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Ancient rubbish could unlock secrets of Devon's history

Archaeologist working in Ipplepen, Devon
Jim Wileman/University of Exeter

Recently discovered household waste thrown away by families thousands of years ago will provide valuable clues for archaeologists uncovering the secrets of Devon's Iron Age, Roman, and Medieval history.

The rubbish, found by experts working on a major archaeological dig in the county, will allow them to reconstruct farming methods used thousands of years ago and learn more about what people ate.

Members of the community and experts from the University of Exeter are investigating fields near Ipplepen in south Devon.

Bones found in Ipplepen, Devon
University of Exeter

The excavations have shown features such as ditches and wells were back filled with domestic rubbish including broken pots, butchered animal bones, metal studs from old shoes, and even a dead badger.

The remains of amphora, large pottery storage vessels used to transport and store wine and olive oil from the Mediterranean, have also been found.

Experts say the discovery suggests the community in the area enjoyed foreign food and drink.

We can use these animal bones to reconstruct past patterns of farming. If animals such as the sheep were killed at a young age then they were being kept for their meat - lamb, whereas if they were kept into old age then they were being kept for their wool and even their milk. Some of the bones that have been found have cut marks from when they were butchered."

Prof Stephen RipponUniversity of Exeter