Fieldwalking for Amateurs.
Forest of Galtres Society has long taken an interest in archaeology, and has these last two seasons been fortunate to have considerable help from Dr Vin Davis, Dr Peter Addyman, Dr Mike Hayworth, Dr Jon Kenny, Dr Mark Whyman and Toby Kendall for two exhibitions which invited the public to bring in their archaeological finds, in particular their stone tools, for us to measure and record. One stone tool owner and farmer kindly invited us to do some fieldwalking, and then allowed us to follow that up with more fieldwalking after the crop had been gathered, the field ploughed and new seed drilled.
The 2008 stone tool surgery at Easingwold Library was written up by Dr Vin Davis. He was instrumental in ensuring we did everything correctly and those results were published in the Yorkshire Archaeological Society Prehistory Research Section Bulletin No 46, pages 20-28.
York Archaeological Trust Community Archaeology Officers laid out a fieldwalking grid for us to work, and with sixteen people (twelve FoGS members + four YAT and two dogs) we swept the field meticulously. The bagged pieces were later sorted into rubbish, flints, ceramics, brick, tile, wood, metal, glass, bone, and washed in clean water. We photographed the finds for the second exhibition. The prize find, a thin curved flint scraper, looked inconsequential before it was picked up, but our professional watching archaeologists soon realised it was important. The most interesting fact was the quantity of small brown translucent flint chips which were spotted over much of the field, and a fist-sized flint nodule still with the skin surface. As the site is very near a major river confluence in the middle of the Vale of York, with very soft often waterlogged ground, we were surprised that so much in the way of raw industrial material and evidence of hard work chipping off suitable flints for specific purposes, was visible on the surface for us to pick up, especially as it has been there for literally hundreds of years. The spring fieldwalking was undertaken on a dry day after drying winds, with cracked, crusty ground and the crop pushing up nicely, so we had to look hard to see everything. The metal detectorist was unsuccessful in finding anything. Despite the field having produced a beautiful small green hand axe (a ground and polished Group VI stone axe) we found no stone implements.
A much smaller survey was undertaken after harvest and drilling, in the same field, and the best-producing squares were picked out with the aid of tape and poles and reviewed carefully. We saw the new growing crop, and a few bird or rabbit leg bones, but despite another field also being available to us this time, we got nothing. There had not been any rain to wash off the soft sandy loam from any ‘new’ objects and the tips of the emerging crop were all that could be seen.
The lecture given to our society by Dr Mark Whyman, with Dr Jon Kenny, on the Vale of York and its underlying geological and morainic features was a revelation, and Mark tailored it towards our part of the Vale, around Easingwold. The description given by Dr Addyman at the 2008 exhibition, to Mr Scott, of the marvellous basketful of Coxwold pottery sherds he brought in to show us, was a revelation in itself. Dr Addyman drew and described so many pot and jug types and their handles and glazes and patterns. A small group of us also followed this up with Dr Vin Davis, and with permission, walked the land where Mr Scott had found these pieces and a beautiful large speckled grey hand axe which felt very good in the hand. We found plenty of good chunks of pottery, just sitting there, waiting for us. Archaeological luxury!
There is much to be gained by a small society such as the Forest of Galtres Society through engaging in fieldwalking with archaeologists to keep an eye on us, and through displaying the results to the public. We intend to put the archaeologists’ views of the work on our website, together with what we do in the future, so this collaboration has been very worthwhile in bringing together people who would otherwise not have shared their skills nor learnt new ones.