some comments on the plant and animal remains from 2kg subsamples from selected layers from Trench 1 are presented in Table 14. The following account is based on these subsamples, but incorporates observations from the remaining squashes, the 0.25kg subsamples used for estimation of preservation and the samples examined during the evaluation exercise.

For the purposes of this section, the question of preservation and possible recent decay has been ignored and the material approached conventionally.

The earliest deposits seem to be extensive build-up or dump layers; where appreciable numbers of biological remains were present they suggested mixed origins. These layers were cut into by a series of pits. As far as the plant remains are concerned, the deposits interpreted as pit fills are not dramatically different from those defined as 'dumps', though locally there were small concentrations of food remains with concretions which probably indicate faeces (not necessarily human). The numbers of Trichuris eggs were generally very small, offering some, but rather limited, evidence that the material incorporated only traces of human (or pig) faeces, although even these may have originated from other species.

The fills of cut 1108 included appreciable numbers of grain pests and in some cases hints of the presence of stable manure, but even here the impression was of the disposal of waste of more than one kind.

It appeared during excavation that the south-east and south-west faces of Trench 1 cut the fills of a very large pit, itself probably re-cut on more than one occasion. It was not entirely clear where the primary cut lay in the sequence. This pit was therefore of the order of 3m in diameter and 2m in depth. It appears to have been infilled in stages with various kinds of material, but there was evidence from at least one stage, represented by layer 1111, of a probable hiatus during which the pit held open water which was colonised by aquatic beetles, Daphnia (water-fleas), and perhaps some diatoms.

The original evaluation excavation revealed an additional pit cut complex which does not appear in the sections. A sample from the fills of Cut 1011 (context 1006), cut into 1013/1017, gave hints of the presence of faeces, probably human (see results of evaluation of sediment samples). A sample from context 1007, a fill of Cut 1012, gave only limited biological evidence, reminiscent of some of the assemblages seen in the present exercise.

A further pit, Cut 1029 was sampled during evaluation but lay outside the columns used in the present exercise. A sample from its fill, context 1027, gave strong evidence for faeces, almost certainly human. Similarly, Cut 1031, represented by samples from contexts 1030 and 1028, appeared to contain faeces with a variety of other materials (see evaluation results).

Overall, the evidence indicates that the 11th-13th century deposits examined here formed in yards behind buildings fronting onto Pavement (Parliament Street being a much later thoroughfare), and were extensively excavated, probably with the intention of burying noxious waste.


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Last updated: Wed Mar 6 2002