Excavation day 7- Monday 13th June

Enfys carefully excavating the mandible
Welcome to our new volunteers Andrew, Mary, Hilary and Dalton!

On Monday, many more features were planned and excavated, and more people began washing the pottery. In a prehistoric ditch, a student found a possible sheep mandible, which takes a lot of care to excavate, as shown by Enfys. We would like to give warm welcome to the enthusiastic new volunteers joining us this week- Andrew and Dalton, and we are welcoming back local villagers Mary and Hilary. Andrew enjoyed his first day on site and looks forward to the rest, “I can’t believe I’ve been on a site where such interesting pottery and features have turned up on my first day. It is brilliant to be part of a team and to work with such inspiring young people. I can’t wait for the rest of the week.” Thank you Andrew, we can’t wait to see what it may hold either!

End of Week 1 Update

Kathryn, Albert and Ruth, our Week 1 Volunteers
Thanks to Kathryn, Albert and Ruth, our Week 1 Volunteers

The excavation

After a week of excavation, the team have uncovered a number of features including ditches and post holes. Some features are prehistoric and others appear to date to the Romano-British period.  We have also discovered prehistoric and Roman pottery. The team have been working hard despite the mixture of sun, heat and rain, and have continued to excavate, plan and section the site. We want to say a big thank you to our local Devon volunteers who joined us on our very productive first week. Thank you to Kathryn, Ruth and Albert, who “really enjoyed it” and “would come back next year”. It has been a busy and promising first week, we are looking forward to what the next few have in store for us.

Here is Katie and her painting. Her class tasted the Roman style bread, she said it was "tasty".
Here is Katie and her painting. Her class tasted the Roman style bread, she said it was “tasty!”.

The Hub

The Hub has also had a busy first week, and at the Hub’s after school club on Friday we welcomed some of our youngest visitors from Ipplepen Primary School. They loved seeing their Roman food artwork on display, and guessing what our replica Roman pottery would have been used for. Visit the Hub to see their paintings inspired by past finds from Ipplepen, and to make your own guess on the function of the pottery.

Excavation day 4 (9th June)

Volunteers Kathryn and Jonathan with their excavated ditch
Volunteers Kathryn and Jonathan with their nicely  excavated ditch

The excavation

The team enjoyed cooler weather today, and continued to photograph and plan the exposed features. Excavation of some features is underway, with gulleys, ditches and post holes being excavated. Kathryn, a local volunteer, and Jonathan, a volunteer from the USA, completed excavating their section of a ditch, which is possibly Medieval or later in date, as it is on the same alignment as some of the scars caused by ploughing. Jonathan is on his first excavation and said: “It is interesting to be able to excavate a ditch and hold pottery fragments in your hand that haven’t been held for hundreds of years!”

The Hub

Today we received lots of visitors excited to learn more about the site, and to come and see the new finds in our display case! Some visitors have followed our progress at Ipplepen over the years and are eagerly anticipating updates on the team’s progress. Keep following the blog to hear more!

Excavation day 3 (8th June)

Student archaeologists Bethan and Simon sieving in the sun
Archaeology students Bethan and Simon sieving in the sun

A special hello

The team would like to say a special hello to Katy, the site’s ‘auntie’ who’s been a strong supporter since we first discovered the site. We’re all thinking of you, Katy, and hope you enjoy reading our blog.

The Excavation

A very hot day has seen the students and volunteers carefully planning and drawing the exposed features. The team have also been sieving the spoil heaps to see if there is anything to be found in the topsoil. Some pottery fragments were recovered which were then washed, dried and labelled and you can now look at some of these in the Hub.

The Hub

Today the Hub welcomed another wave of visitors, including some of our archaeology students, and a couple of them helped out in the Hub presenting the new finds to a visitor. We also had a special guest, Jim Wills, who is a very important person to the site, as he and the late Dennis Hewings originally discovered the site. Come along to see our new finds.

The Hub day 2 (7th June)

A warm welcome to the Hub


The Hub

The Hub has been attracting its first visitors today, with lots of members of the community keen to learn more about the site and keep up to date with the new finds. Come and see our great displays and handling collection in Ipplepen Methodist Church from 9:30 – 4:15 Monday to Friday. Keep following this blog for exciting daily updates as the excavation continues!

2016 Excavation day 2 (7th June)

2016 Excavation day 2 (7th June)
2016 Excavation day 2 (7th June)
Students preparing for excavation
Students preparing for excavation









The students and volunteers have almost finished cleaning the site, and already we can see a large number of interesting features such as ditches, gulleys and post holes. The team have begun to carefully photograph and plan the trenches before they can begin excavating these exciting features. Some features are possibly late Roman, which is just what the team were looking for. A promising start!


2016 excavation day 1 (6th June)

Calypso and Lowenna with one of the diplays
Calypso and Lowenna with one of the diplays

Students and volunteers were briefed on the background of the site, health and safety and excavation protocol whilst the topsoil was removed and we came down onto archaeological deposits. After lunch, the whole team then began to clean back the area very carefully which will enable us to define archaeological features.

The Hub
We also set up our community information point at the Hub in Ipplepen Methodist Church. Our Hub displays look really good- please do pop in and see them. This year’s intern is Calyspo, who will be based at the Hub to explain the displays, help with children’s activities and provide daily updates about the excavation.

Thankyou to our students Calypso and Lowenna and Maria from Ipplepen Methodist Church for all their help putting up the Hub displays!

Good Morning all! Fieldwork season 2016 starts today!

Good Morning all! Today is the first day of our fieldwork season 2016. Everything is set up and ready to go- our local volunteers and students will arrive at 9am, the trench is all marked out and we’ll begin taking the turf off and then cleaning back soon. Very exciting!

Just about to do a live interview with BBC Radio Devon on the Simon Bates show on 103.4 fm / 95.7 fm digital.

Will be back to update you all with today’s progress.

Local school students make ‘Roman bread’ based on ancient grains found on our excavation

Breadmakers Emma and Iona with Sands school pupils
Breadmakers Emma and Iona with Sands school pupils

As we have discovered ancient grains of wheat, barley and oats at Ipplepen (see our earlier ‘Cereals’ post), we decided to try to make our own ‘Roman’ bread in a secondary school workshop last week.

Breadmaker Emma Parkin (from Emma’s Bread, Exeter), archaeologist Danielle Wootton and students from Sands School in Ashburton, Devon, spent an afternoon making Roman bread in an experimental archaeology workshop. Our aim was to replicate a loaf of bread discovered in an oven at Pompeii, whilst using flours made from similar grains to the ancient grains we have discovered at the Ipplepen excavation.

We used wholemeal wheat flour and spelt flour and then added a sourdough starter (the starter was made by Emma the night before). This was all mixed together, kneaded and then left to rise for about an hour in the sun.  The dough was then kneaded into shape. It was then stamped using clay stamps made by Sands School students. Next, string was tied around the centre. (Roman bread is characteristically ‘pinched’ inwards around the centre, and we think this was achieved by tying string around it). We wondered whether the ‘pinching’ around the centre may have helped it to bake more easily in the middle. Also, by using the same length of string, the breadmaker could ensure the loaves were all about the same size. The string, with a loop tied at the end, was possibly used for carrying or hanging the bread when it had been baked. We could imagine many loaves of bread being carried by their strings on poles back to a busy household- much easier than trying to carry it all under your arms.

The bread was then baked in an oven at a very high temperature for around 40 minutes (the Romans would have used a wood-fired oven, much like wood-fired pizza ovens today). 

This was our first attempt- there’s always room for improvement – but we think our bread looks quite a lot like the Roman loaf from Pompeii. It tasted great too! Whilst the bread was quite heavy (we used wholemeal flour and didn’t use yeast to make it rise- only the traditional sourdough starter) we decided it would have been very filling and was probably healthier as there were no preservatives or added sugar. The Sands School students then took their bread into a workshop at Ipplepen Primary School.. details of which will follow in a later post.

Why was the bread stamped? 

The stamps in the bread could be used as an ‘advertisement’ for the breadmaker- much like a maker’s mark on various products today. Also, not everyone had their own oven, so people would make the dough and ask the local baker to bake it for them. Stamping bread with your own mark would help you find your bread amongst all the other loaves in the baker’s oven. Our clay stamps worked quite well- we think we will apply a bit of oil to the stamp next time to see if it makes the impression clearer.  Local breadmaker Emma is now intrigued with how bread (and breadstamps) were made in ancient times (watch this space…).

12 school pupils directly participated in making the bread and other students (school total 70) came to watch our progress throughout the afternoon and to try the bread at the end of the day.

Members of public invited to excavation Open Day on Saturday 25th June 2016, 10.30am – 3.30pm

Members of the public are invited to join us at our Open Day on Saturday 25th June from 10.30am to 3.30pm.

There will be guided tours of the excavation- your chance to see archaeology close-up, as well as history related stalls and re-enactment groups who will be bringing the site to life with ‘living history’ displays.

Iron Age group Dumnonika, and Roman groups the the Vicus and Isca Romans will be on hand for people to see what life was life was like at the site around 2000 years ago. University of Exeter students will give guided tours of the excavation and reveal our latest findings from the 2016 fieldwork. Refreshments will also be available. All welcome! Further details will be published on this blog nearer the time.

In 2015 we had a fantastic open day with 930 visitors who provided great feedback such as: ‘Three generations of our family – grandparents in their 60s, daughter 40ish and two granddaughters aged 10 and 7 – went to the exhibition and Open Day at the Ipplepen excavation last Summer and enjoyed a really wonderful time. It inspired the youngest to choose her experience as the basis for her school project. This is what Rowan (age 7) wrote about the day for her class Roman project, which she decided to do about Roman roads :
“Last summer I visited a newly discovered Roman road near Ipplepen in Devon. We were given a tour of the site and I spotted a piece of Roman pottery in the ground. (Rowan was excited to have the first eyes to notice this in more than 1500 years). They had an extra field where you buy food and they set up Roman stalls and did a Roman re-enactment. ”
Her mother Sam adds: “I would like to say it was one of our most enjoyable days of the summer. Really interesting insight into the archaeological work and finds, and the display in Ipplepen village hall was great. The day was lovely, with food and entertainment and stalls and lovely people doing really interesting tours.
Thank you – please do it again!”
”And the grandparents had a marvellous time learning more about the Romans and Roman civilisation in Devon, especially from the friendly people staffing the exhibition in the Hub at Ipplepen Methodist Church and running the tours of the site.
It was a delight to watch our family become enthusiasts for archaeology.’

Thankyou Rowan and family- we look forward to seeing you again this year, and look forward to welcoming everyone to the open day. See you all on June 25th!