Archaeology Training Dig 2022
Students on the Certificate and Diploma in Archaeology at The Department have been enjoying experiencing and learning excavation techniques as part of their course. The training dig, which this year took place in late April, was directed by Dr Jane Harrison and run in conjunction with a community archaeology project researching settlement change from prehistory to the Medieval period on the higher ground south-west of Oxford, encompassing the villages of Appleton, Eaton and Besselsleigh.
The current excavation at Besselsleigh is at the site of a manor - probably mid-eleventh century in origin - and associated medieval village, now under peaceful grass parkland but with an eventful history. During the English Civil War, the manor was owned by William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons, and was besieged by both Royalists and Parliamentarians. Historical records show that during the late seventeenth century it was a girls’ school, holding musical evenings and balls attended by scholars from the nearby University of Oxford. It was subsequently damaged by fire and finally demolished in the late eighteenth century. Nothing has been known about the exact location and character of the manor before the early eighteenth century and the excavation is providing new and fascinating insights into early medieval and Tudor period buildings, as well as later phases of the structure.
The dig project’s emphasis on inclusivity and sound archaeological techniques ensures that the multi-phase site provides an excellent training excavation for students and locals alike. Working alongside volunteers (including former students), current learners are able to learn and build upon key archaeological fieldwork and survey skills while excavating the varied structures on site. The 2022 excavation, as well as revealing evidence for very early phases of the Manor, has produced finds including a broad range of pottery, but also animal bone, coins (dating back to the Roman period) and domestic items such as dress pins and thimbles.
With the diverse experiences of both students and volunteers contributing to the Project’s success, the training excavation continues to provide a valuable teaching resource for Oxford's Department for Continuing Education, while allowing local people to connect with the history of their area.
- Jane Harrison and Amanda Eames
Published 26 May 2022