Forbury Mound, Reading – one final mystery mound…

After two years of work, hundreds of miles travelling up and down the country, almost 200 metres of core samples, and 19 monumental mounds, we at long last near the end of the road: the final bit of fieldwork, the very last of our mounds. Having investigated mounds everywhere from the Sussex coast to the foothills of the Malverns, from the Wylye Valley to the Peaks, and from the Chilterns to the outskirts of Darlington, we end our journey at a small mound right on our very doorstep, in Forbury Gardens, Reading.

Forbury Gardens, Reading

Forbury Gardens, Reading. Forbury Mound is the area of raised ground to the left of the image. Andrew Smith [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite being one of the smaller mounds we’ve looked at as part of our project, which aims to explore the date, form and environmental setting of monumental mounds in England, the mound at Forbury is one of the most puzzling… Continue reading

The Mount, Lewes: ancient monument, medieval fortification… or garden feature?

The full title of our research project is Extending Histories: from medieval mottes to prehistoric round mounds, and that is exactly what our work is doing: we are extending our knowledge of these enigmatic mounds, challenging assumptions, and finding that the histories of these monuments aren’t always as straightforward as we think they are.

Our investigations in East Sussex, down on the south coast, have produced some intriguing results…

As we will discuss in a forthcoming post, the radiocarbon dates from the first set of study sites are in. As well as finding a prehistoric mound, of an unprecedented scale for its date, in East Yorkshire, our investigations down on the South Coast have also produced some intriguing results.

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Fieldwork 2016 – the sites

The second fieldwork season of the Round Mounds Project is already in full swing! Below is a list of sites that will be investigated this year.

One or two more sites may yet be added to this list… See here to read about the criteria we used to select our study sites. We’re looking for mounds situated in landscapes with known prehistoric activity (especially Neolithic monuments!), mounds that are in low-lying and ‘watery’ topographic settings, and mounds that are relatively large (i.e. larger than your average barrow).

The sites

  • “Castle 2”, Hamstead Marshall, W. Berkshire
  • Sherrington, Wiltshire
  • Castle Tump, Worcestershire
  • Clare, Suffolk
  • Tonbridge, Kent
  • Catterick, N. Yorkshire
  • Pilsbury, Derbyshire
  • Tickhill, S. Yorkshire
  • “Montem Mound”, Slough, Berkshire

See here for the list of sites we investigated in our first field season.

Hiding in plain sight: Skipsea Castle, East Yorkshire

On the low-lying plain of Holderness in East Yorkshire lie the impressive remains of Skipsea Castle. The site was investigated by the Round Mounds Project team during our first season of fieldwork with quite extraordinary results…

Holderness is a rural, gently undulating landscape bounded by the dip slope of the Yorkshire Wolds to the north and west, and the large expanse of the Humber Estuary to the south. To the east lies the soft boulder clay cliffs of a coastline being rapidly eroded by the power of the North Sea. Skipsea Castle is situated 12km south of Bridlington, in an area formed primarily from glacial deposits of clay, sand and gravel which carpet the underlying Cretaceous Chalk strata.

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Tales of a boring man: the fieldwork experience

Fieldwork is a major part of many archaeological projects, the Round Mounds Project is no exception. Although a lot of fun and a welcome break from being stuck behind a computer or in the lab, fieldwork can also be challenging and just plain old hard work.

In this week’s post, Kevin, our very own expert technician talks us through his experience of last week’s fieldwork trip to County Durham and East Yorkshire…

Although I spend most of my time working on “enterprise” (i.e. commercial) projects for the SAGES (School of Archaeology Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading) consultancy Quest, another key part of my job is to assist in fieldwork and laboratory work on research projects. So it’s not a 9-5 Monday to Friday job, which is why I spent my Saturday evening packing my bags and checking the weather forecast…

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The Lie of the Land: analytical survey of earthworks and landscapes

In his pioneering book The Making of the English Landscape published in 1955, W.G. Hoskins noted ‘everything in the landscape is older than we think’. The evidence for this is all around us. And once you know what to look for, you can’t help but see it.

Not much of England has escaped being altered by humans. Even in the seemingly wild places – such as the bleak uplands of Dartmoor or the rugged peaks of the Lakes – you can find evidence for past human activity. These previous interventions play an integral part in defining the character of the countryside we see and value today. The earthwork banks of prehistoric enclosures, the network of roads and field boundaries that connect and divide the countryside, and the fabric of village houses are all imprints of past inhabitants. The English landscape therefore incorporates the actions, behaviour and beliefs of people, and represents a living record of the past.

The English landscape represents a living record of the past

The English landscape represents a living record of the past

Analytical survey is a powerful tool that can help unravel the stories embedded in the landscape record. Through keen observation, careful recording and thoughtful analysis of visible archaeological and historical remains, insightful interpretations of a site or landscape can emerge. It is especially powerful when combined with desk-based research – incorporating information from current and historic maps, aerial photographs, historical documents and the findings of previous research. It can also help target further research using other specialist techniques (such as geophysical survey, archaeological excavation or environmental assessment) and can provide a wider context for their results. Continue reading

Drilling to the Core of the Mound: a minimally intrusive archaeological technique

A key element of the Round Mounds Project is the use of minimally-intrusive techniques of archaeological investigation to uncover new information about large mounds in the English landscape. By using small-diameter boreholes we are able to obtain the information we need without having to resort to destructive and time-consuming excavation.

Drilling at Bramber Castle, W Sussec

The power auger in action at Bramber Castle.

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