Saturday, 4 July 2015

Week 1 done

What a week. Including the hottest July day on record!

The undergraduate and work experience students worked unbelievably hard, in very difficult conditions, to remove all the remaining backfill from the trench. When we arrived on Sunday it was a mess of soil and terram matting; with hard work with shovels, mattocks, and wheelbarrows, all that soil was dug out and trundled to the top of the mountain of spoil. In an incredible three days we had some beautifully clean archaeological surfaces on which to start work. We were really impressed by their hard work in baking sun.

Work just beginning on Sunday morning (in wonderfully cool and damp conditions)

The trench at the end of Tuesday as temperatures hit around 30ÂșC

With the backfill and terram removed, we could finally start work on the archaeology. We have begun excavating a second slot down through the layers of the main road through the town, working hard at removing the highly compact cobbles, flints, and pieces of ceramic building material packed in to create the tough surfaces. We have also been removing more of the fill of the three mid-Roman ditches that run along the northern baulk of the site. We've had a hunt backwards into somewhat more recent history as well, removing some of the backfill of several trenches dug by Professor Frere in the 1960s, always recognisable from the fragments of clay pipe! 

Training has focused in these initial days on troweling and surface cleaning techniques, the context excavation and recording system, and plan and section drawing. Finds washing and processing has also begun, and yesterday we gave our first "Find of the Day" prizes, for two lovely Colchester brooch fragments, including the spring and pin from one in excellent condition. Pictures to come! 

We're promised slightly cooler temperatures this week, so will press on downwards! Stay tuned for more updates and pictures. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

T-minus 3 days!

We're so nearly there. I've spent the last 3 days, with the help of Patrick and Peter, two of our supervisory staff, making the preparations on site.

When we arrived, the outline of the trench was neatly delineated by the presence of giant hogweed, which in the last two months had grown up to 3 metres tall. With the help of an 8 tonne digger and a dumper the backfill has been removed, the spoil heap piled high, and yesterday and today the tools, huts, (portaloos), have been brought to site, and our brand new marquee has been put up.

It now looks and feels like an excavation site, and we can't wait to get started on Sunday!

The giant hogweed before we started... up to 3 metres tall!

 Vegetation cleared...

Backfill removal begins. 
The cloth at the bottom (terram) protects the archaeology, and shows us 
how far down to dig to just remove the backfill. 

And 3 days later, we're practically done! C. 900 cubic metres of soil has been removed, which works out at something just over 1,000 tonnes...! Glad we don't have to do it all by shovel and wheelbarrow.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

T-minus 2 weeks, and registrations closing

We have just a few days left now before the machines come in and start to take out the back-fill, and we're all getting rather excited about the prospect of getting out of the office and into the field!

This means it is your last chance to sign up for the fieldschools, as registration will close on Friday. Don't miss out! Details can be found here, and you can get more information and registration forms by emailing me at

Sunday, 17 May 2015

T-minus 6 weeks

The sun has started to make an appearance for more than a few minutes a day, and that can only mean one thing: digging season is nearly upon us! Preparations are well underway to continue our excavations down into the 2nd century AD layers of the site, and we can't wait to get started.

Keep those registrations coming, as we're nearly full! This season promises to be really excellent, with some exciting talks lined up and hopefully some fascinating archaeology to be uncovered! There are still spaces on the Undergraduate Fieldschool (27th June - 10th July), and the two one-week Public Fieldschools (12th - 17th and 19th - 24th July). Contact for more details.

In the mean time, we had the pleasure of showing the Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium conference group around the village in April. Whilst the focus was on the Abbey and other early medieval finds from the village, including the 'foederati' burials in the Dyke Hills, we also had a bit of brief back-story on the prehistoric and Roman landscape to put it in context, and an update on the results of the ongoing excavations in the allotments. We then went on to be shown around the medieval burh of Wallingford, with a fascinating tour from Dr Neil Christie of Leicester University.

Edward Peveler gives a talk on the prehistory of Dorchester to the EMASS 2015 delegates

Our thanks go to Neil, David Wilkinson, and the Dorchester Abbey for their help in making it such a successful and insightful field trip.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Dig season is coming

Preparations are now well under way for this summer's dig. Supervisors are in place, tools are being sourced, and registrations are coming in fast! If you would like to join us this summer, do get in contact with for more information.

A couple of us took a trip out to site at the end of February, partly to see the condition of the trench and our new information board(!), and also to say farewell to two individuals who have really helped with the smooth-running of the dig: Peter and Lizzie, who managed the front of house at the Fleur de Lys pub, are moving away from Dorchester to be closer to their family. We will miss them deeply, and are so grateful for all they have done for us in the last few years, from pulling pints, serving up the pub's excellent food, letting us charge our phones, to passing on details of the dig to interested pub-goers.

We also wish to thank John Metcalfe as he retires from his position as Keeper of the Abbey Museum. He has tirelessly supported the project, not only creating the wonderful exhibition in the museum, but he could also be found in the trench with us every summer, putting many of the undergraduates to shame with his energy and enthusiasm.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Registrations now open for 2015 Dorchester fieldschools!

Now that we've recovered from Christmas' over-eating, registrations are open for the 2015 Discovering Dorchester fieldschools.

The undergraduate fieldschool runs for two weeks from Sunday 28th June - Friday 10th July.
The public fieldschools run for one week, and go from Sunday 12th July - Friday 17th July and from Sunday 19th July - Friday 24th July.

This year promises to be very exciting as we dig further down into the early 2nd century and 1st century layers of the Roman town. We will be continuing our excavation of the central road through the settlement, hoping for more dating information on the three different surfaces identified last year, and investigating how the road relates to the area directly to its west, a piece of prime real estate very near to the centre of the town. We will also be further exploring the complex series of ditches that run along the north side of the trench, and the early features through which they are cut that could further enlighten us as to the presence of the postulated early fort.

On both the undergraduate and public fieldschools you will be taught in small groups by experienced supervisors, learning skills in digging techniques, context recording, plan and section drawing, and geomatics. There will also be a series of lectures on various topics, given by staff from the Institute of Archaeology, including talks on animal osteology, the local pottery industry, the region through different periods, and archaeological photography.

If you would like more information on either the undergraduate fieldschool or the public fieldschools, please email

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

It's been a while...!

Hello all, I hope your Autumns and early Winters have been good! This is just a quick note to update people on the situation with Dorchester 2015.

We will be opening up for registrations from early in the New Year. If you want information about the 2015 fieldschools, please email from 2nd January onward. I will also be posting a bit more information here on the blog.

The undergraduate fieldschool will run from Sunday 28th June - Friday 10th July.
Week A of the public fieldschool will run from Sunday 12th July - Friday 17th July.
Week B of the public fieldschool will run from Sunday 19th July - Friday 24th July.

We're already getting excited for what this season will bring!