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HAARG volunteer working on the Romano-British iron production site, Upper Wilting Farm.

Volunteers get down and dirty on the link road

Local archaeology enthusiasts working along the route of a new road have helped unearth what is thought to be one of the most significant finds of prehistoric remains in the country, writes Chris Cormack.

Working alongside Oxford Archaeology, members of the Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group (HAARG) have been involved in the excavation of Mesolithic flint scatters from the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road site. This is just one of many finds uncovered since HAARG were given the unique opportunity to join the experts a year ago.

HAARG visit to the link road. Tour led by Mike Donnelly, Oxford Archaeology's site manager, and Casper Johnson, East Sussex county archaeologist.

At the eastern end of the link road, near Upper Wilting Farm, the team has uncovered evidence of early Romano British industry and Saxon settlement activity.

The main focus of Oxford Archaeology’s work in this area has been the excavation of a large iron working site. HAARG volunteers helped in the excavation of platforms for ore roasting, an essential part of the iron production process. Members of the HAARG team also excavated a near complete cooking pot, which provides valuable evidence for dating activity on the site.  The iron working site included areas for preparing charcoal, roasting ore and then smelting, with the remains of  up to 17 bloomery furnaces and large spreads of iron slag.

Evidence of Saxon corn production has also been identified in the form of three unusual corn driers and a suspected barn. The HAARG team helped excavate the building in severe weather conditions and this led to the successful completion of some very valuable archaeological work.

According to reports on the ESCC website, the results of these excavations demonstrate the occupation of the landscape since the end of the last ice age over 10,000 years ago.  The archaeologists have pieced together a picture of how the landscape has changed over time as sea levels rose and the valleys of Combe Haven became wetter. Hunter-gatherers who were living here adapted to their environment over time, for example with smaller flint-tipped weapons being used as the landscape became more wooded and smaller game had to be hunted.

At the eastern end, on land formerly part of Upper Wilting Farm, excavation has revealed occupation from the 1st century AD through to the late 2nd century, comprising an iron working site and adjacent ditched enclosure, which may have been used for accommodation by those working on the industrial site. Further
ditches, gullies, pits and post holes demonstrate occupation from the Anglo-Saxon period through to the present day, with finds of pottery, a ceramic loom weight and deposits of animal bone and shell, all indicative of domestic occupation.

Lynn Cornwell of HAARG said the unique opportunity had given members the chance to work alongside professional archaeologists and gain experience in enhanced excavation and recording techniques. John Bothroyd, Oxford Archaeology’s man in charge, valued HAARG volunteers highly and their “excellent local knowledge and enthusiasm were most welcome.” County archaeologist Casper Johnson acknowledged the link road was  an area where relatively little large-scale archaeological work had taken place and there had been major gaps in understanding.

Anyone wanting to find out more about HAARG can find details online. If you wish to see more on the archaeology there is currently a display of the link road finds at Bexhill Museum, Egerton Road, Bexhill TN39 3HL.

Posted 09:54 Friday, Oct 31, 2014 In: Home Ground

1 Comment

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  1. Chris Cormack

    Message from Bexhill Museum:

    Yes, Link Road Archaeology display remains on show at Bexhill Museum until 7 December 2014. We then close until February and don’t know yet what arrangements ESCC have for the display after that date.

    Comment by Chris Cormack — Thursday, Nov 13, 2014 @ 10:47

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