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* Original Information Jan 2005
* added June 2005
* added July 2005
* added September 2005
* added October 2005
* added December 2005
During the early part of January members of the BHAS Field Unit
joined Paul Clements, a student form Winchester, in a survey of lands
to the south of Truleigh Hill. During a summer walk, two seasons ago
up to the top of Thundersbarrow Hill, it was noted in the low setting
sun that this part of Sussex is adorned with numerous earthworks and
lynchets associated with ancient settlements. The area has remained
virtually intact and untouched as a result of its distant location
and inaccessibility. The new survey is examining a field system that
appears to be within a large rectangular enclosure. A number of
aerial photographs show the features clearly defined. A cursory
examination of the earthworks noted that as well as the large
lynchets there are a number of circular platforms cut into the slope
of the hill. The excavations at Downsview, Coldean and Varley Hall
produced a number of Bronze Age round houses cut into the side of the
hill in the form of house trerrace. It is possible that these
features are similar remains. Paul is seeking evidence for a
chronological sequence for the earthworks, as a numbr of the field
boundaries tend to overlay each other.
The geophysics has been undertaken using Paul's RM15 resistivity
machine, and BHAS team leader David Staveley using his 'TR' systems
machine. The results, (fig1
using David's 'snuffler' software are have been quite exciting. The
survey will continue for a few more week- ends or until Paul has to
return to Winchester.
EXCAVATIONS AT NANSON ROAD, COLDEAN
In April of 2005 the BHAS Field Unit were asked to
conduct a watching brief on a development at Nanson Road, Coldean.
The unit were, with the kind permission of the land owner, allowed to
excavate a small trench in a section of the garden prior to the
commencement of the building works. The area investigated appeared to
have been untouched by garden terracing.
The trench (photo
1) which measured 3.5 metres by 1.5
metres produced three different layers comprising an overburden of a
dark, silty fill containing numerous finds of contemporary material
including glass, slate tile and other building debris. The lower
layer produced a pair of small mounds of flint nodules, flint flakes
and 9 sherds of Iron Age pottery. The lower fill was only a few
millimetres thick and produced a single flint flake. However, cut
into the chalk below the fills was a flint packed post hole. (photo
During the construction of the Coldean estate in
the 1950's workmen had found a number of ditches and an Iron Age
round house. The BHAS who had been excavating a Bronze Age barrow
along the Ditchling Road had been asked to investigate the features
revealed. It appears that Coldean contains not only Bronze Age
activity, including a settlement site and a possible cemetery, but
also features dated to the Iron Age and Romano-British periods.
The exact extent of the sites, from each period, is
not known but every opportunity to investigate the gardens provides
valuable information. In the past few years Bill Santer has conducted
a number of watching briefs in the area with out very much being
found. The new excavation clearly indicates that the west side of the
valley was being utilised and the focus of any settlement during the
Iron Age appears to be a plateau area above a small valley depression
running down to the old Coldean farm.
We deeply appreciate the efforts of the watching
brief team and those who conducted the excavations over the following
week-end. The dig at Nanson Road has provided very useful additional
information in the form of finds and features to enhance the
ephemeral knowledge that we already possess. We would also like to
thank Mr Voller, the land owner, for such a positive attitude towards
archaeological investigations. A full report has now been produced.
In early May 2005 the BHAS Field Unit responded to
a request from the County Archaeologist and Greg Chuter for help with
a site on Malling Down. The Lewes Rangers had been scrub cleaning and
when bushes had been removed found that rabbits had been eroding
human bones. Over a bleak week-end of intermittent drizzle and rain
members of the unit conducted an excavation on a small platform area
on the steep scarp side of Malling Down. Two small trenches were cut
and the excavations produced a total of 9 burials. The site was
immediately adjacent to an earlier trench that had been cut in the
1970's that had produced 12 burials. (see
It soon became apparent that these were no ordinary
burials, from a total of 9 bodies in the new excavation only 1 head
was recovered. As the dig progressed the people who had been buried
were observed to have had their hands tied behind their backs. There
was a small area between the old and new excavations that was free of
any skeletal remains.
It would appear that the burials were execution
victims. It would seem that the young men, our bones team who are
examining the remains trend to confirm this, were marched up the hill
and then beheaded, their bodies being thrown into a number of shallow
pits. A solitary buckle found at the junction of one of the leg and
feet bones tend to suggest that these were people associated with the
battle of Lewes 1264, and were probably prisoners of the battle. They
were executed on this elevated spot no doubt to emphasise, to those
watching in the valley below, the cost of losing the battle.
It was a poignant thought that as we stood on
Malling Down and looked towards Lewes Castle, and the medieval
churches of Hamsey and Barcombe, that this was the last view that
these poor wretches saw just before their tragic ends.
PROJECT 2004 /2005
The Lawn Memorial Cemetery at Woodingdean was
opened in 1963 without any consideration for the ancient landscape it
was placed on. Aerial photographs taken over a period of time clearly
showed human activity changing the natural landscape to the south of
the cemetery, evidenced by an linier earthen bank running east/west.
A Geophysical survey was carried out by the
Brighton & Hove Archaeological Team during 2004 (see
photo) . The results of this survey
raised many questions, the pictures (photo
1 & photo
2) produced indicated possible
ancient activity but was this natural or man made? It was agreed by
the city council and the East Sussex County Archaeologist that a
series of investigation trenches should be placed, cutting possible
This was carried out by the BHAS field unit
during 2004 and 2005, producing evidence of ancient human activity as
well as an ancient geological landscape which was laid down
approximately 10,000 years ago.
The data produced from the investigation has
shown that the area formally recorded on the 1860 Tythe map as sheep
pasture has been actively used for agriculture over centuries. The
finds excavated from the test trenches indicate that the area was
used during the Iron Age Period and possibly even earlier. The
excavated data is being analyzed at this time and a report will be
sent for publication on completion.
One: Woodingdean Cemetery
The remaining investigation trenches were
placed and excavated during the early part of 2005. Finds are being
cleaned and evaluated. Report forthcoming
Phase Two: Field south of Cemetery
This field contains an ancient field system of
probable iron age date, fieldwalking was carried out by members of
the field unit during September and October 2005, approximately just
under one half of the area was walked. This proved to be difficult
for the team due to the field not being ploughed and contained crop
stubble, only a small amount of ancient materials were located. These
are being evaluated. The remainder of the field which contain
settlement will be fieldwalked during 2006.
Phase three: The field west of the cemetery
area had a resistivity survey carried out by members of the
geophysics team during October 2005, the results indicate that there
is a possible enclosure within this field additional resistivity will
need be carried out this year to pick up the full feature.
In 2004 the Brighton and Hove Archaeological
Society were asked by various people whether they would be willing to
work with metal detectorists. Brighton and Hove City Council had a
policy of not allowing metal detectorists on their lands. As a result
of several meeting with the Council, the County Archaeologist and the
Brighton and District Metal Detecting Club our Society now work very
closely with B&BMC. Metal detecting will now become part of our
research programme along with field walking and geophysics. The metal
detecting will use the grids set out for field walking and surveying
and metal finds locations will be recorded within those frameworks.
Metal detecting concentrations will be noted on similar presentations
to that made with field walking.
A large number of the B&DMC have become
members of the BHAS for insurance purposes and already a number of
projects have taken place in the fields surrounding Rocky Clump.
Sadly we have to report that although there has been a significant
amount of lead finds, mainly globules and cast pieces, there have
been few Roman finds as yet. Among the items found by detecting have
been a number of lead tokens, some pewter buttons and a few musket
balls. It is hoped that more spectacular finds will be recovered in
Metal detecting will be a very important part
of the BHAS future programme, and we are delighted to report that Bob
Bird, one of the detectorists , has also been actually digging!
Bob, Derek, Dave, Marlene, Pauline and the
other members of B&DMC will be regular visitors to all our projects.
BEACON HILL ROTTINGDEAN
In December of 2004 a visit was made to Beacon
Hill, Rottingdean to examine some earthworks. Crispin Kirkpatrick,
one the Brighton Rangers had noted a number of earthworks after the
hill had been mown. The hill which is noted both for the windmill and
the mini-golf course is now part of a local nature reserve. The hill
possesses two possible Neolithic long barrows and a dew pond. The
features noted in December of 2004 included a platform cut into the
west facing side of the hill and a number of circular features on the
summit of the hill close to site of one of the long barrows.
In late August 2005 the geophysical team of the
BHAS Field Unit, led by David Staveley, conducted small survey of the
features noted to try and determine the nature and possible date of
the earthworks. Although Beacon Hill has Neolithic features when the
windmills were constructed a burial was found but is of indeterminate
date. The hill being close to the coast may also have had any number
of Second World War anti-invasion devices. While the survey was being
conducted we were visited by Mr John Cummin, a local counsellor, who
informed us that in the past the hill was the location for an
important beacon location. This 'beacon hill' managed to send
messages off in not one, but two different directions. Another past
local tells us of a depression that was regarded as the gun emplacement.
The results of the survey are very interesting.
The platform cut into the side of the hill has an area of very high
resistance but no distinctive configuration. The survey on the top of
the hill however (Fig
1 Flat , Fig
2 Non-Flat, Fig
3 Flat and Fig
4 Non-Flat ) produced evidence for
a number of features. The main earthwork to the east has a very large
circular area of high resistance with a 'tail', this David believes
may be the location of another windmill. The central area produced a
number of interesting anomalies including a ditch that appears to run
towards the location of the long barrow.
It is obvious that this hill will have be the
subject of a major survey, and that some small trenches may have to
be cut into the features found to produce some dating evidence. A
permit has been received from Brighton & Hove City Council to
conduct a geophysical survey over the whole of Beacon Hill, but
additional permission will need to be sought to survey the long
barrow to the north of the golf course and for any planned exavations.
The survey has been a very useful research
project and Beacon Hill will now become part of a larger
investigation to be conducted over a number of seasons.
In November 2005 members of the BHAS Field Unit
assisted Matt Pope with a resistivity survey of lands within the Iron
Age hill-fort. The project is looking for possible evidence for
ritualistic activity. Matt has observed that the sun rises in
mid-summer in alignment with the east opening of the enclosure, is
there some significance. The interior of the hill fort has been
considerable cleared allowing a large scale survey tom be conducted
for the first time. The survey included a study of the earlier
origins of a smaller enclosure possibly dated to the Bronze Age.
There is currently some speculation as to whether the hill-forts in
Sussex are for ritualistic rather than defensive purposes, although
of course they could have been both. Hollingbury has a number of
barrows within its interior and Sue Hamilton has suggested similar
panoramic connotations at Caburn.
The results of the survey have proved very
interesting with the location of a possible square shaped structure.
The survey will have to be extended to survey the remaining section
which is still under gorse cover. The survey will continue in 2006.
The project will be written up by Matt Pope.
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