Delve into history and uncover the stories from our past
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, from 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.
Previous digs uncovered evidence that settlers lived on our land in the Bronze Age, Iron Age and during Roman times. In fact, people have been farming this land for 2,000 years! In 2018 we worked with DigVentures on a small dig area and excavated an ancient pit, revealing almost complete pots, last handled by their owners over 2,000 years ago; Head of Fieldwork, Chris Casswell, explained that the pit had been used as a rubbish pit by the community during the Middle Iron Age, sometime between 400 and 100 BC.
Other pits in the excavation area revealed underground storage areas, some of which could have originally been up to 2 metres in depth, and would have provided a naturally cool place to keep food fresher for longer. The archaeologists revealed how similar to us the people of Iron Age Little Wittenham would have been; like us, they kept their household waste outside and the boundary ditches between the rubbish and storage pits suggests an orderly village.
We are delighted to be working with DigVentures again on this next phase, enabling us to join up these important digs, giving us a an even better picture of the lives of our ancestors who shaped the local landscape. Jayne Manley
Further archaeological investigations will provide us with more important clues as to how people managed the land and lived in the past. Archaeology isn’t just about the artefacts that we uncover, it’s a way to understand human successes and challenges in living in harmony with the natural landscape. This deeper knowledge will help us preserve our history for future generations and will be embedded within our environmental education programme.
Today we continue to manage our land as a working farm, practising sustainable and innovative farming methods, whilst ensuring that our special green spaces are accessible for people to enjoy. By deepening our understanding of how people worked with the land and how the environment has changed we can help shape future approaches to climate change, soil health and more.
How can you get involved?
We are delighted to offer opportunities for local people and school children to get involved and to learn more about the people who shaped our much-loved green spaces. Throughout the digs we will be running a series of events for visitors, from regular site tours to sessions in the Finds Labs and a community dig. We will also publish short videos of the digs so you can feel close to the action, even if you can’t make it to one of our events. We look forward to giving visitors the opportunity to be part of this exciting project.