Monday, 25 March 2013

Underwater excavations

A flood alleviation scheme is underway along Gatwick Stream just off Radford Road. This is a project to widen the channel and increase the water holding capacity of the adjacent grasslands.

Archaeological dig site along Gatwick Stream, LERL

An ancient piece of worked flint, fresh out of the Gatwick clay

I have never seen an archaeological dig before. So far this one has been beset by freak blizzards, a WW2 bomb scare, nosy ecologists, relentless rain and flooded excavation pits – the archaeologists assure me this is all quite standard stuff and they crack on with the work regardless. And I had thought JSA and GGP were weather-hardened!

Week 1, Day 1

Week 2, Day 2

Week 2, Day 3. What would Indy do?

But a little water doesn't stop these guys and girls, and the team are successfully uncovering flint items from around the Mesolithic period, which is about 10,000 to 5000 BC. Nomadic humans would have used their expert 'knapping' skills on this flint to create a variety of useful tools...

Flint fragment, possible evidence of the flint having been actually worked on this site

I don't know what this would be used for but I want one.

On the biodiversity side of things, this is a chance for the creation of another floodplain meadow, a species-diverse habitat which has become increasingly scarce. Wetland species such as Black poplar, Bur-reed, Meadowsweet, Flowering rush and Marsh marigold flourish in floodplains and support a great assortment of wildlife. Agricultural intensification and the lack of appropriate management have probably been the biggest cause of loss of wetlands.

Gatwick Stream as it stands at the moment: narrow channel and in places very steep sides

I have been on site each morning keeping an eye out for any breeding birds while JSA came in to remove the scrubby vegetation along the stream and future floodplain. Although the hostile weather seems to have kept ideas of nesting at bay, i have witnessed many aerial skirmishes within and between species including Pied Wagtail vs. Meadow Pipit and Blue Tit vs. Robin.

I keep a log of all the species I see out and about for this kind of work, here is a link to the list of what has turned up so far... Gatwick Stream Species March 13
Mink tracks, banks of Gatwick Stream

Black-headed gull tracks in the muddy fields

Roe deer hoof prints, showing an imprint of the rear 'dewclaws'

The team from Network Archaeology are going to be here for the next few weeks and I am excited to see what might come out of Gatwick’s ground next (humans being a part of Biodiversity history too!)