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 March 2014
* added 23rd April 2014
* added 17th May 2014
* added 6th July 2014
* added 25th August 2014
* added 31st October 2014
* added 4th January 2015
BHAS Winter Programme 2014
The BHAS winter programme has been only slightly
affected by the weather and other events. The pre-Christmas walk had
to be cancelled due to very heavy rain and the post Christmas walk
cancelled to a foot injury to the leader. The finds processing days
were well attended with all of the pottery marked and catalogued. The
second session ended with a presentation about the past excavations
at Ovingdean. We have quite a number of new members and as it is
likely that we will be returning to Ovingdean in 2014 so it was
thought that the information would prove useful. The BHAS did visit
Worthing Museum and after a pleasant lunch climbed Highdown Hill to
explore the Iron Age hill fort and later Saxon cemetery. We also had
members of Thames Valley Archaeological Services along who spoke
about their recent excavations on the Roman and Iron Age site at
Martin Snow led a good number around the interior
of The Devils Dyke Iron age hill fort, but on this occasion Martin
told us about the pleasure ground and vernicular railway that had
once been built there in the late 1880's. He also led us to the bomb
testing grounds built and completed at the end of 1918 and never used
as the First World War ended. A small group visited the Museum of
London to see their very impressive 'Cheapside Hoard' a display of
Elizabethan jewellery, and had fun with the trains due to the
flooding in Sussex. The first day school with Chris Butler had to be
cancelled due to personal reasons, but the other two with David
Rudling on Coins and Dr Mike Allen on environmental sampling will
still take place in March. There are still tickets available.
The winter programme of talks on both
archaeological and local history topics have all been well attended.
The final talks will be in March.
BHAS Excavations 2014
It is going to be a very busy year with
excavations planned at the 13th Century medieval site at Ovingdean,
the Neolithic causewayed enclosure at Whitehawk Hill (where we will
be working with Archaeology South East) and some test trenching at
Rocky Clump seeking the possible settlement site. There will also be
other digs in Sussex at Bridge Farm with Rob Wallace and David Millum
and The Sussex School of archaeology are planning some investigations
at the Roman villa at Plumpton. The BHAS excavations will commence on
Saturday 5th April, which site though it still to be determined as we
are awaiting our consent forms.
For further information about digging with BHAS
contact John Funnell at email@example.com or call 0844
Excavations at Ovingdean 2014
The new season of BHAS excavations commenced on
Saturday April 5th. The BHAS field unit have returned to the field
immediately north of St Wulfran's the church at Ovingdean. A new
series of trenches will attempt to date the medieval complex
enclosure earthworks. The mounds have the medieval walls lying on top
of the features so they must be of an earlier construction. Field
walking at Ovingdean has produced finds from the Neolithic period,
the Iron Age, Roman and medieval periods so it is possible that these
feature are much older than the 13th century.
Other trenches will try and trace walls and
ditches found in earlier seasons, and investigations will seek the
extent of a timber framed building partially revealed in past
seasons. The results of a number of geophysical surveys tend to
suggest that there is a collection of large rubbish pits, which would
provide useful dating material. There is a query about the entrance
to the enclosure which appears to be in 2 locations. We will be
finding out if one, or both of these features relates to the medieval
period and/or perhaps one of the entrances are linked to an earlier phase.
The excavation has already been fenced off, as
the field is the home for several horses. The excavations area
currently enclosed will look at the east side of the field. The
excavations will later move to an area westwards to investigate one
of the entrances to the enclosure and the rubbish pits.
BHAS returned to Ovingdean in early April. We
are looking for evidence for a large timber framed building, a
possible dove-cote and the date of the earthworks which have 13th
century walls running along the top of the mounds.
We have so far opened 4 trenches. The first
trench called B1 has already revealed 3 postholes and a ditch
investigated in 2008. Another 3 post holes on the same alignment have
been revealed, and a GPR survey conducted by David Staveley is
indicating that there will be others.
A second trench called B2, and located east of
trench B1, was cut to investigate the other side of a timber framed
building. The partially excavated section of a post hole was recorded
in 2008 suggesting that a large building lay in that direction. The
excavations so far have revealed a section of the ditch also found in
trench B1 and sections of another 2 ditches located to the south of
the original ditch. One of the ditches had a bottom layer of daub,
many pieces having wattle impressions. Other post holes have been
revealed including a nice flint packed one with a post pipe. New
features partially revealed are now being investigated through small
extensions to the main trench.
The third trench is aligned to investigate the
location of a possible dove-cote. A circular cut was excavated in
2002 when a trial trench revealed a large conglomeration of large
flints and fire cracked material. Already large quantities or large
flint nodule are being revealed.
The fourth trench is looking at post holes that
may be the north side of the timber framed building. So far there
have been finds of medieval pottery, and a layer of mortar and flint
debris is coming into view.
Ovingdean has always been a very complex site,
and each new test trench makes the overall picture even more complex.
The excavations will continue until August when the team will move to
Whitehawk Hill for 3 weeks.
The BHAS field unit started digging in Hog
Croft field, Ovingdean in April. The field is located immediately
north of St Wulfran's church. The excavation commenced by opening up
trenches B1 and B2, looking for post holes found in 2008. The post
holes were quite large and suggest that north of the large masonry
medieval building excavated in 2009 there is a large timber framed
building. The post holes were re-located and the trenches extended to
about 10 metres in lengths to seek other post holes.
The plan has been successful and a new post
holes have been revealed. However, as is usual in archaeology it is
not that easy. In trench B1, the most westerly trench a total of 6
post holes have been found all in a line. They do vary in size and
depth, but are all basically rectangular in shape. At the south end
another post hole has been revealed, but not on the same alignment,
which raises some questions. A ditch which runs east/west between the
first 2 post holes and the mostly northerly 4 post has also been
revealed, it was excavated in 2008 and was known about.
The second trench B2 was cut where only a
single post hole had been found in 2008. The new excavations have
revealed another 3 post holes, 2 in this trench and another on the
same alignment in trench 'H'. What is causing a bit of head
scratching is that the post holes in trench B2 are on a different
pitch to those in trench B1, and between the post holes have been
found not one, but 3 ditches.
One of the ditches terminates at the baulk on
the east side of trench B2 and the lower fill consisted of a mass of
daub, much of it with lath impressions. One ditch was partially
excavated in 2008 and a plastic membrane placed to relocate this
depth. The remaining fill has now been removed. The third ditch is
extremely large and is located at the south end of trench B2. A small
feature in trench B1 may indicate the west terminus of this ditch.
A visit to site was made by David Staveley with
his new ground penetrating radar machine. The survey indicated the
location of more post holes which could be the end of the large
timber framed building. At present, a pair of large round post holes
have been revealed but are not in the right place for the building
end. This trench also revealed a thick chalk floor, but underneath
this surface a number of Victorian blue and white ceramics have been
found, so this is probably a much later feature. Is it a filled in well?
We are currently extending the trench B1 to
trench 'J' which will cut through the large enclosure earthworks. We
have been asked to try and date this feature. The mound has 13th
century walls on top and it is possible, that as other Iron Age
features have been found south of the church, that this feature is
much older than the medieval period.
Another trench opened is trench 'C' and this is
seeking evidence for a possible medieval dove-cote. A test trench
sunk in 2004 revealed a large collection of large flint nodules and
fire-cracked flint. There was also a curved west section. Although
bone and some nice medieval pottery have been recovered at present
there is little sign of the large conglomeration of flints found a
decade or so ago.
The complex series of post holes have raised
the question as to whether there are not one, but several, timber
framed buildings within this medieval enclosure. Ovingdean has always
tended to raise more questions than answers.
The excavations will probably continue until
The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society
field unit continue to investigate the features in the field located
immediately north of St Wulfran's church at Ovingdean. A number of
extensions have been made to the existing trenches, but these have
only made the site plan even more complicated.
The pair of north earlier south trenches have
produced a number of new post holes, some being rectangular in shape
while others are round. They are located all over the site and at
present it is proving difficult to determine just how many possible
buildings there are in this very small area. The features are being
planned, sectioned and recorded. The area called the 'tower' trench
is being extended southwards to pick up the area of large flints
found in previous seasons, as they appear to have disappeared from
view only a metre or so in the trench extended northwards. A new post
hole to the north of this mixture has been revealed, but it is not
deemed part of any east facing revetment as yet, being only a single feature.
An area deemed lacking in features by the
ground penetrating radar has produced the most interesting collection
of finds including plenty of medieval pottery, including green glazed
wares, but also part of a medieval chimney. The other designated
trenches in this area may now be opened up.
A BHAS member researching historical details
for another project found a lovely clipping in the Illustrated London
Evening News of 1852 a picture of military manoeuvres taking place in
Ovingdean field. It is a drawing but the church and the gate are very
accurate and it shows infantry firing over the wall into the field,
what on earth were they firing at? Perhaps this is why we are
uncovering lots of Victorian finds in this field.
The field Unit are also planning to conduct a
new geophysical survey west of the electric fencing. We will be using
the Society's resistivity machine, an RM15, which will hopefully be a
more detailed survey that will produce results about our disappearing walls.
After a 3 week spell digging at Whitehawk in
August, on a community project, the BHAS field unit returned to
Ovingdean. During September the existing trenches were excavated and
a number of extensions made in some directions.
In trench C' earlier excavations in 2002 - 2008 had
revealed a large conglomeration of flint nodules, and fire-cracked
flint to suggest that this are was the possible location for a
dove-cote. The west side of this trench had a curved end and medieval
dove-cotes at Hangleton and Patcham are both circular. Sadly the new
excavations have failed to support any evidence for this theory, but
have found quite a number of other features instead. The trench has
revealed an area of very disturbed soft chalk with a pair of gullies
that may be the vestiges of a medieval wooden cart track. Traces of
the fire-cracked flint are now being revealed on the south side, and
a previously unknown ditch has been revealed on the north side, yet
another to add to the many at Ovingdean.
Trench 'D' has revealed a large area of large flint
nodules and a mortared 'floor'. The east send of this section has a
number of loose flints, and a curved section containing a number of
stake holes, and several post holes may indicate the presence of a
wooden revetment, perhaps to prevent soil slip from the earthen bank
located immediately west of this feature. If the mortared surface is
a building then it is a very poorly constructed feature. The site
director, John Skelton, believes that it is not a floor, but a
mortared surface only to cover and consolidate the earthen bank.
The first trenches B1 and B2 have now been
completed and recorded. A number of small extensions in various
direction have produced more post holes, of varying sizes. It is
possible that there 3 timber framed buildings focused in the centre
of the enclosure. A number of post holes found in another trench 'H',
and found by ground penetrating radar (GPR), have not proved to be
the north end of a structure as they are very irregularly spaced, and
are round in shape rather than the rectangular ones found in B1 and B2.
Another major project has been the cutting of a
section through the north earthwork. The idea for this is to try and
find some dating material to confirm the date of its construction.
The section is proving quite complex but has had some very
interesting results. The upper surface consisted of chalk overlying a
lower loamy fill. This layer, in section, appears to be an early bank
into which chalk was later placed. On the north side this hard,
compact chalk gave way to a much looser component created from very
large blocks of chalk, obviously transport from the quarry on Cattle Hill.
Below the large chalk blocks was a buried land
surface of clay like loamy soil. The buried land surface covered and
sealed a large pit. This pit has been partially excavated and 2
sherds of pottery have been found. The pottery is definitely not
medieval and may be either Saxon or Iron Age. It is being examined by
the Sussex Archaeological Societies Research Officer, Luke Barber, in
a few days so we may have some very interesting news.
Parts of the Ovingdean site are still being
excavated, but the project is now winding down and will hopefully end
at the end of October, or early November at the latest. There is lots
of recording to complete so the BHAS field unit is going to be very
busy right up to the end of the season.
A full programme of BHAS winter events is planned.
These include finds processing from Ovingdean, days schools with a
number of specialists, and a number of visits to the Docklands and
The Ovingdean excavation was planned to finish
at the end of October, but with so many new features being uncovered
and requiring recording the dig actually ended in early December. The
last day was one of geophysics when a magnetometry survey was carried
out on lands to the west of the dig location, and a new resistivity
survey using smaller increments that may produce evidence for post
holes. David Staveley conducted the magnetometry survey and later
tried out his new Ground Penetrating Radar equipment.
The final phases of the 2014 dig produced yet
more post holes bringing the total to 39. We will now be some
studying the plans of these post holes to see if we can determine
whether we have several small buildings or one large complex structure.
The section through the bank found that it was
constructed of large chalk nodules and that these covered a thick
buried land surface. Finds of pottery from this surface are of early
to late Saxon date (Pers. Comm. Luke Barber), so there is an earlier
phase to the medieval enclosure. The buried land surface sealed an
earlier pit but the only finds from this were a collection of animal
bones which appear to be in a later cut. Some small sherds of
un-diagnostic pottery were recovered, but only tiny pieces.
Trench D was cut to the east of the section
through the bank and this produced evidence for a number of different
layers. The top loam was removed down onto a flint floor, which had
medieval pottery in among the flints. Below this floor was another
20cms of loam before a second floor was revealed. The lower floor was
slightly shorter than the one above. Under this second, lower floor
level the excavations revealed a series of stake holes cut into the
natural chalk. These stake holes appear to be some sort of revetment,
possibly for the floor. Other features found included some more post
holes and a small pit. The fact that the stake holes were found under
the floor clearly indicates that these features were created earlier.
These floors also appeared on the east side of the section cut
through the bank, but then petered out onto a flint cobbled surface.
Trench 'C' which was opened to investigate the
location of a possible dove-cote confirmed that it was not in that
area and that a large conglomeration of flint and fire-cracked found
in 2002 has not yet been fully explained. We may have to re-open the
original trench for a re-assessment. We did reveal yet another large
ditch cutting through the enclosure and several more post holes. An
interesting feature was a pair of linear shallow gullies which may be
medieval cart tracks.
The excavations have revealed that the
enclosure does contain timber framed buildings, but the profusion of
post holes raises lots more questions. The excavations have failed to
determine just how large, and how many buildings or structures there
are there at Ovingdean. Only a large open area of excavation will
reveal what is really hidden beneath the turf at Ovingdean.
The finds have been a mixture of medieval and
Victorian, with the star find being a bone gaming piece, possibly
Saxon in date. Other finds have included a medieval arrow head and
The geophysical surveys were not that
successful, possibly due to plenty of heavy rain over the previous
weeks, but the GPR did suggest that a circular structure may be
located at the north end of the enclosure. A similar feature was
found at Stretham near Shoreham which proved to be a large oven. We
may have a dove-cote or oven but it will require further
investigations at Ovingdean to determine exactly what.
The excavations for the 2015 season will be
discussed in January and the decision made issued in the next update.
There will be finds processing in January and
February and a number of day schools during the winter, along with
museum visits, walks and talks..
Neolithic Whitehawk Hill
BHAS are one of the partners for a Heritage
Lottery Funded investigation at Whitehawk Hill. The project is being
led by the professional unit of Archaeology South East. The project
will incorporate a new study of the finds from the Curwen excavations
conducted from 1929 to 1932 and will be based at Brighton Museum.
Field work will include training in the use of a magnetometry
machine, and learning how to download and understand the information
produced. The results of the geophysical survey will determine where
a number of trenches will be excavated sometime during July and
August. The area of investigation is around the Neolithic causewayed
enclosure, which is an scheduled ancient monument (SAM). The dig will
examine new earthworks revealed after the movement of an old
allotment fence line. It is hoped that the new excavations will
reveal new features related to the Neolithic landscape.
In early May members of the BHAS field unit
were tutored in the setting up and use of a magnetometer, a
Bartington gradiometer. The training was conducted by Archaeology
South East (ASE) as part of a HLF funded community project. The BHAS
unit was divided into 2 groups and a survey was conducted all over
the Scheduled Ancient Monument, which is a Neolithic Causewayed
Enclosure, located on the top of Whitehawk Hill. The survey
encompassed additional lands that were once allotments, and some
scrub to the south of the monument which was accessible. It was hoped
that the new survey would reveal hitherto unseen features from the
A second week of training was conducted at the
ASE head quarters at Portslade. The BHAS field unit members were
instructed in how to down load and interpret the data produced form
the survey. The results are now being analysed and images should be
forthcoming soon. The results will influence the location of
excavations in and around the monument planned to commence in August.
In early May members of the BHAS field unit
assisted Archaeology South East (ASE) in conducting a magnetometry
survey in and around the Neolithic Causewayed enclosure located at
Whitehawk Hill, Brighton. The results have produced some interesting
anomalies. The BHAS field unit will join with ASE for a 3 week dig at
Whitehawk Hill from 11th August to the 29th August. There will be an
open day on Saturday 23rd August.
Members of the Brighton and Hove Archaeological
Society are also involved in re-packing and data processing the finds
from the original Whitehawk excavation conducted by the Curwens,
father and son, from 1929 to 1932.
In May members of the field unit took part in
magnetometry survey of Whitehawk Hill. As a result of this exercise a
number of trenches have been set out to try and find evidence for
Neolithic activity south of the known Causewayed Enclosure. Other
trenches will be opened north of the TV mast and running along the
race track. It is not certain how much of the monument was surveyed
by bosing by the Curwen's, who excavated part of the site in the
1920's ad 1930's or whether the lands were ever examined at all, as
there are no records of any previous investigations in these new areas.
Finds so far have included items such as coins
and glassware, from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. A number of
prehistoric flint flakes, fire-cracked flint and scrapers from the
lower layers have also been found.
There are still many secrets to unravel about
the construction and us of these enigmatic features, and hopefully
the new excavations will reveal exciting new finds.
The excavations will continue until August 31st
During 3 weeks in August the BHAS field Unit joined
the professional unit of Archaeology South East (ASE) in a community
project on Whitehawk Hill. A geophysical survey had taken place back
in May and a number of possible new features possibly related to the
Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure were noted in the results. A total of
10 trenches were cut in various locations around the Scheduled
Ancient Monument to investigate a number of these possible ancient
features. A pair of trenches along the side of the race track close
to the main race course stand revealed a number of geological
anomalies, as did most of the other trenches, which was a great pity.
Quite a number of Neolithic flint flakes were recovered and a survey
is planned of the adjacent allotments. The majority of the finds were
of Victorian date and probably associated with dumping from Brighton.
Perhaps the most positive result of the project was
a group of BHAS volunteers and new public faces working inside the
Brighton Museum. This dedicated group managed to re-pack and record
on computer most of the finds from the 1929-1934 excavations. New
finds are being relocated back to Brighton museum from other museums
and this project is expected to continue into the late autumn.