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Having undertaken a survey of the site the previous week, it was finally time to dig deeper. Under the guidance of professional archaeologists Richard, Alvaro, and Julia, and armed with trowels, spades and mattocks, we went to work and opened our first trenches. They are all situated between the coke ovens and the train tracks and will hopefully give us some answers as to the way the coal was transported around the site towards the railway line.

In Trench #3, Mark, Waqase, Martin and Duncan surfaced some small artefacts that are yet to be closely investigated. It was also quickly nicknamed ‘Santa’s grave’ when a great amount of red flannel started piling up on the waste heap. Together with Trench #2, we may be able to tell exactly where the mine tracks ran towards the main railway tracks.

Key to this was something that archaeology-graduate Jade and other volunteers found in the second trench. It turned out to be everybody’s favourite find yet. When hitting the ground with a mattock, it first appeared like yet another heavy stone. However, when bricks started showing underneath, the mysterious object was revealed to be one of a pair of sleepers. A stroke of luck which means that we can now tell where the tracks used to run!

Work on Trench #1 moved quickly as well. We shifted most of the rubble covering a series of walls and platforms that may yet be identified as a flight of stairs down to the railway line. Tree roots have grown through the construction, however, rendering some of the walls unstable.

A fourth trench that was quickly dug by Richard and Alvaro one morning revealed hints of a circular structure behind the existing coke ovens. This suggests that there could have been a second row of ovens right behind the first.

Find our next progress report here soon!

(Sarah Wenig)

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