On Monday 9th July 2012, 21 members of the society braved the threat of showers and were treated to a guided tour of the recent excavations that have been taking place at Burrough Hill, near Somerby in Leicestershire. The invitation to visit the ‘Dig’ was extended to the society by John Thomas from Leicester University Archaeological Services, who is the Project Officer during the excavations this year.
The ‘Dig’ is being carried out by staff and students from the ‘Leicestershire University Department of History and Archaeology’ and group members were eager to see how well they had been coping with the poor weather conditions that we have all suffered during recent weeks, and of course to see whether any interesting artefacts had been uncovered. In fact the ground was remarkably dry and it was clear that work had continued in spite of the rain which must have made conditions uncomfortable at times.
John Thomas began the visit by explaining that historians think the site was occupied as a Settlement and Fort for some 550 years from the late Iron Age into the early Roman period. He used the present site to have us visualise how the site would have looked when it was a walled settlement, and how covering the fortification embankments with local sandstone would have ensured it could have been seen for miles in any direction. When topped with a high wooden wall and heavy gates it would also have provided safety and security, whilst its high vantage point would have allowed the occupants to see anyone approaching in the distance.
Much of this we had to imagine since to the untrained eye the only remaining evidence of that occupation today is what appear to be the remains of a surrounding wall and ditches. Any remaining evidence is buried underground and it is only when the top soil is removed that the remains of the settlement itself come into view.
Noting that the excavation is now in the third year of a five year programme John told us what had been found during the two earlier excavations and what they were doing differently this year. Pointing out the four areas that had been exposed a large number of ‘Pits’ or holes in the ground were clearly visible. It is thought that these had been used mainly for storage and then filled in as time went by. But, it was when sifting through the contents of the holes that a number of interesting artefacts had been uncovered.
All of the artifacts found had been given to Anna Walas who acted as the ‘Finds Officer’ for the excavation. It was her task to record and detail the finds, noting exactly where they had be found, before packaging them up and sending them back to the university for conservation. Anna not only showed us a sample of recent finds from that day, but allowed us to hold some of them whilst she explained what they were and how they were probably used.
The examples shown above are: a small piece of carved bone decorated like a ‘domino’ and a small decorated glass bead that had probably been part of a larger decoration; both were tiny and very intricate. Other items, not shown, included: human and animal bones – some showing signs of cut marks made by a knife; fragments of pottery; bone needles; stones used for grinding corn to make flour; dice or counting pieces made from bone and baked clay, fragments of cloth, an iron spear point and detrius thought to be from working with iron and copper alloys.
The visit which had taken over 2 hours concluded with all the members saying a very big thank you to Anna for showing us her collection and to John for inviting us to see what the work of an Archaelogist was all about. Everyone departed commenting that it had been a very interesting visit and expressing the desire to visit again next year.