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BHAS Field Unit Archive 2003 Page 1


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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 May 2003

* added July 2003

* added August 2003

* added October 2003

* added December 2003 (see page 2)



The land around East Brighton and Roedean is an extremely sensitive area with regard archaeology. During the past century a number of burials dating to the Neolithic (Stone Age), Bronze Age and Roman periods have been found. The East Brighton Golf Club had sent in an application to extend their store-room and a provision of the application approval had been that a watching brief be conducted at the site while the top soil was removed.

During the removal of the chalk a well defined grave cut was noted in the face of the cutting. The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society Field Unit sought and received the relevant permits required to remove the human remains. Over the week-end of 4th-5th October 2003 they mounted an excavation on the development site at East Brighton. The burial proved not to be the only archaeological feature found, for on the west side of the development a major ditch was revealed running from south/east to north/west across the area. The remaining ditch, not removed by the contractors, produced finds of animal bone, oyster shell and pottery dated from both the Roman period and the Iron Age, and possibly even as old as the Bronze Age (circa. 2000b.c.)

The burial was removed over the week-end. The bone remains were very fragile and had to be conserved before being moved. The body is probably of a teenage male about 16-18 years of age. The body lay in a crouched position, in a circular grave, lying east to west and he was facing north when buried. The contractors digger had effectively cut the remains in half, the back bones, pelvis and feet being removed by the bucket of the digging machine. However, the skull, fingers, arms and most the legs were still intact. The orientation of the body and the few pieces of pottery found in the grave tend to suggest an older rather then younger date of burial, most likely the Neolithic period (circa. 3500-3000b.c) making the young man over 5000 years old.

The burial is one of several found in the East Brighton area, and it would appear that people from the Whitehawk camp, a Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure, which is an ancient site dated to the same period, were living and then being buried on this hill at East Brighton. The area also has a number of Early Bronze Age burials indicating that it may have been some form of ritualistic or religious area revered over along period of time.

A small geophysical survey, conducted immediately north of the development, clearly indicate the continuing presence of the ditch running north across the golf course, and that other ditches also lie beneath the turf. A number of areas of low resistance may indicate the location of other similar burials nearby.

Pictures and Evening Argus Story



Members of the BHAS Field Unit, conducted a resisitivity survey in the garden of Henfield Parsonage. The project was seeking evidence for a tunnel that is thought to lead from a priest hole located within the house to the nearby church of St Peters. The survey found no evidence for such a feature, but possible high readings may indicate the location of another earlier building lying at right angles to the existing house.



In February of 2003 a large sturdy section of the BHAS Field Unit braved intensely cold weather to examine the western section of a field at Ovingdean. The field has been walked to the east and has produced finds of Neolithic, Roman and Medieval artefacts, the new project aimed to complete the survey of the whole field. The area is recorded on the sites and Monuments Record (SMR) as having produced pottery. The new field walking covered a length of 200 meters starting at the fence line which is the east boundary of Roedean school.

The project has once again produced finds from the Neolithic and medieval periods, but the emphasis this time has been on the quantity of field cracked flint and Roman pottery. The field has already produced evidence of a possible ploughed out flint cairn in the valley bottom close to the road called 'Greenways'. The quantity in both field walking projects is significant and hints at settlement or activity possibly related to the Bronze age period. A survey conducted by David Dunkin examined similar features and concentrations around the Bognor and Yapton area.

The Field walking began to produce a concentration of pottery close to a lynchet feature in the field, which may prove to be some form of platform. The final section of the project included a total collection within a 20 meter square section producing numerous pieces of Roman coarse wares and east Sussex ware. The finds are being processed and density diagrams will be produced once the information is collated.



In April 2003 the Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society Field Unit returned to Ovingdean. Excavations during 2002 revealed a number of walls, pits and a possible well located among the significant earthworks in the field known as Hog Croft. Those excavations had been carried out to examine a number of linear anomalies noted in a resistivity surveys conducted over a number of years. The excavation in 2003 was planned to investigate a rectangular feature observed in a recently enhanced study of the geophysical data . The possible building measured approximately 11 meters by 7 meters and was located close to the north boundary wall of St Wulfran's Church. The excavation examined one quarter of the likely building, concentrating on the north/east quadrant. The geophysical survey in this sector was an area lacking in clarity compared to the other sections, where the building's perimeters were well defined.

The turf was removed to create an excavation trench measuring 6 meters by 4 meters, and extended later by another meter As the turf was being removed the sound of gravel and flint on spades confirmed that the archaeology was located immediately below the grass surface. The excavation soon revealed a number of well constructed flint walls. The variation in thickness of the walls indicated that the feature had a number of phases. The predominant thickness of wall lay at the western end, where the width measured 1.4 meter The north/east and east sections of the wall, while still being well constructed, were significantly smaller in width measuring only 0.57 meter At the north east end of the trench a corner of the building was found containing both stone and carved chalk block quoins. The north/west corner of the excavated part of the building was constrained by the natural chalk bedrock, which was cut by a number of post holes and several stake holes. The natural chalk dropped away sharply on the east side and was filled with a rubble of grit, mortar and large nodules of undressed flint. It was this deposit of demolition rubble which had produced the obscure readings on the resistivity survey. Among this deposition were numerous flints which had been knapped and dressed. An initial interpretation was that this rubble was a collapsed or demolished mortared flint wall, similar in construction to the standing church building. However, while demolition debris littered both this area and the interior of the building, the building could not confirm this without a further extension to the excavation trench.

A number of sections were cut to determine the depth of the walls. One section on the south side of the 1.4 meter wall, context (F2), was cut to a depth of 1.4 meter before safety considerations stopped deeper sections being removed. The lower fill produced an articulated sheep burial, and a second such burial found in the same context was left in-situ. Further small sections looked at the smaller wall and found it to be only 0.44 meter deep, appearing to lay over a bed of chalky loam. However, sections cut south of the wall, the interior of the building, showed that the wall in this area lay over the remaining vestiges of the robbed out larger wall. An investigation of the east wall found that it also lay over an even thicker wall section located deeper and beneath the upper feature. As with the exterior, the interior of the building was filled with a deposition of grit, large flint nodules, many with mortar adhering, some carved chalk blocks and general demolition rubble.

The method of construction and the materials used suggest that the original building is possibly dated to the 12th century, with the later extension being constructed around the 14th century (Pers. comm Gabor Thomas). The earliest phase had been the thick walled structure, and this had a door beam slot located centrally on the north side. The wall formed part of a building that included a cellar or possible undercroft, the bottom of which was not reached during the excavation. At some later period the building had been partially demolished and much of the flint walls removed to other locations. A later building incorporated part of the old walls, which were cut away in the central section to bring them level in depth and width to the new building extension. The new building extended the original by a further 3.5 meter eastwards of the earlier phase, although the lower walls suggest that the earlier phase building may also have been this long. The door beam seal was used as bonding agent for the wall of this later development. A pair of post holes to the north of the door sill, and on the same alignment, may be an indicator of a possible porch.

It is not yet possible to determine whether the partially excavated building is a manor house, but it is a substantial dwelling and indicative of considerable expenditure. The tentative dating places it in the later medieval period but an earlier phase may be located below the later buildings, where green glazed 13th century pottery was found among deeper walls.

The excavations within the earthworks at 'Hog Croft' Ovingdean have produced evidence for a manorial complex, consisting of barns, detached buildings and a well, located around a large house and located immediately north of the 11th century church. The whole field is a complex archaeological site and it is not too difficult to paint quite a vivid picture of medieval Ovingdean from the evidence revealed during the recent excavations. For pictures see Gallery and Ovingdean Archive.



In March of this year the BHAS field Unit conducted a small field walking project at Lower Hoddern Farm, Peacehaven. The project is a joint venture between BHAS and the Peacehaven Local History Society, with the consent and encouragement of the farmer Mr Appleton. The field has been of interest over a number of years with discreet finds of flintwork dating to both the Mesolithic and Neolithic being found.

A total of 13 lines were set out covering an approximate area of 2,500 square meters The weather was quite pleasant and the field flat and level, unlike the gradient at Ovingdean.

The finds from Peacehaven were consisted mainly of Neolithic flint work, including a number of scrapers and notched pieces. The significant items collected on this day proved to be a pair of Neolithic rough out axes. The field produced no pottery from antiquity.

Field walking is planned for the remainder of this field and others in close vicinity. As the farmer sowed the crop shortly, after this initial field walking investigation, access is now denied until the autumn, when a continuation of the survey is being planned as part of the winter programme.

A local Peacehaven resident used to work at the farm and collected items of flint as she walked about the fields, she said that flint 'fascinated' her. Mrs Schutz invited the Society to examine her collection of flint 'bits and pieces' and the meeting produced a number of Neolithic axes, including 2 polished axes and a number of large flint flakes and hammer stones. These collectors pieces will be included as part of the final field walking report, to ensure that they are recorded as finds. Peacehaven has been suggested as a possible location of a Neolithic production center.



Excavations at Rocky Clump began in March 2003, but the site was left while the Ovingdean excavation was in progress. The Filed Unit have now returned to site and members of the Young Archaeologists Club and the Time Time "Big Dig" have joined us during July. One of the first finds of the year has been a "dolphin" broach dated between 75-125 AD.

A film production company, BCTV, based in London has been using the site as a location for one of its films (see gallery), with the kind permission of Brighton and Hove Council Rangers Service and the local farmer.

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