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Archaeology Report Autumn 2003

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Excavations at Ovingdean

The field at Ovingdean, north of the church of St Wuifrans and known as 'Hog Croft', was the subject of an excavation in 2002. During that excavation a number of features were investigated to examine anomalies observed after the geophysical surveys conducted in 1986, 1991 and 1999. The results confirmed that below the earthworks in this field lay a number of buildings of medieval date. During the winter of 2002 an enhancement of the geophysical data, produced evidence for a possible building north of, and close to, the north wall of Ovingdean church. During April and May of this year the BHAS Field Unit conducted an excavation to determine the nature and date of this building. The excavation examined one quarter of the structure, concentrating on the north/east section where the geophysics was less distinct.

The excavation produced evidence of substantial flint constructed walls, located immediately below the turf surface. The building has a number of phases, with an original structure having walls measuring 1.4 m thick. In the centre of this wall on the north side was located a beam slot, possibly for an entrance. Post holes on the north side of this entrance could be interpreted as the location of a possible porch. During a later stage a large section of the wall was robbed of stone. The fmal phase saw the creation of another building using the west side of the original building, but with walls measuring only 0.57m thick on the east side and north/east section. These later walls were found to lay above wider walls, probably part of the original structure. A number of small sections were cut. The interior of the building was sectioned to a depth of 1.4 m, however the floor level of the building was never reached. From this evidence it can be construed that the building possessed either a cellar or undercroft. Sheep burials were found in the lower depths of this cellar, one skeleton was removed for bone examination, the other was left in-situ. A large area of demolition rubble was found within the building, and on the east side of the north wall; the debris of flint nodules and mortar suggest that the original construction may have been similar to that of Ovingdean church. Finds from the excavation have included bone, shell and medieval pottery.

13th Century Ovingdean

13th Century Ovendean drawn by D Whittaker after interpretation by J Funnell

Gabor Thomas, Research Officer for the Sussex Archaeological Society, visited the site and he has suggested that the earthworks at Ovingdean are probably the remains of a medieval manorial complex.

Excavations at Rocky Clump

The excavations at Rocky clump, Stanmer began in the latter part of May, and will continue into the latter part of the year. The existing trench has been extended northwards tracing the path of the large north/south ditch. The area is north of a number of very large rubbish pits, and at the junction of a pair of large ditches. The new area has already produced silver coins dating to the Republic (50BC-50AD) and one of Vespasian (AD69-AD79). The coin finds tend to confirm the dating of the ditches to the early lst century, a date suggested by Dr Malcolme Lyne from the pottery he has examined from these features. A number of new pits and other linear features have been revealed, including a pit possibly lined by large vertical slabs of ironstone. The north/south ditch and pits are currently being sectioned and recorded.

The geophysics team have conducted a resistivity survey in the field to the west of Rocky Clump, and known locally as Iron Square. The results tend to suggest more ditches are located in that vicinity, hut once again as in the surveys of 2002, there is very little evidence of roundhouses or settlement.

The Young Archaeologists club visited Rocky Clump in June, and are returning to the excavation once again in September. The young group apparently enjoyed working with 'real' archaeologists.

Geophysics at Renfield

The BHAS geophysics team were asked to conduct a resitivity survey in the garden of the parsonage at Henfield. This project was at the request of the Henfield Historical Society. The parsonage is believed to have an underground 'escape' tunnel linking the house and the church, located nearby. The house possesses a 'priest' hole, used by the owner Henry Bishop during the English Civil War. The gentleman had a habit of changing sides during the conflict, resulting in him having to secrete himself from time to time. The priest hole was measured for depth and found to be on a level with the outside terrace, any tunnel would have to have been dug considerably deeper. The survey found no evidence for the tunnel, but the interior of the priest hole possessed the corner of a wall suggesting that an earlier building may have existed going in a westerly direction away from the present house. The geophysical data does suggest that some vestiges of buried walls may lay below the lawns, but only excavation can confirm what evidence remains.

Geophysics at Combe Hill

The BHAS team have been assisting him with a major resistivity survey of the Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure located on the top of Combe Hill near Eastbourne. The survey incorporates the investigation of a number of barrows located close by. A total of 70 grids, each measuring 20 metres square, have been examined, covering an area of 28,000 square metres. The results are being processed and the images from the results are looking very interesting. Among the features noted is evidence for the barrow ditches, and a number of possible barrow ditch tail ditches?

Watching Brief at Winton Avenue, Saltdean

A watching brief was conducted at Winton Avenue, Saltdean, which is about to be developed as a badger set. The area is close to the site of a known Saxon burial. The small excavation produced no burials, but finds of fire-cracked flint, flint flakes and 2 sherds of East Sussex Ware pottery. The watching brief continues, as a number of inlets for the badgers have yet to be cut.

Field Walking at Peacehaven

During the earlier part of the year BHAS, in conjunction with the Peacehaven Local History Society, began a major field walking project on lands at Lower Hoddern Farm, Peacehaven. The fields are of interest, having produced a considerable amount of Mesolithic and Neolithic flint work from local discreet finds. Local residents have personal collections consisting of Neolithic flint axes, including a number of polished pieces, large blades, hammerstones and numerous Mesolithic flakes. The field walking project, currently being processed, has recovered a pair of Neolithic rough out axes, scrapers and notched flint pieces. The collection of artefacts was the subject of a presentation by the Peacehaven Local History Society, when the Duke of Kent visited Peacehaven. The field walking will continue this autumn and winter once the crops have been removed.

Summer Walks

The series of summer walks to archaeological sites of interest were well supported this year. The places visited included Lancing Down, site of the Roman temple, the Iron age hill-fort at Highdown Hill, the Bronze Age and hon Age settlement at Thundersbarrow Hill, Truleigh Hill to observe the archaeology of the Adur valley, and Edburton Hill to visit the earthwork remains of a motte and bailey castle, Fine church and Beacon. A summer solstice walk visited the top of the Caburn. The success of these walks is that a programme for next year is already being planned.

Bones Study Group

The specialist bones study group under the tutorship of Share Price has been examining the collection of bones from the Ovingdean excavations in 2002. A report on the bones, and their implications, will be appended to the main report when it is published. The select group have worked very hard over the past months in gaining the necessary expertise from Share, allowing for the project to continue once Share goes on to further educational training. We wish to thank Share for organising and running the training programme; it is of great benefit to the Society to develop the talents and skills of its members.

Excavations at Barcombe

Members of the BHAS Field Unit have been excavating at Barcombe with members of the Mid Sussex Field Archaeological Team (MSFAT). A new trench has been opened to the east of the main villa site. A new building has been revealed including the room containing the tessellated floor found during last season's excavations. A number of new features have been uncovered including pits, ditches and a chalk wall that appears to link both buildings. A break in the wall may possibly indicate a gateway or entrance. Finds from Barcombe have included fine pieces of decorated samian and a complete pot from one of the pits filled with Roman rubbish.




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