Archaeology Field Trip: Cadbury Castle and its ancient landscape with Dr Clare Randall

The walk will comprise a tour of Cadbury Castle hillfort, looking in particular at areas which demonstrate the development in the use of the hill from the Neolithic period, through the creation of the hillfort in the early and Middle Iron Age, Roman use as a barracks, important post-Roman refortification and construction of a hall, through to the early medieval period, when it became a burh and a mint. The contemporary sites in the surrounding landscape will be discussed. There will be an optional visit to the South Somerset Archaeological Research Group base at Sutton Montis after the walk.

Cadbury Castle Hillfort

Cadbury Castle Hillfort

Dr. Clare Randall

Dr. Clare Randall

Clare Randall is an archaeologist and zooarchaeologist specialising in the prehistoric period. She currently works as an Archaeological Officer for Context One Archaeological Services Ltd, where she works on projects of all periods across the south west.

She was Research Assistant for the South Cadbury Environs Project, and completed her PhD at Bournemouth University studying the successive prehistoric landscapes around Cadbury Castle in conjunction with the information on livestock husbandry from the animal bones recovered during excavation of the hillfort and surrounding sites.

She has been Research Director of the South Somerset Archaeological Research Group, which continues to work in the area, since 2007.

The walk is on Saturday 1 July 2017 starting at 2.00pm at the car park at Cadbury Castle. The walk is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information about this walk and other forthcoming events contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

For Directions

Meet at the car park at Cadbury Castle, South Cadbury, Yeovil, BA22 7HA (The Camelot Pub is nearby)

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Archaeology Unearthed: Tears of the Sun: Bronze Age Amber Tracer Beads by Dr. Kate Verkooijen

Amber Bead Necklace

Amber Bead Necklace

In the early and mid-20th century, techniques such as radiocarbon dating did not exist or were still in their infancy. It was difficult, then, to date the various cultural groups in different regions of Europe to see whether they existed at the same time or flourished many centuries apart.

In light of this, the similarities between the amber spacer beads in Britain and Europe have been used for decades as evidence of direct links between the different European cultural groups during the Bronze Age. One of the main conclusions has been that there was a direct link between Early Bronze Age Wessex and Mycenaean Greece, due to the idea of nearly identical amber spacers found in both places.

Despite the prominent role they play in Bronze Age research, the evidence of the spacers both individually and within their original excavation contexts has always been poorly understood. For several decades the corpus was ill-defined and neither described nor presented consistently nor comprehensively. Dr. Kate Verkooijen’s research addresses this problem and, in the light of more recently excavated material and dating evidence, she re-assesses the previous conclusions about direct connections between regions. As well as presenting these results, she will also be bringing along two replicas of British Bronze Age amber spacer sets/’necklaces’.

Dr. Kate Verkooijen grew up in South Dorset and has lived in many places, including Australia. Twenty years ago, she returned to live in this area. Her early interest in archaeology was driven by curiosity about the many Bronze Age barrows on the Ridgeway. In the late 70s, she trained as a field archaeologist with Bill Putnam and worked at several sites across the county, including Culverwell and Hambledon Hill.

She has a BA in Archaeological Illustration (University of Bath/Swindon College of Art) and an MA in Experimental Archaeology (University of Exeter). Her PhD (also from Exeter) focused on the amber spacer beads from the Bronze Age across Europe. Currently, she is an independent archaeology researcher.

The forthcoming lecture will take place on Friday 3 March in the Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Hall and is FREE to the public; however a donation of £3 encouraged to cover costs. Doors open at 7.00pm and talks start at 7.30pm.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Testing the Boundaries: Life, Land and Livestock in Later Prehistory by Dr. Clare Randall

Dr. Clare Randall

Dr. Clare Randall

This Friday, 2nd October 2015 at 7.30pm, Dorset County Museum is hosting a fascinating talk which will reveal what ancient animal bones can tell us about people’s lives in prehistoric Dorset.

Dr. Clare Randall, an osteoarchaeologist with a particular interest in pastoral farming and land use during prehistory, said “Sometimes we assume that animal bones only tell us what people ate, but in fact they speak to us of so much more. Combined with other humble things such as fields and ditches, we can learn much more about people’s lives than we could have possibly imagined.”

This talk will explore the changing ways in which people in the Bronze Age and Iron Age organised everyday tasks, leaving behind them some of the largest scale archaeology we have.

The talk is on Friday 2nd October 2015, Dorset County Museum, 7.30pm (doors open at 7.00pm). The talk is free of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Archaeology Fieldwalking at Hazelbury Bryan with YAC

On Saturday 2nd May 2015, the Dorchester Branch of the Young Archaeologists Club did a fieldwalk on farmland approximately 1km north east of Hazelbury Bryan, Dorset. Permission with the landowner was very kindly arranged for us by a local metal detectorist, Richard Higham.

Field Walking with Young Archaeologists Club

Field Walking with Young Archaeologists Club

Sue and Bryan, YAC volunteers, met the members at 10.15 in Hazelbury Bryan, and Richard led us through a maze of winding lanes to the field. When we arrived on site at 10.30am, we decided to scour the north east corner of the very large field. The detectorists were already working at the western end.

Young Archaeologists cleaning their finds in the Dorset County Museum

Young Archaeologists cleaning their finds in the Dorset County Museum

It was soon obvious that there were large amounts of pottery and other artefacts scattered around the field and Young Archaeologists and parents alike were soon eagerly hunting.
By the end of the morning, we had gathered lots of post-medieval pottery and a few surprises… We’re looking forward to displaying our finds in the Dorset County Museum.

Report by Sue Cullinane

For more information about joining The Dorchester Branch – Young Archaeologists’ Club visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org/YAC

Max Gate and the South Dorset Ridgeway

Archaeology National Trust SW

What would you say was the best archaeological landscape in England ?

The west end of the Ridgeway from the Iron Age hillfort of Abbotsbury Castle east along the Chesil Beach towards the Isle of Portland. The west end of the Ridgeway from the Iron Age hillfort of Abbotsbury Castle east along the Chesil Beach towards the Isle of Portland.

Yes you guessed it Dorchester, Maiden Castle and the South Dorset Ridgeway…

did I hear somebody say Hadrian’s Wall? Stonehenge?… well granted Avebury’s got a lot going for it. It’s not a county town though, doesn’t lay claim to being a Roman civitas capital despite there being a large Roman settlement beside Silbury Hill.

The view towards Maiden Castle and Dorchester from the heathland east of Hardy's Monument The view towards Maiden Castle and Dorchester from the heathland east of Hardy’s Monument

Doesn’t have a Waitrose overlying its circular henge built as a circle of massive oak posts 380m in diameter. Doesn’t have a Waitrose come to that. Yes you can still see the great bank and ditch of Avebury’s henge, you’d have to go to the east…

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A British Earthwork by Rev. William Barnes

Maiden Castle, Dorchester, DorsetA British Earthwork by Rev. William Barnes

[An Archaeologist speaks.]

The grassy downs of Dorset,
Rising o’er our homes of peace,
E’er teem with life and riches
In the sheep and precious fleece;
And charm the thoughtful roamer
When, like us, he climbs to scan
Their high-cast mounds of war – the works
Of Britain’s early man,
Whose speech, although here lingers yet
His mighty works of hand,
Has ceased a thousand years to sound
In air of this green land,
And startled may it be to hear
The words of British kin —

An gwaliow war an meneth,(1)
An caer war an bryn.(2)

Their breastworks now are fallen,
And their banks are sunken low;
The gateway yawns ungated,
And unsought by friend or foe.
No war-horn (3) calls for warriors,
And no clear-eyed watchmen spy
For tokens of the foe, around
The quarters of the sky.

No band, with shout and singing, (4)
Sally forth with spear and sword,
Staying foes at wood or hill,
Or at the waded river ford;
Or else to take the hill, and fight
To win, or die within

An gwaliow war an meneth.
An caer war an bryn.

There were lowings of the cattle
By the rattling spears and swords;
There were wails of weeping women
And grim warriors’ angry words —
“Be every Briton fearless, or
For ever live in fear;
And bring his ready weapons out —
His bow, and sword, and spear! (5)
For what have we to fight the foe?
Our children and our wives!
For whom have we to fight? For those
Far dearer than our lives!
And we, to shield them all, will die,
Or else the battle win,

Yn (6) an gwaliow war an meneth,
Yn an caer war an Bryn ! “

But now, in sweet, unbroken peace,
May Dorset land-folks sleep;
In peace may speed the gliding plough,
In peace may graze the sheep;
In peace may smoke our village tuns,
And all our children play;

And may we never need nigh banks
To keep the foe at bay!
And blest be lord or farmer
Of the land, who wins our thanks
By sparing from the spade and sull
These olden British banks,
And not destroying, for a crown
Or pound that he might win,

An gwaliow war an meneth,
An caer war an bryn.

Notes:

(1) – “The ramparts on the mountain.”

(2) -“The stronghold on the hill”  

This is In the old Cornoak or Cornish-British, that of our West of England.   The modem
Welsh would be —

“Y gwaliaie ar y mynydd,
Y au caer ar y bryn.”

Au pronounced ace; y like e in le, French ; ” mynydd,” munneethe.

(3) – Cadgorn.   The bugle-horn was used for hunting, war, and drinking.

(4) –  By the laws of Hoel Dda, when the Welsh marched to battle the bards were to go before them singing a national song, now lost, called “Unbenaeth Prydain” (“The Monarchy of Britain “). This, however, was later than the time of the upcasting of our earthworks.

(5) -A law triad gives, as law-bidden weapons which every man was to keep ready for battle, a sword, a spear, and a bow with twelve arrows.

(6) – In.

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Archaeology Evening at Museum

The Langton Herring Iron Age Mirror

The Langton Herring Iron Age Mirror © DCM

There will be an Archaeology evening on Friday 7th February at Dorset County Museum. This is primarily a members’ event but everyone is welcome to attend, especially potential new members.

The event will commence with a book launch and will be followed by three short illustrated talks. David Carter will discuss the recent works at Sandsfoot Castle in Weymouth; Clare Randall will talk about the Cowleaze Cemeteries, and Jon Murden, Director of the Museum, will talk about the newly conserved Langton Herring Iron Age Mirror now displayed in the Museum’s archaeology gallery.

The launch of a brand new book, Paleolithic Archaeology at Broom in the Axe Valley by Dr. Rob Hosfield and Dr. Chris Green of Reading University, will commence at 6.30pm and copies of the book will be available to buy. The co-editors will give a brief presentation on the book before signing copies for purchase.

All are welcome to attend this event at Dorset County Museum. The book launch will take place at 6.30pm to be followed by the three lectures at 7.30pm. Entry is free: a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

 

 

Prestigious archaeology awards presented in Bridport

Sandsfoot Castle

The Runner-up certificate was awarded to the Friends of the Sandsfoot Castle and Rodwell Trail, for their inspired commitment to conserve the castle and open it for public access.

The Town Hall, Bridport, was the venue selected by the Dorset Archaeological Committee for the presentation of its 2013 awards, given every two years since 1988. The awards were presented on Friday 11th October by the eminent archaeologist Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, of Oxford University.

Maureen Putnam. Chairman of the Judging Panel, summarised the eight nominations, saying that ‘it has been an extremely difficult exercise making our decisions, as all of the entries were for interesting and important projects in Dorset’.

The major award, a wooden bowl made by Cecil Colyer, based on a 12th-century bowl found in Charmouth in 1979, was presented to St Mary’s Church, Puddletown, for a major conservation programme involving the relocation of the important monuments in the Athelhampton Chapel.

The Runner-up certificate was awarded to the Friends of the Sandsfoot Castle and Rodwell Trail, for their inspired commitment to conserve the castle and open it for public access.

For his on-line study of the lost torpedoes of Weymouth and Portland, Ed Cumming was highly recommended.

The Ian Horsey Memorial Award (given in memory of the distinguished Poole archaeologist), was given to Dr Alistair Somerville-Ford, the TV presenter Julian Richards, and Claire Ryley, for leading the archaeological project ‘What’s Under Your School?’

As part of this project, the Young Archaeologist’s Award, was presented to Spetisbury (Hall and Slopers) C.E., V.A., Primary School. The school was given a certificate and a framed map of Dorset, drawn by the author J. L. Carr.

Laurence Keen, OBE, Chairman of the committee, and former County Archaeologist, remarked that ‘I am delighted that eight excellent nominations were submitted. The judges have had to make very difficult decisions. The remarkable fact is that all of the projects came from non-professionals, demonstrating the enormous amount of interest and work being carried out, making sure that Dorset’s superb archaeological heritage is properly examined and appreciated for the benefit of us all. It is especially pleasing that this year we have been able to recognise the involvement of a Primary School. So it should be’.

Archaeology at Thomas Hardy’s Max Gate

The following article entitled ‘Some Romano-British Relics found at Max Gate, Dorchester’ by Thomas Hardy is from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’, volume 11 published 1890.

Thomas Hardy stands beside the 'Druid Stone'

Thomas Hardy stands beside the ‘Druid Stone’ in the garden of Max Gate in 1890. In 1987 excavations near to Max Gate revealed a Neolithic causewayed enclosure; the other half lies beneath the garden at Max Gate. © DCM

“I have been asked to give an account of a few relics of antiquity lately uncovered in digging the foundations of a house at Max Gate, in Fordington Field. But, as the subject of archaeology is one to a great extent foreign to my experience, my sole right to speak upon it at all, in the presence of the professed antiquarians around, lies in the fact that I am one of the only two persons who saw most of the remains in situ, just as they were laid bare, and before they were lifted up from their rest of, I suppose, fifteen hundred years. Such brief notes as I have made can be given in a few words. Leaving the town by the south-eastern or Wareham Road we come first, as I need hardly observe, to the site of the presumably great Romano-British cemetery upon Fordington Hill. Proceeding along this road to a further distance of half-a-mile, we reach the spot on which the relics lay. It is about fifty yards back from the roadside, and practically a level, bearing no immediate evidence that the natural contour of the surface has ever been disturbed more deeply than by the plough.

But though no barrow or other eminence rises there it should, perhaps, be remarked that about three hundred yards due east from the spot stands the fine and commanding tumulus called Conquer Barrow (the name of which, by the way, seems to be a corruption of some earlier word). On this comparatively level ground we discovered, about three feet below the surface, three human skeletons in separate and distinct graves. Each grave was, as nearly as possible, an ellipse in plan, about 4ft. long and 2½ ft. wide, cut vertically into the solid chalk. The remains bore marks of careful interment. In two of the graves, and, I believe, in the third, a body lay on its right side, the knees being drawn up to the chest, and the arms extended straight downwards, so that the hands rested against the ankles. Each body was fitted with, one may almost say, perfect accuracy into the oval hole, the crown of the head touching the maiden chalk at one end and the toes at the other, the tight-fitting situation being strongly suggestive of the-chicken in the egg shell. The closest examination failed to detect any enclosure for the remains, and the natural inference was that, save their possible cerements, they were deposited bare in the earth. On the head of one of these, between the top of the forehead and the crown, rested a fibula or clasp of bronze and iron, the front having apparently been gilt. This is, I believe, a somewhat unusual position for this kind of fastening, which seemed to have sustained a fillet for the hair.

In the second grave a similar one was found, but as it was taken away without my knowledge I am unable to give its exact position when unearthed. In the third grave nothing of the sort was discovered after a careful search.

In the first grave a bottle of white clay, nearly globular, with a handle, stood close to the breast of the skeleton, the interior being stained as if by some dark liquid.  The bottle, unfortunately, fell into fragments on attempting to remove it.  In the same cavity, touching the shin bones of the occupant,  were two urns of the material known as grey ware, and of a design commonly supposed  to be characteristic of Roman work of the third or fourth century. It is somewhat remarkable that beside them was half, and only a half, a third urn, with a filmy substance like black cobweb adhering to the inner surface.

In the second cavity were four urns, standing nearly upright like the others, two being of ordinary size, and two quite small. They stood touching each other, and close to the breast of the skeleton; these, like the former, were empty, except of the chalk which had settled into them by lapse of time; moreover, the unstained white chalk being in immediate contact with the inner surface of the vessels was nearly a proof that nothing solid had originally intervened. In the third grave two other urns of like description were disclosed.

Two yards south from these graves a circular hole in the native chalk was uncovered, measuring about two feet in diameter and five feet deep. At the bottom was a small flagstone; above this was the horn, apparently of a bull, together with teeth and bones of the same animal. The horn was stumpy and curved, altogether much after the modern shorthorn type, and it has been conjectured that the remains were possibly those of the wild ox formerly inhabiting this island. Pieces of a black bituminous substance were mixed in with these, and also numerous flints, forming a packing to the whole. A few pieces of tile, and brick of the thin Roman kind, with some fragments of iridescent glass were also found about the spot.

There was naturally no systematic orientation in the interments —the head in one case being westward, in the other eastward, and in the third, I believe, south-west. It should be mentioned that the surface soil has been cleared away to a distance extending 50ft. south and west from where these remains were disinterred ; but no further graves or cavities have been uncovered — the natural chalk lying level and compact — which seems to signify that the site was no portion of a regular Golgotha, but an isolated resting-place reserved to a family, set, or staff; such outlying tombs having been common along the roadsides near towns in those far-off days—a humble Colonial imitation, possibly, of the system of sepulture along the Appian Way.

In spite of the numerous vestiges that have been discovered from time to time of the Roman city which formerly stood on the site of modern Dorchester, and which are still being unearthed daily by our local Schliemann (Edward Cunnington) one is struck with the fact that little has been done towards piecing together and reconstructing these evidences into an unmutilated whole—such as has been done, for instance, with the evidences of Pompeian life — a whole which should represent Dorchester in particular and not merely the general character of a Roman station in this country — composing a true picture by which the uninformed could mentally realise the ancient scene with some completeness.

It would be a worthy attempt to rehabilitate, on paper, the living Durnovaria of fourteen or fifteen hundred years ago—as it actually appeared to the eyes of the then Dorchester men and women, under the rays of the same morning and evening sun which rises and sets over it now. Standing, for instance, on the elevated ground near where the South-Western Station is at present, or at the top of Slyer’s Lane, or at any other commanding point, we may ask what kind of object did Dorchester then form in the summer landscape as viewed from such a point; where stood the large buildings, were they small, how did the roofs group themselves, what were the gardens like, if any, what social character had the streets, what were the customary noises, what sort of exterior was exhibited by these hybrid Romano-British people, apart from the soldiery? Were the passengers up and down the ways few in number, or did they ever form a busy throng such as we now see on a market day? These are merely the curious questions of an outsider to initiated students of the period. When we consider the vagueness of our mental answers to such inquiries as the above, we perceive that much is still left of this fascinating investigation which may well occupy the attention of the Club in future days.”

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