I thought you might be interested in background information from Dr Keith Ray on other archaeological sites of interest in Herefordshire besides Eaton Camp. We should all have lots of opportunities to participate if Eaton Camp has not worn you out!
We will soon be able to schedule a meeting to review our project results so far.
All the best,
Eaton Camp Historical Society
Herefordshire County Archaeological Service and the Department of Archaeology, University of Manchester
2011 Bredwardine and Dorstone archaeological field studies: prehistoric south-west Herefordshire, c.4000-1500BC
Notes for Residents and Visitors, June 22nd, 2011
Keith Ray and Julian Thomas
Introduction and background
An exploratory season of archaeological investigations is taking place on four sites in the Bredwardine-Dorstone-Peterchurch area between Wednesday 29th June and Tuesday 26th July 2011, by a team drawn principally from the University of Manchester and archaeologists and local volunteers from Herefordshire. The purpose of this work is to gain some initial information on the nature of hilltop activity in the fourth millennium BC (the ‘early Neolithic’ period, from 4000-3000BC when farming was just becoming established in Britain). The locations chosen for investigation are places not far from the Neolithic tomb datable to the period c.3600-3300 BC at Arthur’s Stone, and sited mostly on prominent spurs of the ridge of hills between Bredwardine on the River Wye and Dorstone in the Golden Valley. These are striking locations to the east of the high east-facing scarp slopes of the Black Mountains, and dramatically overlooking the valleys of the Wye and Dore. The presence of Neolithic activity here is already known from casual finds mostly of flint tools. The main reasons for the focus in this particular area are the claimed presence of a mid-4th millennium hilltop enclosure on Dorstone Hill, the location of the undoubted chambered tomb at Arthur’s Stone, and the discovery of a small cache of Neolithic worked stone artefacts at The Knapp, Bredwardine. Also included in these exploratory works are the environs of the protected mound (possible long barrow) at Cross Lodge, just to the south of Dorstone village, and the very small hilltop promontory enclosure on the adjacent Windy Ridge. The hilltop sites were probable gathering places for communities based in the valleys, and were built and used mostly in a period of less than 100 years either side of 3500BC. Just why this was the case, no one as yet knows.
The intention is that these initial works will provide sufficient clues as to the research potential of the sites concerned to be able to place them at the core of a three-year research project aimed at investigating the traces of Neolithic (and, where encountered Early Bronze Age) communities in a slightly wider area extending westwards to the eastern scarp of the Black Mountains and southwards along the Dore Valley. This study area potentially takes in known sites such as a pit alignment of probable Neolithic date known to cross the Dore Valley near Peterchurch, a settlement site known from dense surface scatters of worked flint close to that village, a focus of ‘Beaker’-period (Early Bronze Age, c. 2400-1800BC) activity at Vowchurch known from finds of pottery sherds, possible enclosed Bronze Age cremation cemeteries surviving as earthworks at Little Mountain, Clifford, and a standing stone and its environs at Michaelchurch Escley. It is intended that as part of this wider study, field survey concentrated at the northern end of the Golden Valley will also be complemented by aerial and geophysical survey, investigations concerning soils and the early environment, and petrological characterisation and survey of samples of rock, to place the sites concerned in their wider landscape context. Research studies of stone implement and pottery forms and petrology, worked flint items and their technology, human osteology and bioarchaeology, and animal bones will complement the field studies and excavations.
The primary aim of the season this year, then, is to examine in a very preliminary way a suite of closely associated sites that might provide significant new information on what is geographically a ‘threshold zone’ between central southern England and the valleys and uplands of Wales at a series of key times in the history of the millennia concerned. Of particular concern is the proving of contemporary activity focused upon enclosures and upon ‘megalithic’ mounds in the mid-4th millennium within a small area, and the relating of this both to other kinds of activity, and to exchange networks covering much wider areas (there are axes from south-west Wales and elsewhere on at least one of the sites concerned). Another concern is to trace this activity through to the 3rd millennium, and to establish any particular directions of contact west to the Preselis and east to Salisbury Plain.
The overall Project Directors and Principal Investigators are Dr. Keith Ray, Herefordshire County Archaeologist, and Professor Julian Thomas of the Department of Archaeology at Manchester University. The project will be in receipt of senior archaeological support and participation from Dr. Koji Mizoguchi of Kyushu University, Japan, and from Tim Hoverd, Archaeological Projects Officer with Herefordshire Council. Funding for the 2011 field season is being provided primarily by Manchester University.
The 2011 excavations
The main focus for excavation in 2011 will be The Knapp, Bredwardine, where investigations may continue throughout the four weeks of the field season. A small assemblage of flint waste flakes, tools (including a fine leaf-shaped arrowhead) and reworked polished axe fragments was found close to the top of an elongated knoll here, located high above the river Wye to the north. The aim of the work at this site will be to establish whether the knoll was enclosed in the 4th millennium, or whether (for example) the finds represent simply an isolated cache inserted into the side of a prominent topographical feature. A geophysical survey will be conducted where feasible away from the steep scarp slopes, and a series of five excavation areas will be opened to enable the site to be fully field evaluated in this way.
Excavation is planned also to take place at Dorstone Hill, where a possible early enclosure was investigated in a series of small-scale trenches by Roger Pye in the late 1960s. Several small pits, and a stone-fronted bank were revealed; an assemblage of worked flint including likely 4th millennium pieces and numerous pottery fragments was found. The aim of the work here in 2011 is to carry out a limited geophysical survey across the still-visible though plough-damaged bank (surveyed in outline in the 1990s by English Heritage staff) to try especially to locate the presence of any associated ditch, and to conduct test excavations. These will be excavated both across the bank and a likely location for a ditch or ditch segment. A test area will also be opened in the location of a dense scatter of worked flints found by Roger Pye and his co-workers when part of the hilltop was ploughed in the 1960s.
The two other sites to be test investigated in July 2011 are located to the south of the sites already discussed. At Cross Lodge, a geophysical survey will take place in the environs of the Cross Lodge presumed Neolithic barrow, and survey and test investigations will be conducted on the site of a postulated second long barrow in its close proximity. Limited test investigations will also take place within the promontory site at Windy Ridge high on the hill above Cross Lodge to the east.
Our thanks to Mr. Michael Jones, to Mr. John Hughes and to Mr. Simon Quan and the Trustees of the Wilmaston Estate who as land owners and managers have granted permission for the work to take place in 2011 on the land they own and work.
The 2011 Field Team
This will comprise two main groups, but will feature the participation of several others. The first team will be students from Manchester University under the overall supervision of Professor Julian Thomas, and supported by three site supervisors. The second group will be local and Herefordshire volunteers, under the supervision of Herefordshire Council archaeologists including Tim Hoverd, Keith Ray, and Chris Atkinson. Chris is the Council’s Community Archaeologist, and has been working with the Bredwardine community historians over the last four years or so on local heritage projects. In addition, a team from Kyushu University comprising three graduate students and Associate Professor Dr. Koji Mizoguchi, will join us for the second half of the field season. Other participants will include archaeology students from the University of Leipzig, Germany.
Evening talks. Both introductory and ‘progress’ talks will be given, and these will be open to members of the public to attend. The first and last of these talks will be held at the Village Hall in Bredwardine at 7.30pm on 30th June and 25th July respectively, and with one near the middle, on Friday 15th July, at Dorstone Village Hall.
Site open days. Two open days will hopefully be provided at The Knapp (depending, to some degree, on the extent and nature of discoveries), probably on Sunday 10th and Sunday 24th July. These will be intended primarily for the benefit of local residents.
Dr. Keith Ray, 22nd June 2011.