Day 2: 28 March 2015. The problems of stratigraphy (or lack of it)

The aim today was to clear the soil around the walls of the latrine building so that we could measure and record it properly. The three areas of the latrine (which we’re calling A, B or C) are much clearer now. We think that A was the latrine, B was a joining corridor of some sort (a changing room?) and C was a wash room because we found a drain in the middle of it (amazing how excited you can get over a drain! See picture) with a sloping floor leading in to it. The soil in area A was black and humic without much in the way of tree and plant roots (have I been shovelling sh … human compost today?), but that in area C (where we spent most of the afternoon) was brown and full of roots. By the time we downed tools at the end of the day, it looked like a doorway could be seen in area B but we’ll know more tomorrow. In terms of small finds, they are in keeping with a latrine; however, they also present us with some problems. We have no stratigraphy in this structure; just up to 30 cm or so of soil and leaf litter and tree roots. Therefore, we cannot know for sure whether / when we have reached the wartime layer. All we can say is that the objects next to the concrete floor are very interesting. So we found 3 shards of a mirror (which was around 3×6 inches when whole); a child’s toothbrush; a pink child’s hairbrush, a blue comb, a medicine bottle … so far, so good. But what should we read into this? Were there children among the forced labourers? Or were adults using children’s objects because that was all that they could buy in wartime, when many of the island’s children had evacuated to the UK? Or are these post-war objects? Which is the most likely? Can we be sure? I don’t think we can. All we can do is note these objects and think about possible interpretations. But then what to do with them? Will Jersey Heritage (who will become guardian of the objects) want every fragment of pottery and building tile? Will we learn more by keeping them? Will they go on display? Should I keep a select sample and throw the rest away? Should I record every piece and how easy is this when it’s raining, everything is covered in mud, the finds bags are with Peter who is stuck in Guernsey because the ferry got damaged and he can’t get here, and the tiles, glass and other lumps of concrete are large (and wet and muddy) and I can only clean everything in the hotel bathroom sink!) And what about the asbestos? Well, obviously I shan’t keep that! But I’ve taken a photo for posterity (see below).

In what I think is the doorway in area B (behind the door) was a cache of about 165 whelk shells (see below). If you’ve ever tried to get the meat out of a whelk shell, it isn’t worth the hassle for the small reward, but if you have 165-odd, then you have a small meal – worth doing in a time of starvation? There were also around 20 shrimp paste jars in with the shells (I think that’s what they contained) and a similar number of rusty tins which I didn’t keep. Were these tins from a Red Cross parcel? Does their inclusion with whelk shells speak of that time of hunger? Or was this just a post-war dump of rubbish? Again, no stratigraphic clue other than they were buried quite deep in the soil.  I also found a rather nice cut-glass beaker (picture attached). If anyone has any thoughts, please leave a comment!

Asbestos roof tiles

Asbestos roof tiles

The drain

The drain

Cut glass beaker

Cut glass beaker

3,792 whelk shells. Or so it seemed when I was washing them.

3,792 whelk shells. Or so it seemed when I was washing them.

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About Gilly Carr

I am a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge's Institute of Continuing Education. I work in the field of conflict archaeology and POW archaeology, and my fieldwork is based in the Channel Islands.

3 responses to “Day 2: 28 March 2015. The problems of stratigraphy (or lack of it)”

  1. david brown says :

    Hello, the broken beaker, is it cut glass or pressed glass? It looks like ‘classic’ 1930’s design. regards DB

    • Gilly Carr says :

      Basing my reply on what I learned in the glass factory outside: pressed glass. Does that help? 1930s is very helpful – something that was around to be used / reused in the camp. I wondered whether it was a mug / vessel for putting toothbrushes in, in the ablutions block? Yes, it’s a nice piece for that, but given that Spanish forced labourers lived in this camp, and they were paid quite well by the Germans, they had some buying power – but noone had much to sell, so perhaps the junk shops were still doing a trade, or people were selling nice stuff just for a few pence to buy stuff to eat??

  2. david brown says :

    Hi there, I would also go as far to say it looks like a Woolworth’s type of item. Pressed glass is cheap to make as it’s just a mold. More of a small vase, so that would fit with a toothbrush holder. I have added the link for Woolworth’s. http://www.woolworthsmuseum.co.uk/1940s-channelislands.htm

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