KS2 British Prehistory – Dorstone Hill excavations

Hello again! Now, as I blogged briefly the other day, a team from the University of Manchester led by our friend Prof Julian Thomas, has started this year’s excavations at Dorstone Hill in Herefordshire. With the aid of modern technology, we are going to keep you up to date with what’s been going on. We want to thank Prof Thomas, Dr Irene Garcia Rovira and Ms Janey Green for permission to use their images.

The team arrived last week and, as with most excavations, the first couple of days were mostly devoted to setting things up. This includes unloading all the equipment the team need for a month-long stay in the countryside – from cookers to survey stations. Once on site, the first task was to set out the grid posts which would define the area of the excavation.

A potentially tricky problem was that this was not the first excavation on the site, and this year’s needed to be aligned with previous trenches in order to continue excavation of features found last year. As you can see in the picture here, the use of satellite based Global Positioning System (GPS) helped with this. This hasn’t always been available and Ian recalls on excavation where, despite ‘accurate modern records’, there was a 2m discrepancy which led to rather hurried calls to English Heritage for permission to move the grid!

Once the area has been marked out with brightly coloured wooden pegs – an effort aimed at stopping people walking into them – the the task of removing turf and top-soil begins. Sometimes this is done by hand, but this year a JCB did much of the hard work! Once this had been done, then the team began to clean up the site and locate last year’s work.

As this work progresses, features such as post holes, pits and ditches as well as stone structures emerge from the ground. One type of feature seen on this site has been areas which show signs of burning in the distant past. Prof Thomas has seen many Neolithic sites over the years which show both indirect and direct evidence of burning, such as burnt wooden posts, which have been associated with the destruction of the site. The site at Dorstone is important as it has already revealed significant evidence of buildings dated to the Neolithic which have been called Halls of the Dead

As the dig has entered its second week, attention has turned to excavating the features revealed.  Already there are interesting finds being made. The first Neolithic pottery of the season has been found and more is expected!

A shard of Neolithic pottery. This will be cleaned before a positive identification can be made.
A sherd of Neolithic pottery. This will be cleaned before a positive identification can be made.

Of course, as well as being a research excavation with serious aims and objectives and a lot of hard work everybody has some fun too!

There’ll be more from the dig later in the week, so keep your eyes peeled for news!

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