we are now entering the final stages of preparations for this year’s excavations at Ipplepen. Here are some important dates for your diaries.
The excavation will run from Monday 5th to Friday 30th June, 2017. It is on private land but you can still keep in touch with what we are up to through this Blog, and by visiting the Hub and the Open Day:
OPEN DAY: this will be on Sunday 25th June, 10.30 to 3.30; there will be signposts and marshals to direct you to the site from Ipplepen village and the main road.
HUB: the information centre at the community café at the Methodist Church in Ipplepen Village will be open Mondays to Fridays, 10-4.
You may be interested to know that we have just uploaded a new video on to the Ipplepen web page.
This video shows Graham Fereday and Rich Webb from the University of Exeter Digital Humanities team 3D scanning some of the human skulls excavated on site during 2014. The video was taken by Sean Goddard. Some of the resulting 3D models can be viewed here or on the Sketchfab website
When we first excavated the skulls during 2014 and 2015, many of them were revealed to be in a delicate state of preservation due to the presence of acidic soils on site. Nevertheless, with the help of the Digital Humanities team we were able to develop a new excavation strategy. We delicately block lifted the skulls and subsequently carefully and skilfully excavated them in the labs here in the Archaeology Department.
The Digital Humanities team were then able to 3D scan the skulls for us creating a permanent record for the archives. This has allowed the preservation of key morphological features that allow us to determine sex and age. It also enables future researchers to examine and re-evaluate the skulls and allows the creation of a 3D print that can be handled by students in the classroom and the public at open days.
Also, importantly, it now allows us to remove the remaining acidic soils from inside the skulls in order to better preserve and curate the surviving bone fragments.
We’ve had another exciting result from our programme of radiocarbon dating.
The cremation in Trench 12 was not associated with any datable pottery, but the radiocarbon date shows that it is 4th or 3rd century BC (Middle Iron Age). That makes it contemporary with some of the earliest roundhouses that have been excavated across the site and which are themselves associated with distinctive decorated pottery known as South-West Decorated Ware.
Scientific dating is helping us to gradually fill out a picture of life and death in a settlement occupied from the Middle Iron Age through to the Post-Roman period.
Hi everyone, we thought you might be interested to see the completed final excavation plan of Trench 10 excavated in June 2016. This plan represents a composite of all of the measured drawings made by our students and volunteers during the dig. These field drawings were then digitised by scanning the originals into a computer and then tracing over them using a digital graphics software package. The Individual digitised drawings were then stitched together to make the whole.
The original drawings were drawn at a scale of 1:20. The scale of the finished drawing is indicated by the blue grid lines which are each 5m apart.
The position of the two roundhouses is indicated by the red circles. The northernmost one contained mostly Iron Age pottery in the fill of its ring ditch, but also a Romano-British jar darting from the mid-3rd century AD, or later. The southern one contained Middle and Late Iron Age pottery in its fill. There are numerous other segments of ring ditch suggesting continuous occupation over an extended period of time as well as several different phases of rectilinear ditched enclosures.
We have just had the latest set of radiocarbon dates! The earliest one in this batch is 2nd century AD, and confirms a mid-Roman date for a pit that contained a large amount of burnt material. The second date is 5th century AD, and came from some rubbish that was dumped into a steep-sided pit or well: this is extremely exciting as it shows that the settlement continued to be occupied after Britain ceased to be part of the Roman Empire. We also decided to date one further burial (excavated in 2014) in the cemetery which turned out to be mid-7th century AD: this is a similar date to the others we have, and it now looks like the cemetery is firmly early Christian in date (not Roman as first thought).
An exciting, and unexpected, discovery during excavations in 2016 was a small group of cremated human remains. The remains had been carefully placed in a small, shallow pit with the largest fragments, including the leg bones, at the bottom. The bone represents a single individual whose sex could not be determined but who was probably a young adult female or young gracile adult male. The level of bone fusion and presence of adult tooth roots suggest the individual was over 17 but under 30 years of age. After cleaning the vast majority of the bone was shown to be a uniform neutral white, indicating burning at 940°C and above (Shipman et al. 1984). The fracture patterns identified suggest the remains were fleshed at the time of cremation with the largest bone fragment size being 81mm. We are awaiting the results of radiocarbon dating before comparison with other cremations in the South West can be made.
Shipman, P., Foster, G. and Schoeninger, M. 1984: ‘Burnt bones and teeth: an experimental study of colour, morphology and crystal structure and shrinkage’, J. Archaeol. Sci. 11, 307–25.
Hi everyone, I just thought you might be interested to see this new image of the Romano-British coarse ware jar that we excavated from the fill of one of our two main ring ditches this season. One of our Undergraduate students Cristina Crizbasan has reconstructed it for us. You may be able to see that it has wiped surface treatment on the lower half and has a narrow band of obtuse lattice decoration at the top. In form and decoration it resembles a Greyhound Yard type 3 jar. The date range for this form typically spans the 3rd and 5th centuries AD. However, vessels with narrow bands of obtuse lattice decoration are generally later. In fact the narrower the band the later the pot! (see Woodward et al. 1993, ‘Excavations at Greyhound Yard, Dorchester, 1981-4’, DNHAS Monograph 12, pp. 230-231).
The post-excavation analysis of soil samples collected during the 2015 excavation season has produced important information about arable farming at Ipplepen. Exeter student Jan Oke, has examined all of the plant macrofossils obtained from these samples under a microscope. She has revealed that overall 59% of identifiable grains are wheat, 21% are barley, and 20% oats. This pattern of mixed arable agriculture is typical for South West Britain during the Roman period.