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 2015
* added 10th May 2015
* added 14th August 2015
* added 26th September 2015
* added 23rd November 2015
BHAS Winter Programme 2014/15
BHAS Finds Processing
The excavations at Ovingdean finished later than
planned in November and the site was then back filled. In December
BHAS were invited into Archaeology South East at Portslade to use
their resources for washing the finds from Ovingdean. We managed to
complete all of the pottery and the flintwork. Finds processing days
were also held in January and February where over 20 people attended
each session. All of the pottery and flintwork was marked and
catalogued and the fire-cracked flint counted and weighed. The marine
shells were examined and detailed, and the nails counted and
recorded. The support from the team has been extremely good with good
numbers coming along to each session.
During the post Christmas period BHAS organised
day schools in the identification of flint work with Dr Matt Pope,
and an environmental day school with Dr Mike Allen. Both sessions
were fully booked. A third day school on the study of human remains
with Paola Ponce from ASE will be taking place on 14th March and a
BHAS field training session lead by our Training Officer Pete
Tolhurst and illustrator Jane Russell will be held on the 28th March.
BHAS generally have a series of winter walks but
this year one was undertaken just before Christmas. This walk was
around the hills and woods of Stanmer. The event was led by Maria
Gardiner and Jane Russell. The other planned walk around Standean and
Tegdown hill had to be cancelled due to the weather. A series of
summer walks is being planned.
Excavations for 2015 - Ovingdean
At a meeting with the Assistant County
Archaeologist in January the field work for 2015 was discussed. It
had become very clear from the 2014 excavations at Ovingdean that the
small test pit type trenches were raising more questions than
answering them. It has been decided to return to the north east
corner of the medieval enclosure at Ovingdean and open up a much
bigger trench, rather than lots of smaller ones. The area will be 15
metres square and will be divided into 4 quarters. Opposite quarters
will be opened and if time allows the other two quarters will be
opened later in the season. This will hopefully reveal what exactly
happens to several of our ditches, and will whether we have walls or
floors, plus possibly the shape of our post hole building. Digging
will commence on Saturday 11th April and the excavation is planned to
continue for 6 months, working on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Other
days may be added if required and if the support is there from the
The new season of excavations in Hog Croft
field, Ovingdean commenced on Saturday 11th April. A trench measuring
15 metres is being opened to examine a number of geophysical
anomalies noted in previous surveys. Last season a small test trench
measuring 3 metres square revealed not one, but two cobbled floor
surfaces. The shape of the features will be extremely interesting as
it may link a possible entrance to the medieval enclosure, and show
some chronological sequence associated with a large barn like feature
Some of the turf has been removed and the
immediate soil layer below this is gradually being removed. Already a
concentration of large flint nodules suggest that more of the floor
layers found last season are coming into view. Medieval green glazed
pottery is already being found as has a gold finger ring, but this is
probably of modern dating.
The area that we are examining is shown in the
geophysical survey results of 1991. The excavation is in the area
immediately left of the north arrow (Fig 1.) The results of the 1999
survey are also posted which shows the rectangular features a little
better. It will be quite a fascinating excavation.
The weather has not been too kind for the start
of the season but it can only improve.
Do come along if you would like to join the dig
or merely to view. You can apply via the membership section to join
The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society
now have 2 trenches open at Ovingdean, each measuring 6 metres
square. The purpose of the excavation is to seek additional post
holes to those found in 2014. With any additional post holes we may
determine the size and shape of suspected timber framed buildings
constructed within the earthen banks of the medieval manorial enclosure.
The south trench has produced numerous finds of
medieval pottery, bone and shell and a large concentration of flint
nodules. Some of the flint nodules are compressed and in mortar and a
rectangular building can be observed, with a gully running through
the centre. This feature lies above a lower bed of unmortared flint,
which in turn overlies a bed of chalk. Beneath this is a buried land
surface which has produced mid to late Saxon pottery. Recent finds
have included a double post hole, similar to ones found in 2014.
The north trench has uncovered a wall like
feature revealed in excavations in 2002. This feature, and a lighter
ephemeral collection of flints, may be the east and north walls
linked to the concentration of flints in the other trench. At present
it is difficult to determine the exact size or purpose of any of
these features, but it should become clear as the lower layers are
uncovered. Ovingdean certainly has a complex and layered sequence,
which should produce an interesting chronological sequence and dating.
The earthen and chalk bank on the north side of
the enclosure terminates within the 'walled' area and so the earth
now being removed should be from the buried land surface where the
mid to late Saxon pottery was found last year. We have had a number
of interesting finds including an armour piercing arrowhead and a
spur possibly of 16th century date. Last year the most prestigious
find was a bone Saxon gaming piece, which are extremely rare.
There will be opportunities for training in
planning and section drawing in August. Basic training is provided
for any newcomer to the dig, and no previous experience is required.
Either join via the website, or visit the site and join on the day.
It is essential, however, that you do have a current tetanus.
The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society
have continued with their excavations at Ovingdean throughout the
summer, and will probably continue until the end of October or early November.
The excavations have focused on the two
trenches opened earlier in the year, with another de-turfed ready for
later in the season if required.
The south trench has revealed several layers of
what appears to be flint floor, with a later gully running through
the centre of a possible building, possibly for drainage. An area of
charcoal at the south end of this gully may indicate other uses for
this feature. Another gully has been revealed running north/south and
this is in line with a gully found in 2014. This gully has had a
number of interesting features including a fill of large pieces of
flint and a post hole. A build up of chalk is noted on the west side
of the gully suggesting that this feature may have been a beam
slotted palisade or is even a building, possibly Saxon. There are too
few elements to confirm this at present. Other features in the south
trench include a number of post holes, some doubled and some flint
packed, plus numerous stake holes, which do not have any definition
at present. Finds have included medieval pottery, bones, oyster
shells and an arrow head, probably armour piercing type.
The North trench has also provided a complex
number of features. Lines of flint rubble tend to suggest the
ephemeral remains of walls, but with very little mortar. Dumps of
chalks in various locations could be some form of buttress. The large
chalk mound, which is the north earthworks in this field, terminates
within this trench and a ridge and lighter coloured fill may indicate
a robbed out beam slotted building. Some pottery has been found in
the lower Saxon layers, but at present we are unable to confirm the
dating until an expert has examined them. On the north east corner of
this trench a sondage revealed what appears to be yet another well
defined large ditch. We are currently seeking the north side of this
new feature. Finds from this trench have included a nice copper alloy
spur which may be late Tudor in date, it was from the upper layers,
and pottery, bone and shell.
The society has organised training sessions in
planning and section drawing with Jane Russell and archaeological
photography with Lisa Fisher. We have also had a drone on site taking
aerial pictures, which may, hopefully, be transferred to the website soon.
There will be opportunities for training in
archaeological techniques, planning and section drawing. Basic
training is provided for any newcomer to the dig, and no previous
experience is required. Either join via the website, or visit the
site and join on the day. It is essential, however, that you do have
a current tetanus.
The BHAS Geophysics Team - Pete Tolhurst has
taken on the role of team leader for this very important part of the
BHAS programme. During the summer we have conducted resistivity
surveys at Gallops Farm with Lisa Fisher, looking for a medieval
aisled house and at Hempstead Farm, Uckfield where earlier vestiges
of this medieval house may lie beneath the walled garden. The team
will be returning there soon. Another project was at the Vicarage
Garden in Portslade where large dressed stone blocks have been found
in the garden close to the site of the medieval manor house. We also
have projects planned for field to the south of Ovingdean church and
a major survey at Beacon Hil Rottingdean. If you are interested in
joining the BHAS geophysics team then contact Pete Tolhurst at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society
have continued with their excavations at Ovingdean and finished
digging on Saturday 1st November. The site was fully recorded and
will now be covered with bubblewrap and tarpaulins to protect it from
the winter weather.
The excavations have revealed a complex series
of layers including several flint 'floor' layers and possible walls.
A large chalk mound is a deposit from a quarry cut into the side of
Cattle Hill, to the west of the site. This chalk mound is comprised
of numerous large chalk nodules and seals a buried land surface from
which both Saxon and Roman pottery has been found. The 2015
excavation consisted of two trenches and in the north trench a
section below a wall feature has revealed a very large pit or even a well.
The whole area, in both trenches, is full of
post holes and stake holes. Many of these are quite shallow, and they
do vary in depth, but a number are substantial with flint packing.
Cutting across the site heading south the north is a straight sided
gully. There is another similar gully to the north on the same
alignment and between them is a double or even treble post hole
configuration. These post holes may be a gateway or entrance into a
palisade or building. It has not been able to discern any solid
structures as yet and the whole excavation will have to extended
until some form or shape of structures is noted.
The south flint 'floor' has a gully running
through the centre and the lower fills have produced what appears to
be Saxon pottery, along with daub and charcoal. The upper layers have
produced mainly 12th and 13th century wares including a significant
amount of green glazed ware. Sadly no coins have been recovered as
yet, but other finds have included plenty of bone and marine molluscs.
From the sections created a number of distinct
layers can be observed. The upper 'flint' floor is a solid mortared
layer with a loamy soil layer below. Under this layer is yet another
flint 'floor' with yet another loamy soil beneath this. Part of the
chalk mound appears within these contexts with varying thickness.
Below the loamy soil is the natural chalk into which the early post
holes have been cut.
Some of the finds have included Roman pottery
and some late Neolithic and Early Bronze age flintwork, but of main
interest is the very ephemeral Saxon lower layers which has produced
mid to late Saxon pottery and some early Saxo-Norman wares.
The Saxon layer is the most important as there
are so few finds of Saxon settlement in Sussex. The Assistant County
Archaeologist has decided that the Saxon element is so important that
the 2016 excavations will carefully remove the later 13th century
medieval layers so that more early post holes can be revealed, and
hopefully some idea of the number and size of any Saxon structures
hidden below those lower layers. It is also possible that elements of
Prehistoric and Roman phases may also be uncovered.
The BHAS Field Unit has now moved inside
to commence the post ex activities of sorting, washing and marking
The BHAS Geophysics Team - The BHAS geophysics
team have a number of projects planned for over the winter period.
These include a survey at Preston Park Brighton, a survey at Beacon
Hill Rottingdean, and an investigation into a possible Roman site at
Ovingdean. We may also return to Hempstead Farm looking for more
features and buildings. If you are interested in joining the BHAS
geophysics team then contact Pete Tolhurst at email@example.com.