Each year local Archaeologist Carol White carries out an archaeological dig in the local area, read on to find out what she found in 2012.
To the west of Wyndham’s Pond, one of several man-made water sites in the Yateley Common landscape, and south of the small lake referred to as the `Hospital Pond’, further archaeological investigations were conducted during August of this year. Annual excavations, as part of an ongoing archaeological research project involving academic study and teaching programmes in Archaeology, have examined several locations across the plateau heathland environment and established the presence of previously unrecorded late hunter-gatherer flint procurement and stone tool manufacturing activities, with the majority of the material found dating to about 7000 years ago.
The investigations held this summer focused on an area near to Wyndhams Pond where a natural plateau run-off soaks through wet heath towards the Hospital Pond. During the 1980’s this location was included within a Hampshire countywide archaeological assessment involving a series of day-long walkover surveys to observe potential archaeological features and surface material, which were then recorded as six figure map grid references and subsequently, entered onto the county records. Several tentative observations of a type of landscape feature, referred to as a `burnt mound’ – a type of Prehistoric sauna consisting of a ditch and small burnt flint mound, were noted during the survey across Yateley Common, and included the prospective sighting of a `burnt mound’ in the wet heath to the south of the Hospital Pond. When the Yateley Common land management team recently put forward an idea to position three small drainage ponds in the wet heath area, there became a necessity to undertake an archaeological evaluation prior to going ahead with the proposed pond construction.
To assess whether this area contained the `burnt mound’ as observed in the 1980’s survey, several initial walkover surveys were conducted by the archaeologist and members of the land management team during the spring months of this year, using the six figure grid reference taken from the county records. A place in the allotted area with a small trough was selected for examination, although no specific evidence indicating the presence of a `burnt mound’ was found. Archaeological excavations commenced from Saturday 11th, working in two main areas on the west and east sides of the marshy wet heath, using four test-pits; one located over the potential feature on the western edge of the marshy area, and the other test-pits on the east side on three ascending small terraces of the sloping land towards Wyndhams Pond and Brandy Bottom.
In a similar way to previous investigations on the Yateley Common landscape, all stratigraphic levels and deposits were removed and recorded separately in sequential order, including the collection and recording of all small finds and environmental materials, although the initial expectation in quantity of finds was minimal.
As the excavations commenced in the test-pit areas positioned on the east side of the marshy area, site workers soon uncovered archaeological material. The test pit that edged the marshy area on the lowest small terrace of the slope was particularly productive as, after removing the top soils, an in-situ hearth surrounded by bladelets, cores and other materials was discovered, including a finely made backed bladelet of a tool manufacturing processes dating to about 7000 years ago - similar to many other Mesolithic finds from Yateley Common. Ascending the slope, in the test pit placed 2 metres above, it was clear that soils had been washed down from the land above, with a thin layer of a reddish sediment and secondary context material, including a weathered denticulate scraper, which is possibly more than 40,000 years old. The test pit positioned on a higher small terrace where the trackway from the ponds heads south, revealed similar soil movement down the slope with a layer of red iron rich sediment and secondary context material. Several noteworthy small finds were recovered from this test pit area, including two Upper Palaeolithic blades, possibly dating to about 12,000 years ago, and also a further Mesolithic bladelet, of a narrow blade technology of about 7000 years old. In addition, two sherds of Late Prehistoric pottery was also found, possibly made just over 2000 years ago.
The test pit positioned over the small waterlogged runnel on the west side of the marshy area, as the only visible feature with a resemblance to a `burnt mound’, soon revealed wooden planking, but showing manual saw marks that suggested 18th/19th century manufacture. It was clear the feature was not a Prehistoric `burnt mound’, however, on further examination of the location and first series ordnance survey maps of the location, the excavation had revealed a hidden pathway with wooden rafting that edged and possibly, diagonally crossed the marshy area, but absent from ordnance survey maps since the early 20th century.
Therefore, although there appeared to be little to support the presence of the `burnt mound’ observed during the 1980’s survey, the investigations this year have revealed yet more of the rich and varied past of this landscape, with evidence of human activity on Yateley Common that spans more than 40 thousand years.
Carol White 2012