Delve in to history this season

The green spaces that Earth Trust looks after are steeped in history and this autumn we are embarking on 5 months of exciting excavations ahead of our Gateway project. Before we bring this vision to life, we will be working with DigVentures, throughout November 2019 to March 2020, to help us uncover more from our fascinating past.

Earth Trust looks after and cares for 500 hectares of farmland, woodland and wetland. Standing proud above this farmed landscape is one of Oxfordshire’s most visited places – the Wittenham Clumps. One of these hills is an ancient Iron Age hillfort which is so significant it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. A series of investigations across the Earth Trust visitor centre location hopes to add fresh evidence to the stories and lives of our ancestors who settled, lived and worked here.

“Earth Trust’s land is rich in fascinating archaeology. These new excavations will give us a chance to find out much more about the people who built the impressive Iron Age hillfort at Wittenham Clumps, by investigating other areas of occupation nearby,” says Lisa Westcott Wilkins, co-founder of DigVentures.

“Although we don’t yet know exactly what we’ll find this time, previous excavations  have shown that the archaeological potential to learn more about Oxfordshire’s Iron Age population is huge. DigVentures and Earth Trust share a passion to engage people with our discoveries – it’s very exciting!”
Lisa Westcott Wilkins.

Previous investigations uncovered evidence that people lived on this land during the Bronze Age and through the Iron Age. During last years’ excavations, archaeologists from DigVentures unearthed large, ancient pits, one of which contained several almost complete pots, thought to have been placed there by their owners over 2,000 years ago. According to Chris Casswell, DigVentures’ Head of Fieldwork, the pits had been used during the Middle Iron Age, between 400 and 100 BC.

“Some of the pits were probably used as underground storage areas, and may have originally been up to 2 metres deep. They would have been naturally cool inside, and would have been  place to keep food fresher for longer – a bit like an Iron Age pantry. It’s such a simple, but clever, technique and shows us more about everyday life in the Iron Age,” Chris said.

Today Earth Trust is a mixed working farm, exploring how to balance the needs of growing food, people’s access needs and wildlife, within a financially robust framework. Ensuring that our special green spaces are accessible and people enjoy and benefit from access is what we are all about.

“We are delighted to team up with DigVentures again this year and together we are planning a range of opportunities for people to see the archaeological discoveries live as they are being made, and to understand more about those who shaped the much-loved green spaces that we enjoy today,” says Jayne Manley, our CEO.

She continued: “I’m excited at the prospect of learning more about the hillfort… who built it? Where did they live? Was it for defence, was it a settlement or was it simply showing off? Join us online or in person for our biggest Archaeology Live dig!”

From November 2019 to February 2020, we will be hosting a series of events for visitors to get involved, from regular site tours to sessions in the ‘Finds Lab’ handling artefacts freshly recovered from the excavation. The events will conclude in March with a community dig! All will enable visitors to see the archaeologists in action and perhaps even witness finds being uncovered. School children will also be able to experience this via our Ancient Britain workshops which will be running at dedicated times throughout the dig.

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