It’s been a week of conservation performance indicators, West Dorset, Sherborne and Chedworth, Bath Skyline and Dunster.
On Friday, at Kingston Lacy, it was good to get outside and walk the park, garden and estate with Nigel, Andrew and Peter who head the countryside staff. To pause for a while beside the medieval earthwork hidden in Abbott Street Copse and observe the blossoming of the first bluebell. The place will be a sea of colour within a fortnight…
Wednesday, Row Z, Trevor Brooking Stand. Carroll nods the ball down to Vaz Te who drives it into the back of the net. To the left, The Red Devils fall silent and around me the terraces erupt with jubilation.
A thin voice behind shouts ‘oo ah ya?’
And as one, the massed ranks of the Iron Army turn and jab outstretched arms at the enemy tribe through a line of peace-keeping policemen.
‘OO AH YA!?, OO AH YA!?, OO AH YA!?’
The gut wrenching thrill of it, a little dangerous.
Like a rain drenched Lodmoor.
Standing in a Saxon shield wall drumming spears on wood ‘OUT!, OUT, OUT!’, the Vikings charge (well, students visiting Weymouth from Wolverhampton) ‘WODEN!, Oo Ah Ya!’
Perhaps the Royalists shouted it from the wall tops of Corfe and Dunster as they they drove back their Parliamentarian attackers in the 1640s.. fellow Englishmen.
Who are you? Who are we? What made us who we are?
Who are you? This is the question we ask on every archaeological excavation with varying degrees of success. Two years ago we excavated a line of round barrows on the edge of a cliff at Golden Cap in West Dorset (see the top illustration of the blog). The sea is eroding them away, they will be gone in 50 years. We found Early Bronze Age flint beneath the stone cairns and patches of charcoal at the centre of two of them.
The charcoal gave us radiocarbon dates of 2100-1900 BC. The soil gave us a rich pollen profile that demonstrated that this had been an oak, hazel forest before it was cleared for the barrows. The coastal geomorphologists calculated that the cairns had been built 2-3km inland 4,000 years ago and the sea had since eaten into the coast bringing the monuments within a few metres of the ocean. No bones survived, no obvious grave goods. Who were these people who had built these monuments on this 192m high ridge top so that they could be seen from miles around.
We don’t know. Their customs and habits would seem very strange to us.. We found other pottery and other finds though and were able to find the name and fascinating life story of a man. It is particularly satisfying when history and archaeology co-habit. I’ll tell you about John..