South Cadbury Environs Project

Excavation

Excavations of varying scales were carried out at locations determined by the results from geophysics and test-pitting. The analysis and publication of these is not covered by the AHRB/C grant although it is continuing in parallel.

Results of the excavations are integrated into the period results but here are some highlights:

Milsoms Corner, 1995-99

In February 1995 a small team from the South Somerset Archaeological and Historical Society directed by Richard Tabor opened eight small trial trenches on a tongue of land below the west access to the hillfort, prompted by the discovery of prehistoric pottery revealed by the plough and the apparent disturbance of the subsoil. Just one of the trenches revealed a possible posthole and a handful of sherds but it was enough to launch a large scale training excavation just three months later. The area never extended beyond 30x21m yet it turned into a five year campaign full of remarkable discoveries.

These included an Early Neolithic encampment, including a floor and pits; an Early Bronze Age burial aligned on Glastonbury Tor; a Middle Bronze Age enclosure, part of a larger field system, which included a long sequence of ritual deposits, culminating in the ‘killing’ of a bronze shield, already over 150 years old when it was deposited around 950 BC; a continuous sequence of Late Bronze Age to Late Iron Age buildings, ending with the slaughter at Cadbury Castle at around the time of the Roman invasion of AD 43.

Photograph Showing Early Neolithic Pit, Milsoms Corner

Early Neolithic pit, Milsoms corner

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Photograph of Bronze Age Shield, Milsoms Corner

Bronze Age shield, Milsoms corner

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Reconstruction Illustration of Milsoms Corner

Milsoms corner: feasting and displaying the shield (illustration by Amanda Tabor)

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Photograph of Ritual Scoop, Milsoms Corner

‘Ritual scoop’, Milsoms corner

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Sigwells, 1994-2006

Prompted by the results of fieldwalking, Peter Leach directed the first of two University of Birmingham training excavations targeting Romano-British structures. The results amplified Roger Leech’s work in the 1970s around Somerton. However, it was the excavation of the first confirmed metalworking building and enclosure in Britain (in 2000, 2002 and 2005) and the discovery of a massive Middle to Late Iron Age pit group associated with a sequence of enclosures (2003-05) which is of major importance.

Photograph of the excavation of Sigwells Trench 12.

Excavation of Sigwells Trench 12 (1994). Cadbury Castle is 2km to the north-west.

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Figure showing Illustrated Middle Bronze Age Finds from Sigwells

Finds of the Middle Bronze Age from the metalworking enclosure, Sigwells (drawings by Joleen O’Neill and Amanda Tabor)

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Photograph of Cattle Skull in an Iron Age Pit, Sigwells

Cattle skull in an Iron Age pit, Sigwells

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Sheep Slait, 2006

In autumn 2005, geophysical survey revealed a henge-like circular feature at Sheep Slait amongst a complex of anomalies. However, test pits and then a full scale excavation the following year proved that it was a Late Bronze Age or earliest Iron Age ringwork of a type found in the east of England and the Thames Valley. There they are associated with major economic expansion during that period, and were thought to demonstrate the economic pre-eminence of central and south eastern England, an idea now being re-assessed based on this find. The ringwork was reused to enclose an unusual stone-based building in the Iron Age.

Photograph of Ringwork entrance Ditch, Sheep Slait

Ringwork entrance ditch terminal, Sheep Slait

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Figure of Illustrated Finds from Late Bronze Age Ringwork, Sheep Slait

Finds from the Late Bronze Age ringwork, Sheep Slait (drawings by Joleen O’Neill and Amanda Tabor)

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Photograph of Iron Age Building within Ringwork, Sheep Slait

The Iron Age building within the ringwork, Sheep Slait

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