We’re pleased to announce that our post-excavation assessment of the 2015 excavations in Hungerford has just been completed and is available to download.
This report, authored by Dr James Gerrard and Andrew Agate with the assistance of Holly-Ann Carl includes contributions by Don O’Meara, Suzi Richer, David Heslop and Rob Young.
A copy has been submitted to the Somerset Historic Environment Record.
Congratulations to all the Lufton veterans who graduated on Monday.
James H, James St-A, Kimberley, Flora, Elliott, Hayley and Jess all did exceptionally well and have their eyes on the future.
Some of the team are heading to jobs or postgraduate courses in archaeology, others are heading off in new directions. Except for Elliott and Hayley both of whom have four weeks digging in Somerset ahead of them!
The public often believe that archaeology is all about digging. The truth is that for every day we spend in the field digging, we spend two or three days more back in the lab or the office thinking about and analysing our discoveries.
James has recently sent the tiny assemblage of samian pottery (all 3 sherds!) from last year’s excavations in Hungerford to samian pottery specialist J. M. Mills. One sherd, from ditch fill  is a tiny fragment of a Dragendorff 15/17 platter from La Graufesenque in southern Gaul (modern France).
This sherd is important because it dates from about AD40-AD85. The Roman invasion happened in AD43 and the West Country probably wasn’t conquered until AD47 or so. We know from Tacitus and archaeological discoveries that there was trouble in the west during the Boudiccan Revolt in AD60/61.
So our little sherd shows that the inhabitants of the Late Iron Age settlement in Hungerford were in contact with the Romans soon after the conquest of the region. We don’t know what the conquest was like, but with a military presence established at Ham Hill and a fort at Ilchester it was likely to have been bloody. The sherd demonstrates other kinds of contact and that the locals were able to access some imported luxuries in the decades after the invasion.
There’s been quite a lot going on recently.
In Newcastle James has been busy writing applications to raise funds for next year’s proposed excavation of the villa. Meanwhile Andy and James have also been busy writing the application for Scheduled Monuments Consent – a legal requirement of any excavation of a nationally important monument like the villa.
We’re also very pleased to announce that the Yeovil Archaeological and Local History Society has agreed to make a financial contribution to next year’s excavation! This local archaeological society was set up by Leonard Hayward – the excavator of the villa – and we’re very grateful for their pledge of support.
Our friends in the South Somerset Archaeological Research Group are also busy carrying out some more geophysical survey for the project. This is excellent news and we’re all very pleased and grateful for the SSARG members’ continuing efforts to support the research. Keep an eye on the blog for further updates about this work.
Holly, who dug with us this year, has been busy over the Summer preparing the archives from the previous four season’s of work for deposition in the Somerset Heritage Centre. Holly has been employed on a Newcastle Work Experience bursary funded by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and the University’s Career Service.
Hayley (a veteran of two season’s digging) has also been carrying out some research for the project as part of a University Vacation Scholarship.
Yesterday saw the last bits of digging and recording on site. James, Josh, Elliott, Douglas and Andy dug a bit more of the post-medieval ditch in the hope of finding some artefacts that would allow us to date the feature more precisely. Alas, a whole load of digging produced nothing.
Elsewhere the southernmost ditches were recorded. Acres of clay were trowelled to a gleaming standard of cleanliness and photographed. Then the grid was pulled up, the tent taken down and we adjourned to the Mason’s Arms and the Prince of Wales.
Andy retired to the comforts of civilisation while the rest of the team contemplated life in the real world. Most seem to have preferred ‘barnlife’.
Today we’ve been tidying up camp and returning tools and soil samples to SSARG. Later we’ll be heading into Dorchester where James will be giving a talk.
Elliott, Ellie, Samara and Zara have already left. The rest of the team will be leaving tomorrow for the start of term on Monday!
We had another day of brilliant weather on site, providing great conditions for the team as the recording and final stages of excavation ramp up!
In terms of excavations: Hayley and Ellie put a slot in the southern-most feature in the trench; James, Andy, Tilly and Zara removed the section from (007) finding yet more pottery. Meanwhile, slightly further south Samara continued to excavate her ditch, finding today’s star find – a fragment of what might be a clay loom weight.
Further north on the recording front: Chris, Douglas, Holly-Ann and James H were tasked with drawing 30m sections of the limit of excavation (LoE). The section was the largest any of them had every recorded, but luckily we had help from Woofton!
Had visits from Matt, a Newcastle University student and members of the Yeovil Archaeological and Local History Society: Brian and Moira.
It may seem like we’re wrapping things up already, but there’s still much to be done on site before the week’s end!
We found it hard to believe that we had been rained off site just last week with the brilliant conditions today – not a cloud in the sky!
It was a busy day on site, with many features being worked on and many visitors to site. Our first arrival was a local prospective V400 (BA Archaeology) student, Hugh, who came to get a taste of what an archaeological site is like.
We also had a visit from a local landowner Robert Unwin – whose land we excavated in throughout the 2012 and 2013 seasons, as well as James’ friends Nick and Suzie.
We made great progress on site with both the northern and southern ditches of the trackway being fully excavated. The southern ditch gave us our star find of the day, found by Douglas, a single BB1 body sherd – allowing us to roughly date the context. Meanwhile Chris and Holly-Ann removed a layer at the northern end of the finding pottery and burnt flint.
Samara and Zara began excavating a feature at the southern end of the trench finding some large pieces of worked flint, animal bone and BB1 sherds. Tilly, Josh, Elliott and Andy worked on the second slot in (007) finding a huge amounts of BB1, flints and vitrified ash.
All-on-all today has been a good start to the final week of excavations.
Saturday saw quite a lot of activity on site. After the recent heavy rain there was a lot of activity by James, James H, Chris, Tilly and Elliot in the northern end of the trench tidying up the ditches in preparation for photos and recording.
Nick Corcos of Avon Archaeology visited us and used a drone to take some overhead shots. This was great fun and James H had the opportunity to help out. There was a little bit of interest in the drone from the local buzzards who are still waiting and watching in anticipation of a free lunch.
Meanwhile in the southern end of the trench Andy, Hayley, Ellie, Zara, Mara and Josh began excavating (007) – a very nice ditch fill that we identified on day two. The finds came thick and fast (for this year!) and soon we had a small handful of BB1 sherds and a couple flakes of flint.
Josh made the star find though: a rather plain copper-alloy finger-ring of Roman date. It was great to find this object, which proved a useful morale boost. We are currently trying to ascertain whether Josh will soon need to embark on a long journey to cast this ring into a volcano.
Due to the poor weather forecast for this morning the team had a late start, we reconvened at noon to assess the situation. After a brief visit to site, James and Andy gathered the team and headed over.
Many of the features that are in the process of being excavated were too wet to continue with. We therefore took advantage of the moist conditions to trowel back the surface of the trench to find any features that may not have been visible under normal conditions. After the team had finished it was apparent that several new features were visible, success!
We broke for a tea break, during which James and Andy called an end to the day early due to worsening conditions onsite. Despite a short day we’ve made the best of a bad situation. With a promising forecast for tomorrow we will be back for a full day onsite before next week.
This morning we gathered in the grain barn, many of us with grim looks on our faces due to drizzle.
James began the day by talking to the team about what we’d accomplished on site, in relation to the project research questions. He asked the students what they thought of the site, and their interpretation. James then explained his current interpretation of the excavated area, why we had less finds than anticipated and what the finds we do have mean in relation to the site. Reinvigorated by a greater understanding of the archaeology and the project, the team piled into the minibus not deterred by the weather.
We arrived on site and returned to our features from yesterday: James H, Chris, Holly-Ann and Sue cleaned and prepped the two Northern-most ditches for photographs and recording. Meanwhile Hayley, Tilly and Samara drew the section for the Post-Medieval ditch.
When we broke for our first tea break it was apparent the weather had continued to decline throughout the morning, James and Andy decided to stop the work on site until the weather improved. All-in-all despite the mud and the rain the team were in incredibly high spirits, filthy from head-to-toe we returned to our grain barn to dry off.
We will return to site tomorrow and crack on!