2012 Fieldwork Overview

The summer of 2012 saw the familiar damp conditions and late harvest, so once again we had to scale back our plans. We continued our examination of Dampney Barrow, returning to the trenches that we had opened in 2011. The ditch terminal continued to provide a complex sequence of fills, with the gently sloping chalk bottom finally being reached on the last day in the field.

The trench across Dampney Barrow. Right of centre, excavation of the ditch is
just beginning; left of centre, excavation of the chalk quarry is underway.

The other trench was equally challenging. Measuring 30 metres by 5 metres, and running from the top of the mound northwards, it incorporated the much smaller trench we had opened in 2011. We were able to confirm that the disturbance on this side of the mound was indeed chalk quarrying. The backfill produced a range of medieval and post-medieval finds potentially ranging in date from the 14th to the 19th centuries AD. Also present was an abundance of animal bones, including some near-complete skeletons of young sheep. An old quarry pit may have been a handy place to dispose of unwanted carcases.

Bryony Lalor working at the bottom of Dampney Barrow’s ditch.

We were able to confirm the presence of a 6,000 year-old buried land surface and soil beneath what remained of the mound. This should provide invaluable evidence of the local environment immediately prior to the construction of the barrow mound. That mound had suffered somewhat from the quarrying as well as ploughing, but our trench showed undisturbed in situ mound material surviving below the modern ploughsoil.

No human remains were found in the trench, and neither did we see any structures within or beneath the small area of mound that we dug into. There was, however, a line of stake holes running between the ditch and the mound. No dating evidence was recovered from any of them, unfortunately, so we can’t be sure precisely where they belong chronologically. There is a possibility, of course, that they belong with the quarrying.

The final days of the 2012 excavation.

The barrow ditch was quite a challenge. 7 metres wide at the level of the natural chalk, it proved to be 3.6 metres deep, far deeper than at the terminal, and requiring some props to allow the excavation to be completed safely.  The ditch fills will provide evidence for a few thousand years of environmental developments after the construction of the barrow, a radiocarbon date for which should be provided from a bovine rib found lying on the base of the ditch. 

Although our investigations of Dampney Barrow have ended, there is a considerable amount of post-excavation analysis of the finds, the samples, the soils, snails etc still to be done. There’s plenty of fascinating detail still to emerge.