Sunday, 16 November 2014

Spot the Pot

DD members visited the store of the Dorset County Museum to see the pot in which the Nether Compton hoard was found. As can be seen it is highly decorated in an almost modern fashion.
Luckily some of the 22,500+ coins stuck to the inner surface as the majority were sold off without record, until we had them recorded with the landowners permission. The marks are clearly visible.
 Some of the members inspecting the pot. They also had the chance to see other collections not normally on show to the public.
 Thanks to DCM for this private show.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

End of Trench 2

Digging the ditch in Trench 2 came to an end this week and it has been photographed and recorded.

By chance we have dug in an area where there is a 'causeway' of natural stone that has been left in situ. It looks as if two gangs have been working toward each other and left this stone in place, as the lower cut coming in from below this picture is different to the one coming in from above. Also the one above has a series of indentations which could be interpreted as the workmen using metal spikes to lever out the stone, while the lower excavation is more flat based. Why did they leave this 'causeway'? It is not flush with the surface, so could not be used as an access to the interior of the enclosure.

We did not find any pottery in this part of the ditch fill, so dating will be problematic. We did find a couple of flint blades and cores, but these are difficult to date and could be residual anyway. It is hoped that we may be able to dig another trench in the New Year and find more artefacts for dating. The initial interpretation is that this may be a Roman marching camp rather than an Iron Age enclosure. Without further excavation that is all we can say at the moment.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Cash & Community?

The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) sent me a letter today. They say that their core funding source has been withdrawn, although they fail to mention where that comes from, assuming that everyone knows this. I can only assume it is from government. They are asking members (professional archaeologists and non) to make a donation on top of the subs already paid. Needless to say archaeologists are on one of the lowest, if not the lowest, wages for those with a degree. Cuts are going to be made to teams in local planning departments relating to heritage, professional archaeologists have fallen from c.7,000 to 4,000 in the last 5 years and 'new blood' coming through the universities has also fallen in numbers. So that source of funding is also going to drop. Archaeology as a profession is dying and some of us have seen it coming for years (I've been in the job since 1990). The changes to local heritage provision, the privatisation of the job (from local government to private 'units') and low, low wages have all contributed to this. One of the main causes is the lack of effort to gain support from communities, but this is a chicken and egg situation i.e. money needs to be put into this effort but we don't have the money. But also it is how to go about it. 
What does and can archaeology do for you? Are we willing to pay for it?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Scratch that ditch

We began to dig the ditch in Trench 2 today and made good progress, although no pot has has come up, but we did find some nice flint and some bone.
Hopefully we can find some pot and have a definitive date for this feature which we can then match with the ditch in Trench 1.

We are currently doing some research on Roman military sites and find that they are only rarely excavated and when they are finds are at a premium, so Trench 1 on our site may provide a rare chance to add to Roman studies in the British Isles. We have been asked to add our report to the Oasis website, where lots of 'grey literature' (site reports) can be accessed. We are also planning to write a more readable account of our season of digging at Nether Compton, so look out for information on that here.  

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Trench 2 now open!

Trench 1 is no more. Thanks for all the goodies Trench 1. Trench 2 is now open and we hope that it will disgorge some diagnostic finds for us to date the enclosure ditch.

The enclosure ditch can be seen just in front of the bucket.

The first job is to clean the base of the new trench.

Tune in for further news and keep your trowels crossed that artefacts turn up.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Open Day success

A very successful open day at Nether Compton village hall with a talk and site visit plus a look at the finds for villagers and members. Lets hope that Trench 2 will add to our knowledge of how people lived here 2,000 years ago. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Even more recent finds!

Here's a nice little thing, small but beautiful. Some plaster that has the imprint of a small persons fingers from nearly 2,000 years ago. Make's yer fink dun it!?

Digging away
Other good news it that we finally finished digging the ditch and we can now record and backfill. After which we can then get started on Trench 2.
Trench 1 has been a gold mine of finds which will tell us a great deal about the date of our features and usage. Fingers crossed that Trench 2 is as forthcoming.  

Monday, 1 September 2014

Recent finds

A very nice example of the use of slip on a Romano-British pot rim. Would have been a cut above the usual black wares.

We had a discrete assemblage of bones in the ditch this week and we are looking forward to finding out what species are represented.

Saturday, 30 August 2014


Our first trench is now coming to an end and we have made great progress with the ditch. One more day digging and we should be at the base and have a full profile. Meanwhile it continues to produce some great pottery fragments:
Most of the pottery has been very high class and today we also had a bag full of bone, which we will have an expert examine to determine the species.

On 6th September we will have an open day for the villagers and DDCAG members to see the and find out what we have been up to so far. Also the plan for Trench 2!

Last time we were on site we found this:
Answers on a postcard, or here on the blog!?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Saturday dig

Today saw us hot the ditch, where most of the finds have been coming up.
Another fine piece of Black Burnished Ware.
We also started to do the recording of the posthole and pit. Here two Dorset Diggers are drawing a section at 1:10 scale. This gives a measured profile of the posthole before digging out the other half.

It is looking as if there was a substantial building nearby into which much of the material from it, after it was abandoned, was dumped into this ditch. The military base, that the substantial 3m wide ditch surrounded, must have been also long gone when this happened. The building material, pottery and possible painted plaster (found today) indicate a high class building, perhaps a well-to-do farmhouse or even villa.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Ditched Pottery

This lovely piece of Black Burnished Ware came out of the ditch fill this morning. The decoration was a surprise after it was washed.
Here is Ben excavating the pot. We were using a small spade, slicing away the soil rather than using a mattock, otherwise the pot may have been in smaller pieces than we would have hoped.
The pit is now excavated and it has turned out to be a bit boring, being one of those flat bottomed RB possible grain pits with no finds. After recoding we will excavate the other side. The posthole has also been half sectioned and is now finished. So it is only the ditch to excavate now and the top fill is full of building material, undoubtedly from a large nearby building.  

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Research article

Here is some research for our site by Richard.

Nether Compton in Antiquity
A short introduction to the area before excavations to be carried out by Dorset Diggers
Richard Hood June 2014

The name Nether Compton is Saxon and means the lower settlement in the valley (Comp as in Coombe).  The village lies in North Dorset close to the Somerset border, where the Trent Brook flows down to the River Yeo. It is first mentioned with Over Compton as Contone in the Doomsday book as held by Sherborne Abbey. Reference to the Victoria History of Dorset, Hutchins History of Dorset and other Dorset histories do not give much information about early Compton, providing more on the Church, interesting buildings and landowners. However there is mention of ‘Lynchets on a SW slope 1 ½ miles NE of the Church with six terraces’ and ‘Lynchets in Home Copse 600 yards S of the Church’. A passing reference to Athuros may relate to nearby South Cadbury and the Arthurian legend of Camelot.

The records of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society mention surface finds of worked flint, Romano-British and mediaeval pottery being made on Charlock Hill one mile to the NE of Nether Compton.   Other similar finds were found SW of Charlock Hill in the parish of Nether Compton, Romano-British finds being found at the marl pit map ref. 61541832.  A child’s skull was excavated from the face of the of the marl pit by Mr C E Bean. Coarse Romano-British pottery along with iron slag was also found indicating possible smelting of local iron bearing ore having taken place.  A hand made bead-rim pottery sherd found in the marl pit indicates pre-Roman activity in conjunction with a settlement site a few hundred yards to the N excavated by Mr J Fowler.  For more details the Society records can be inspected in the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.

In 1989 a metal detectorist discovered a hoard of 22,670 Roman coins in a field adjacent to Kitton Lane in the parish of Nether Compton. The coins were mainly of bronze and from the time of the Constantine dynasty, 4th century AD, with the earliest being Aurelian. Following the find, Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society became involved and carried out a geophysical investigation of the area. A detailed report of their findings can be found on a 2011 publication by Mr John Oswin available online as a PDF file.

The findings indicate traces of buildings that may have been a Roman fort and associated buildings. From 2014 onwards Dorset Diggers, an archaeological excavation group, have permission and funding to excavate the fields in the area to reveal what has been indicated by the geophysical survey. Should the excavations  reveal a Roman fort, its date and period of use would be of great interest, and hopefully explaining whether it was an invasion fort of Vespasians 2nd Agusta Legion on their way to Exeter, or a later fort built to pacify the local Durotriges tribe who had resisted the Roman invasion from nearby South Cadbury hill fort.

These and other questions will be answered on completion of the works to be carried out over the next few years.       

Best in the West

The Western Gazette has an article about our site online, so have a look. I was down a deep hole during this phone interview! The reporter has done a decent job understanding the information I was trying to give her, although using the word 'camp' has overtones of the scouts. With a 3m wide ditch for a defense this was quite a ging-gang-gooley of a camp.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Open Day

Had a sunny day for our Open Day at Nether Compton. Displays (including Yeovil Metal Detecting Club), site visits and sand pits for kids to dig in (thanks to Context One Archaeology for supplying the sand), plus a Roman soldier to talk to. The tea & cake were not bad too. Thanks to all that came to help out.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Pot, sweat & tears

A hot day on site and we were looking forward to finding more artefacts and starting to dig into the features after the rain swept us off site last Saturday. The day started well:
 The ditch was turning up lots of building material plus more BBW of high quality.

It is intriguing that so much BM has come up. There must have been a building of stone, brick and tile here, but this looks like a ditch defended enclosure on the geophiz, probably military and not a permanent settlement. A question we will have to answer.
The pit turned out to be disappointing however.
What we thought would be quite deep turned out to be shallow and flat based. These features are quite common and usually empty of finds.
The ditch did fill a few bags though and the quality of the pottery is remarkable, with one piece decorated.
All in all we felt quite pleased with the haul and hope that ditch will be the deliverer of more information as to the function of this, until now, lost Roman feature in the landscape of north Dorset.

 Hope to see you at the Open Day on the 26th. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

It's Fete

The famous Three Graces from Lyme Regis and Alison at Nether Compton fete.

Rained off

Day 3 was a washout, unfortunately. But we had a visit from some people from Nether Compton and some more bits of pottery before we had to run for cover. Also we managed to start digging the features. So not a complete waste. Next week is the Open Day at the village hall at Nether Compton starting at 2.30pm. A Roman, metal detecting club, digging for kids in sand pits and tea & cake! Plus a site visit.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Pots & pots

Day 2:
Cleaning day. The base of the trench is cleaned and here are the features uncovered:
North is to the right. The ditch, two pits a post hole and an uncertain feature to the left. Even when just cleaning we had our first pottery find:

A nice Black Burnished Ware rim. 

A very hot day, so thanks to those that came along to day. We are looking forward to many more finds and those made so far indicate a Roman-British enclosure.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Letting the machine take the strain

Day 1: stripping the topsoil.
After relocating the area where we wish to dig we had the machine start stripping the topsoil and subsoil. It is never easy judging the depth of the overburden and one just has to guess how deep we may have to go to locate the archaeology. The unevenness of the ground does not help. In this case the topsoil was 0.50m deep and then the subsoil added to this, to a depth of 1m. Being sloping ground it is likely that soil has built up over time since the ancient features were created leaving no trace on today's ground level.
One wonders if there is any archaeology at all, or if the trench has been put in the wrong place. Or, horror of horrors, the features have been dug out by stripping too deep!
With strong nerves and just a bit of experience the machine uncovered this large pit (1.50m dia.). Our first feature! Pits are always good news, as they have always been the ideal place to chuck rubbish, and of course rubbish is what archaeology is all about.
The pit was a bonus, because what we were hoping to find was this 3m wide ditch, which only came up by extending the trench beyond the 10m length we set out.
The trench is located just to the left of the B, so we have located the ditch section at the top plus the internal pit. As can be seen there are some internal features represented by black blobs. We may have time to extend the trench further into the ditched feature and locate more internal features.

Now we have to clean the base of the trench to look for smaller features and then start to dig them! Look in for more news on the Nether Compton site.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Nether Compton now open!

The site is now been made accessible and we will get a digging machine in a.s.a.p. to start topsoil stripping. Look in for pics and which feature we will be looking at this year.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Funding news

We are proud to announce that we have succeeded in our application for funding from HLF, to the tune of £7,000.
DDCAG would like to thank Alison Williams for her hard work in applying for the funding. We can now begin the exciting project at Nether Compton working with local schools and Sherborne Museum.

We hope that many more people will join us to explore the past of Dorset.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Down Farm in Spring

DD members went to see Martin Green's self built museum of all the finds and features he has excavated over many years on his farm on Cranborne Chase.

We then had a look at some of the projects he has undertaken in the landscape, such as the Neolithic finds and bodies he found down a sinkhole:

The rare pond barrow:

Southamton Uni are undertaking a dig on his land this year, looking at Iron Age features, including a carefully buried sheep:

All this in an area of outstanding beauty, with Martin's work in bringing the Dorset landscapes flora and fauna back to how it was before intensive farming:

A wonderful and informative day. Thanks Martin.