Selected Articles from the BHAS Bi-Annual magazine
"Flint" Autumn 2012
A major survey of the south field at Rocky Clump was conducted by
David Staveley in late March, prior to the commencement of the new
season of digging. The machine used was a magnetometer and the
readings revealed ~ whole range of new features which had not been
observed in the resistivity survey conducted a number of years ago.
The new results show a number of further ditches and numerous other
features which could be either archaeological or geological. Digging
started at Rocky Clump at the end of March and there are several
large ditches at the site which could confirm that we have a late
Iron Age or early Romano-British enclosure. A curious second
enclosure has been revealed to the west of the original one and this
will be investigated either this year or next.
Beacon Hill is another ongoing project and it is planned to return to
the hill in the late summer after ground nesting birds have left the
area. The hill appears to have remained unploughed for centuries, and
may retain vestiges of an ancient landscape associated with the long
barrows already known about.
David Staveley is also interested in surveying the possible
Romano-British enclosure located in the field west of St Dunstans. It
is hoped that this will commence in the autumn if the weather
conditions are good and the farmer is happy to allow us access to the field.
Rocky Clump Excavations
The new season at Rocky Clump began in late March following a
magnetometry survey of the south field by David Staveley. The results
of the survey revealed a large number of new anomalies, including
several ditches that were not visible on the previous resistivity
survey. A new area was opened up using a mechanical digger and an U
shaped trench encompassed both the east/west ditch and north/south
ditch revealed in the previous season's digging. The object was to
confirm the location of the ditches and then work inwards to
investigate the interior of the possible enclosure to seek evidence
for any activity or settlement within this ancient boundary.
The excavations have uncovered a pair of new ditches running in an
easterly direction. The middle ditch is marginally smaller than those
previously found and produced a chalk fill with a limited number of
finds. A causeway, created from a dump of chalk, appears to cross
this ditch and recently a number of linear features have been located
north of this feature. The lower east/west ditch has been quite an
interesting feature. It is a sharp ~v'-shaped ditch at the west end,
but begins to widen out as it progresses eastward. Finds from this
ditch have been numerous with significant quantities of pottery,
including several pieces of samian ware, and numerous amounts of
animal bone. Among the animal bones found was the complete skull,
including the horns, of a cow. Another rare find was a silver finger
ring which is now at the British Museum for recording.
Perhaps the most significant find of the season so far has been the
uncovering of a complete baby burial in the upper ditch running
east/west. The remains are now with Carol White, our bones expert,
for accurate and detailed recording.
The weather this season has included several days of rain, which has
had an impact on the digging, and numbers of diggers are down on last
year, especially those from abroad. However, the excavations are
still bringing in new faces and numbers are beginning to increase
with the warmer weather. The excavation will continue until late
October, or beyond, with a possible extension to the trench if the
number of diggers continues to increase.
There will be two finds processing days in the New Year when pottery
and other items from the excavation will be marked and catalogued.
John Funnell and Mark Gillingham
Rocky Clump: Clive's Massive Mussel Midden
One of the most intriguing finds from the Rocky Clump 2011 dig was
the large midden of mussel shell so carefully excavated by Clive
(Fig. I). I he shells have been identified by Lee Ismail of the Booth
Museum of Natural History, Brighton, as being from the common blue
mussel Mytilus edulis.
The first indication that this was not just one single deposition of
shells was that the shells were found in several, subtle, contexts
within the midden. However, the different contexts were not so well
defined to exclude the pos-sibility that the midden was created in a
very short time, maybe within one day, by the tipping of several
basketfuls of shell - the left-overs from one "feast".
Whilst the majority of shells were broken there were many intact
umbos (the characteristic noses of the shell). By counting the umbos
and divkling by two we get a minimum number of mussels in the midden
There were sufficient numbers of whole hall shells in three contexts
(8l, 168 and 234) for their lengths to be measured and subjected to
statistical anak'.is. The distribution of shell lengths (Fig. 2) in
contexts 168 and 234 markedly different to that in context 81, the
distribution in context 8 appearing to have a double peak. (In
studies of mussel growth patterns such multiple shell length classes
have been attributed to the presence of multiple age classes,
e.g. see Bayne and Worrall, 1980.) It is possible that the two size
cIasse~ in context 81 represent two consecutive year classes. For the
purpose of this report it will be assumed that the bimodal nature of
the length distribution in context 81 does represent two age classes
of an intertidal population of urnssels accessible for harvesting
from the shore.
We can compare the distributions of shell length in contexts 81, 168
and 234 by dividing the three samples into two size groups, 2 - 5.9
cm length and 6 -7.9 cm length, producing a 2x3 contingency table
that can be tested using chi squared test. When this test is done we
find that the probability that the three contexts contain shells that
were drawn from the same population is less than one in 10,000. It
would appear that the mussels harvested and represented in these
contexts came from different populations. This is good evidence that
there are at least two separate deposits of mussel shells rather than
one deposit that has been scattered over several contexts. Whilst it
is possible that the different distribution of sizes was created by
post harvest sorting during preparationS consumption or disposal this
seems unlikely and it is more probable that the deposits were
harvested from two separate populations or from one population on two
occasions when there were differing size class profiles. Further work
could be done investigating the shell morphologies in the samples to
see if this hypothesis is supported.
If the midden does represent multiple deposits of shells one can ask
why they are accumulated in one place. Were they being segregated
from the rest of the rubbish (which appears to be widely scattered
over the length of the rubbish filled ditches)? Was it to conserve
them as a possible future resource? Mussel shell tempered pot has
been found in a number of excavations. For instance, excavations at
Mile Oak Farm produced some mussel shell tempered bronze age pot
(Russell, 2002). Also, American Indian cultures used the larger
freshwater mussel shells for temper and tools (Lamb, 2011).
It is possible that the shells were dumped in the same spot time and
again because that is simply what the inhabitants did out of habit
or, to use a sociological concept. habitus ("cultural habitat
which becomes internalised in the form of dispositions to act, think,
arid feel in certain ways.", Fleming 2012). These internalised
habits can take on a very mundane nature and it would be a mistake to
try to endow the actors with any beliefs about why they act in a
certain way (ibid.) - they do it because "well - that's the way
I think that these explanations should be considered before we fall
back on the "R" word!
Whilst I am open to the criticism that I have "over
interpreted" this shell mid-den I feel that it is a useful
exercise to consider what information can be extracted from
archaeological evidence in situations where the finds can be counted
or measured and illustrates the importance of careful excavation
(Thank you Clive).