Site Introduction
 
The archaeological excavation at Walmgate followed an evaluation of the site by York Archaeological Trust in 1990 (Lilley unpublished) and a series of exploratory test pits intended to examine the foundations of surrounding buildings in May 2000 (Johnson unpublished). The site had also featured in the Time Team millennium visit to York in September 1999 when structures of the Viking Age were uncovered (Ottaway 1999).

The excavation was undertaken by a team of skilled field archaeologists working to a specification prepared by John Oxley, Principal Archaeologist for the City of York Council. A planning condition required the archaeological excavation of approximately 250 square metres of the site close to the Walmgate street front prior to the construction of flats by Evans of Leeds. Excavation proceeded to a specified level of 11.10m Above Ordnance Datum since this was the depth to which disturbance during development was expected.

41–49 Walmgate lies on the south side of the street of Walmgate which itself is in the south-eastern quarter of the medieval walled city. The excavation strategy was based on a targeted approach focused on the well-preserved archaeological deposits discovered on the Walmgate street frontage during evaluation. Deposits that were to be disturbed by the development proposals were excavated in their entirety. The excavation incorporated approximately 15.5m of the Walmgate street frontage and stretched back approximately 16.5m from it. This area was excavated to a maximum depth limit of 11.10m Above Ordnance Datum (which took in up to 1m of archaeological deposits). A strip along the frontage (Area Q) and a lift shaft on the eastern side of the excavation area were reduced further to 10.50m AOD.

The overburden, including the modern backfills of the evaluation and Time Team trenches, was removed by JCB. The area was then cleaned by hand and the remaining archaeological deposits were excavated to the specified depth limit. All archaeological features were planned at a scale of 1:20 using the single context planning system within a 5m x 5m grid. Due to the tight timescale and the large area excavated, it was not possible to excavate the site in phase order. The weather conditions in September and October 2000 were such that considerable periods of time were lost. Even when excavation was possible the wet condition of the site made the recognition and understanding of ephemeral features difficult and increased the likelihood of intrusive material being trampled into earlier deposits. These same weather conditions also hampered photography.

Although a stratigraphic matrix for the site had been prepared during the course of the excavation one of the first tasks of post-excavation assessment was to check this thoroughly. Context cards and finds information were entered into the Integrated Archaeological Database (IADB), as were the digitized site plans. Contexts were then grouped in a hierarchical sequence of sets, groups and phases which defined increasingly complex levels of activity from a set of pits to the construction of a building. These sets, groups and phases, which were also entered into the IADB, aid the writing of the site narrative which describes the character of and relationships between these differing units.

A detailed assessment report was produced which highlighted the main areas where further research would prove profitable and a programme of research and analysis was agreed with the City Council Archaeologist.

Following this analysis stage, this detailed publication report was written, with the aim of including the entire data archive (IADB) for the site at its heart. This is fully interactive and allows the reader to see the primary data which was recorded on the site, and all of the subsequent levels of interpretation. To aid in this process a series of over 400 ‘objects’ was created to help the reader browse the archive and also aid those readers who wish to research specific topics. A series of sixteen phase plans was also generated from the IADB data, and brought to publication standard using Adobe Illustrator software. Many of the finds have also been photographed or drawn to aid the reader, and photographs of specific techniques used in the post-excavation process were also taken.

The environmental, artefactual and stratigraphic information combine to give a comprehensive insight into the function and status of most of the contexts. Combining this with a closely dated pottery sequence has allowed the site chronology and narrative to be developed. Other dating evidence including ceramic building material typologies, artefactual typologies and coins has been mentioned explicitly in the text where it was used.


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View of the site before excavation, looking north-west
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Site excavation team

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Machine clearance and hand cleaning

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Cleaning the site after heavy rain

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Digitizing plans

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Photograph of a group of artefacts used in textile working

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Conservator at work
© Copyright York Archaeological Trust 2003