One of the most important aspects of archaeology is finding the things that stand out, something which we call a feature, and sometimes this can be very difficult. Is this brown patch slightly browner than that brown patch? And does that brown patch have browner flecks than the other? Are they entirely different or almost identical, but not quite….? On my very first week on an archaeological dig, when working with an archaeologist of some six years experience, I was very concerned that too many brown patches had made him see things that weren’t there. It took him a few minutes to explain to me why there was a pit there, as I would just shake my head in disbelief. Now, however, I see. The subtle differences become clearer, and the key to good, detailed archaeology clearer with it. Finding a wall is easy. Finding the construction cut that was made for the wall, and then backfilled with exactly the same material is much harder, but not impossible.

So far on this site, the features we dealt with at first were the ones that were easy to find, brick or horn-core lined circles dug into natural gravel. The ones we are moving onto in the first area require a keener eye, the rubbish pits and the post-holes. One way to ensure that features are as clear as possible is to clean the site regularly, using hoes and trowels, taking a small amount off the top layer. This helps remove soil that has blown onto the surface, or has been trod on by archaeologists working in wet weather. Once features have been found we have to try and find what they relate to and whether they are cutting or being cut by anything. Only then can the feature, now fully identified, be excavated and fully understood.