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History and heritage of our landscape
Delving into our hidden history…
The green spaces that Earth Trust look after are steeped in history – in fact, the impact of people on our landscape goes back thousands of years. From the Iron Age communities who created the hillfort on Castle Hill, to the farmers and tenants who manage the land today – this area has been shaped by human use and intervention throughout the ages.
As we work towards a society where people and nature thrive in balance, there is much we can learn from the ancient people of the Clumps.
Digging up the past
Archaeological excavations have helped us to uncover fascinating stories of the lives of our ancestors who settled, lived and worked here.
The first archaeological excavations at Wittenham Clumps started in 2003, and more recent investigations took place from 2019-2021 where a vast Iron Age and Roman settlement was uncovered.
Project TimescapeSupported by the Heritage Lottery fund, Project Timescape explored changes in the Oxfordshire landscape and engaged the public in findings via a new type of museum, at Hill Farm, Little Wittenham - now the Earth Trust Centre.
Dig Ventures ArchaeologyArchaeological excavation confirmed that people have lived and worked around the Wittenham Clumps from Bronze Age to end of Roman period.
Before 2400 BCE
Excavated flint artefacts revealed that huntergatherers visited Castle Hill during Mesolithic and Neolithic times.
2400 BCE – 800 BCE
There is evidence of Bronze Age activity at Wittenham Clumps with house posts arranged in circles suggesting people lived in roundhouses.
800 BCE – 43 CE
Castle Hill was an Iron Age hillfort, with a large settlement at the foot of the hill which housed a few hundred people. Thousands of important Iron Age finds have been uncovered, including pottery, animal bones, wool spinning weights and several amazingly well preserved human skeletons.
43 CE – 410 CE
The Roman settlement at Wittenham included a large villa and at least two cemeteries. Investigations have revealed abundant animal bones, ironwork, coins and large pieces of broken Roman pottery. Roman trackways and buildings have been found on Round Hill.
410 CE – 1066 CE
Exciting finds unearthed
In 2021, the DigVentures team unearthed exciting findings from the Bronze, Iron and Roman Ages at the site of the Earth Trust Centre – all just metres apart.
The findings included five iron age roundhouses, a large storage pit, and a Roman villa. Here are just a few of their discoveries…
Iron Age Roundhouses
Starting back in the Iron Age, evidence of an incredible 15 roundhouses have now been uncovered. This one is about nine metres in diameter, so slightly smaller than some of the others found.
This next piece might not look like much to the untrained eye, but it’s a piece of pottery known as Terra Rubra. DigVentures’ pottery specialist was particularly excited by this find, because it dates back to between the very late Iron Age to just after the Roman conquest, capturing the transition between these periods.
This piece is the handle of a good quality Roman flagon – a large jug-like vessel – and was likely to have been used for collecting and storing everyday essentials such as water, wine, beer and oil.
A Roman spatula. It might have been used for applying medicines or even makeup.
The team also found this piece of a Roman red bowl …
Roman spindle whorl
This disc would have fitted onto a spindle to increase and maintain the speed of the spin, so it’s a good indication that yarn was being spun to make things like clothing or blankets.
Take a closer look at the dig site
Check out this video to see the recording of the live Virtual Tour with our archaeologists.
Archaeology holds all the keys to understanding who we are and where we come from.