Forty-three of us gathered in the village hall on the evening of 16th August to hear three fascinating talks summarising the results of the Deverills’ Archaeology Project (DAP) over the last 18 months. This size of audience was a pretty good effort as the weather was horrendous. Given the amount of water being dumped on us perhaps it would have been more fitting to have heard a lecture on maritime archaeology.
David Croot introduced the results session and the speakers and made particular mention of the organisations that had made the project possible financially: the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Warminster Area Board and the village hall.
Dr David Roberts then gave a very comprehensive overview of the project’s achievements, which have been impressive: six geo surveys, three talks, two excavations, funding wins, public engagement and, most important of all, significant gains in our
historical knowledge of the valley. He then went into more detail on the three surveys, showing us slides overlaying the results on mapping and explaining (or surmising on) the various features that were evident. Some of the features, such as the ring ditch (or is it a henge?) in Church Field, were very striking and are pointers as to where we may concentrate our work in the future. David then described the two excavations and his first thoughts on the results. The Brixton dig in 2018 not only provided many of us with our first experience of archaeological excavation techniques but has revealed some form of enclosure, possibly for animals, which is probably contemporaneous with the villa. However, the most interesting results are yet to emerge – the analysis of the samples taken from the dark, waterlogged context in Trench C. This analysis will soon be undertaken by Mike Allen (NB. a volunteer still needed to help Mike during the analysis period 22-30 Aug. Contact David Croot if you can help this key piece of work).
While David drew breath, Dr Claire Rainsford stepped in to give us a summary of the early analysis of bones recovered during the excavations. While the samples were small, they seem to show that in the Roman and medieval period people enjoyed roast beef whereas in the post-medieval period roast lamb (or perhaps shepherd’s pie) was favourite. We also enjoyed a diversion into experimental archaeology, which revealed how it was discovered why fish bones don’t tend to appear in the archaeological record (detail of the experiment redacted to spare the squeamish).
David then took the floor again to describe this year’s Kingston dig. While relatively little was found, the excavation has given us a better understanding of the ground adjacent to the ford and showed that although Roman pottery was found, the area was mainly in use in the medieval period as some form of working platform. David concluded by showing us the map of known finds in the valley and then pointing to where our work had increased the sum of knowledge. In the short period of the DAP’s existence this was quite impressive, not only giving us a warm glow that our work to date had been very worthwhile but also an inspiration for our future work. David then introduced Dr Jörn Schuster, our small finds expert, who gave us an overview by way of a statistical analysis by type and quantity of the small finds we have made. Given the small quantities, it was difficult to produce dramatic conclusions but it was interesting to learn about nails and buckles various. The most impressive find was a large key and one can imagine the conversation that followed its loss centuries ago, which probably went along the following lines, “What do you mean you’ve lost our only key to the manor house front door? It’s massive, you couldn’t have lost it! Alright, if you really can’t find it, saddle the donkey and get yourself to Cordens and get a new one made. See you in 5 days.”
There then followed a wide ranging Q&A session after which David Croot thanked the speakers for their talks and for all their work to support the DAP, which generated warm applause. An excellent evening and one which has given us a solid foundation for next year’s work.
Blog by John. Photos by Denise.