I have a passing interest in archaeology, spurred on by watching Indiana Jones. I know, of course, that the reality doesn’t involve travelling the world searching for the Holy Grail. But if, like me, you fancy learning more about the things under your feet then why not book onto an Earth Trust archaeology tour?
Earth Trust are planning a new visitor centre and the archaeological dig forms part of the planning preparation. I joined a tour of the dig, which starts from the Earth Trust offices near Little Wittenham. Our group consisted of about 10 people, mostly local but one couple had come from Norwich!
The first hour of the tour involves a walk around the Clumps with an Earth Trust guide. It covers the history of the area and its previous residents.
Castle Hill (the right hand clump, looking at it from the car park) was the site of a hill fort and has been used by people from the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman times. It has been excavated previously and was featured in a Time Team programme a few years back. We walked up and around and then crossed over to Round Hill. Our guide pointed out places (Dorchester) and features (the river) which were important to the development of the Clumps in earlier ages.
We returned to the Earth Trust headquarters for the second half of the tour. This was led by David, an archaeologist working for Dig Ventures, the company carrying out the dig.
We walked to the dig site, which is in the fields beside the existing buildings. David explained the different areas they were excavating, how they chose what to excavate and what the various holes (graves!) in the ground signified. They have been excavating a large building occupied by Romans, and we saw an outline of this and heard what it might have looked like. No sign of any Roman mosaic flooring though.
The most interesting part for me was being allowed to handle some of the finds. These included Roman and Iron Age pottery pieces and a Roman key. It is quite incredible to hold something in your hands that has been buried underground for the last 2000 years.
After a while I was thankful I’d never seriously considered archaeology as a career. Don’t get me wrong, it was very interesting to find out about the site and its finds. But it was freezing. And ankle deep in mud!
The tour finished with a few questions from the group. It was an interesting couple of hours (with the second hour being most interesting for me). There are still a few spaces on future archaeological tours so if you’re interested sign up quick.
If you fancy a longer walk you might be interested in my post outlining a walk from Wittenham Clumps to Dorchester.
Earth Trust have added additional dates in February for their archaeology tours. Tours last approximately 2 hours and cost £5. In March there is also the opportunity to take part in a community dig, pop over to the Earth Trust website for details.