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Archaeology Report Autumn 2006


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The BHAS Field Unit returned to Ovingdean in March of 2006. The small excavation was designed to seek out evidence for a possible dove-cote and detached kitchen. The geophysics had produced a number of areas of high resistance indicating the location of structures and buildings. Ovingdean is a medieval manorial complex and excavations by BHAS in 2002 and 2003 produced evidence for both walls and buildings, including the actual medieval manor house located just north of the church of St Wulfrans.

The excavations in 2006 found no evidence for a dove-cote, but revealed a series of ditches running at an irregular angle away from the medieval enclosure. The ditches had been packed with flint nodules. The detached kitchen area was investigated in 2003 by a single 1 metre square trench that had produced finds of pottery, numerous whelk shells and pieces of medieval tile. The new larger trench revealed an area of roofing tile concentrated in an area delineated by a large robbed out ditch, possibly a boundary wall foundation trench. The ditch contained finds of large medieval pots and these are being examined by our pottery expert Keith Edgar, who has already reconstructed several Roman pots from the Rocky Clump excavations. A small additional trench showed that after a short break the ditch turned from an east/west direction and continued going in a northerly direction.

A trench designed to examine the wall surrounding the medieval complex found that it also had been partially robbed away, but the 1 metre wide trench also found another flint cobbled floor and at a deeper level another wall possibly abutting the surrounding wall. It is obvious that Ovingdean is a fascinating and very complex site and that key hole excavations are providing more questions that answers. It is possible that BHAS may make one final visit to Ovingdean in 2007 to cut a section through the very substantial earthwork boundary to seek evidence for the earliest construction of this very interesting location. The archaeology of Ovingdean will only really be understood by the undertaking of a major investigation. The site has no major threat at present and will be left for future archaeologists to investigate.


The BHAS Field Unit returned to Rocky Clump in May of 2006. The new series of excavations began, and continue, to investigate the area of the 'Shrine' structure, the cemetery and an area north of the copse that is Rocky Clump.

The Rocky Clump 'shrine' was never fully investigated by the team of Walter Gorton and Charlie Yeates as a large beech tree was located in the centre. This tree has subsequently died and only the stump remained. David Larkin one of Brighton and Hove countryside rangers managed to have the stump removed and this allowed access to the ritual centre of this very intriguing structure. The building consists of a series of 7 very large post holes measuring over a metre in diameter. The excavation began by examining lands further to the east of the building and a lack of further large post holes confirmed the building was contained within the copse of trees. However, the east trench produced numerous other features including a ditch, post hole and pits. The interior of the shrine has shown that the area has been badly damaged by tree root action and rabbit burrowing. The floor surface is a layer of chalk and there have been very few finds of anything, including pottery or bone. A few finds of dressed chalk blocks and worked ironstone do suggest something significant may have existed at one time.

The cemetery had a small section that had not be examined in the past and it was hoped that this might produce a new untouched burial, with possible grave goods. The date of the burials at Rocky Clump has never been confirmed through either Radio Carbon or artefact remains. The new trench did reveal one of the previously investigated grave cuts but only geological features were found in the new area. A section of the possible 'medieval' ditch running through Rocky Clump has also been uncovered and will be sectioned during the current season.

A new trench was opened north of the trees to seek the continuance of a line of post holes running eastwards found during previous seasons. The question to be answered is are the post holes evidence for another structure or are they a possible Roman fence line? The trench has so far revealed two ditches running east/west. The ditches are known from the previous seasons but have changed width dramatically over the last 8 metres. It will now require the trench to be extended eastwards towards the old excavations and observe where the changes in width occur. There is no evidence for any new post holes in the new trench and the extension will need to investigate where the old line ceases or again changes direction.

The excavations have been well attended with lots of new people joining the BHAS Field Unit. David Staveley has been conducting a new resistivity survey in the south field in preparation for the new season of excavation in 2007.

This year will be the final season of the second phase of investigations at Rocky Clump started in 1991.


Members of the BHAS Field Unit have been assisting County Archaeologist, Greg Chuter over a two week period with excavations at Firle. The site is below the South Downs, close to the Charleston farmhouse and located about 2 kilometres east of the Beddingham Roman villa, excavated in the 1990s, and is in a similar location close to a stream. The site first came to the attention of Greg after numerous metal detector finds. Geophysics results showed what at first glance looked like the outline of buildings. An evaluation trench last year seemed to confirm this, so in June a series of trenches were opened. The excavation consisted of a number of trenches cut into the one field. It was not long before "walls" and features started to appear. One feature, carefully excavated, seemed to be a beam slot with a post hole in it. This puzzled everyone on site as it was isolated and did not appear to join any other feature. The mystery was solved when the farmer visited the site and explained that this part of the field got a little waterlogged at times causing his Landover to get bogged down.

What had been found was a tyre track and the "post hole" was made by a wheel spinning. What had initially looked like an internal corridor wall turned out to be a land drain. When part of this was removed a ditch was revealed crossing it at right angles, finds from this were late Iron Age and early Romano - British. A small 1 x 1 meter trench revealed what was possibly a cobbled floor surface.

The site produced some very interesting pieces including East Sussex Ware pottery, Roman grey wares and decorated Samian also animal bone and shell. The most significant find was an Iron Age coin.

The excavations were visited by the landowner Lord Gage who, after a site tour, was very enthusiastic about further excavations being carried out next year to the extent of offering a machine to strip a larger area.

The BHAS team had a really interesting time at Firle and despite not finding Roman buildings this time hope that further geophysics may locate the settlement site or villa that must lie close by. BHAS are looking forward to returning to the site some time in the not too distant future.