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BHAS Field Unit Archive 2012


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* Original Information 18th January 2012

* Added 18th March 2012

* Added 25th April 2012

* Added 10th June 2012

* Added 16th August 2012

* Added 29th Sept 2012

* Added 2nd December 2012


Rocky Clump 2011/12

The excavations in the field to the south of Rocky Clump finished on the 17th December. A visit to the completed site had been organised for interested parties, the actual digging finished on the 14th December. The excavations finally revealed the north corner of a large Late Iron Age or early Romano-British enclosure. A close examination of the geophysics, conducted in earlier years, had hinted at a possible junction of two ditches, but the geophysics now suggest that the ditches revealed are part of an enclosure measuring between 20 and 30 metres square. A new magnetometry survey is planned for March 2012, prior to the commencement of the new digging season.

The ditches measure about 1.8 metres wide and 1.6 metres in depth. The fills vary from one ditch to the other with the east side containing large quantities of chalky loam, possibly back fill of the chalk removed during the enclosure construction, and a dark silty, charcoal laden fill on the west side. Finds from the digging were prolific throughout the excavation and even on the last day the west ditch terminus revealed an almost complete pot assemblage, albeit consisting of a number of large, broken pottery sherds. A pair of baby pig burials were also uncovered in the same area, but above the pottery.

The ditches, both east and west are extremely steep sided, and quite difficult to get into and out. The curious 'trackway' feature to the east of the east ditch terminates at the junction of the two ditches, with a vertical, shallow drop into the west ditch. It is highly possible that this was the exit location for the chalk being removed, and the small rut like features were created for a small cart being used to transport the chalk away. There is small mound observed to the north of the enclosure and this may be where the chalk was deposited. This was the location for many pottery finds during field walking in 1992.

Perhaps one of the most important questions to arise from the excavation in 2011 is how many other similar enclosures are secreted beneath the plough soil along the South Downs? The aerial photographs show little or nothing in this field or those around, and the geophysical images could be interpreted as geological rather than archaeological. It does show the importance of test pits and trenches.

The 2011 season of excavation has been extremely well supported with 87 people digging on site with nearly 1000 work days accrued in the field over the year. The Young Archaeologist Club (YAC) visited and dug on two occasions and, as previously reported, the dig has attracted people from far afield. The finds are now being processed, washed, marked and catalogued as part of the 2011/2012 post excavation winter programme. The finds processing is open to all members of the society, and a number of educational day schools about pottery identification, glassware and metal work has been organised by the society. The site details, plans and section drawings are currently being transferred to C.A.D. and will be published in the 2011 Field Notebook which will also be accessible via the society's website.


In 2011 the excavations to the south of the copse of trees known as Rocky Clump revealed a hitherto unknown late Iron Age or early Romano-British enclosure. The north/east corner of this enclosure had ditches measuring 2 metres in width and almost 1.7 metres in depth. The ditches produced numerous finds of pottery, including a number of almost complete vessels and several articulated animal burials. A curious 'trackway' was also found heading northwards away from the enclosure.

Several geophysical studies have been made at Rocky clump and this has included a major resistivity survey of the south field, which has produced an interesting collection of anomalies that may be archaeological or geological. In March of this year (2012) David Staveley and his geophysical team mounted a major survey of the south field using his magnetometer. The results have been incredible and have revealed a whole new series of features including several ditches, going in various directions.

Late in March a digging machine was used to remove a large section of the top plough soil allowing access to the archaeological features. Last season the digging started in April but did not reach 'feature' level until July, this year we are already uncovering ditches and possible pits.

Already interesting finds have been recovered including bone, oyster shells, fire-cracked flint, prehistoric flint work and Roman pottery with several pieces of samian including decorated sherds from a possible type 37 bowl.

The excavations will continue throughout the summer until October, and new people are welcome whatever their experience. Those with little or no experience will be given training. You must be 16 years of age or over, have a current tetanus and become a member of the Society to be covered by its insurance. Current cost is £12 full or £6 student.


The new season of excavations at Rocky Clump began in late March and continues. During April the persistently rainy weather did not allow too much access to site, but in May the change in the weather brought in a lot more people and allowed a large part of the southern section of the site to be cleaned back and the features revealed. Several somdages have been sunk in the south section and the interconnection between the north/south ditch already know about, and a new east/west ditch preciously unknown is being examined to determine the chronological sequence. There are pits either side of the north/south ditch and these can be seen to have been cut by the north/south ditch so must be earlier features. The upper east/west ditch has also been removed of overburden and the width revealed, and an adjacent pit feature may prove to be where the 'trackway' found in 2011 emerges to the surface. A new east/west ditch, noted in the results of the magnetometry survey has been revealed and is about 2.3 metres in width. This new ditch means that we now have 3 ditches all running parallel east to west, the finds will be very important is providing a dating sequence.

The main focus of the excavation, at present, is in the south section where the new east/west ditch is being excavated. It is proving extremely interesting as the sections are changing as the ditch progresses eastward, with the eastern end of the trench having no south edge of the ditch at all. The remaining plough soil is currently being removed along the east side of the north section where a number of large flint concentrations were noted when the plough soil was being removed. It is possible that there may be rubbish pits in this area. A Roman coin was found in this area and looks very much like a Barbarous Radiate dating to the later 3rd century, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Finds have been plentiful from the start of the season with copious amounts of animal bone and pottery being recovered, including several pieces of Roman samian ware. Among the other items found has been a section of box flue tile, which is quite odd as there appears to be no sign of any underfloor heating or bath house, as yet. Another curious item found was by metal detecting in the field to the east of the dig where a splendid medieval pin was found.

The dig will continue until October at least, with the potential to open more of the area within the confines of the Iron Age/Romano British enclosure seeking a sense of purpose for its construction.


The excavations at Rocky are progressing well despite the slightly inclement summer months, with plenty of rain disrupting the digging. A good number of diggers have been turning up on site, and they are increasing as better weather prevails.

The ditches have been the main focus of attention with investigations into the various features which has produced an interesting collection of layers. The large middle east/west ditch has proved to be a typical v-shaped Roman ditch with a chalk rubble fill to the west. The width of this ditch is slightly smaller than previously thought as upon investigation a large section on the south side turned out to be a shallow chalk platform. This ditch has an interesting collection of dumped chalk, which is now considered to be a possible causeway running north/south across the ditch. To the west of this causeway the fill is predominantly chalk rubble, but on the other side is a mixture of silty clay, large iron stone nodules, large flint nodules, burned pottery, bone and chalk. Several large sherds of early Roman pottery have been recovered from the lower fill in this area.

To the north of this ditch are a series of linear features, and these lay within a thick deposit of chalk rubble. It is not yet possible to determine whether this is the floor level of some structure. At present no post holes have been found, but it is where the barbarous radiate coin (275-285AD) was recovered.

The lower east/west ditch is proving to be the most productive with regard finds. The ditch is quite interesting with a sharp v-shaped typical section at the west end which is dramatically widening as it progresses eastwards. The north side of this ditch is quite elongated and may prove to be the location of a later negative lynchet cutting into the ditch. The feature has produced copious amounts of animal bone, including the almost complete skull of a cow, including the horns. Pottery has been forthcoming in large amounts with several rim section of samian ware that hint at a number of vessels. Among the rarer finds has been a finger ring, which is currently at the British Museum being studied.

The north/south ditch is also producing some nice finds including several concentrations of pottery and animal bones, including pig skulls yet again. The section between the north/south and lower east/west ditch has been studied and shown that while both ditches were open at the same time it is impossible to determine whether they were cut at the same time as the back filling stratigraphy shows that the layers appear in both features.

The upper east/west ditch has also produced some interesting finds of pottery, but the most significant happening was the revealing of a baby burial. The infant was reverently buried in one of the lower fills of the ditch, in a crouched position.

The dig will continue until October at least, with the potential to open more of the area within the confines of the Iron Age/Romano British enclosure seeking a sense of purpose for its construction.

Newcomers are welcome whatever their experience. To join the excavation team please contact the BHAS web site or John Funnell at or call 0844 5888 277


The excavations progressed well at Rocky Clump during the summer. Good numbers have come along digging including lots of new faces and even more people from London.

The focus of the excavations has been the digging of the various ditches. The main north/south ditch has produced some very interesting pottery including several concentrations that are of individual vessels. The upper east/west ditch proved to have a generally chalky loam fill with some interesting pottery and in one of the lower layers the articulated burial of a baby. The young, probably new born infant, was reverentially buried facing west. The objective now is to try and seek the location of the burials found in the woods during the 1960's as a DNA test could provide an important link and identify the possible mother.

The lower east/west ditch has provided the most comprehensive excavation as the ditch gradually widens as it moves eastwards. Sections cutting through this ditch show that it has been re-cut at some time, with the south section being the earlier phase and the north deeper section coming later. Among the finds from this ditch are a coin of Tetricus 270-273AD and some perforated pottery. The holes in the pottery are too widely spaced to consider it to be a colander and parallels are being sought. A similar vessel at Eastbourne is considered to be Saxon. The same ditch also produced an almost complete vessel that had vertical sides and a flat base, very similar to the Caburn ware saucepan type pottery.

The middle ditch is slightly shallower than the others and has a mixed and varied fill. The west side is almost all chalk rubble, while the west side is a rich mixture of clay and ironstone lumps. Between the two locations is a dump of large chalk nodules that appear to form a causeway. The finds from the east section of this ditch produced some large shards of pottery and several pieces of dressed stone that could be pads for a timber framed building. The causeway leads to the east section of the excavation and the location of a possible 'floor' surface. The area possesses a number of linear arrangements which are currently being investigated. The linear features consist of lumps of ironstone interspersed with large chalk nodules. Between these linear features is a chalky loam floor that is almost 20cms in depth. A similar floor surface was uncovered on the Romano-British settlement at Park Brow, near Lancing.

The floor location is now under investigation and the remaining baulk within the possible Iron Age/Romano-British enclosure will gradually be removed seeking further evidence for occupation or usage. The finds of pottery and bone continue to be found in significant quantities with the majority appearing to be very crudely manufactured vessels from an early Roman period. However, both coins found this season are of late 3rd century dating and show that the site was being used for a considerable period.

The digging will probably continue until mid November if good weather prevails.


The season is gradually drawing to a close, and what a dig it has been. The geophysics in March produced a whole new series of anomalies and we have managed to investigate most of them and find a few more lying buried and not shown in the magnetometry survey.

We have completely excavated the lower east/west ditch, the upper east/west ditch and some of the middle east/west ditch, we have also fully excavated the exposed large north/south ditch. Finds have been plentiful, especially of pottery and bone. We found a range of pottery with sherds from the upper ditch levels found to be much younger that the pottery from the ditch bottoms which is much cruder and less well made. We had found some perforated pottery and a nice collection of samian ware from the lower ditch fill.

The ditches have produced copious amounts of bone including the complete skull, including the horns, of a cow and the complete pelvis of a horse. Perhaps the most significant find was of the baby burial, buried very reverentially in the upper east/west ditch. We are now seeking the bones from the earlier excavation hoping that we might have some DNA analysis conducted to seek a link for the baby to those buried in the cemetery, which was excavated in the first series of excavations in the 1950's and 1960's.

We have uncovered a whole range of features which are causing some debate. Part of the middle ditch had a causeway, constructed from a dump of large chalk nodules. The causeway leads to a surface compiled of flint nodules, large chalk nodules and bits and pieces of dressed sarsen stone. The north and south side of this linear feature has an arrangement of large flint stones. Sections have been cut across this 'floor' and at one point it was considered that the feature could be another trackway crossing the field. A visit was made by the Assistant County Archaeologist for East Sussex who suggested that it was more likely to be a floor rather than a trackway, as it was not substantial enough to carry loads.

The 'floor' runs east/west and parallel to the adjacent ditches. It is a whole series of layers, with the top layer, consisting of flint, chalk and ironstone covering a layer of chalky loam, which is above a thin solid layer of compressed chalk. Below the compressed layer of chalk is a large pit. The pit was filled in, very quickly, using small and medium sized chalk nodules, but sadly no finds have been recovered to which would allow us to determine when this event took place. The area does at least have some stratigraphy.

The site this season has produced no post holes at all, these could provide evidence for structures and if we do have a floor it would have to be for a timber beamed type of construction. W do know from the floor plans of last season that post holes are not that far away, so perhaps we need to study the plans and perhaps have another small extension next year to link up all of the features.

A curious set of features were uncovered on the west side of the upper east/west ditch. It was anticipated that this might be where the trackway found last season eroded onto the upper surface. This proved not to be, but is a collection of small ditches and pits, cutting and inter-cutting each other, and even cutting into the north surface of the large east/west ditch. It appears that we will have to remove the baulk between the two seasons dig to appreciate just what is going on in that area.

Metal finds have been few, but we did have some nails and a couple of as yet unidentified metal objects from the ditch fills. One nice find was of a Roman finger ring. Coins, from the upper ditch fill and above the 'floor' surface, give a later 3rd date for those features.

The excavations will continue in a small new trench being opened immediately north of this trench, and this is already providing a complex series of archaeological features. The main trench will be back filled once the remaining section drawings have been completed. Plans are already in hand for digging next year. Post excavation activities will begin in January.


Finds Processing 2012

During January, February and continuing in March the BHAS Field Unit have been conducting post excavation activities from both the Peacehaven barrow and the Iron Age enclosure at Rocky Clump. The team have now washed and marked over 80,000 pieces of flintwork from Peacehaven which have included a few flint tools, some fire-fractured flint, but mostly residual flint flakes. The collection did include a number of nice cores and some blades fragments. The flints have now been passed back to the site Director Susan Birks who will now begin the archaeological report for publication in the Sussex Archaeological Collections.

The pottery from the excavations at Rocky Clump, in the south field, has also been washed and marked. The sherds of pottery included quite a number that had 'raised eyebrow' decoration that effectively dated the enclosure to the Late Iron Age or early Romano-British periods. A dayschool with pottery expert Malcolm Lyne confirmed the dating but also showed that the upper layers in the west ditch were of a later date from about 140 AD to 250AD. This indicates that for nearly 300 years after it was constructed the enclosure ditches were still being used as rubbish pits.

The new season of excavations in 2012 will investigate more of the enclosure ditches, the interior of the enclosure and the possible site of a number of potential round houses.

Excavations at Rocky Clump begin on Saturday April 7th. - Meet at Upper Lodge car park, along the Ditchling Road, Brighton at 10-00am. No experience is necessary as all training will be given. You do need to be a member of the Society which is £12 full or £6 student and have a current tetanus. For further details contact the society membership secretary (see Contact Us) or call 0844 5888 277 early evenings only


Geophysics at Beacon Hill

This summer BHAS is returning to Beacon Hill for more geophysical studies using their resistivity machine. The hill contains two Neolithic long barrows and appears to have remained untouched over several centuries. It is possible that a prehistoric landscape lies buried beneath the turf. David Worsell will be leading the team and new volunteers are always welcome. The investigations will provide important new evidence for the ancient activities in this part of Brighton.




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