The “test pit” technique is now a well established method of investigating the origins of medieval villages, involving the rapid sampling of archaeology within areas where more extensive excavation is rendered impossible by modern settlement.
Rather than relying on finding significant archaeological contexts within particular test pits, the technique relies on analysing the geographical spread and chronological pattern of finds, especially pottery, from a number of test pits scattered across a village, in order to establish its historic footprint.
Test pits are dug by teams of 2 or 3 people, generally in 1 metre squares and to a depth of 60 – 100 cms in a series of 10cm horizontal layers. Everything that comes out of the pit will be sieved and any finds (ie anything that looks man-made or interesting) will be washed and recorded. Finds are then identified and dated by specialists. When the test pit is finished, each team fills in the pit again and leaves the site looking neat and tidy.
We hope to use this technique to make further investigations on sites within the parish which have been identified from previous geophysical surveys.
An archaeological day at Wychbold First School was organised in March 2008 when test pits were dug in the school grounds. Luckily, several items were discovered, including 18th century pottery sherds and pieces of clay pipe from the 17th century onwards. We hope to follow this day with other hands-on days when perhaps there will be the opportunity to do test-pitting more widely across the village.