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BHAS Field Unit Archive 2011


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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 site director.


Rocky Clump 2011

Phase 1 -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 late October.

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 century date.

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 section drawings.

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 to date.

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.



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