Bradgate Park Archaeology Fieldschool, Part Two
Last week I blogged about my visit to the Archaeology Fieldschool, where I met Richard Thomas, the lead archaeologist. There was a lot to take in, both information and atmosphere. Richard is clearly a great communicator, explaining the site to me as well as leading the work of the students. The job requires incredible attention to detail as well as the interpretive imagination: Richard has a look in his eyes that is calm but intensely focused. I can do the imagination bit, but not the attention to detail – and I was immediately grabbed by a find at the dig for which there is not, as yet, a clear explanation. To the right of the entrance, where the porch would have been, is a large, dense pile of horse bones. Not whole skeletons, just legs. And buried with joints still intact. As I stared at the find, I could see hooves sticking out; a fibula, a stifle joint, a tibia… Why would the legs be detached and buried intact? Some macabre building material? Superstition? It’s not clear. For an archaeologist, it’s a conundrum. For a poet, it’s a gift.
On the Discovery of a Cache of Horse Bones at the Stables in Bradgate Park
The horses are waiting.
Under the floor, their legs still-jointed,
running from the dark dream of the stables.
The grooms have gone; the stone has been robbed out
but the horses are waiting.
They are waiting to click monstrously upright;
shaking off the rubble, to play
their hooves on the cobbles,
The horses are waiting to find their heads:
to flare their nostrils with phantom breath and turn
towards the outer door.
The horses are waiting in heaps of bone, marrow and pulse
sealed in gravel and clay
for a July day when the dig will find them,
and drive them across the water-meadows
to barrel onto moss and bracken,
drumming up Bowling Green,
in the summer drought where the undergrowth dies,
herding revenge under the sun at Tyburn.
For a charge of fury, throat-latch at the cry,
by the paths and riverside
in a rake of metal shoes and wild eyes,
the skeleton horses are waiting.