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Dougs History Spot - Archaeology 101 Part 1

As lockdown is changing I have been asked to alter the emphasis of my History Spot and concentrate on matters nearer home and to provide insights into archaeology sites you might pass on a day to day journey's.


A simple starting to point is ask What is archaeology? There are many definitions, one is 'Archaeology is the study of the human past through the material evidence people have left behind'.


Another is ‘Archaeology is the study of the material remains which can range from buried cities to microscopic organisms and covers all periods from the origins of humans millions of years ago to the remains of the 20th & 21st century society, industry and warfare……… (Archaeology) provides us with the only source of information about many aspects of our development. Milestones such as the beginning of agriculture, the origin of towns, or the discovery of metals can only be understood through the examination of physical evidence where no written records exist, and indeed archaeology also provides essential information for periods of the past for which written records do survive.’


The second is a better definition but it gives no indication of the widest range of activities or processes involved from the first investigations through to the final publication and sharing of the results with the general public.


This series of 5 is a quick introduction to the archaeology process with links to local sites you might have missed or where you could have a tip out.

This diagram gives a high-level view of the processes involved although there are many activities within each process.


We will look at each process in more detail in the next four newsletters. Hopfully this will give readers a better understanding and appreciation of the work involved behind the archaeological programmes and films seen on TV such as Time Team.


Time Team ran for 20 years until 2014. It will return again in the Autumn 2021. It looks simple but there is more to it than meets the eye. Time Team digs used to last for 3 days, there was considerably more work involved before and after the digs themselves.


In the next newsletter I will look at the Preliminary Investigations process as outlined below.

It looks simple but there is more to it than meets the eye.


There are no excavations in the South Somerset area at present. There are many archaeological sites that have been discovered in the past. Many of these are on private land. 69 are scheduled monuments / sites and are under the protection of Historic England.


Some of the oldest are Neolithic (4,000 – 2,000BC), Bronze Age (2,000 – 700 BC) or Iron Age (700BC- 43AD) including hillforts.

To mention a few, the nearest to Chard is in Bounds Lane and is an Iron Age hillfort or enclosure.


Nearby Combe Saint Nicholas has Underway Meade which is a field with a mound that is thought by some to date from the Bronze Age. However it is not yet a Scheduled monument.



A more significant site is Combe Beacon (ST 2948 1227) barrow, a Scheduled site and is one of only seven known bell barrows in Somerset. The original mound survives well beneath the later deposits of the beacon mound which have helped to preserve its original form and the adaptation of the barrow mound, probably at some stage in the 18th century as a beacon gives the monument added interest.

It is known from a limited excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. It now has a Trig point from an OS survey.


See you next time, and sharing with you the detail behind phase 1 of the 'dig' process.


Doug

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