Text and photographs by second year BSc Archaeological and Forensic Science student Sophie Linwood.
Students and staff gathered for a final time on Sunday 4th July, to set up and prepare for the first archaeological open day held by Bournemouth University. The finds hut was turned into a mini exhibition room, with some of the more interesting finds displayed. Minimal digging continued as we tried to finish excavating house platforms and a couple of storage pits. The day was an enormous success and despite windy, overcast weather, over 200 people attended consisting of local villagers and students friends and family. A little extra vigilance was required throughout the day as some of the remaining deep open storage pits provided the ideal opportunity for tiny children and unwanted relatives to be easily disposed of!
Unbelievably, first thing on Sunday morning we excavated, probably the highest quality and intricate artefact found this season. Mark Shattock’s team discovered a beautifully carved bone handle (pictured) in Trench B. Only half of the handle surbives, but the detail is astonishing. It made a wonderful last minute addition to the collections of finds displayed for open day in the find’s hut.
Second and third year archaeology students along with the site leaders led the guests on site tours throughout the morning and early afternoon, discussing the key site features and finds. All the visitors, of varying age, seemed really enthusiastic about our work at the site and had lots of questions. It was very satisfying to show others around the trenches and discuss our discoveries. The whole dig was a brilliant success and the open day provided the most fantastic opportunity to show off all of our hard work. What’s more, students already seem really eager to return next year in order to continue excavating what must be one of the most exciting sites currently being excavated in the British Isles.
After a non-stop month of digging, trowelling, planning, recording, wheelbarrow runs and photography, the end has sadly come. Friday 2nd July was the last official digging day of DBD10 and Miles Russell gathered everyone for a final Friday morning site briefing as the rain continued to pour. Miles conducted a tour around the site and summarised the answers and even the questions produced by this year’s dig.
A final skeleton was discovered yesterday in Trench A, yet another crouched burial. Martin Smith, human bones specialist from Bournemouth University, explained that the skeletons epiphyseal plates (growth plates) are not fused which means the adolescent had not finished growing at time of death. One obvious clue, is the visible lipping around the lumbar vertebrae towards the base of the spine as the photograph shows. The remains (pictured) were found buried with our first complete pot and 3 brooches, currently fused together by rust and soil. The mass is thought to contain one iron penannular brooch along with one copper penannular and one copper fibula.
As Miles took the group around the site, he highlighted the complex nature of the archaeology at this site. Many Iron Age and Roman features have been found to intersect one another and in Trench B we have what appears to be a Neolithic segmented ditch feature. The circular series of intermittent gullies has a distinct fill, which has been found to contain a good quantity of struck flint. Environmental samples taken from the Iron Age pits in Trench B have also come up with some interesting results. Remains of both barley and wheat have been identified, which gives us a small insight into the types of cereal being grown locally in the area in the Iron Age, suggesting that at least some of the pits may have served a functional storage purpose and were not solely for burial/ritual use.
The excavation of this banjo enclosure has proved very important and represents the largest internal area of such a feature to have been explored in this area of the country. To enable us to understand this site in more depth, it needs to be related to other banjo enclosures as part of ongoing future research. This will allow us to highlight similarities and differences between sites of this type and decide upon those features that are typical of banjo enclosures and those which are unique to individual sites.
Students and supervisors alike seem to be incredibly pleased with the progress made during this years dig. Philippa Holt, a second year BSC Archaeological and Forensic Science student returned again this year in a supervisory role, explained that she really enjoyed this year’s excavation and feels she has improved her communication skills as a result of having to guide and advise first year students throughout her four week placement. Zoe Edwards, just completing her first year also studying archaeological and forensic sciences, found her first archaeological dig both fun and educational. “Everything was new, so there was a lot to learn. The only downside was getting up at 6.00 am, six days a week for four weeks!”
Trench B supervisor, Mark Shattock, has been extremely impressed with this year’s workforce. Mark was particularly excited by one feature excavated just a few days ago. The remains of a dumbbell shaped double oven were discovered towards the northern trench edge (as pictured). Mark explains that what has always interested him the most, is learning about how everyday people lived back in prehistory not just the elite, who are better represented in the archaeological record due to better constructed houses and higher quality personal possessions. Miles Russell has also been impressed by the findings of this year’s dig. Preservation is far better than we had hoped and there is scope for much more research. We are extremely lucky that the landowners have been so supportive of our work here and apart from the odd day, the weather has been fantastic which always helps to maintain morale. Miles explained that this type of site is of added interest as so few domestic sites have been investigated particular dating to the second and third centuries AD, as people are often more fascinated by villa’s, forgetting about the everyday population.
So, after four weeks of hard work we have managed to resolve some of the key questions involving the Iron Age use of this site and how it became integrated into a Roman Britain. Post-excavation analysis will continue for many months to come, allowing finer dating of our features to be realised and then we can form a more complete chronology regarding the various activities taking place from 300BC - 400AD within the banjo. It is hoped that Bournemouth University will return next June for the third year running. Next time we hope to investigate the final part of the banjo enclosure that remain unexcavated and then focus on the Roman aspects of the area, which appear to dominate the eastern side of our site, yet to be properly excavated. The habitation of the banjo as a modest agricultural settlement seems to end around 350AD, at the same time the Roman Empire began to collapse along with the economy. By continuing to extend and explore more of out site, we will hopefully be able to understand what is going on here in the mid - late 4th century.
The dig has been really good fun, both students and supervisors have learnt an enormous amount and many are keen to return next year and develop both their own personal skills and the wider understanding of this currently unique and diverse site.
A slightly cooler day on site today compared with recent days but still warm and sunny. Work continued in all three trenches as we try to reach the bottom of all of the open storage pits before Friday. Low level aerial photography took place throughout the afternoon, which will provide overhead shots taken from a sophisticated 20m high pole mounted camera, this will enabled each trench to be captured in its entirety whilst maintaining a good level of detail.
Another neonate skeleton has been excavated in Trench A, whilst in Trench B a storage pit has been found to contain the skulls of two horses and two cows, seemingly arranged in a purposeful manner. The skulls are placed in an alternating fashion; one horse, one cow, one horse etc. with fragments of horse mandible, radius and ulna placed in between the skulls. It would appear that the contents of this pit provides more evidence of placed deposits being used to spiritually re-grade disused storage pits.
In the finds hut, more interesting material continues to filter in. The house platforms, currently being excavated in Trench B are producing some intriguing artefacts including coins and ceramic beads. An Iron blade has also been found, which once would have had a wooden or bone handle. A few ceramic beads have now been found, and it is suspected that the bead pictured, has been coloured with cobalt. It is still an amazingly vibrant shade of blue. considering it was produced nearly two thousand years ago!
A warm but overcast day twenty, and after weeks of unbroken sunshine and high temperatures, the site received some much needed rain. The water washed the parched soil, redefining features and removing some of the chalky dust that had accumulated.
With just three days of the dig remaining, the site is still a hive of activity. An open day is being held for the first time on Sunday 4th July to give local people the opportunity to visit and learn more about the area they live in. Site tours and demonstrations will run all day from 10am onwards. Also this year, a museum display will be on show at Dorchester museum, focusing on the Iron Age aspects of the excavation. The exhibit can be seen for the remainder of 2010 in the Iron Age area of the archaeology section.
After more than three weeks of digging, we have finally found our first piece of evidence of a Roman villa existing somewhere on site. One solitary piece of high quality black tessera (mosaic tile) was found after a small extension was made to Trench A. Lawrence Shaw, Trench A supervisor, explains that he took the decision to extend after the partial remains of a skeleton were found projecting out of the old trench boundary. Also in the new section, a second century Roman coin was found (pictured). The coin was dated 138-161AD and struck during the reign of Antoninus Pius.
Meanwhile over in the Finds hut, Damien Evans has spent some time over the past couple of days reconstructing a few of the more complete pottery specimens. One vessel, that has successfully been put back together, is the pot found with Norris, the skeleton found by Amy Middleton and Mike Hopper in Trench A. Artefacts continue to come into the finds hut at an incredible rate. 1,574 bags of finds have been recorded so far, one bag containing 295 animal bones! Tom Leeds, second year BSc. Archaeology student, who describes himself as a Finds Monkey, has been working continuously over the last few weeks alongside Katy Castle and Kel Barrass, processing and recording the thousands of finds. Although the stream has been endless, Tom says that they have a good system in place which has allowed them to keep pace. Kel sorts the finds, Katy then weighs, counts and bags with Tom subsequently recording them all. In the last three days some very interesting pieces have entered the finds hut, including a well preserved Iron Age bone comb, a Roman copper alloy brooch and spoon and a particularly attractive bone pin head (all pictured).
Out in the trenches the pits continue to be finished along with the terraced housing platforms in the southern half Trench B. The third skeleton of a dog was also found yesterday, along with more human remains. Tomorrow low level aerial photography will be taking place on site, to produce the photos which will go into the professional excavation report which will eventually be published in magazines like Current Archaeology.
So three days left and still an enormous amount to do everyone continues to work hard in order to record as much information as we possibly can before the official close of site on Friday
As we came to the end of our third week on site the fantastic weather continued,
with Friday said to be the hottest day of the year so far - and we definitely
felt it! The finds hut and planning office have become mini saunas! Yet another
skeleton has been found in Trench A, lovingly named ‘Norris' by Amy Middleton
and Mike Hooper. The crouched burial is thought to date circa first century
AD, and had been placed in a deliberately cut grave rather than a storage pit.
Norris represents our twelfth human burial from this site and was laid to rest
with just a single pot, positioned on his knees. Interestingly all the crouched
burials from this site have been preferentially laid on their right side.
In all three trenches, storage pits continue to be bottomed. What has become apparent whilst working with the pits, is the morphological difference between those that date to prehistory and those cut by the Romans. The pits dug pre-Roman conquest are noticeable rounder than their Roman successors - noticeably more square in shape. Next week is our final week for this year’s dig and there is still much to be resolved, as Miles Russell explained during Friday morning's site briefing. In Trench A, three quarters of a round house is still to be explored and in Trench B work continues to excavate the terrace cuts, which once functioned as house platforms. The terraces were cut due to the natural sloping terrain of the site. Once these platforms have been further investigated, we will be able to better assess what type of settlement we are dealing with. Currently, it appears that the area was a relatively low status Romano-British farmstead. Higher status items coming up from the trenches illustrate that this site was making some money and the profit was being used to acquire Roman goods from local markets or through wider trade contacts.
Meanwhile in Trench C, we have an entire house, yet to be excavated. The eastern end of the trench has been found to contain a higher concentration of Roman masonry, suggesting that a higher status property did exist somewhere on site. However, the majority of housing was modest and constructed of timber, some later being replaced with stone buildings. Also in Trench C, even more juvenile remains
have been found. What has become obvious over the last few weeks, is the fact that there are two distinct types of human burial at the site, one being grave cuts intended for burial only, and the other being the deposition of bodies in the disused storage pits. It will only be after post excavation analysis has begun, that carbon dating can be used to try and work out the chronology of these different styles of
Day 15 was yet another scorcher on site. Over the last couple of days more
pits have been excavated and finds are being processed at an astonishing rate.
Animal bone is accumulating at unprecedented levels, with the skulls of two
cows adding to the already impressive collection. More neonate remains have
been found in Trench A and B, bringing the combined total, from DBD09 and DBD10,
to nine. Almost all of the human skeletal material has been removed from the
site and taken back to Bournemouth University for further analysis. Even though
the hot weather is pleasant to work in, it is drying out any archaeological
material incredibly fast. As a result, exposed skeletal remains become fragile
very quickly. It is important for preservation purposes that any human bones
are kept covered and out of the sun, so the fragments do not disintegrate and
The finds hut is now almost completely full and over one thousand artefacts have now been received and recorded. A couple of interesting finds include a Roman coin, pictured. The ‘radiate of Carausius’, struck at Rouen, the historical capital of Normandy, dates from between 286 - 293 AD (pictured middle left. The coin along with other Roman examples found, helps to identify the period when contact with Rome occurred and indeed prove, in conjunction with other finds, that Roman influence was felt by this Iron Age site. In addition to the coin, some high quality Roman vessel glass (top picture) has been recovered along with a lead spindle whorl (pictured middle right).
It is thought that another crouched burial exists in Trench A. Mike Hooper and Amy Middleton have recovered an Iron Age pot and the skull of a cow, fondly referred to as ‘Daisy’. All the material coming up from their feature suggests the site of another crouched burial. They still have a quarter of the shallow pit to remove, so it will be exciting to see if we have yet another Iron Age skeleton.
And finally, for a bit of fun, today the first ever ‘Pimp My Trowel’ competition was held, judged by Trench A supervisor Laurence Shaw. The entries ranged from sequinned covered bejewelled beauties to the slightly more ‘eccentric’ designs, including a fully extendable trowel with broom and mini fan attachment! (bottom picture). Must-have prizes included water pistols and bicycle bells. So after more sunshine, trowelling and planning, we are continuing to learn more about the site every day. Work has begun in Trench B, to excavate a Roman roundhouse, so we can gain a better understanding of the everyday lifestyles of the people who once lived here. So far due to the large number of pits, we have focused primarily on the ritual and ceremonial practices of the site's past population, so it will be interesting to shift our focus to everyday domestic life, with just a week and a half to go!
Another hot and busy day on site, with the added excitement of a BBC film
For Britain’ is a new television show presented by Dr Alice Roberts (top
picture). The series is due to be shown in August, with our site at Bere Regis
being featured as part of the Roman programme. ‘Terence’ from Trench
A, excavated by Hannah Mccaully and Kelsie Whitwood, was of particular interest
to the TV crew. Miles Russell spent time talking about the body in the storage
pit and the fact that the skeleton appears to have been buried on a large pile
of meat (middle picture). Despite a few small interruptions while the filming
took place, the day ran almost as normal. The skeletons of yet more babies
have been found in Trench A and the two crouched burials discovered last week
have been almost fully exposed. Martin Smith, Osteology Lecturer from Bournemouth
University, was on site today to observe the skeletons and try to tell us more
about their condition and bioprofiles.
A total of six neonates have now been found from both DBD09 and DBD10. Hannah Simpson, working in Trench A with Mike Hooper, has uncovered our first toddler found in context with an adult human skull and the skull of a cow. The feature is still being dug, so it will be interesting to see what else is found. The crouched burial in Trench C has now been fully revealed and Martin Smith was able to give some more insight into cause of death and age of the remains. The skeleton most probably belongs to a male, who was around 15 years old (bottom picture). Some areas of the skeleton are still fusing, the iliac crest for example (the ridge that runs along the top of the pelvis). One of the most striking features apart from the boy's impressive set of teeth, is a very sharp, straight fracture which runs along the top of the skull. The way in which a bone breaks and the associated fracture patterns will vary depending on whether the damage was done ante or post mortem. The clean break suggests this nasty fracture may have been the cause of death. Whether the result of a deliberate act or a tragic accident is yet to be established. Over in Trench B, the skeleton buried within the banjo enclosures entrance ditch has been excavated further, which has enabled the remains to be identified as male.
Although the priority of this year's excavation is the Iron Age material, pieces of struck flint were found yesterday in Trench B. This type of find illustrates just how long the site has been occupied by humans. As interesting finds continue to make their way to the finds hut, even more planning and sectioning is being undertaken. While the amount of skeletons is incredibly exciting, it certainly increases the planners' workload! Harry Manley has been helping students use the 'total station' in order to record the relative height of all the skeletons within the pits. All the pits are of varying size and depth so we are curious to know if there is a pattern with regards to their position within the fill of the pits.
In Trench C, after trowelling one small section for almost two days solidly, it seems that we may have exposed another Roman wall. The top layers were absolutely full of limestone roof tile and mortar, so we knew a structure was somewhere, it was just finding it! Along with endless roof tile, we found a few pieces of coloured wall plaster, which could point towards a higher status structure. It will be interesting to see what else we uncover over the coming days….
Another hot and sunny day on site as we came to the end of our second week. Miles Russell gathered the troops first thing and gave his weekly site briefing. This allows everyone the opportunity to learn about what has been happening in the other trenches, not just their own. Over the last week the site as a whole has progressed incredibly quickly, with new and interesting finds and features being discovered continuously. Day eleven was predominantly spent working on the storage pits, in order to try a reach the bottom of as many as possible before the close of site. Geophysics has been taking place in a nearby field over the last few days, using electrical resistivity and magnetometry. Second year AFS students have been passing down their knowledge from last years excavation to new students. The aim of the geophysics is to gain more information about the wider area that our site sits within and also for students to gain some experience using the equipment, which does require some practice!
Some of the day was also spent cleaning up the features, ready for filming on Sunday. The BBC are coming to record us excavating for a series, scheduled to be shown in August, about archaeological digs all over the UK. So the site has to be looking its best, which isn’t easy when some areas of soil have become partially baked due to the hot weather, which can obscure some of the features.
Mark Maltby visited the site to have a look at the vast quantity of animal bone being found. The amount being collected is unheard of for an Iron Age site in Britain and includes some more exotic species, chicken being one of them. Although considered a very typical meat in out modern diet, in Iron Age Britain it would have been a Roman import therefore providing more evidence of Mediterranean trade. What is also very interesting is the amount of bone belonging to small ‘lap dogs’ as well as the bone belonging to the more typical larger hunting breeds which doesn’t quite fit in with the stereotypical view of Iron Age societies. Having said that, the dog excavated by Hannah Mccaully in Trench A just a couple of days ago was quite an impressive size and had an enormous set of teeth, that would make even the greatest dog lover a little nervous!
In terms of the storage pits, which have been one of our main focuses over the last couple of weeks, more than half have now been found to contain placed deposits. These deposits include pottery and animal bone, in conjunction with slightly more exotic artefacts, like the quern stone. There seems to be an ongoing practice of re-filling the empty storage pits with items of material worth. Miles Russell explains that this provides some evidence for the ritual behaviour of the Iron Age people, of which a limited amount is known. Housing platforms continue to be excavated in Trench B (pictured), as we try to learn more about how the settlement was set up and would have looked. As we gain a better understanding of the features and finds it is becoming more likely that this site was very much an Iron Age site influenced by the Romans instead of a complete take over with transition being more gradual.
In the finds hut, which has had to expand and commandeer another hut due to the sheer volume of material, there have been yet more interesting pieces recorded. These include a second intaglio ring, although the stone, thought to be onyx, has become detached. A very well preserved bone pin has also been found along with some amphibian bones (both pictured below). The tiny frog bones are thought to have resulted from a time when the pits became partially back filled and flooded, providing a very suitable environment for them to live.
Day ten and yet another hot and sunny day. We are starting to reach the bottom of many of the storage pits now. Some are over 2 metres deep and all you can see are the tops of student’s brightly coloured hard hats peeping out. What seems to be enthralling the site’s supervisors the most is the multiple number of skeletons found deposited within the pits. Some have been associated with a good quantity of animal bone and pottery, suggesting all the burials were intentional and considered a ritualistic or religious process. The articulation of some of the skeletons suggests that the bodies were partially decomposed before finally be laid to rest in the pits.
Hannah Mccaully and Kelsie Whitwood (pictured) are currently excavating a well preserved male crouched burial in Trench A. Along with their skeleton, they have found fragments of shale and pottery and jaw bones belonging to a dog and cow. A large lump of red clay was found at the feet of the skeleton, although its significance is yet to be decided. Sel Robinson is also excavating a crouched burial in Trench C. So far only the feet and pelvis have been exposed due to the crouched position of the skeleton, as shown in the photograph (bottom right). The rest of the pit is yet to be excavated, so it will be another day or so before the skeleton can be properly studied.
The Environmental sampling team, have managed to identify grain from a storage pit in Trench B. Archaeology students Craig and Graham explain that in addition to the grain, an entire layer of burnt materials has been removed for further analysis. The pit was also found to contain shale, pottery and animal remains. We should learn more about the use of this pit, once more soil samples have been processed. A new ditch section has been opened up in Trench B, near to the entrance of what would have been the Iron Age banjo enclosure. Curiously a skull has been found within the ditch but from a Roman context. The skull, as pictured bottom left, was discovered along with a sizeable fragment of pottery. As with the other the skeletal remains, once they have been fully exposed and excavated, we will be able to assess the remains in more detail. In addition to the bones found within the pits, we also have a few worked bone artefacts, like the bone needle shown in the picture below.
What seems to have been most striking over the last few days, is the rate at which skeletal material is being uncovered across the entire site. Harry Manley, archaeology demonstrator and site supervisor, is overseeing all the planning and surveying of the site. He explains that, without the presence of human skeletons, sectioning of the pits would normally be done after the whole feature has been excavated. However, every time a skeleton is found, the section drawings have to be done in stages. This allows the precise location of the remains within the pits various contexts, to be recorded. Harry is very pleased with how the excavation is progressing and said ‘students are really engaging with the whole process and seem up for the challenge’’. Although the high number of skeletons and features means more planning, Harry is eager for students to get as much experience as possible.
So as more planning continues and the planning hut quickly fills up with hundreds of plan drawings, the next few days will focus on excavating all of our skeletons and continuing to expose a new section of Banjo ditch that is being opened up in Trench B.…
Over the last three days, there have been lots of exciting new discoveries
and developments. The skeletons of two dogs have been found in Trench A, one
entirely complete and very well preserved. Meanwhile, over in Trench C a newly
excavated storage pit was found to contain the intentionally deposited mandible
of a horse, cattle bones and the partial remains of a sheep. Along with the
bones, incomplete Iron Age pottery vessels were found. Most interestingly,
the horse’s mandible was perforated with a single large hole, potentially
the cause of death.
It is becoming ever apparent that the majority of the Iron Age storage pits appear to have been reused for ‘ritual or ceremonial’ purposes after they ceased to function merely as grain stores. Miles Russell explained that as more of the site is uncovered, it is becoming more likely, that as oppose to the presence of one dominant Roman villa, a small scale centre stood on the site. Subsequently controlled or managed by a village of smaller properties. There is no evidence of violence, suggesting a seemingly subtle and slow transition from and Iron Age banjo enclosure to a Romano-British settlement, the two naturally integrating. Due to the large quantity of higher status Samian ware pottery and more luxurious artefacts, in addition with the great number of oyster shells, it does seem quite probable that trade was happening on site.
In the finds hut, lots more intriguing material has been processed. One particularly attractive find is a copper alloy brooch shaped into a duck, decorated with blue enamel as is shown in the picture. A bone needle was found in Trench B, also pictured, along with high quality Roman glass and a large chalk loom weight. Additionally, the discovery of a Roman iron stylus suggests at least a portion of the people who once inhabited this settlement were literate.
Animal bone specialist Mark Maltby is due on site soon, to examine the animal bone finds deposits. It seems that almost every deep grain storage pit was almost re-graded as a ritua; feature after domestic use stopped. Over the next few days, we hope to learn more about how the site worked as a small trading centre and the nature of the placed deposits…
After our day of rest, everyone was back on site and eager to get back to work!
Beautiful blue skies and plenty of sunshine brought out an array of brightly
coloured hats, the archaeologist accessory of choice it would seem. Day 6,
saw the discovery of yet more interesting and unusual finds including an exotic
lava quern stone, believed to have come from Germany. Juvenile Skeletons continue
to be uncovered, together with an adult Iron Age crouched burial in Trench
Miles Russell explained that a rotary quern stone, found in a pit in Trench C (pictured), had been deliberately deposited and not just ‘thrown away’. This suggests some importance and sense of purpose being attached to its deposition in Trench C, which we will try and decipher as the dig progresses.
One of our first adult skeletons for this year has been found in Trench A. The 'crouched' burial is currently being carefully excavated by first year archaeology students, Lucy Fletcher and Hannah Woodrow (pictured). Patricia Furphy, an osteologist from Bournemouth University, explains that although alkaline, chalk-based soil doesn’t always present ideal conditions for skeletal preservation. Patricia is hoping to be able to sex the skeleton and create a ‘bioprofile’, once excavation is complete and the bones can be taken back to Bournemouth University’s osteology lab for further analysis.
Over in the finds hut, while pottery fragments continue to come in at a steady rate, perhaps one of the days more interesting finds was a shale core. The shale core, is what remains after a shale bracelet has been turned from a larger piece. Any shale material must be kept in water, to prevent drying and subsequent disintegration.
Another interesting day on site but still lots to do over the next coming week including the ongoing excavation of all storage pits. This is particularly exciting, as the majority, we have dug so far, this year have contained skeletons. One of the key questions that has arisen this year, already, is why are the majority of the skeletons concealed in the pits? Iron Age funerary practices are particularly fascinating as so little is understood.
It’s already Friday and the sun even managed to shine, if only for a
little while! At the end of the first week the site has changed beyond recognition
and new features are beginning to be excavated in every trench as the mountain
of planning and paperwork is completed. Yes, even at an archaeological excavation
you can’t completely escape a good selection of different coloured forms
to fill in, namely context sheets! Yet more Human remains have been found in
Trench A and B. The remains include two suspected neonates discovered in a
bell-shaped storage pit in Trench A. In Trench C, a post pad has been uncovered
by Chris Gould (pictured), potentially indicative of a timber structure have
once existed at the site.
Hannah McCaully, working in Trench A, discovered an adult femur and pelvis from the bottom of a pit, over a metre deep, as shown in the photograph. The majority of the remains so far, have interestingly, been found interred in disused storage pits, but one appears to be in a formal grave pit.
In the finds hut, large quantities of pottery are still being processed along with more unique artefacts, such as jewellery and keys. A few metal ‘hair pins’ have also been collected from the site as pictured. Finding personal effects like rings and hair pins are particularly nice as they allow us, in the 21st century to relate more personally to past communities and their lifestyle. Everyone will return to the site on Sunday after a well-deserved Saturday off, when we will all hopefully be nicely refreshed and raring to go for the second week of the excavation…
Yesterday’s bright sunshine was again replaced with cloud and cold temperatures,
although luckily it didn’t rain. Despite the chilly weather, the site
was still a hive of activity and some real progress is being made. Finds trays
are filling up at an astonishing rate and this years first human remains were
discovered in both Trench’s A and B. Planning is well underway and all
the trenches along with their features need to be drawn out and measured before
excavation of the new areas can begin.
In the finds hut, some interesting artefacts have been received. Hannah Simpson, second year BSc Archaeological and Forensic Sciences (AFS) student, found a simple iron ring dating to the Late Iron Age in Trench A. In addition, a very attractive red glass or garnet intaglio ring, thought to be etched with a simple design, was discovered in Trench B. Jewellery seemed to be the theme of today’s top finds as a twisted iron bracelet was uncovered from a pit in Trench C. Another interesting find was an elaborate iron key also from Trench B. Human Finds were found today, which always seems to excite everyone! Both sets of remains were only partially complete and both are thought to be Roman neonates. Last year multiple skeletons were found of Roman babies, and it is well known, that burial of very young Roman babies often took place within domestic buildings. In addition to all of the more fascinating finds, our collection of Roman nails is becoming enormous, tray after tray are full up with them in the finds shed…
The Environmental-sampling shed is now fully operational as all the soil from each newly excavated feature must be washed and sieved in order to identify snail shells, charcoal and pollen. Typically two buckets of soil from each new dug feature, where possible, should be analysed. Hannah Wagstaffe was supervising two first year Roman and Prehistory students, Gethyn Phillips and Robert Poole as they washed through samples at the floatation tank. Once the samples have been washed though, they will be dried and then processed manually, a sieve full at a time to identify organic materials of interest. Although, perhaps not the most obvious source of archaeological evidence, snail shells can actually be incredibly useful, explains Hannah. Snails have very specific ecology and can reveal a lot about the prehistoric natural habitat of an area, thus allowing us to build up a picture of the type of landscape that existed in the area two or three thousand years ago.
As day four came to a close, almost all of last years features have been re-excavated and planning is very much underway. Everyone seems to be really enjoying the dig, particularly as even the early finds have been very interesting and certainly boasts enthusiasm. Lauren Edkins, a first year AFS student working in Trench C, said she is finding this year's excavation very exciting and is looking forward to gaining practical archaeology experience. Lauren is enjoying meeting new people and getting to know everyone better. Her best find so far was a piece of Kimmeridge shale she found on day 3, which is now being stored in the finds shed submersed in water as it is so delicate. If the piece is allowed to dry out it will completely disintegrate.
The rain finally eased off today and the site saw some real sun for the first
time this week and bottles of sun cream seemed to outnumber students. Due to
the fine weather, moral was high and it is certainly nicer to be out working
in the sun and not look like a mud monster at the end of the day.
Only three days in and already artefacts are accumulating from all three open trenches: A, B and C. Ample amounts of pottery including black burnished, Samian, and colour-coated wares have been collected from the loose surface soil as the trowelling down came to an end. An interesting, partially complete small ceramic vessel, initially thought to be of Roman date, was found in Trench C. A photo was sent by mobile phone to a pottery specialist, Rachel Hall, who identified the vessel as being more likely to date to the mid-late Iron Age. Owing to the goblet's miniature proportions, its use was most probably ceremonial.
One of the days most intriguing finds was a small sickle shaped iron ‘tool’. Initially identifying its use was a conundrum, until first year practical archaeology student, David Braund, mentioned he had used a similar object when on holiday in Rome to open oyster shells. Oysters shells are one thing the site is not short of, countless numbers are currently in our finds trays waiting to be processed and quantified. Oysters, readily available from Poole Harbour, were a popular and common part of the Roman Diet. The shape and size of the utensil seems ideal for the task of opening and removing oysters from the shells - the tool even has a handy hook for attaching to a belt or clothing!
So as the finds shed became increasingly busy, the diggers continued to clean down the trenches are re-excavate features that were opened up in June of last year. This includes storage pits, gullies of potential round houses and sections of Roman wall. Amongst an ever growing list of features, 22 new pits have been identified this year and the remains of four round houses, so there is a lot of work to do over the next four weeks but everyone seems up for the challenge. Tomorrow it is hoped that pre-excavation planning of the trenches can begin so excavations of archaeological features can commence towards the end of this week. Progress has been very quick and potential of the site is becoming ever more apparent with each day.
Text and photgraphs by Sophie Linwood
Despite the wet weather, which continued throughout much of the morning, the rain actually provided optimum 'trowelling conditions'. The Chalk soil drained quickly, preventing the trenches turning to mud pits and the loose surface soil was much easy to remove. The definition of features against the chalk bedrock was also enhanced because of the damp soil, giving a good indication of the archaeology that lies beneath, particularly where storage pits and ditches exist.
Trowelling down continued in every trench, with all students getting involved to clear the site as quickly as possible. The finds shed is fully operational now, with the remainder of last year's material being cleaned and processed before any new finds from this year's dig are excavated and sorted through. Damian Evans, the sites health and safety co-ordinator, also assisting in the finds shed, explained that a diverse array of pottery was uncovered last year, ranging from Samian ware to more local Iron Age black burnish ware. The quantity of Samian ware is 'more than would be expected' from a typical farmstead, suggesting the area was once the site of a more wealthy farmstead or villa. Samian ware is a higher status pottery, and it is thought the fragments found at the site are possibly Spanish in origin. The clay use to produce the black burnish ware is thought to be sourced locally from around Poole Harbour and this type of pottery, typically represents the ubiquitous domestic vessel of the Iron Age.
Meanwhile, Mat Coombes, a second year archaeology student, has begun to plot the site using GPS (the satellite global positioning system). All the co-ordinates of every trench had to be recorded so the area can be digitally mapped and a site grid created. Eventually this will allow features to be related to one another accurately across the entire site. Stakes have also been laid out in an adjoining area of land in preparation for geophysics, led by Paul Cheetham.
By the end of day two, trowelling down and cleaning of the trenches had nearly been completed, allowing excavations to start tommorow. Groups of students will be allocated supervisors and awarded specific tasks and areas within the trenches to work on and investigate further.
Sophie Linwood, second year BSc Archaeological and Forensic Science student, writes:
Bournemouth University students returned to their Dorset summer field school site today. The excavation ,started in 2009. aims to examine the nature of Romanization in this part of Roman Britain. Despite a couple of showers, the weather held for the majority of the day and progress towards reclaiming the site from vegetation and the effects of weathering was well under way by close of site at 5pm.
The first day was spent clearing the area, squaring and redefining trench edges and relaying seemingly hundreds of soil filled wheelbarrows up and down the impressive spoil heap!
Paul Cheetham, Miles Russell, Iain Hewitt and Damian Evans briefed first year archaeology students in the morning about how the site would run this year and the outcome of last years excavation. Many second and third year students have returned to the site for a second year as supervisors and to improve their practical field archaeology skills. Stephen Gerry, a second year Archaeological and Forensic Science student, says he has come back this year to “finish what we started!”. Steve really enjoyed last years dig and wanted to spend a second season at the site in order to expand and build upon the knowledge and information gained last year, and indeed answer the questions raised by the 2009 dig.
The site has enormous potential and a multitude of features to excavate and explore in order to understand the transition from an Iron Age banjo enclosure to a Romano-British farmstead. The area is divided into four main trenches: A,B,C and D.
Trench A contains the remains of a Roman wall, yet to be fully excavated. Trench was last year found to contain two Iron Age burials and this year that the entrance to the banjo enclosure will be investigated. Trench C envelops the North/East corner of the banjo ditch and during the 2009 dig, a crouch burial was found in a storage pit that is still to be fully explored. Lastly Trench D contains ample quantities of exposed building material, mortar and roof tiles on the soil surface, suggesting the remains of a domestic building exists beneath.
Despite the rain, by the end of day one, the site had been transformed. All the weeds that had colonised the trenches over the last year had been removed and trowelling down was well under way in at least two of the trenches. The next stage will be to continue trowelling down and removing all loose soil and unwanted materials then we can begin to careful locate, record and excavate the exciting features we find….