Dig Diary 8: New Trenches, Ancient Artefacts

Day 8 has been an exciting day with two new trenches dug in promising places! At the end of the Dig Diary, we will give you an insight into two more highlighted finds of the week. The end of the project is approaching rapidly. On Thursday, we will have completed most of our excavations, and on Friday, the trenches will be backfilled. There will still be a lot of work left for those working in the Finds Room or Photography Room though!

Don’t forget to check out our new profile feature of professional archaeologist Sam Wilson here: http://www.waterloouncovered.com/wu-people-sam-wilson/.

Backfilling the Killing Zone

Found it! (?)

Following a promising preliminary exploration, we think we are getting closer and closer to finding the Sand Pit. The Sand Pit is located near La Haye Sainte, which played an important role in the Battle. It’s possible that some British casualties were buried here. The new trench has been dug at the foot of the Hanoverian Monument. The Hanoverian Monument itself honours the 4000 German soldiers that fell while fighting for the Allies against the French occupiers of their homeland.

A sand sample was taken using an archaeological instrument called an ‘auger’. It is a long, hollow metal tube that can be twisted into the ground using the handle on top. In looking for the Sand Pit, we are trying to find a piece of ground in which some of the sand layers have been disturbed -the sort of thing that would happen where sand has been extracted, for example, for building and road making. What we’re trying to find is what would have been on top in 1815. Underneath the redeposited sand, there should be an undisturbed natural layer, predating the Battle‐related activities in the area.

According to our team member and archaeologist Sam Wilson, the sand sample that was taken with the auger showed us ‘positive results’. “The order of the layers correlate with what we would expect — it is likely that we have found the Sand Pit we were looking for.”  The new trench seems to be more promising than the one that had been dug in the woods earlier, which Sam estimates to have been located too far to the North.

The other trenches previously dug at the new location near La Haye Sainte, in the woods and on the cornfield, have been fully excavated and were backfilled on Wednesday.

Uncovering the wall with a trowel at the Northern Gate

Trees and Trenches

Archaeologist Stuart Eve explains his geophysical research (in red: all of the trenches we have ever dug)

In the shadow of the only living eyewitness of the Battle of Waterloo -a stately giant sweet chestnut tree‐ a promising new trench has been dug. During previous geophysical research, our team discovered some noticeable large anomalies in the ground around the tree. Now that the harvest is gathered in, we have been granted permission to dig a 10m2 trench of about 1.5 meters deep.

Last year, a small trench was dug near the same area. Unfortunately, this trench did not give us any clue about what might explain the anomaly. It was backfilled after some inconclusive results. The new trench will be examined, then it too will be backfilled on Thursday.

Backfilling the trenches in the Killing Zone

Finds Highlights — Waterloo Uncovered’s Oldest Find Ever -and evidence of someone’s smoking habit!

Prehistoric flint

In archaeology, you can make an estimate before you dig, but you will never know for certain what you will find. This was proven once again this week when archaeologist Phil Harding identified a prehistoric stone flint. Apparently, Phil is an enthusiastic flint knapper in his free time. He dated the artefact to be between 4000 and 6000 years old. This is the oldest find we have ever recovered with Waterloo Uncovered. It was discovered from the site of the Inniskilling Square on the cornfield near La Haye Sainte.

English pipe head

Near the Northern Gate, a small personal item was found that might suggest a human link with the men that fought here. A small clay pipe, used by many soldiers for smoking tobacco, was found. According to our team, it is of English manufacture and dates from the early 1800’s. It was found amongst the excavated ruins of the barn by the North Gate, which we know was destroyed in the battle. We know it most likely did not originate from the area, as Dutch and Flemish style pipes looked quite different. Although we may not be able to prove conclusively that it was carried by a soldier, it’s location in the burnt debris of battle certainly gets your imagination going!