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BHAS Field Unit Archive 2013


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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 11th February 2013

* added 24th March 2013

* added 19th May 2013

* Added 13th July 2013

* Added 7th Sept 2013

* Added 27th October 2013

* added 23rd December 2013

BHAS and Field Unit Winter Programme 2013

The excavations at Rocky Clump continued until the early part of December. A number of heavy frosts were causing some concern about the preservation of the archaeological features. The new area containing a number of new features including ditches, and an extension of the 'floor', along with a possible surface containing charcoal and burning were covered with a tarpaulin to protect them. The whole site was then backfilled by machine, courtesy of Brighton and Hove City Parks.

In December finds processing continued at the premises of Archaeology South East who kindly offered the Society the use of their facilities and equipment. Several members of the Society had been washing the pottery and flintwork throughout the season but the day at ASE allowed this task to be completed. A total of 27 people attended a marking session in January at the Patcham Community Centre where all of this season's pottery and flintwork was marked. The bones have been passed to the BHAS bone team.

A second finds processing day on the 23rd February will examine, separate and record finds from a field walking exercise conducted at Woodingdean a couple of years ago. The finds processing also incorporated a talk about a number of Roman sites that the Society had been involved with over the past 2 decades, and a number of prehistoric sites will be the subject of another presentation at the next processing day.

During December and January to Society enjoyed, when the weather allowed, a number of walks to places of interest which included Falmer, St Mary Farm, Alciston and a day out to look at the archaeological and historical sites of Lewes, which attracted people from afar away as Epsom, Guildford and London.

The day schools about coins and animal bone identification have been very popular with all complete sell outs on both days. A final day school on archaeological metal work by Luke Barber will complete this season of educational winter day schools.

Excavation and geophysical surveying will commence at the end of March or the beginning of April.

The Society would like to thank Archaeology South East and the tutors of the various dayschools for allowing us access and for giving us the benefit of their expertise.

The New Season of Excavations at Rocky Clump will begin on Saturday 30th March.

2013 Season of BHAS Excavations

The BHAS field unit has a year packed with exciting projects in a number of locations in and around the Sussex area.

Rocky Clump

The BHAS field unit will be returning to Rocky Clump on Saturday 30th March, weather permitting. We will be opening a single trench approximately 40 metres long and 8 metres wide. The intention is to extend the trench around the low status structure, possible a farm building, found last year and examine new ditches and a charcoal and burned surface revealed during the last days of last season. An extension to the trench to the east will examine the ditches that appear to form the entrance of the Iron Age enclosure and seek evidence for activity and settlement.

If enough people come along to the excavation then we will be opening a number of test areas to seek evidence for round houses close to the clump of trees. Another project will be a magnetometry survey of the north east section of the field where Google earth has revealed a number of curious circular features, which could also be Iron Age round houses.

Thundersbarrow Hill

Judie English is planning to conduct some surveying around the hill-fort location and will be asking for a few volunteers to assist her. The date for this event will be forthcoming.

Culver Project

In July and August BHAS will move to the Barcombe area to assist David Millum and Rob Wallace with their investigations into the large Roman complex found by David Staveley a year or so ago using his magmetometer. This is a new venture and does look quite exciting.

Beacon Hill

David Worsell is planning some resistivity surveying on Beacon Hill, Rottingdean, once the skylarks have flown. The hill possesses, not one, but two Neolithic long barrows and previous forays with geophysics have shown that the hill is awash with features. It would be useful to investigate a larger area on the hill, to better understand exactly what lies beneath the turf, and see whether other prehistoric features lie hidden.

Field Unit

The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society field unit is open to all, whatever your experience. You will need to be a member to participate, which is £12 full or £6 student, and have a current tetanus. You can join via the website or when you arrive on site.

 You will need to bring sun factor and wet gear, as it is British weather, and the sites are exposed. You will need to bring refreshments, particularly water when it is hot. We supply tools and training. You will be able to try your hand at anything within our archaeological resources.

We work on Saturdays and Wednesdays, and sometimes a small group is on site on Sundays. We meet at 9-45am at the Upper Lodge car park in Stanmer, and finish on site at 4-30pm so back at the car park at about 5-00pm.

We can send you location details if you have your own transport, or will endeavour to pick you up at local locations if you are coming by bus or train.

Norman Phippard

Sadly in February of this year we lost Norman Phippard, one of our site directors, after a long battle with cancer. Norman was so enthusiastic, a great team leader with a warm smile, lots of delightful anecdotes and so much knowledge to impart. He will be sadly missed on site.

Finds Processing

The 2013 digging season has produced quite a collection of finds, including pottery, bone and shell. The finds will be washed in December and marked and catalogued in January and February. A number of finds processing days have been organised where all members of the field unit can participate. For more details contact john Funnell please ring 0844 5888 277 early evenings only

Rocky Clump

The BHAS field unit returned to Rocky Clump at the end of March. One of the first tasks undertaken was the erection of the electric fencing to protect the site from the cows in the field. While this exercise was being carried out a member of the team found a lovely pristine brooch dated to the Iron Age, with its pin intact. Also found was a pristine arrow head, which proved to be a replica of a 14th or 15th century arrow head. The item is made of pewter, and despite its medieval style is unlikely to be functional, and may be a pendant used by re-enactors, but why it was found at Rocky Clump is open to debate.

Sadly, due to illness, we were unable to use the services of our digger driver, and so are opening the site by hand, it is not too arduous, but has delayed getting down to those features. The main trench now is down to the tarpaulins laid down in the winter, and several new areas have been opened up. There have been some finds of pottery and bone, and the brooch and arrow head. Once the final section of overburden has been removed the various ditches revealed during the last month of last season will be investigated. There is a whole complex of inter-cutting ditches and it will be an interesting exercise to work out the chronological sequence with dating, hopefully, complimented by numerous dateable finds. The excavations will continue throughout the year except in July and the first two weeks of August when the BHAS team will move to support the Culver excavations.

The BHAS have already been called away to assist the professional unit of Archaeology South East with their excavations at Patcham.

The BHAS Field Unit returned to Rocky Clump in June and continued with the removal of the top soil in the main trench and are now down to feature level. A number of interesting features have been uncovered including several ditches, running in all directions, and several possible post holes. A sondage at the east end of the site is producing finds of bone and pottery and a curious ditch running out into the field to the west has produced over 20 oyster shells concentrated in one area, with more yet to be excavated. A sondage cut through the centre section has shown that we have a 'floor' deposit of chalky loam up to 20cms deep, which is producing finds of pottery and bone.

One interesting feature is an area of scorched earth and charcoal. It is obviously a fire area of some description and is partially located over the upper fill of a large north/south ditch that has been partially excavated in previous seasons and which has produced 2nd and 3rd century Roman pottery in the upper fill. The scorched area must be from a later episode and sections will be cut soon to try and obtain firm evidence for the dating of the burning.

One other interesting item of note is that the geophysical survey conducted in 2012 showed a central ditch running across the site, where it links with the large north/south ditch. At present this ditch has not been found in the central area and must terminate further east, below another area of charcoal and burning. There are still some interesting questions to be answered.

Several members of the team had noted some circular features in the field to the north of the excavation visible on Google earth. In June, David Staveley, conducted a large magnetometry survey around the area noted, but failed to find any evidence for archaeological activity.
The BHAS team have now moved to the excavations at Bridge Farm near Barcombe for July to mid August, but a small contingent will continue at Rocky Clump for people who find the travelling to the Barcombe dig too far to go.

Digging at Rocky Clump has continued through the summer with fewer numbers than last year as a number of the field unit moved to the excavations at Bridge Farm for 6 weeks. However, now that dig has finished the team members have now moved back to the home site.

The trench opened this season, it may be small but is packed with archaeology and a very intensive and complex series of layers and deposits. The main features consist of the large north/south ditch, which is a continuation of the same ditch partially investigated in 2012, and which produced some very interesting finds. Another smaller north/south ditch cuts across the centre of the trench and is another continuation of a small ditch found last season. The middle area has another trench running east/west filled with clay loam.

The area within the enclosure, defined by the large north/south ditch as its west boundary, is a thick layer of chalky loam deposited during the Roman period, and focused around the ephemeral barn like 'building' that has a floor consisting of large chalk nodules interspersed with blocks of dressed sarsen stone. Into this loamy floor has been cut a number of small post holes, but with little or no flint supporting packing. The small north/south ditch is also a later feature and even the large north/south ditch now appears to be cut into this deposit.

The complexity of the cuts and layers has required careful recording. This process is now completed so that the full excavation of the ditches is now taking place and then the chalky loam floor will be removed to seek Iron Age features below. The curious ditch running westwards into the baulk, and from the geophysical survey runs for about another 40 metres before turning south, has proved to be a very shallow flat bottomed ditch, but has been literally filled with edible snails and oyster shells. We can now record that this feature is quite late in date and cuts into and across the large north/south ditch, and links up with the small north/south ditch. It is inside this ditch that there is located the hearth and area of burning.

One interesting area is immediately to the west of the north/south ditch. It was here that an elevated section of chalk contained numerous stake holes. The texture of the chalk shows that it has been puddled and has a soft nature for some depth, into which the stake holes have been cut. The configuration of the stake holes I now being studied with a attempt being made to identify some sense of purpose for their creation.

The finds this season were fewer, with snail shells being the most noticeable item. Other finds included oyster shell, bone, and pottery including several decorated items and some samian. An Iron Age 'La Tene' style brooch was found on the first day of digging. Other metal work consisted mainly of iron nails and boot studs.

The excavations has attracted many new faces, both young and old, from as far away as Venice, London, East Grinstead and parts of West Sussex. Training in the techniques of site planning, section drawing, levelling and site recording were given to those people interested in expanding their archaeological skills. The excavation will continue until the late autumn.

Digging continues at Rocky Clump despite the increasingly wet weather. The main trench has been extended northwards by another 2 metres, it is seeking the north edge of the barn structure. The archaeology of this feature consists of a solid chalk floor with a north boundary defined by a line of large flint nodules, possibly a foundation layer for a timber framed building. This flint layer has now been located on the east side, but has now been found to be cut by a, later, large pit. The edges of this pit, and the remaining north boundary are being sought on the west side of the building. The floor surface has produced numerous finds of pottery and some slithers of bone.

A large ditch that cuts through the centre of the Iron Age enclosure, and which terminates several metres away from the large north/south ditch, and west boundary, has finally been excavated. One section measuring 1 metre wide has been left untouched, as it shows the complex layers from this curious feature. The upper surface has an area of soot and burning, but while quite distinct it is also quite shallow, but has had sooty pottery found in this thin layer. The main fill consists of a thick deposit of clay loam, which proved quite solid and difficult to remove. The terminus end, often found to contain votive offerings or burials, consisted of a fill of large chalk nodules and flint, and sadly no finds. The ditch proved relatively sterile with only a few slithers of bone being the only finds.

The large north/south ditch has been sectioned in several places and finds have been quite prolific. The upper dark, silty fills have produced more pottery from the late 2nd to early 3rd centuries, while the lower chalky fills have produced Iron Age pottery some with the raised eye-brow decoration. The area where both of these layers meet is where large quantities of animal bone have been recovered. The south facing section of this ditch, on the north boundary, is an incredible section. It contains an almost rectangular configuration of large flints, animal bone, pottery and oyster shells. It may be the remains of a midden or something associated with large amounts of slag being recovered from this area. The remaining baulks will be removed within the last few weeks of the season.

What is quite noticeable is the loamy 'floor' surrounding the barn. This thick layer of chalk and soil continues right up to the north/south ditch and at one time even over the ditch. The sections cut so far show that the floor was cut by a later re-cut of this ditch. The east side of the north/south ditch has a terrace and large pit cut intro the side, and along this side are a number of stake holes.

A trench cut in an area to the north/east of the main trench has revealed more of the upper east/west enclosure boundary ditch, and part of the 'trackway' found in 2011. There are also a series of intercutting pits and ditches, so as in most of this site a complex series of events. This area is being carefully excavated and recorded at every level.

The 2013 season of digging at Rocky Clump will probably continue into late November or until all of the features have been revealed and recorded.

The excavations at Rocky Clump finished on the 11th December and proved to be a race against time. During the last month or so of the excavations the complexity of the site was confirmed. The whole area was covered with features, mainly ditches, but with these features cutting into a series of different floor layers. The large north/south ditch which is the west boundary of the Iron Age enclosure was fully excavated with the finds being separated into the various layers which had been identified in the sections previously cut. The upper fills were of a dark, soft silty soil full of pottery and bone, the lower fills of chalky loam produced less finds, but still some very interesting pieces. The ditch was almost 3 metres in width and 1.5 metres in depth, so quite a substantial feature. The most important find from the ditch upper fills was a coin of Nero.

A number of pits had been cut into this ditch on both the east and west sides but appear to have been filled in again as rubbish deposits at the same time as the main feature. The ditch contained several animal skulls including a dog and sheep and the pottery included several pieces of Iron Age pottery with a 'raised eyebrow' design which is often found in Sussex in that period.

The barn proved to have the most complex stratigraphy. The main floor is compiled of compressed chalk over a loamy base, which in turn overlay the natural chalk. The area was quite level and even over some distance. The barn now measures over 8 metres in length, with the structure continuing further eastwards into the baulk. However, the barn is only 2-3 metres in width. The area surrounding the barn is of a light brown loam, but has a number of burnt areas. One well constructed hearth lay close to the east side of the large north/south ditch.

Crossing the area was a well defined, but shallow ditch. This ditch cut into the large north/south ditch before turning at right angles and running south wards where it was found to terminate before the lower east/west ditch excavated in 2012. This same ditch runs westwards into the field before turning again at right angles and heading southwards. It is uncertain at this time whether this is another enclosure created at a later date, possibly late Roman or medieval. The ditch section excavated in 2013 produced a significant number of large snail shells. Investigations will be made to see whether they are an edible variety or found in the ditch because of environmental issues.

Beneath the loamy floor surrounding the barn were a pair of linear gullies that may be the vestiges of an earlier structure. To the north of the barn it was noted in 2012 that a linear feature appeared to be a foundation wall for the north side of the barn. In 2013 this area was carefully excavated north of the new section of barn floor and it was confirmed that a flint footing did continue along the north face of this structure. The flints were quite large and were planned and recorded. Upon their removal some parts of the lower fills did tend to suggest a good wall foundation, but this regularity then petered out as it progressed westwards and westwards, so not a very convincing feature, but the flints were laid in a regular pattern.

Beneath the floor layer surrounding the barn and close to one of the gullies a possible post hole was excavated, but on investigation proved to be the burial of a second baby at Rocky Clump. The baby was too large for the pit, and appeared to be propped up against one side with the head on its chest and looking in an easterly direction, as if looking for the rising sun.

The small excavation in a separate trench to the north/east of the site, and in the location of the upper east/west ditch proved just as complex. This small excavation revealed more of the 'trackway' found in 2011, but appears to be a series of pits and post holes ct into the north side of the upper east west ditch. Among the features was an in-situ fire pit containing large amounts of burnt stone, now being analysed. This feature consisted of a circle of large flint nodules. The fire-pit was located above part of the trackway and over part of the large upper east/west ditch. Also found in the fill of the area around the fire-pit were a number of pieces of butchered bone, probably from meals being cooked.

The barn floor level and the fire-pit levels were almost similar so it is possible that these features are part of a more panoramic aspect happening within the enclosure. There is still a great deal to learn at Rocky Clump.

The site was back filled on Friday 20th December. The new digging season will begin at the end of March 2014, but which site location it is likely to be, Rocky Clump or Ovingdean, has yet to be decided.

A Saxon Settlement at Patcham

In early May the professional Unit of Archaeology South East were conducting a watching brief on a site to the west of Patcham Church. The location was believed to have been severely truncated when a car park had been constructed, but when the tarmac was removed below lay numerous features indicating a substantial site dating to the Saxon and Medieval periods. BHAS were invited to assist the professional diggers and have been working on site for a couple of weeks. The site has produced numerous pits, and post holes along with beam slot trenches related to a number of timber framed structures. There was also a Saxon sunken feature building (SFB). Among the finds of pottery, bone and fire-cracked have been 2 horse burials. The excavation will continue until the middle of May unless an extension to the time limit is granted.

During May of this year a watching brief was undertaken on a site near Patcham, Brighton. It was anticipated that being close to the ancient Patcham Church that some archaeological features may remain, despite the previous building having been terraced. What was found during the watching brief was that the terracing had been minimal and a large number of Saxon and medieval features were revealed. The site was of considerable size and the Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society was asked for their support, and members of the Society field unit joined Archaeology South East (ASE) at Patcham for nearly a month.

The site produced a good mixture of features including a Saxon sunken feature building (SFB) and a large rectangular hall type structure, which had beam slots for vertical planked walls. This building also had a central series of double post holes, which is unusual. Around the site were numerous ditches indicating other similar buildings and numerous post holes. Among the other features were numerous pits, one of which produced a complete horse burial and another a cow burial, which would have been complete if a later soakawy had not destroyed most of the body section.

The finds from the site were not too numerous but included quantities of animal bone, daub and both Saxon and Medieval pottery. The professional unit of Archaeology South East will be compiling the archaeological report, but a note will also appear in the BHAS 2013 field notebook.

The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society would like to thank ASE for asking us to participate and to their team for the help, support and friendship received during our visit to the excavations.

In May of this year the BHAS Field Unit were invited to join Archaeology South East (ASE) with their excavations at Patcham. A watching brief had produced a number of Saxon and medieval buildings including a sunken feature building (SFB), and a long hall house with an unusual central post hole construction. Around the main features were numerous ditches indicating several phases of occupation and a number of large pits. One of the pits contained the complete articulated skeleton of a horse, while another had a cow burial, but his pit had been severely truncated by a later soakaway. The finds were few but included both Saxon pottery and medieval glazed wares, with daub being a major find in most of the pits. The site is west of Patcham church and the Patcham dove-cote. BHAS would like to thank ASE, and in particular Neil Griffin for inviting us to join the excavation and to Anna Doherty and Simon Stevens for directing the site on Saturdays, thus allowing more members of the Society to participate in the dig.

Excavations at Newmarket Farm

The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society have been asked to assist David Cuthbertson with his excavations of a farm house and barn. The house and barn were built in 1830 and used as a farm dwelling until up to the Second World War. The farm was then taken over by the military and the buildings used as targets for military training. After the war the remnants were demolished and forgotten about.

David's relatives used to live at the farm back in the 1920's and he is keen to see what remains of the old place. The excavations are proving quite exciting with walls, floors and several layers being uncovered under the demolition debris. He is also seeking the location of the well that used to be one of the water sources for the house.

A small number of the BHAS Field Unit have gone along to assist David Cuthbertson with his excavation of an 1820 farm on Newmarket Hill. The farm was destroyed during the Second World War when it was used as a firing range target for the artillery. The excavations have uncovered several walls belonging to the house, part of the interior and the outside privy. There have been numerous finds of items related to the 19th century and plenty of ordnance relating to the later destruction of the building. The excavation will continue until the late autumn.

BHAS Outreach Michelham Priory

On the 5th and 6th May members of the BHAS field unit were over at Michelham priory as part of their bank holiday week-end activities focused on ancient crafts. BHAS had their display boards, leaflets and a large collection of artefacts for the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and medieval period. It was a pleasant and enjoyable week-end with a continuing flow of the interested public. It is a location well worth visiting at any time and BHAS will be back at Michelham in early August

Bridge Farm Excavations

A number of the BHAS Field Unit moved to Bridge Farm, near Barcombe, in July and August to assist Rob Wallace and David Millum with their excavations around the site of a possible late Roman village, town or port located close to the river Ouse. The site produced an interesting collection of features including several large ditches, a possible tile kiln, a rectangular pit containing a side and a floor made of Roman roofing tile and a complete cremation urn. Several members assisted with the post excavation washing and marking and several took advantage of the free training sessions. We would like to thank both Rob and David for allowing BHAS to join in the excavations.

The Medieval Village at Stanmer, near Brighton

In October the BHAS Field Unit were asked to conduct a geophysical survey of the field in Stanmer located opposite the village café. The field is full of earthworks and is deemed to be the location of the medieval village. A survey was conducted in 1984 using an early form of geophysics, the Martin Clark resistivity metre, but the results were very confusing.

The new survey focused on the south side of the field in an area where an orchard is planned to be planted. The survey used 2 methods of investigation. A large area was investigated using a TR Systems resistivity meter, while an even large area was studied using a magnetometry meter. A topographical survey had to be abandoned due to heavy, persistent rain. The results of the survey were once again quite complex with no real definition, other than trackways, being of note. The problem with medieval remains is that timber framed buildings and house platforms leave very little in the archaeological record other than earthworks.

The BHAS Field Unit is planning to return to Stanmer in the next few weeks to complete the geophysical survey of the field. After Christmas a full topographical survey is planned with training in the use of a total station and plane tabling. The Society is deeply indebted to David Staveley for coming along with his equipment and expertise.


Finds Processing and Days schools

The BHAS Field Unit were invited to use the facilities at Archaeology South East in December. A large contingent of the team washed pottery and flint work from this year's excavations. Finds marking will take place at the Patcham Community Centre on January 4th 2014. For more details contact John Funnell at 07789245106

In February the first of the BHAS day schools is 'How to identify and record flints' with tutor local expert Chris Butler. Cost £25 10-00am till 4-00pm venue the Patcham Community centre. Contact Maria Gardiner at for booking details.




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