Dig draws to a close

The first archaeological dig of its kind to take place on the site of a possible Iron Age settlement near Newton was completed on Friday 13th June. The site was selected based on aerial images of the land, which showed evidence of ancient crop lines,  indicating that the land had been used for growing food for many centuries. The project was funded by Meres and Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University and Shropshire Council and was overseen by local archaelogist Hugh Hannaford.

Ian Perry of BBC Shropshire interviewing Hugh on site

Ian Perry of BBC Shropshire interviewing Hugh during week one.

 

In addition to uncovering evidence of an Iron Age settlement, the project also aimed to give local people the opportunity to try archaeology themselves. In all, 12 local volunteers joined the dig over the fortnight; some doing well to put up with torrential rain and storms, while other had the luxury of working on clear blue skies all day long. On the second Wednesday of the project, Whixall School attended the dig, to learn about the delicate process of unearthing long-buried history, both by archaeology and through peat coring. Jonathan Legard of Manchester Metropolitan University led the peat coring, which involved using a piece of equipment called a Russian Corer to bore down several feet into the ground to collect samples of peat. The samples collected contain evidence of pollen and seeds and the type of pollen found in each layer indicates what was being grown on the land at a particular time.

 

Whixall School dscover the technique of peat coring

Whixall School visited the dig on Wednesday 11th June

 

The penultimate day of digging

Hugh oversees the final stages during week two

 

The dig site covered an area approximately 10 metres long by 3 metres wide and straddled the southern edge of the proposed crop line. Further evidence of a ditch was discovered at a depth of around 1 metre and the ditch itself was found to be a further 1 metre in depth. Just the one corner of the ditch was uncovered, but enough data was collected from the area to estimate that overall, the ditch would have encompassed an area of around 100 by 100 metres; around the amount of land suitable as a farmstead for up to three families. Originally the ditch would have been dug to act as a visual boundary to a homestead.

On this occasion, no evidence to comprehensively show that the ditch does date back to the Iron Age was collected from the dig itself, but the results of the peat sampling will give a date once pollen types have been identified. Although two pieces of "worked" flint were unearthed, which would suggest that the families living there 4000 years ago were crafting their own tools, no other significant finds were discovered. However, the project allowed people living in and around Ellesmere to have a taste of what it would be like to be part of a real life "Time Team".

 

 

Results show the depth of the ditch


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The area of Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses combined is the third largest area of raised peat bog in Britain. On average, 1 hectare of peatland can store 10 times more carbon than 1 hectare of woodland


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