We put this to the landowner and therefore laid down the foundations for a meeting between all parties.
That meeting took place on 17th November 2016 with Rob, myself, the archaeologist and the Field Director from the archaeological survey unit.
The meeting went really well with discussions on where a finds recovery room could be situated, a cleaning/sieving area, toilet facilities, water sources, power and proposed survey-excavation areas to name but a few points.
When asked where they could dig, the landowner quite casually responded, with a wry smile, "You're the experts.... you tell me".
With the mass of evidence recovered and the span of history covered, this was enough to justify a full excavation without the use of geophysics.
The first excavation will involve just one area of the farm with 3 trenches being cut there over 7 days. There are plans ahead for 4 more annual excavations lasting two weeks apiece.
The dig day had arrived, the equipment was craned into the field and with the JCB now in place, the first cut began, and so it was that our very first personal excavation was taking place. We are so proud and excited at the prospect of what lay ahead.
Three trenches 10 metres by 2 metres were strategically placed over features that had been identified from crop marks that had been recorded earlier.
We went over the spoil heaps that were very kindly spread out for us by the JCB driver and with the blessing of the archaeologists.
The depth of the trenches cut by the JCB averaged 15 inches so was more than any metal detector could hope for regarding coinage and other small artefacts.
Absolutely nothing metallic at all was found from the plough/sub soil levels of all three trenches showing that the coverage from our previous surveys was absolutely meticulous.
The sides of the trenches were also scanned and again, nothing metallic could be detected.
All the archaeologists on the dig throughout the week (some came and others went) had a look at the recoveries we had made and were gobsmacked at the amount of finds on view.
One of the questions was "how long did it take to compile such a lovely collection of finds?" ......the answer was over the last 20 months.
Another asked if we were married? I replied "no, we just detect together".
The archaeologists then started the excavation, trowelling back the trench floor. At the end of each day we scanned the spoil heaps and trench walls and floor. Oddly enough, two Medieval dress hooks were found in the same trench! One was just below the plough soil (15 inches deep) in a ramp formed at one end of the trench and the other was a metre down in what was a Medieval ditch!
One of the days was a "get the family involved" day and part of that day was to learn about metal-detecting and how it led to the dig actually happening. The families all had a look at the finds and were amazed at how much history was within 5 inches of their feet.
One of the guest archaeologists brought along their partner who was also a detectorist from Spain. She had a Minelab CTX 3030 and had the same results as we achieved. So, no great surprises there as we have already said that it's more to do with whats under your feet rather than getting into all sorts of silly arguments about machines, depth, coins-on-edge, mineralisation etc etc etc etc etc etc...... the list is boringly endless.
This shows that there were no more metallic artefacts at all from the entire contents of three trenches totalling 30 cubic metres or 1060 cubic feet or 30,000 litres of soil. Not one cut-quarter, cut-half or whole hammered was recovered from a field that has produced several cut-quarters, cut-halves and full coins! No buckles, no strapends, nothing .....other than the two dress hooks mentioned earlier.
It proved to us that nothing much had "sunk" to depths that were out-of-range to any machine.
Lets hope that there's something left outside the trench areas when we do eventually re-survey this field!
The field isn't being ploughed this year so we'll give it a miss and wait until it is ploughed. It will be interesting though just to see how much is recovered then.
So, on this field the conclusion is that all the small items in the top 4 to 5 inches are recovered, the small finds in the lower section of the plough soil (4 to 8 inches deeper, depending on crops) however being missed.
By small finds we mean up to the maximum size of a Edward III penny or Roman numus/denarius.
Once re-ploughed, the lower 4 to 8 inches may be in reach of the search coils but there's still that middle bit, the one that was 6 inches deep and is still 6 inches deep but the other way up! When will that ever be within coil range? That's exactly how a small amount of finds may always exist and be lurking there somewhere.
As we all know, finds are finite and the prospect of recovering the same quantities as on the first surveys will diminish to a point were it won't be worth travelling several miles/hours any more. All the larger artefacts such as Roman brooches etc will have been recovered for sure, as we've seen on the heavily detected areas we've searched in the past.
Pictures of the dig can be seen here including the largest selfie-stick ever!