This section contains the latest news from the Field Unit, as and
when it occurs. New sections are added as and when to show the
progress the Field Unit are making during the year.
* Original Information 7th January 2011
* Added 23rd March 2011
* Added 7th May 2011
* Added12th June 2011
* Added 2nd August 2011
* Added 21st August 2011
* Added 2nd October 2011
* Added 17th November 2011
Varley Halls 2010
The BHAS Field Unit returned to Varley Halls in late September and
continued digging until early December when the site was back filled.
An extension trench was added to the excavation conducted in the
early part of the summer. The new trench would investigate the
junction of two negative lynchets or field boundaries.
The new investigations revealed a sudden drop in the chalk going
southwards, the negative lynchet and the void created by the ancient
farming, had been filled with a chalky loam containing Bronze Age and
Iron Age pottery, and numerous flint flakes and some tools. One of
the tools was a possible flint 'ard' used for ancient ploughing. The
excavation revealed a number of Bronze Age plough marks cutting
across the hill at about 45 degrees, and digging into the chalk. The
modern plough marks were equi-spaced and located much higher up and
in a different direction. The ancient plough marks were sealed by a
deep layer of loam and were not touched by the modern plough. The
plough marks going along the other lynchet were fewer and less deep.
A metal detecting survey in the field to the north of the excavation
uncovered a lovely Roman bracelet, showing that these fields appeared
to have continual usage during much of antiquity. The sections have
been drawn and the site has been photographed and back filled.
Lisa Fisher, the director of the excavation, will be giving a talk
about the excavations at the next Archaeology Symposium at Sussex
University on Saturday April 9th 2011. The BHAS Field Unit is hoping
to return to Varley Halls sometime in the summer of 2011.
It is also possible that there will some small
test pitting and geophysics at the Bronze Age site at Varley Halls,
but this will depend upon the availability of the Lisa Fisher the
Rocky Clump 2011
-The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society have celebrated over 60
years of digging at Rocky Clump. The first phase of digging was from
1947 to about 1986 when a structure was revealed with post holes
measuring over a metre in diameter. This building was considered by
the director, Walter Gorton, to be the location of a Romano-British
Shrine. Adjacent to the building was a cemetery containing 7 graves,
including 2 children, but the burials contained no grave goods,
making dating difficult. The excavations were written up by Oliver
Gilkes and published in the Sussex Archaeological Collections Volume 135.
Phase 2 -
The second phase of excavations began in 1993 and continued until the
end of 2010. The excavations mainly focused in the fields to the
north of the earlier excavations, but some work was carried out
inside of the clump of trees at Rocky Clump, revealing a missing post
hole from the 'shrine' and some very odd features of mixed dating to
the east of the clump of trees. The excavations revealed a new
structure comprising of lines of post holes which appear to be a
Romano-British stockade or animal enclosure. A number of ditches have
produced finds of significant quantities of butchered animal bone,
along with pottery, brooches and coins. The second phase finished
with the excavation of a flint cobbled surface that was littered with
numerous pieces of butchered bone, and suggested to be a
Romano-British abattoir. The location produced some nice finds of a
zooamorphic brooch, and some good quality Roman glass. Geophysics
indicates that other features lie further north, but a decision was
taken to finish in the north field and move south for the 2011
season. The excavations for 1993-2010 are now being processed and
will be the subject of another Sussex Archaeological Collections
publication some time in the future.
Phase 3 -
The 2011 Excavations - The new season will start with new leaders,
with Norman Phippard and Steve Corbett taking on the roles of site
directors, and assisted by Mark Gillingham our current President. A
large resistivity survey was conducted in the south field a number of
years ago and has produced a number of interesting anomalies. The
season will begin by sinking a number of test trenches to examine the
features revealed by the geophysical survey. The results of the test
pitting will allow a decision to be made on which area contains the
most interesting archaeology and this location will be expanded to
become the main site for the season. The object of the exercise is to
seek the location for the settlement associated with the rural
structures found in the past seasons and which still remains unknown.
A week of excavation is being planned for July/August depending upon
the success of good archaeology being uncovered. There will be some
small scale activity within the woods close to the cemetery location,
seeking new untouched burials.
The BHAS Field Unit returned to Rocky Clump on
Saturday 16th April. For the past few seasons the focus of attention
has been in the field to the north of the copse of trees called Rocky
Clump. Over nearly two decades a whole range of features have been
uncovered including pits, post holes, ditches and flint cobbled
surfaces. Rocky Clump has produced evidence for this location being
used for Romano- British activities dating from the middle of the
first century BC through to the early fourth century AD. The site was
probably not used continuously, but had intermittent activity over
several periods. There have been finds of coins, brooches and horse
equipment. There is quite a large range of pottery fabrics and an
extensive bone collection, mainly of cattle, sheep, goat and pig. The
site has produced two rectangular structures. One is probably an
animal enclosure, while the other has been interpreted as a possible
shrine, although the evidence to support this at present is still
lacking. There was also a small cemetery.
A geophysical study of the field to the south
of Rocky Clump has produced a number of interesting anomalies. It is
hoped that these features may be the location of any settlement
associated with the various agricultural features found to the north.
The excavations commenced in April and will examine a number of the
geophysical features that appear to be large areas of low resistance.
It is highly likely that hill wash has obscured post holes and stake
holes that may have been part of any Iron Age round house, or houses,
terraced into the chalk. A total of five test trenches are being cut,
and the revealing of archaeological features will motivate extensions
to the trench boundaries affected.
During the past couple of weeks a large feature
has been revealed, and finds of Iron Age/Romano-British pottery,
oyster and mussel shells and some animal bone have been uncovered.
Metal detecting by BHAS members has produced a single coin in the
same location, probably a barbarous radiate of about 275/285AD.
The excavations are planned to continue until
The BHAS Field Unit are continuing with their
excavations at Rocky Clump in the south field. The first trench cut
to investigate geophysical anomalies produced only virgin chalk, but
there were a few finds of pottery and flintwork in the plough soil.
This trench has now been back filled.
The second trench opened revealed a very large
feature, of some depth. Finds from this location have included bone,
mussel shells, pottery (rims and bases) and samian ware. The trench
is being extended in various directions to seek the edges of this
anomaly. The shape appeared at first to be rectangular, making it a
very odd Iron Age round house. This shape is now changing, with some
irregularity causing some head scratching at present. Some of the
pottery is quite crude and not very well fired, and one particular
sherd may possibly be Saxon, which could explain the odd shape of the
feature. It is too early to know exactly what is being revealed and
we must be patient until the edges are found and sondages can be cut.
Metal detecting around the site has produced a
couple of coins including a barbarous radiate of possible late 3rd
The excavations have drawn in lots of new
people including volunteers from France and Russia, with others from
Hungary and Spain planning to join the team. The company and location
make Rocky Clump a special place to be. The dig will continue until
the late autumn.
The BHAS field unit are continuing to work on
the large feature found at the beginning of this season's excavation.
The trench has been extended by several metres to both the south and
west. The feature is quite extensive. Clearing back the top layer of
this feature has produced a significant number of finds, including
pottery, bone and more shells including a concentration of mussel
shells on the north side of a possible midden. Pottery has been
mostly poorly fired blackened vessels, but each week has produced
pieces of samian, that may prove to be one vessel. A number of
sondages are now being cut to examine the depth and stratigraphy. The
sondages cut so far have produced significant collections of pottery,
and now above a layer of large flint nodules a considerable amount of
butchered bone. One curious feature is a gully that follows around a
large pit on the south west side of the site. The gully terminates
and adjacent to it is a small post hole? Could this be some form of
entrance way? We will have to move the baulk further north to find out.
The main feature does not appear to be a round
house and is probably a midden or rubbish pit. To the north of the
feature is a large circular, but shallow depth earthwork which maybe
where the soil from this feature was deposited. During field walking
in earlier seasons this location produced a concentration of Roman
pottery. There have been few metal finds this season, although this
may change as we plunge to the depths of the excavation. The feature
has now been divided into 1 metre square sections, allowing a number
of separate sondages to be sunk and the sections recorded on all
quadrants, as the site is proving to have quite a complex stratigraphy.
The BHAS team is now quite international with
Swedish, French, Spanish, Russian and Australian volunteers. The
group has great camaraderie, and even the bad weather is failing to
diminish the dedication and enthusiasm of the team.
The digging season continues at Rocky Clump and
has been well supported during the summer months. Good numbers have
been turning up to dig and new faces are appearing every week from as
afar away as Hampshire and London. The excavation has progressed
dramatically confirming that what we have is a huge midden or
Romano-British rubbish pit. It is producing significant quantities of
pottery and bone, plus a huge deposit of mussel shells. This feature
has been carefully uncovered and is quite an interesting deposit and
it still continues under the north baulk of the trench.
An initial couple of sondages were cut to
investigate the depth of the deposits and these confirmed that the
midden was of significant size. The excavated areas clearly showed a
complex stratigraphy, and as a result the features was divided into1
metre squares. The sinking of alternating sondages would allow the
maximum amount of sections to be recorded in both directions, north
to south and east to west. This method has proved successful as there
are large, complex deposits of loam and chalk, especially on the
eastern side. The western side has a more composed and well defined
series of layers with deposits of chalk overlaying loam fills. In one
particular area the upper loam layer is filled with soot and
charcoal, and this may be where the occupants of the site were making
and firing their pots. Several large pieces of daub are being removed
from this fill. It was from one of these layers that a beautiful
brooch was recovered in pristine condition with pin still attached.
The finds have been numerous, especially the
pottery, which has in general been very sooty and black. The finds
are currently being washed in preparation for the winter finds
processing workshops. The bone has been interesting with ribs and
shoulder blades of cow being found among the lower deposits. It is
also interesting to note that although there has been quite a number
of bone finds, it is certainly not as intense in volume as the bone
found in the large north/south ditch to the north of Rocky Clump. The
bone finds perhaps show that the industrial activity associated with
the site was taking place north of the trees, while the home
consumption and rubbish was being discarded south of the trees. It is
almost certain that the settlement is close by.
The recent excavations have at last reached the
natural chalk in most areas, on one half of the site, and it was
planned to leave the remainder in-situ. Unfortunately the sections
uncovered are so complex, with several large pits revealed going in
different directions, that only the removal of the other half of the
site will allow accurate recording and planning of the features.
One positive note is that the geophysical
images indicate a massive deposit or midden, and the excavations at
present show that there are even deeper deposits southward of the
open excavation, and that the mussel shell deposit continue
northwards. It is proposed to leave these features in-situ and
untouched. The plan is to move to other locations in 2012 and
investigate the possible location of round houses.
The excavations at Rocky Clump were planned to
finish at the end of October, but with so much material still to be
removed, and planning to be done, it is highly likely that
excavations will continue well into the winter months.
The mild autumnal weather has allowed the
excavations at Rocky Clump, Stanmer to continue way beyond the
original proposed closing date of late October. The excavations have
proved extremely interesting with lots of finds and curious features.
The main focus of attention has been the excavation of an area 20
metres square east of a central baulk, this being left in-situ. The
method of removing alternative squares of 1 metre squares has
produced a complex series of sections, these have been recorded in
The finds have been quite prolific with
significant quantities of bones and shell, particularly mussel, where
a pit on the west side of the baulk appears to have been specifically
dug to deposit a large quantity of the shells. Among the shells were
a good number of pottery sherds. The mussel bed measures over 2
metres in length and it is possible that a second pit lies beneath
the remaining baulk section. Quite a number of large animal bones
have been recovered showing that pig, sheep, cow and even horse were
present. The bones collected appear to be different to those found
north of the trees and would suggest that this location is a food
waste location whereas north of the trees is a butchery site.
The pottery has been extremely interesting with
large quantities of rim sherds being among items found. In several
locations, and at several depths, a number of sherd collections can
be pieced together to form large or almost complete pots. Among the
collection are quite a few with raised 'eyebrow' decoration similar
to pottery found at Bishopstone in Roman contexts. This pottery does
tend to suggest that the midden is either late Iron Age or early
Romano-British in date. There have been few metal finds, despite
constant metal detecting of both the deposits and the spoil heap.
Among the metal finds are a possible Iron brooch and a really
pristine La Tene style Iron Age type brooch.
The east side of the excavation is now complete
and has been drawn and photographed. It is a curios set of features
with the rubbish 'pit' appearing to be actually a ditch running at 45
degrees south east/northwest across the site. This ditch then turns,
under the baulk of course, and continues as another ditch going in a
south westerly direction. On the east side of the pit/ditch the side
rises up to create a wall of chalk that has been then cut away on the
north/east side. This cutaway is in the form of a possible trackway,
but this terminates at the ditch junction. At present the ditch has
only a shallow terrace on the west side of the baulk. Is this terrace
a possible trackway to allow small carts along to deposit their loads
of rubbish? While we do have evidence for horses, in the form of
bridle adornments and horse bones, we have not found as yet found any
evidence for carts.
The excavation has been supported by a good
number of people travelling some distance. We have had diggers from
London, Buckinghamshire and Salisbury, well supplemented by diggers
from abroad but currently staying in the UK. The excavations will
continue until severe frosts or bad weather begin to damage the
features. The area will then be back-filled or covered over until the spring.
Ovingdean Post Excavation
Members of the BHAS Field Unit spent much of
the winter examining and collating the finds from the excavation of
the medieval house at Ovingdean. The flint work, fire-cracked flint,
metal work, nails, marine shells, clay pipes and dressed stone have
now been measured, weighed and documented. The details have been
processed and the lists created. Day schools are being planned for
next winter to bring in experts to accurately date and confirm what
has been found.
Thames Foreshore Walking
In December of last year Fiona Haughey gave a
talk to the Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society about her mud
larking forays along the foreshore of the river Thames. In early June
of this year members of BHAS joined Fiona for a break from digging
and enjoyed for themselves some foreshore walking. A large percentage
of the foreshore is scheduled in a bid to protect the prehistoric,
Roman, Saxon and Medieval remains that lie beneath the silts and
sands. The BHAS walking produced numerous finds of pottery, tile,
metal work, glass and Tudor brick predominantly from the 17th century
onwards. One or two members, however, did pick up some prehistoric
flintwork, including a very nice scraper. The day out was enjoyed by
all and ended with a riverside tea at Starbucks with magnificent
views looking over St Pauls.
Visit to Folkstone Roman Villa
The Roman villa at Folkstone was excavated in
and around 1928 by S.E.Winbolt, who came from Sussex. He had been on
a visit to the location and was asked to conduct the excavations. He
revealed and chased the walls of a winged villa with a central range
of rooms overlooking a courtyard facing the coast, France and the
Roman town at Boulogne, on the other side of the channel. The villa
had a large bathhouse at the end of the wing on the west side. The
area had been the location of an industrial site that had
manufactured greensand quern stones. A large number of finished
querns have been found on the beach along with other Roman pottery
and artefacts, some now in the Folkstone museum. A large area of
greensand chippings on top of the cliff, and numerous finds of querns
in the immediate location and gardens of houses, show that the
industry was quite intensive. Over 200 querns stones have been found
Over the past 80 or so years the cliff face has
eroded away, so that the bath house has now disappeared. The new
excavations led by Keith Parfitt and Andrew Richardson from the
Canterbury Archaeological Trust are community orientated with over
600 possible diggers on their books. The excavations this year are
looking at the east winged section of the villa. The excavations have
revealed the villa had several phases with an apsidal villa wing
below the later rectangular one. A large ditch runs along the south
side of the villa complex and this is also being investigated.
During the Second World War a large hole was
dug through the centre of the courtyard to accommodate a possible gun
emplacement or look-out post. This deep hole has allowed a view of
the depth of the villa courtyard and its complex stratigraphy, and
shows that the origins of the villa site are far more ancient. The
current excavations will reveal the courtyard surface and will then
seek evidence for what lies below. The site is scheduled but as the
extensive and rapid erosion impacts it is evident that the entire
complex needs to be recorded before it disappears into the sea.
The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society
visited the site in July 2011, an event organised by Jane Russell,
and were given an extensive tour and history of the site and
excavations by one of the directors Andrew Richardson. Almost a full
coach visited the location, and the Society is indebted to Andrew for
taking the time to show us around. The excavations will probably
continue for a few more seasons, so hopefully more site visits to
Folkstone will be on the BHAS agenda.