Selected Articles from the BHAS Bi-Annual magazine
"Flint" Autumn 2014
Packing and Labelling for Fun
The Whitehawk Camp Community Project gets under way
If the idea of packing and labelling doesn't appeal, how about
spending several days striding over Whitehawk Hill, trying to keep
even steps across tussocky grass and lumpy ground while negotiating
trees and bushes? There's no end of fun as a BHAS volunteer - and
these have been enjoyable activities, believe it or not.
In the last edition of Flint our President, Don Richardson, announced
the success of the HLF bid for funds to reassess what was already
known about the Whitehawk Causewayed Enclosure from previous
excavations and investigations, to conduct a geophysical survey of
the site and to carry out limited further excavation. BHAS is a
partner with Archaeology South East (ASE) and Brighton and Hove City
Council in this project.
The project started in May with a week of magnetometry over the
accessible parts of the Neolithic site i.e. not actually inside the
racecourse grandstand and associated buildings, although a relevant
bit of the racetrack itself was surveyed. Two teams of BHAS
volunteers (mostly called John or Jon) led by two of ASE's
professionals (also called John) plodded up and down, sometimes
literally, the site to carry out the first full survey of the site
using modern technology. We were blessed with mostly fine weather
although there was one morning when the seafret rolled in and
transmitter, racecourse and all vanished from view. The following
week found us at ASE's HQ in Portslade, attempting to get to grips
with the interpretation of the data we'd collected. Understanding the
dots and squiggles proved quite a challenge but the pros were happy
with the results and identified several possible new features on the
edge of the scheduled monument. These results informed the decision
on where to locate the excavations which were to take place in
In June and July BHAS members worked alongside volunteers from the
environs of Whitehawk in an attic of Brighton Museum, repacking and
labelling the artefacts found during the excavations of the Whitehawk
site in 1929, 1933 and 1935. Many of these have not been examined
since they were first deposited in the museum and were still in the
brown paper envelopes used at the time, which were by now getting
rather tatty. Our job was to repack them in plastic bags, perforated
for ventilation, label the bags with all the context data and put the
same data on labels to go inside the bags. We also had to check each
artefact off on a copy of the original accession record, to see what
might be missing - and there were a few gaps. The artefacts were also
photographed or scanned for future online publication.
It may not sound like fun but it was fascinating to see what had been
found: Neolithic pot sherds, flint tools galore, some enigmatic chalk
blocks with apparently deliberate markings on them.
As a reward, we were treated to a couple of visits to the museum's
stores, in the Royal Pavilion's former wine cellars, to see some of
the other archaeological items kept there and, on the final day, a
good look at the four skeletons found as more or less complete
inhumations during those original digs. ASE's human bones expert was
there to look them over and give an initial assessment, which mostly
coincided with the opinions of those who first looked at them 80
years ago: two young women in their late teens or early twenties, one
with a newborn baby, a slightly older man and a child of about eight
This all came from the bare 5% of the site that has been excavated.
What else lies hidden below the turf? We may know more after the
August dig but there will still be many secrets and mysteries
surrounding this iconic site.
Two Baby Burials from Rocky Clump South Field
During excavations in 2012, a baby burial was identified at the
bottom of a ditch. The baby had been laid on its side facing West and
had probably been wrapped given the relative completeness of the
skeleton. The remains were excavated by David Ludwig and Clive Bean.
During excavations in 2013 a second baby burial was identified, this
time within a small pit. The remains were excavated by Brenda
Osteoarchaeological analysis, which included taking measurements of
the remains, suggests that both babies died at or shortly after birth
and, as a result, scientific analysis of the bones would provide
information relating to the mothers' diets.
We successfully applied for a Margary Grant from Sussex
Archaeological Society for Isotope analysis of the teeth and bone of
the 2012 baby. Unfortunately, strontium and oxygen analysis was not
possible due to a lack of dental enamel mineralisation which would
have provided information as to where the mother had grown up. This
also proved the case with the 2013 baby. However, carbon and nitrogen
analysis was possible of both burials and the results suggest that
both mothers had cereal based diets (pers. comm. Jane Evans, NERC).
A more detailed report is in the course of preparation for submission
to Sussex Archaeological Society's Past & Present.