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Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath Port Talbot: Archaeological Watching Brief

Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath Port Talbot: Archaeological Watching Brief

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GGAT Projects were commissioned by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to undertake a watching brief during the excavation of five geotechnical test pits, in order to inform the determination of a forthcoming planning application for the construction of a new teaching block in Cwrt Herbert playing field at Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath, Neath Port Talbot.

No archaeologically significant features or structures were encountered during the course of the watching brief, and the only deposits uncovered were post-medieval or modern in date. Similarly the majority of the recovered cultural material was of a post-medieval or modern date, however a sherd of pottery tentatively dated to the Roman period was found.
Given that the SAM area is less than 60m to the southeast and a low, yet significant level of Roman activity was encountered during an archaeological evaluation to the immediate north it is likely that groundwork for the construction of the proposed teaching block may encounter similar activity.
GGAT Projects were commissioned by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to undertake a watching brief during the excavation of five geotechnical test pits, in order to inform the determination of a forthcoming planning application for the construction of a new teaching block in Cwrt Herbert playing field at Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath, Neath Port Talbot.

No archaeologically significant features or structures were encountered during the course of the watching brief, and the only deposits uncovered were post-medieval or modern in date. Similarly the majority of the recovered cultural material was of a post-medieval or modern date, however a sherd of pottery tentatively dated to the Roman period was found.
Given that the SAM area is less than 60m to the southeast and a low, yet significant level of Roman activity was encountered during an archaeological evaluation to the immediate north it is likely that groundwork for the construction of the proposed teaching block may encounter similar activity.

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath Port Talbot

Archaeological Watching Brief
August 2009
GGAT report no. 2009/058 Project no.P1359 Site no. 650 National Grid Ref: SS 74644 97864

A report for Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council by Fay Bowen BA

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The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd Heathfield House Heathfield Swansea SA1 6EL

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

Contents

Page

Summary ........................................................................................................................ 2 Acknowledgements ......................................................................................................... 2 Copyright notice............................................................................................................. 2 1. Introduction.......................................................................................................... 3 1.1 Project background ........................................................................................ 3 1.2 Location, topography and geology ................................................................ 3 1.3 General historical and archaeological background ........................................ 3 1.4 Site specific archaeological investigation ...................................................... 4 2. Methodology ......................................................................................................... 7 3. Results ................................................................................................................... 8 3.1 Test Pit 1 ........................................................................................................ 8 3.2 Test Pit 2A ..................................................................................................... 8 3.3 Test Pit 2B...................................................................................................... 8 3.4 Test Pit 3 ........................................................................................................ 8 3.5 Test Pit 4 ........................................................................................................ 8 4. Finds Report ....................................................................................................... 10 5. Conclusions......................................................................................................... 11 Bibliography ............................................................................................................... 12 Appendix I .................................................................................................................. 13 Inventory of contexts ............................................................................................... 13 Appendix II................................................................................................................. 14 Inventory of plates ................................................................................................... 14

Figures
Figure 1: General location plan .................................................................................... 6 Figure 2: Plan showing location of Test Pits 1, 2A, 2B, 3 and 4 (red) ....................... 9

Plates
Plate 1: View to the west of Test Pit 1 ........................................................................ 14 Plate 2: View to the north of Test Pit 1 ...................................................................... 14 Plate 3: View to the north of Test Pit 2A ................................................................... 15 Plate 4: View to the north of Test Pit 2B ................................................................... 15 Plate 5: View to the east of Test Pit 2B, showing 1006 to 1009 ................................ 15 Plate 6: View to the west of Test Pit 3 ........................................................................ 16 Plate 7: View to the north of Test Pit 3, showing 1010 to 1012................................ 16 Plate 8: View to the west of Test Pit 4 ........................................................................ 16 Plate 9: View to the south of Test Pit 4, showing 1013 and 1014 ............................. 17

Front cover: View to the west of Test Pit 1  GGAT

Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

Summary GGAT Projects were commissioned by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to undertake a watching brief during the excavation of five geotechnical test pits, in order to inform the determination of a forthcoming planning application for the construction of a new teaching block in Cwrt Herbert playing field at Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath, Neath Port Talbot. No archaeologically significant features or structures were encountered during the course of the watching brief, and the only deposits uncovered were post-medieval or modern in date. Similarly the majority of the recovered cultural material was of a post-medieval or modern date, however a sherd of pottery tentatively dated to the Roman period was found. Given that the SAM area is less than 60m to the southeast and a low, yet significant level of Roman activity was encountered during an archaeological evaluation to the immediate north it is likely that groundwork for the construction of the proposed teaching block may encounter similar activity. Acknowledgements The project was managed by Richard Lewis BA MIfA and the fieldwork was undertaken by Andrew Sherman BA and Fay Bowen BA of GGAT Projects. The finds were processed and analysed by Steve Sell BA of GGAT Projects. The report was compiled by Fay Bowen BA. The illustrations were prepared by Paul Jones (Senior Illustrator). Archaeological background is based on Primary Record Number (PRN) information supplied by the Historic Environment Record (HER) held at GGAT, Swansea. Copyright notice The copyright of this report is held by Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd; GGAT has granted an exclusive licence to Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and their agents to use and reproduce the material it contains. Ordnance Survey maps are reproduced under licence (AL 10005976), annotations are GGAT copyright.

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

1. Introduction
1.1 Project background Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council is intending to construct a new teaching block in Cwrt Herbert playing field at Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath, Neath Port Talbot. The proposed development, centred at NGR SS 74644 97864 lies a short distance to the northwest of the Roman fort of Nidum (Gm215), which is protected as a SAM (Scheduled Ancient Monument). Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council intend to submit a planning application in June 2010 for the construction of a new teaching block in Cwrt Herbert playing field at Dwr-y-Felin School. The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd (GGAT Projects) were commissioned by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to undertake an archaeological watching brief during the excavation of five geotechnical test pits, in order to establish the nature and importance of any archaeological features within the proposed development area, thus informing the determination of a forthcoming planning application. The work took place on the 4th of August 2009. 1.2 Location, topography and geology The proposed development is centred at NGR SS 74644 97864, on land forming part of Cwrt Herbert playing fields attached to Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath, Neath Port Talbot. It lies between Neath Abbey Road to the south and Dwr-y-Felin Road to the east, on the floodplain of the Afon Nedd, which flows approximately 300m to the southeast. The surface geology consists of fluvial sands and gravels. 1.3 General historical and archaeological background The proposed development lies some 54m to the northwest of the Roman fort of Nidum (Gm215). The Roman fort was constructed initially in timber c.75 AD and replaced c.80 AD by another timber fort, which was itself replaced in stone c.117 AD. This fort was abandoned c.125 AD, reoccupied c.140 AD and finally abandoned c.170 AD. Whilst little is now visible of the auxiliary fort the foundations of the southeast gateway and guard chamber are preserved in Roman Way, their antiquity contrasting with the modern nature of the surrounding housing estate. The double roadway through the southeast gate was flanked by towers and fronted by a ditch, implying the former existence of a bridge. Excavations in the playing fields, across the road from the southeast gate, in which the line of the northwest defences, detected as a slight rise, have revealed the north angle tower and evidence for timber structures including barracks and the headquarters building (Newman 2004). Neath Abbey (Gm006) is located approximately 600m to the southwest of the development area. Its lands were granted in 1129 by Richard de Granville, a lieutenant of the Norman lord of Glamorgan, to the abbey of Savigny in Normandy. The grant consisted of a tract of nearly 8,000 acres (3,240 hectares) of ‘virgin’ Welsh lands by the ‘nova villa’ of Neath. In 1147, when the Savigniac order merged with that of Citeaux, Neath Abbey came under Cistercian rule. Cistercian doctrine dictated that monastic communities must not profit from rents but only from direct exploitation of their estate. Therefore, each Cistercian community included a large body of lay brothers, who farmed both the lands round the abbey and the granges (Newman 2004).

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

The town and borough of Neath originated in the early 12th century when the Afon Nedd formed the western boundary of Norman penetration into South Wales. Both the Castle and borough town were established on the eastern bank of the river, with the abbey being founded shortly afterwards, on the far side of the river 2km to the west. In the later Middle Ages the town and abbey were in competition for river trade, and in 1491 the Town Hall was reported to be in ruins. The key to Neath’s subsequent development as an industrial centre was the availability of substantial coal deposits close to the coast. Sir Humphrey Mackworth of the Gnoll, whose mansion dominated the little town from its hilltop, pioneered both copper and lead working from the 1690's, with the celebrated Neath Abbey Ironworks (Gm389) began operation soon after (Newman 2004). Neath Abbey Ironworks (Gm389) is located approximately 840m to the west, alongside the waterpower resources of the River Clydach, a short distance from its confluence with the navigable River Neath. The Ironworks benefited from Cornish expertise in specialised casting and engineering, which was brought to the site by two Quaker families, the Foxes of Falmouth, who took over in 1792, and Joseph Tregelles Price (who had worked with James Watt at the great Canon Ironworks at Falkirk) from 1817. Under Joseph Tregelles Price (1786-1854) the works gained a reputation for high-quality engineering products. The engine factory produced locomotives, stationary engines, cast iron roofs and floors, steamships and gasworks. After Price’s death stagnation set in, and the works finally closed in 1885. The Vale of Neath Canal, built in 1795, and subsequent railways, opened up the hinterland of Neath. However, the town remained of very modest size, clustered around St Thomas’s church. In 1801, there were 2,500 inhabitants, and half a century later the population had little more than doubled (Lewis 2004). 1.4 Site specific archaeological investigation Recent archaeological investigations close to the proposed development have included evaluation and geophysical survey. Prior to the construction of the athletics track a field evaluation was undertaken in 1993. It revealed part of a masonry building dating to the late 1st or early 2nd century in the southeastern corner of the proposed development, and parts of at least two linear features further to the northwest. The building appears to have been of substantial size and high status, and was constructed in at least two phases. It has been suggested that the structure may have been a mansio or official residence (Maynard 1993). A geophysical survey conducted in 2004 failed to locate this building, but did identify what was interpreted as the defences for the Phase 1 fort, on a slightly different alignment from the later fort. The survey also located a linear feature which has been interpreted as a road associated with the northwestern gate of the later fort. Subsequent excavation to investigate the results of the survey appeared to confirm the presence of a defensive system slightly to the northwest of the later fort, but the second trench failed to substantiate the existence of the road associated with the northwest gate (Evans 2005). The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd (GGAT Projects) carried out an evaluation in June 2005 in order to establish the nature and importance of any archaeological features prior to the construction of a teaching and canteen block. Roman deposits were discovered and whilst the level of Roman activity was low, it was not insignificant (Sell 2005). The results of a subsequent watching-brief also 4

Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

demonstrated limited Roman activity across the same area in the form of a small, irregular-sided pit tentatively dated to the Roman period (mid 1st and mid 2nd centuries) by its pottery content. A shallow spread of charcoal was also dated to the end of the Roman period or later (Sherman 2006). The development area is close to the assumed position of the road leading out of the northwest gate of the fort, although this road was not located during the evaluation of 2004 (Evans 2005), designed to complement the results of the earlier resistivity survey. Whereas the nature and position of the vicus on the northeastern side of the fort is now well established (Lawler and Marvell 1994, Sell 1997, Howell 2001, Sell 2003) the nature of activity to the northwest of the fort is less well understood.

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath: archaeological watching brief

Neath Technical College

Dwr-y-Felin Comprehensive Middle School

Athletics Ground

Dwr-y-Felin Comprehensive Upper School

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Neath Sports Centre

Area shown in Figure 2
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Based on the Ordnance Survey 1:5000 Landplan with the permission of The Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, © Crown Copyright, Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd, Licence number Al10005976

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200metres

Figure 1. General location plan 6

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

2. Methodology
The geotechnical test pitting monitored by the archaeological watching brief (see Figure 2) consisted of five machine excavated test pits (TP1, TP2A, TP2B, TP3 and TP4). A full written, drawn and photographic record was made of all archaeological contexts, in accordance with the GGAT Manual of Excavation Recording Techniques. Contexts were recorded using a single continuous numbering system, and are summarised in Appendix I. All significant contexts were photographed using a Fujifilm Finepix S1000 (10mp). An archive of records relating to the preparation of the reports has been prepared to the specifications in Management of Archaeological Projects (English Heritage, 1991) Appendix 6 and UKIC’s Archaeological Archives: a guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation 2007. After an appropriate period has elapsed, copies of the report and archive index will be deposited with the regional Historic Environment Record (HER). A copy of the report and archive index will also be deposited with the National Monuments Record, RCAHMW, Aberystwyth.

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

3. Results
3.1 Test Pit 1 Test Pit 1 measured 1.6m by 0.5m and was excavated to a depth of 2.5m (see Figure 2 and Plates 1-2). The basal deposit encountered was grey-orange silty clay with gravels (1003) with a minimum depth of 1.15m. This underlay an orange-brown silty clay loam (1002) containing frequent sub-rounded and sub-angular stones (varying from 0.06m to 0.21m in diameter), and with a depth of 1m. It contained modern brick fragments, late post-medieval pottery and a sherd of possible Roman pottery. This was overlain by dark brown silty-clay loam topsoil (1001), which contained frequent rooting and with a depth of 0.35m. 3.2 Test Pit 2A Test Pit 2A measured 0.86m by 0.5m and was excavated to a depth of 0.41m (see Figure 2 and Plate 3). The basal deposit was a grey-black fine greasy silt (1005), with a minimum depth of 0.12m. This was overlain by grey-brown silty-clay loam topsoil (1004), with a depth of 0.29m. 3.3 Test Pit 2B Test Pit 2B measured 0.88m by 0.5m and was excavated to a depth of 0.41m (see Figure 2 and Plates 4-5). The basal deposit was a mid-brown silty clay (1009), with a minimum depth of 0.07m and containing frequent charcoal, coal and orange clay flecks. This underlay a grey-black fine greasy silt (1008), with a depth of 0.08m. Deposit 1008 was overlain by a layer of frequent orange brick fragments in a matrix of dark brown silty clay (1007), and with a depth of 0.03m. This was overlain by a light grey-brown silty clay loam topsoil (1006), with a depth of 0.23m and containing sub-rounded stones (varying from 0.02m to 0.08m in diameter). 3.4 Test Pit 3 Test Pit 3 measured 1.6m by 0.5m and was excavated to a depth of 2.20m (see Figure 2 and Plates 6-7). The basal deposit encountered was an orange-brown clay (1012), with a minimum depth of 1m and which contained stones and natural gravel. This underlay a light orange-brown silty clay (1011), with a depth of 0.73m and which contained occasional sub-rounded stones (maximum diameter of 0.11m). Deposit 1011 was overlain by a light brown silty clay loam topsoil (1012), with a depth of 0.47m. 3.5 Test Pit 4 Test Pit 4 measured 1.60m by 0.5m and was excavated to a depth of 2.55m (see Figure 2 and Plates 8-9). The basal deposit was a grey-orange gravel (1015), with a depth of 0.76m and which contained sub-rounded stones. This underlay an orangebrown silty clay (1014), with a depth of 1.24m and which contained stones (maximum diameter of 0.11m) and isolated flecks of manganese. The uppermost layer was a dark grey-brown silty clay topsoil loam (1013), with a depth of 0.55m.

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

4. Finds Report
Material from two contexts (1002 and 1007) was submitted for examination, with the following results. The entire assemblage was of relatively modern (19th century or later) date with the possible exception of a highly abraded sherd, in a soft sandy pale red fabric, from 1002, which may be of Roman date. Although surfaces have almost entirely gone, there is a small cluster of angular white quartz grit on what is assumed to be the internal surface, suggesting a fragment of mortarium, almost certainly a South Wales type. Elsewhere modern brick, bottle and window glass, the rim of a small bowl in creamcoloured earthenware (perhaps early 19th century) and a modern button, probably from a shirt, were present in the small assemblage.

10

Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

5. Conclusions
Test Pit 1 revealed a sherd of possible Roman date in context 1002, however postmedieval and modern cultural material was also recovered from his context indicating that the sherd is likely to be residual in nature. It is believed that deposits 1002 and 1007 possibly represent levelling layers. Whereas contexts 1005 and 1008 are thought to be a possible flooding episode of postmedieval date. Deposit 1009 may be a cultivation layer, however no conclusive evidence was discovered to definitively date this context. A similar deposit was encountered during a watching brief in 2006 and was thought to pre-date the post-medieval period, although limited evidence for such a deposit was recorded during the evaluation or full excavation of the site (Sherman 2006). No other archaeologically significant features, deposits or structures were encountered during the course of the observed groundworks.

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

Bibliography
Evans E M, 2005, Roman roads and vici in Southeast Wales: Year 3 report, GGAT Report No: 2005/003 Higgins J, Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath, Neath Port Talbot, excavation project design, GGAT Report No: 2006/011 Howell J K, 2001, Neath Port Talbot crèche, archaeological field evaluation, GGAT Report No: 2001/035 Lawler M and Marvell A G, 1994, Archaeological field evaluation: Neath College, GGAT Report No: 94/077 Lewis R, 2004, Landscapes Working for Neath and Port Talbot: History and Archaeology Aspect, GGAT Report No: 2004/008 Maynard D J, 1993, Archaeological field evaluation: Cwrt Herbert playing fields, Neath West Glamorgan, GGAT Report No: 93/036 Newman J, 2004, The Buildings Of Wales: Glamorgan, Yale University Press Sell S H, 1997, Neath College archaeological survey, GGAT Report No: 97/018 Sell S H, 2003, Neath Port Talbot College Electronic Learning Centre, archaeological watching-brief, final report, GGAT Report No: 2003/073 Sell S H, 2005, Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath, Neath Port Talbot, archaeological field evaluation, GGAT Report No: 2005/057 Sherman A, 2006, Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath,Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching-brief, GGAT Report No: 2006/100 Tuck M, forthcoming, Dwr-y-Felin School, Neath, Neath Port Talbot, archaeological excavation.

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

Appendix I
Inventory of contexts
Context 1001 1002 Type D D Max Depth (m) 0m-0.35m 0.35m-1.35m Description Dark brown silty clay loam topsoil with frequent rooting Orange-brown silty clay loam with frequent sub-rounded and sub-angular stones (varying in size from 0.06m and 0.21m in diameter); possible levelling layer Grey-orange silty clay with gravels Description Grey-brown silty clay loam topsoil Grey-black fine greasy silt; possible flooding episode Description Light grey-brown silty clay loam topsoil with occasional sub-rounded stones varying from 0.02m to 0.08m Frequent orange brick fragments in a matrix of dark brown silty clay containing isolated fragments of burnt stone; possible levelling/ formation layer Grey-black fine greasy silt; possible flooding episode Mid-brown silty clay containing frequent charcoal, coal and orange clay flecks; possible cultivation layer Description Light brown silty-clay loam topsoil Light orange-brown silty-clay containing occasional sub-rounded stones varying from 0.07m to 0.11m Orange-brown clay containing stone and natural gravel Description Dark grey-brown silty clay topsoil loam Orange-brown silty clay containing stones (maximum diameter of 0.11m) and isolated flecks of manganese Grey-orange gravel containing subrounded stones Period Modern Post-medieval

1003 Context 1004 1005

D Type D D

1.35m-2.50 n.b. Max Depth (m) 0m-0.29m 0.29m-0.41m n.b. Max Depth (m) 0m-0.23m

Period Modern Post-medieval

Context 1006

Type D

Period Modern

1007

D

0.23m-0.26m

Modern

1008 1009

D D

0.26m-0.34m 0.34m-0.41m n.b

Post-medieval Post-medieval?

Context 1010 1011

Type D D

Max Depth (m) 0m-0.47m 0.47m-1.20m

Period Modern Post-medieval

1012

D

1.20m-2.20m n.b. Max Depth (m) 0m-0.55m 0.55m-1.79m

-

Context 1013 1014

Type D D

Period Modern Post-medieval

1015

D

1.79m-2.55m n.b.

-

Key: D: Deposit n.b.: not bottomed

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

Appendix II
Inventory of plates

Plate 1: View to the west of Test Pit 1

Plate 2: View to the north of Test Pit 1

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

Plate 3: View to the north of Test Pit 2A

Plate 4: View to the north of Test Pit 2B

Plate 5: View to the east of Test Pit 2B, showing 1006 to 1009

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

Plate 6: View to the west of Test Pit 3

Plate 7: View to the north of Test Pit 3, showing 1010 to 1012

Plate 8: View to the west of Test Pit 4

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Dwr-y-Felin School (Cwrt Herbert), Neath, Neath Port Talbot: archaeological watching brief

Plate 9: View to the south of Test Pit 4, showing 1013 and 1014

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