That’s All Folks!

It has been a busy last week on site. Cleaning up the features, getting plans and sections drawn, photographs taken, context sheets recorded. On top of that we have been wet sieving our soil samples on site, washing finds, and sorting them by context and find type, as well as marking up previous finds in The Hub. This week saw visits by Devon County Council, and various other dignitaries as well.

Tuesday saw a cow jaw come to light in the roadside ditch. This was particularly helpful for figuring out the stratigraphy in that area, since it was obvious from the way in which the jaw rested how the earth sloped. This also meant that we had finally exposed the bedrock of the site, being at the bottom of the ditch. Tuesday was also a particularly warm day, so everyone was very grateful when some ice lollies were brought up on site!

Wednesday and Thursday continued in similar fashion, but with three more coins being found, taking the total of coins found during this season to more than 30: most of these coins were late Roman nummi, some of them were earlier. Thursday was the last day of archaeological work, and saw final plans, sections, levels, contexts, and other records being finished. We were really pleased to get everything finished that was needed.

Imogen, John, Chris, and George making some final records

Friday saw the inevitable happen; firstly, the site being back filled as we came to the end of our 2014 season; and secondly, the weather taking a turn for the worse.

It was all hands to deck as small finds were re-bagged and ordered by fill context and find type; wet sieving was completed; trestle tables were packed up; the site office emptied, and the site tent cleared. Some surprise cake brought onto site by Danielle was much appreciated, especially in the pouring rain! After many hard hours of clearing, moving, sorting, and sieving, the site was ready to be vacated.

After 4 weeks of excavations at this site, it was quite sad to see it being backfilled by a mechanical digger, but nevertheless, we can rest easy knowing that we achieved what we set out to do!

All that remains to be said is a massive thank you to all of those involved, from the volunteers, local and far-flung; students and supports, and our benefactors. Further thanks go to Imogen Wood, John Davey, Danielle Wootton, and Sian Thomas for their expertise and practical assistance, and to Ioana Oltean; the British Museum, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Devon County Council, the University of Exeter Annual Fund, and Torquay Museum, without whom and without whose support, this year’s excavations could not have taken place. Our final thanks go to the landowner for allowing these excavations to take place.

Until next year!

In the meantime, be sure to check our Facebook and Twitter pages for occasional updates…

Final Monday of 2014

It has been a busy last Monday on site today, as everyone picked up the pace for the final push! The day started with Imogen giving a tour of the site to our fresh volunteers, but soon we were all at work in the trenches. Recent graduate Libby has been working in the roadside ditch, and found what might be some ancient Roman road-kill, in the form of some cow bones!  The weather was good for excavating in today apart from a spot of heavy rain which led to everyone gathering in the site tent for a while. After that work continued and a trench through the road was started. By digging through the road we hope expose a section of the road which will expose its stratigraphy, and hence its periods of use and repair.

Imogen showing new volunteers around the site

The Hub is up and fully running until the 31st, so make sure that you come and check out our photo displays, handling collections, and vast wealth of other materials whilst you still can!

Busy bagging up soil samples for wet sieving
Busy bagging up soil samples for wet sieving

Friday and Sunday

Friday was a great day to end the week. We recorded our 2000th small find (and then about another 70 more), found a red bead, which is particularly rare in Britain. This added to our swelling collection of beads that we have found. Minutes before we packed up for the day a large sherd of decorated Samian was found at the bottom of the roadside ditch (which will be great for helping to date it!). This sherd is of especially interesting since it seems that it might have been the lid of a vessel, again, something which is quite uncommon to find in Britain.

The overcast weather of Sunday was welcome respite from the scorching sun that was felt during the week. Today we found not one, not two, but three coins! One in the unstratified spoil, another through wet-sieving soil samples, and then finally one in a specific context! This brings the total number of coins found on site to a staggering 28!

Days 15 and 16

The Site was a-buzz with activity on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday saw the Hub close earlry so that James and Greg could get some filming and

photographing of the site done (some of which is now on our Facebook page). The highlight of this filming saw Danielle carefully lift a bent copper alloy pin. Whether this pin was purposefully bent for use, or whether it was bent at a later date, we do not yet know.

Greg filming Danielle excavating a copper alloy pin

Tuesday was a scorcher, so we set up a gazebo to prove some shade for those on site. In the evening we took a trip to Denbury Hill fort, so a particular thank you to Bill Horner and Ranger John for that. We started at a perfect time with the sun just starting to set, and as we walked up through the ancient entrance we looked over the Devon countryside and could see for miles. We then entered the tree cover and traced the ancient upper fortification and ditch level, with the lower level clearly visible below us.

John pointing out the area surrounding Denbury

After this we proceeded to the two Bronze Age barrows in the middle of the fort, before decending back to Denbury Green and the Union Inn. A perfect way to finish off the day.

Wednesday was another sorcher and everyone on site was feeling it a bit, so whilst small finds records were being digitised in the Hub, it was decided that everyone needed a half day, as a bug was going around too.

Thursday, has gotten off to a good start however, with Student Intern Jess coming over to the Hub to digitise records at breakneck speed, and everyone is feeling refreshed, espicially since it is now a little overcast!

Torquay Museum needs your help!

This means alot to us over at Ipplepen Archaeological Project, since all of our finds and records are due to be stored at Torquay Museum. Torquay Museum is only a 20min drive from our site and it would be truely defevasting if these cuts were to take place. We would be one of the many groups likely to be directly affected. Please take a few minutes to fill out this questionnaire, and share it with as many people as possible! “Torquay Museum is facing devastating cuts of 42% in its grant from Torbay Council for 2015/16, as recently announced in their latest £14m Savings Proposals.We need your support to try and reverse this decision and save the Museum from closure. To register your opposition to Torbay Council’s proposed cuts fill out this consultation questionnaire. Just follow the link below. Please help support the Museum. Thank you.”

Week 3 Update – Days 12 to 14

Sunday, Day 12, was our site Open Day, which saw nearly 500 people visit the site, and nearly 400 visit the Hub, making for a total of a little fewer than 900 people!

This year’s Open Day saw refreshments provided by Spanky’s Spuds and Hunter’s Brewery which went down a storm in the brilliant sunshine (there was a light interlude of rain later on in the afternoon however).

The bronze bracelet after conservation!

Activities on site included; student led tours of the excavation which ran every half an  hour; talks by Dr. Sam Moorhead of the British Museum and Portable Antiquities Service about Roman coins; talks about Romano-British pottery with display cases; children’s activities; pot washing; views of our post-conservation bronze bracelet; information from Devon County Council; and even Roman re-enactors. It was a fun filled and busy day for all involved!Over at the Hub we were open as usual, with a PAS handling display which contains various artefacts, from a Cartwheel Penny of George III to a 2nd century AD Roman amphora handle, imported from Spain. Our displays on the history of the site and Roman roads more generally proved popular, as did our picture slideshow which was running on a monitor. The children’s activities were put through their paces as the ‘make your own Roman coin and mosaic’ tables were inundated with creative flair!

Monday saw a return to excavations on site, with scorching temperatures and sweaty brows a lot of progress was made, we are nearly at the point of recording our 2,000th small find, and it is only just the beginning of Week 3! Everyone is back on site now for Tuesday, with some of our volunteers and students going over to Denbury Hill Fort this evening (but more on that tomorrow).

Today the Hub will be closed from 1’o’clock as we are heading over to site to snap up some great pics for you all to have a look at!

Week 2

Site Open Day

What a busy week it has been at Ipplepen, and apologies for not updating more frequently this week, I had my graduation ceremony on Wednesday!

Monday saw students and volunteers being taught how to 3D record our small finds, and it was gloriously sunny occasion for it too! Imogen, the Site Director also gave a talk about the correct way to fill in context sheets. Context sheets are an important aspect of every archaeological excavation, because as we excavate a site and dig out the fill of a feature, the fill is dug out and no longer exists, therefore it is vital that everything we do is recorded in meticulous detail. In the U.K. context sheets are normally filled out in a standardised manner, as laid out by the Museum of London Archaeology Service, below is a link to their manual, for anyone keen to have a read of the nitty-gritty details!

Tuesday saw Greg (on a placement with PAS) tasked with driving a very important find to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter for conservation. The great work of the RAMM conservators will be present for all to see at the Site Open this Sunday (did someone say a freshly conserved bronze bracelet, excavated last week, will be on display? I think they did…)!

Work also continued on washing the copious quantities of pottery that we uncovering on site, and another coin was found! Lunchtime saw the students and volunteers come over to The Hub for lunch, the warm food provided making a nice change to cold cheese sandwiches.

On Wednesday work continued at a great pace, with a milestone being reached as the 1,200th small find was registered, and two coins were found as well. In the evening Danielle Wootton gave a talk to the Ipplepen History Group about the site. One of the points brought up was that John Fowles, famous for penning ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ mentions strolling through the fields of Ipplepen (where he was evacuated during WWII) and musing on Roman activity, perhaps he used to stroll over the field where we are excavating now!

Thursday was a day of technology with students and volunteers being taught how to operate the 3D recording and levelling equipment. The afternoon saw us fly up a drone in order to take aerial photographs of the site, and to see if we could spot any surrounding groundworks or crop marks that might match up with previous geophysical surveys. It also provided us with the perfect opportunity to photograph the surrounding area with Denbury Hill Fort in the background. The day was rounded off with a talk by John briefing students about the site and what we have uncovered so far, and what this tells us, all in preparation for the Site Tours on Sunday for the Open Day.

Friday has begun with much gusto and excitement as everyone is getting ready for the Open Day. Excitingly a sondage trench (from the French word for ‘a sounding’) has been marked up at the end of the Roman road, in order to better assess what is around it and how it was built: a sondage trench works like a small trial trench.

And that is the week in brief!

We hope to see you at our Open Day this Sunday where we can answer all of your questions!

Press Release

Our official Press Release has now gone out!

Ipplepen Archaeological dig in the driving seat

A Roman road discovered on an archaeological dig has repairs to the road surface, showing that pot holes in Devon’s roads are nothing new.

The excavation at Ipplepen, run by the University of Exeter, is back on site following the discovery of a complex series of archaeological features thought to be part of the largest Romano-British settlement in Devon outside of Exeter.

Wheel ruts found in the newly excavated road surface are thought to be like those at Pompeii caused by carts being driven over them. This is cause for excitement according to archaeologist Danielle Wootton, the Devon Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. She said:“The road must have been extensively used, it’s intriguing to think what the horse-drawn carts may have been carrying and who was driving them. This is a fantastic opportunity to see a ‘snap shot’ of life 2000 years ago.”

The geophysical survey and a significant number of Roman coins found when the site was first discovered highlighted the importance of this extensive site and its potential to explore the relationship between the Romans  and Devon’s native population.

This year’s dig, directed by Dr Imogen Wood has uncovered a few more Roman coins, two of which date from between AD 43 to AD 260 and around six late Roman 4th century coins. One can be accurately dated to AD 335 – 341. However, the location of personal artefacts, such as the newly discovered Roman hair pin , brooch and bracelet are equally as thrilling for the archaeological team.

The pin would have been used to hold the hair together much in the same way similar items are used today. Danielle Wootton said:“Roman women had some very elaborate hairstyles which changed through time like our fashions do today. Hairpins were used to hold complex hairstyles like buns and plaits together and suggests that Devon women may have been adopting fashions from Rome. This period in history often gets flooded with stories about Roman soldiers and centurions; this is interesting as they are artefacts worn by women.”

Green and blue glass beads have been unearthed, which suggests that colourful necklaces were also worn. Two amber beads have been discovered which are likely to have travelled many miles possibly from the Baltic coast to their final location at Ipplepen in the South Devon.

Wootton explained:“During the Roman period amber was thought to have magical, protective and healing properties. These very personal items worn by the women that lived on this site centuries ago have enabled us to get a glimpse into the lives of people living everyday lives on the edges of the Roman Empire.”

Pottery has also been discovered by the Archaeology Department’s students and local volunteers on the excavation. Dr Imogen Wood, University of Exeter said:“The pottery recovered suggests people were making copies of popular roman pottery for cooking and eating, but also importing a small amount of fine pottery from the continent such as drinking cups and Samian bowls for dinner guests to see and envy.”

The excavation is being carried out until the end of July and is likely to reveal further exciting finds which will help to further our understanding between Roman Britain and its native population. An Open Day for members of the public to view the Ipplepen dig and its Roman Road is on Sunday 20 July between 10am and 4pm.

Directions to the dig, involves going to The Hub information point at Ipplepen Methodist Church, Ipplepen, TQ12 5SU between 10am – 4pm. There will be displays at the Hub and the opportunity to talk to people taking part in the dig. From the Hub, visitors will be directed to the excavation where official tours of the site will take place throughout the day. There will be children’s art making activities with local artist Joe Webster and the opportunity to meet some ‘real- life’ Roman re-enactors to on the day.

The archaeology information point at the Hub will continue to be open on Mondays- Fridays from 10am – 4.30 until the 31st July.

University of Exeter archaeologist, Dr Ioana Oltean said:”This season’s excavations are proving to be a real success. We are beginning to demonstrate the importance of this site in the Roman period when the road going through the settlement connected Ipplepen with the Roman world and brought here not only coins, but also pottery and personal goods used in everyday life.”

The dig is funded by the University of Exeter, Portable Antiquities Scheme, British Museum and Devon County Council.