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mucking Archive excavation

Writing Mucking


: Tom photo

Lives in land

Everything started with St Joseph’s publication of the South Rings cropmark in Antiquity in 1964. Originally thought to be a Neolithic henge (it eventually proved to be a Late Bronze Age ringwork), the site at Mucking, in southern Essex, clearly warranted either protection or thorough excavation. With the unstoppable Hoveringham Gravel Quarry poised to swallow the monument, protection was not an option.

above Margaret Jones carries out some lastminute recording at Mucking.

Excavation commenced the following year within the southern end of the expanding gravel operations, and then ran continuously for the next 12 years (plus a brief return in 1978 when the Central Unit came to dig the North Ring’s ringwork) – not stopping even in winter.


current archaeology |

Current Archaeology normally features dirt archaeology, but archaeologists today often excavate archives as well – that is to say, they are engaged in digging into the archives in order to publish definitive accounts of past excavations. Here christopher evans and sam lucy give us an idea of the challenges they faced in completing the last of the Mucking excavation reports, some 50 years after the start of those legendary excavations.

Mucking developed from a single-site investigation into an exhaustive landscape excavation that encompassed some 18ha at a time when a trench measuring 100 square metres was considered large. All told, this involved some 5,000 participants under the direction of the indomitable Margaret Jones and her husband Tom. It was rescue archaeology par excellence, and became the stuff of fieldwork legend.

Digging a landscape

Mucking was an excavation that grew organically, and its eventual scale was never envisaged at the outset. Starting a decade or so before single-context recording became standard practice, and long before the current era of digital

January 2014 |

February 2016 |

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