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I visited (and wrote about) the Norton Community Archaeology Group’s (NCAG) Open Day last year. The weather for thIs year’s event last weekend could not have been more of a contrast! Whereas high factor sunblock and sunshades were the order of the day last year, waterproofs and galoshes were a definite requirement this year as the rain was light but continuous the whole time I was there.

My timings were all out (I thought the event started earlier than it did), so preparations were still under way among the hardy volunteers when I arrived on site. I am therefore deeply indebted to Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, North Hertfordshire District Council’s Archaeology Officer, who took time out of his busy schedule to give me a little one-on-one time and explain a little of what has been found this year.

The main trench across the henge ditch

The main trench across the henge ditch

There were three main features within the excavation immediately apparent, the largest of which was the trench shown above. This was cut across the line of the henge ditch and bank, and most excitingly, some evidence has been found of a possible earlier causewayed enclosure. Keith had previously suggested that the henge monument was of an early ‘formative henge’ type, but the discovery of a possible causewayed enclosure is icing on the cake.

At the eastern entrance to the henge, compressed chalk pits have been found, ideally sized for inhumation, but with no significant finds within them.

The chalk pits at the eastern entrance to the henge.

The chalk pits at the eastern entrance to the henge.

Whilst the possible causewayed enclosure is icing, there’s a cherry too! A neolithic ‘plank house’ feature has also been identified, close to the ditch.

Excavation of the plank house feature

Excavation of the plank house feature

Mike Parker-Pearson has recently visited the site and corroborated Keith’s interpretation of the findings, which makes this quite an important site, possibly nationally important, as the easternmost henge found to date.

Preparations for the Open Day were ongoing, and with the site due to close down on Sunday, Keith was getting heavily involved in what work remains, so I thanked him once again for his time and left him to it.

Investigations on site have been ongoing for a few years now – Full site diaries can be found on the NCAG blog and wider information about the group can be found on the main web site – but there will sadly be no dig next year, as Keith will be involved in another project elsewhere. Scandalously, it appears that the site may be given over to allotment use. The Group Chairman, Chris Hobbs introduced himself to me as I was leaving and stressed that he hopes to find out more about the potential plans for the site in the coming weeks.

Keith (in shorts), directing operations in the rain.

Keith (in shorts), directing operations in the rain.

So while the Stapleton’s Field site obviously has much more of a story to tell (and an interim report will be published in due course), the future is uncertain – it’s a case of watch this space.

Note: Apologies to all involved for any inaccuracies in my account above, I was working from memory rather than notes.

All pictures above © Alan S.

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