The Big Dig

We were very fortunate that one of our group members allowed us access to their garden on more than one occasion while they worked on their house.  We went back to the same site for three years in a row which meant that we were able to dig a larger area than we would normally do and this proved very successful indeed.

A possible flint wall

We began our big dig like any other by digging simple test pits. Some pits produced very few finds but others held many surprises. One of those test pits showed signs of a possible man-made structure so was extended to form a larger excavation.

It was during the digging of the original test pit and the later extension that we found a great many animal bones, many of which had cut marks on them showing that they had been butchered for their meat. We also uncovered the possible remains of a flint-built wall and a compacted chalk foundation layer. Could this be the remains of a long-lost building? There were also fragments of pottery found as well which were possibly from cooking or storage vessels and ranged in date from 16th and 17th century pieces back to the Roman period. Given the large quantity of butchered bone, cooking vessels and a possible building which is close to a road, have we found an ancient drive-through fast food outlet?

Animal bones
Hertfordshire pudding stone quern

Possibly the star finds from our Big Dig came from one of the last test pits we dug. The pit cut across what appeared to be a small ditch. The finds from this indicated settlement going back through the Saxon and Roman period but right at the bottom of the test pit, almost a metre down, we came across a fragment of Quern stone, a tool used for grinding corn, which had been made from a colourful piece of Hertfordshire pudding stone and leaning up against it was a large piece of pot which was identified as locally made Iron Age pottery.

Most of the finds from our test pitting have shown that Docking was an established settlement in the Saxon period and back into the Roman period when we believed the village was formed, but the finds from our Big Dig have made us re-think that idea. They have shown us that the area we have been digging, and indeed the village itself, may well have seen human occupation for well over 2000 years going back into prehistory.