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Wittenham Clumps and Castle Hill



First excavation of Wittenham Clumps

..a little report about the first dig to be done at the Clumps - and hold on, it's not all about the Romans..

Skeletons of a young woman and a new-born baby dating back to the Roman period have been unearthed by archaeologists at Wittenham Clumps. While they could be the remains of a mother and her child, Tom Allen of Oxford Archaeology said it was unlikely. The skeletons had originally been buried several yards apart on Castle Hill, at Little Wittenham, near Didcot.

Mr Allen described the discovery as "significant but not totally unexpected", at the start of the first archaeological dig to be undertaken at the Clumps, including the Iron Age hill fort of Castle Hill.

Iron Age, Roman and Saxon activity has previously been found inside the hill fort -- and late Roman burials discovered outside -- but the site has never been excavated.

The twin beech-capped hills form part of an 800-acre estate owned by the Northmoor Trust charity, which was awarded a £1.7m Heritage Lottery grant "to explore the evolution and future of England's landscape".

A further £1.3m has been raised in sponsorship.

At the heart of the £3m project will be a hi-tech visitors' centre situated inside converted farm buildings at Hill Farm, Little Wittenham. Called a Landscape Evolution Centre, visitors will be able investigate how predicted climatic and economic factors could change the area's landscape in the future.

An extensive archaeology programme, which is being funded with the help of the Lottery grant, will also be undertaken.

Mr Allen said a geophysical survey of the Clumps by English Heritage had revealed a buried ditch, probably from an earlier Bronze Age enclosure, on Castle Hill.

The skeletons are among the first of many finds archaeologists expect to unearth from a period spanning nearly 4,000 years.

Following careful examination, the skeletons were removed for investigative tests.The archaeologists were able to establish that the skeletons were of Roman origin because of pottery remains with the bodies.

Ian Rowland-Hill, chief executive of the Northmoor Trust, said: "This is a unique landscape and we want to explore why humans chose to live on Castle Hill."

The excavations will continue until the end of August, and the project is looking for volunteers to help out. There is a campsite close to the site, with showers and food provided by the Northmoor Trust.The standard working day is from 8am to 4.30pm. A charge of £80 per week will be made towards the cost of food and accommodation. Call 01865 263800 for an application form or write to Denise Price, Oxford Archaeology, Janus House, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 OES.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
23rd July 2003ce
Edited 23rd July 2003ce

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