Sunday, Day 12, was our site Open Day, which saw nearly 500 people visit the site, and nearly 400 visit the Hub, making for a total of a little fewer than 900 people!
This year’s Open Day saw refreshments provided by Spanky’s Spuds and Hunter’s Brewery which went down a storm in the brilliant sunshine (there was a light interlude of rain later on in the afternoon however).
Activities on site included; student led tours of the excavation which ran every half an hour; talks by Dr. Sam Moorhead of the British Museum and Portable Antiquities Service about Roman coins; talks about Romano-British pottery with display cases; children’s activities; pot washing; views of our post-conservation bronze bracelet; information from Devon County Council; and even Roman re-enactors. It was a fun filled and busy day for all involved!Over at the Hub we were open as usual, with a PAS handling display which contains various artefacts, from a Cartwheel Penny of George III to a 2nd century AD Roman amphora handle, imported from Spain. Our displays on the history of the site and Roman roads more generally proved popular, as did our picture slideshow which was running on a monitor. The children’s activities were put through their paces as the ‘make your own Roman coin and mosaic’ tables were inundated with creative flair!
Monday saw a return to excavations on site, with scorching temperatures and sweaty brows a lot of progress was made, we are nearly at the point of recording our 2,000th small find, and it is only just the beginning of Week 3! Everyone is back on site now for Tuesday, with some of our volunteers and students going over to Denbury Hill Fort this evening (but more on that tomorrow).
Today the Hub will be closed from 1′o’clock as we are heading over to site to snap up some great pics for you all to have a look at!
A massive thank you to all who attended our Site Open Day! The sun was shining and the crowds were out in their hundreds! Work resumes as normal tomorrow.
What a busy week it has been at Ipplepen, and apologies for not updating more frequently this week, I had my graduation ceremony on Wednesday!
Monday saw students and volunteers being taught how to 3D record our small finds, and it was gloriously sunny occasion for it too! Imogen, the Site Director also gave a talk about the correct way to fill in context sheets. Context sheets are an important aspect of every archaeological excavation, because as we excavate a site and dig out the fill of a feature, the fill is dug out and no longer exists, therefore it is vital that everything we do is recorded in meticulous detail. In the U.K. context sheets are normally filled out in a standardised manner, as laid out by the Museum of London Archaeology Service, below is a link to their manual, for anyone keen to have a read of the nitty-gritty details!
Tuesday saw Greg (on a placement with PAS) tasked with driving a very important find to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter for conservation. The great work of the RAMM conservators will be present for all to see at the Site Open this Sunday (did someone say a freshly conserved bronze bracelet, excavated last week, will be on display? I think they did…)!
Work also continued on washing the copious quantities of pottery that we uncovering on site, and another coin was found! Lunchtime saw the students and volunteers come over to The Hub for lunch, the warm food provided making a nice change to cold cheese sandwiches.
On Wednesday work continued at a great pace, with a milestone being reached as the 1,200th small find was registered, and two coins were found as well. In the evening Danielle Wootton gave a talk to the Ipplepen History Group about the site. One of the points brought up was that John Fowles, famous for penning ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ mentions strolling through the fields of Ipplepen (where he was evacuated during WWII) and musing on Roman activity, perhaps he used to stroll over the field where we are excavating now!
Thursday was a day of technology with students and volunteers being taught how to operate the 3D recording and levelling equipment. The afternoon saw us fly up a drone in order to take aerial photographs of the site, and to see if we could spot any surrounding groundworks or crop marks that might match up with previous geophysical surveys. It also provided us with the perfect opportunity to photograph the surrounding area with Denbury Hill Fort in the background. The day was rounded off with a talk by John briefing students about the site and what we have uncovered so far, and what this tells us, all in preparation for the Site Tours on Sunday for the Open Day.
Friday has begun with much gusto and excitement as everyone is getting ready for the Open Day. Excitingly a sondage trench (from the French word for ‘a sounding’) has been marked up at the end of the Roman road, in order to better assess what is around it and how it was built: a sondage trench works like a small trial trench.
And that is the week in brief!
We hope to see you at our Open Day this Sunday where we can answer all of your questions!
Our official Press Release has now gone out!
Ipplepen Archaeological dig in the driving seat
A Roman road discovered on an archaeological dig has repairs to the road surface, showing that pot holes in Devon’s roads are nothing new.
The excavation at Ipplepen, run by the University of Exeter, is back on site following the discovery of a complex series of archaeological features thought to be part of the largest Romano-British settlement in Devon outside of Exeter.
Wheel ruts found in the newly excavated road surface are thought to be like those at Pompeii caused by carts being driven over them. This is cause for excitement according to archaeologist Danielle Wootton, the Devon Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. She said:“The road must have been extensively used, it’s intriguing to think what the horse-drawn carts may have been carrying and who was driving them. This is a fantastic opportunity to see a ‘snap shot’ of life 2000 years ago.”
The geophysical survey and a significant number of Roman coins found when the site was first discovered highlighted the importance of this extensive site and its potential to explore the relationship between the Romans and Devon’s native population.
This year’s dig, directed by Dr Imogen Wood has uncovered a few more Roman coins, two of which date from between AD 43 to AD 260 and around six late Roman 4th century coins. One can be accurately dated to AD 335 – 341. However, the location of personal artefacts, such as the newly discovered Roman hair pin , brooch and bracelet are equally as thrilling for the archaeological team.
The pin would have been used to hold the hair together much in the same way similar items are used today. Danielle Wootton said:“Roman women had some very elaborate hairstyles which changed through time like our fashions do today. Hairpins were used to hold complex hairstyles like buns and plaits together and suggests that Devon women may have been adopting fashions from Rome. This period in history often gets flooded with stories about Roman soldiers and centurions; this is interesting as they are artefacts worn by women.”
Green and blue glass beads have been unearthed, which suggests that colourful necklaces were also worn. Two amber beads have been discovered which are likely to have travelled many miles possibly from the Baltic coast to their final location at Ipplepen in the South Devon.
Wootton explained:“During the Roman period amber was thought to have magical, protective and healing properties. These very personal items worn by the women that lived on this site centuries ago have enabled us to get a glimpse into the lives of people living everyday lives on the edges of the Roman Empire.”
Pottery has also been discovered by the Archaeology Department’s students and local volunteers on the excavation. Dr Imogen Wood, University of Exeter said:“The pottery recovered suggests people were making copies of popular roman pottery for cooking and eating, but also importing a small amount of fine pottery from the continent such as drinking cups and Samian bowls for dinner guests to see and envy.”
The excavation is being carried out until the end of July and is likely to reveal further exciting finds which will help to further our understanding between Roman Britain and its native population. An Open Day for members of the public to view the Ipplepen dig and its Roman Road is on Sunday 20 July between 10am and 4pm.
Directions to the dig, involves going to The Hub information point at Ipplepen Methodist Church, Ipplepen, TQ12 5SU between 10am – 4pm. There will be displays at the Hub and the opportunity to talk to people taking part in the dig. From the Hub, visitors will be directed to the excavation where official tours of the site will take place throughout the day. There will be children’s art making activities with local artist Joe Webster and the opportunity to meet some ‘real- life’ Roman re-enactors to on the day.
The archaeology information point at the Hub will continue to be open on Mondays- Fridays from 10am – 4.30 until the 31st July.
University of Exeter archaeologist, Dr Ioana Oltean said:”This season’s excavations are proving to be a real success. We are beginning to demonstrate the importance of this site in the Roman period when the road going through the settlement connected Ipplepen with the Roman world and brought here not only coins, but also pottery and personal goods used in everyday life.”
Today has been a super Sunday with many great finds coming up. In addition to the usual cornucopia of pottery, we found two beads, one green and one blue, found by 1st Yr. student Kayleigh, and by 2nd Yr. student Kate. The site is unprecedented in the South-West for the amount of pottery (particularly Roman) which is being found. As such it was fitting that today saw our 300th small find recorded, and you’ve guessed it, it was a piece of pottery!
As work continues on the road its character is really starting to come through; pot holes and wheel ruts are clearly visible (student Greg thinks he will find some double yellow lines soon). Now that we are finishing clearing back the plough soil, John presented a talk to everyone this morning about stratigraphy and matrices. The law of superposition was explained, which means that when excavating, if a layer (or fill) is above another, then that means it is assumed to be earlier. John also explained how the road would have been built, and multiple layers built up on it, with the roadside ditches slowly being filled with and cleaned of silt, but when the road went out of use the ditches filled up with silt, creating another layer. After many years a topsoil developed over this road, which in turn was ploughed in the 19th c., the land stopped being used for crops, and is now pasture. This means that there is a layer of ploughsoil where finds are found from the layer below, because they have been churned up by the plough.
Head over to our Facebook page to see Kate and Kayleigh with their beads.
The last two days of the week have been just as successful as the rest. Work has continued on cleaning back the site, and wet sieving was set up too. Whilst this happened students and volunteers began cleaning and drying the pottery finds. Two of the nicer pot sherds were a piece of decorated Samian ware, and some German stoneware, which has a lovely blue glaze.
With so much pottery being found the finds were almost constantly being 3D located, with wrists tiring at all the entries going into the finds register! George Flower, one of the University students had a particularly fun time doing this.
Over at the Hub we had a multitude of interested folk visiting us on Thursday, 40 in total. On Friday Bill Horner, the County Archaeologist, dropped by with some displays explaining the history of the site, and interesting finds across Devon, which help to explain the work that Devon County Council and the Historic Environment Records do.
That’s it for the first week, we hope that you have enjoyed learning about what we have been up to as much as much as we have doing it!