Sediment description and LOI

Since finishing the 2015 fieldwork season in mid-November, the (not so) cold Winter days have been spent locked away in the lab working on the cores. In total, we collected just over 150 metre-long sediment cores from our 10 study sites this year… we’ve certainly got plenty of work to do!

Once the cores are offloaded back at the university, the first job is to saw the cores open using a small circular saw. The exposed face of the sediments within is then cleaned: the surface of the sediment which was in contact with the plastic tube is usually a little disturbed, so this is carefully peeled away with a scalpel. This reveals all the fine details: the subtle changes in texture, colour, and any layering or ‘structure’ all of which can help us to understand how the deposits used to make the mound were formed.


The cores are carefully cleaned with a scalpel to reveal the fine details – here are some very fine wavy laminations, possibly a ‘trample’ layer, with some waterlogged wood at the base of a core.

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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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Introducing: The Round Mounds Project

Extending Histories: from Medieval Mottes to Prehistoric Round Mounds (‘The Round Mounds Project’ for short) is a three-year research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Reading and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC).

The Project, led by Dr Jim Leary, seeks to unlock the history of monumental mounds in the English landscape. Neolithic round mounds, such as Silbury Hill – the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, are among the rarest and lest well understood monuments in Britain. Recent work by Jim Leary at the medieval Marlborough Castle motte, Wiltshire, has shown it to be a Neolithic round mound which was reused in the medieval period, and raises the possibility that other castle mottes may have prehistoric origins. This research project therefore seeks to uncover prehistoric mounds that were adapted for medieval defence or have been misidentified as later mottes – a previously unrecognized phenomenon that could re-write our understanding of both the Neolithic and Norman periods.

Castle Hill, Thetford.

Castle Hill, Thetford.

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