The Woodworking Technology of the Timbers
 
Eleven timbers were delivered to the Wet Wood Laboratory between October 2000 and January 2002. Seven pieces assigned timber numbers came from the controlled excavation of August–October 2000, three from the revisit of the site in May 2001 and one from a watching brief in winter 2002. Each piece was cleaned, examined and recorded, prior to re-wrapping, and an assessment report was prepared based on this examination.

Anglo-Scandinavian

Although the remains of fence lines, presumably wattle, of early 10th century date were recorded in the lift shaft area, the earliest timber actually recovered is ST00001 (2632). This was interpreted as one of a pair of uprights within a building. Cut from a radially faced section of oak heartwood, the post tapers slightly and has a heavily eroded groove in each edge. This form of post is not unusual in structures of this period, the grooves normally housing the ends of boards, laid horizontally on edge to form a barrier or wall, though wattle hurdles might be substituted. In this case it is not possible to state whether this is the function of the post as found; the adjacent post (2913) was not lifted or examined. If an internal post, it may have been part of an internal partition or it may have been part of a wall line and subsequently re-used in this context.

Wood chips and fragments were noted in a number of deposits around these features but little can be said of them. Some features of the 10th to early 11th century evidently were timber structures. A linear slot (4190) for a wall of Building D for example is noted as incorporating five vertical timbers (4168, 4169, 4192, 4193, 4194) and a wall of Building E is noted as including four more (4198, 4199, 4200 and 4187). One isolated post (4202) may also have formed part of Building E. None of these was lifted or examined. The only timber recovered from this part of the sequence is ST00009 (4170), a length of worked oak incorporated into an overlying dump after the abandonment of these two buildings.

A possible sill beam, noted but not examined, appears to have been the only wood from Building F of the mid to late 10th century. Two stake-holes from Building I are noted as containing stakes (4222 and 4133), but the timbers were not lifted. Two of three posts (4087 and 4212, timbers ST00008 and ST00010 respectively) were, however, lifted from Building L. ST00008 is a pile point with a hewn squared cross-section tip, cut from knotty branch wood. ST00010 survived only as a fragment of oak heartwood. These pieces would seem to derive from a wattle-walled structure rather than a plank- or board-lined wall.

Medieval

Technologically, the most interesting piece from the site is ST00003 (2911), a post from a structure in the late 12th–early 13th century backyard of Buildings M/N. This pile point with rectangular cross-section hewn tip incorporates a small mortice for a timber at right angles to the post. This tenon would have been secured in the mortice by a peg, placed though the 15mm diameter hole cut for it through the walls of the mortice. A second such mortice appears to be unfinished. This small element of timber framing may relate to a light plank- and post-wall, or to re-use of the timber in this context.

The early to mid 14th century street frontage (Buildings P, Q and R) included the remains of two posts (4204 and 4029); neither was recorded. A single post (2075) of Building W was partially excavated but only unrecognisable fragments (ST00005) were recovered. The mid-15th century reconstruction of wall 2616 was partially founded on iron slag and a plank (1988, ST00006). It would be very unusual for a plank to be used in this way, as planks are usually too thin to provide support to a stone wall and rot relatively quickly. Though the remains might represent a degraded and crushed earth-fast sill beam, most sill beams would be raised above the ground on a low footing in this period. This timber is most likely therefore to be a fragment of board incorporated into the footings of the wall.

Post-Medieval

A single timber was lifted from the partially excavated garderobe pit 1534 on the eastern side of building Y. This timber (ST00004, from context 1522) appears to be the remains of a small triangular cross-section oak stake, though both ends were broken and missing.

'Modern'

At the eastern edge of the site a series of post-holes believed to be associated with modern brewery storage produced one timber (2912). This, ST00002, is an oak pile point with a single groove along one edge. It has been truncated by the cutting of the point and may therefore be re-used. This timber appears to be late medieval or earlier and its condition is consistent with such a date. It shows no evidence of having been redeposited and is very unlikely to be modern.



Click to enlarge
Drawing of Timber 3 (context 2911)
© Copyright York Archaeological Trust 2003