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28 October 2014

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Volunteers hard at work on the dig

Volunteers hard at work on the dig

Unearthing the ultimate historic house

Great location, sea views, rural setting. And old, very old. In fact about 2,000 years old. Belinda Dixon investigates the efforts to excavate an Iron Age house on the hills above Bigbury-on-Sea.

This is the fourth year archaeological trenches have sliced through a field on the fringe of the village to reveal a multi-layered past.

The views here are stunning, from Bolt Tail in the south, round the wide crescent sweep of Bigbury Bay, to Stoke Point in the west.

And, as dig leader Dr Eileen Wilkes explains, the location was as important for those building 2,000 years ago, as it is for people choosing a plot today.

Pottery finds bagged up

Finds bagged and pegged to where they were found

"What we think we have here is perhaps the earliest settlement site in Bigbury, which is possibly Iron Age, so is a little over 2,000 years old.

"Then, people cut a terrace into the hillside, to locate their houses out of the wind, and overlook the bay behind us; taking in the views just as we do today."

What this site at Mount Folly does so well is conjure an ancient past full of real people.

One technique which led Dr Wilkes to investigate the area was to study the coast from the perspective of an Iron Age sailor. Again there are strong parallels between needs then and needs now.

"I was interested in where Iron Age sailors would have been able to bring their boats into shore, to conduct trade and offload their goods. But also safe havens where they would have ridden out storms and the like.

Work at the dig

The dig has to be completed in three weeks

"It struck me that Bigbury Bay was perfect for this because there are lots of small sandy beaching coves – and there's very good inland access with the rivers Avon and Erme."

A team of local people will be working hard through the three week dig in April 2006, getting ever closer to a key layer which it's hoped will reveal an Iron Age roundhouse. Dr Wilkes is hugely grateful for her team of volunteers.

"It’s an awful lot of earth! The point of the excavation currently is to remove this earth and work down through the various layers of archaeology so we can get to the Iron Age settlement area at the bottom.

"By the end of the dig I hope we've found the extent of the round house and any other structures which stood on this terrace."

Just what is found remains to be seen but BBC Radio Devon is paying regular visits to the dig site, with progress reports on Pippa Quelch's Saturday Breakfast Show, and here on the BBC Devon website.

If you want to see the site for yourself there’s an open day on Sunday 23rd April, 2006 at 2pm. 

last updated: 21/02/2008 at 16:43
created: 12/04/2006

You are in: > Unearthing the ultimate historic house

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