Peace Dividend Brings Archaeological Rewards

By Clarke, Bob | Antiquity, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Peace Dividend Brings Archaeological Rewards


Clarke, Bob, Antiquity


The political changes throughout Europe in the latter part of the 20th century have brought about a reduction in the number of military establishments in the British Isles. Large areas of land including airfields and ranges are now classified as `brown field' sites ripe for development. The archaeological potential of such sites should not be underestimated.

Over a three-year period archaeologists from the Defence Evaluation & Research Agency (DERA) and Wessex Archaeology have monitored all intrusive work carried out at the DERA airfield Boscombe Down, Salisbury, Wiltshire. This has been complemented with a desktop survey using vertical photographs from the sites archive, material which has not been available before. The preliminary results indicate that, far from being a sterile site, Boscombe Down still retains a substantial number of monuments and features.

Boscombe Down is well known in Iron Age circles thanks to the efforts of J.F.S. Stone during construction of one of the runways (1949-50). Then levelling operations exposed a large area of open occupation including burials and a late Iron Age double ditch enclosure (Richardson 1951). The recent survey has added two antenna enclosures to this landscape, both seen as grass marks on aerial photographs. Unfortunately one enclosure was partially destroyed in the 1960s but the other has survived virtually untouched and displayed some evidence of an associated field system. These sites tend to suggest a far more intensively used area of occupation.

Watching briefs have produced evidence of land use from the Late Bronze Age through to the Post-Medieval period. A number of multi-phase ditches have been recorded which suggest that some areas were intensively re-used. The ceramic sequence from one site suggests that a ditch of mid/late Iron Age date replaced a posted fence of probable late Bronze/early Iron Age. Roman ceramics indicate that this was in turn replaced by a more substantial ditch, fenced along one edge (Clarke 1999). In other areas ditches characteristic of Romano-British field boundaries cut into previously undisturbed landscapes suggesting intensification of agriculture during that period (Kirby et al. 1998).

Another discovery was a round barrow for which there is no previous record. The monument is partially obscured by a railway embankment, but building work in the 1930s has respected the feature. The barrow is 20 m across and stands 1.3 m high; whether antiquarian digging has damaged the monument is not known. To the north of this monument are the large barrow cemeteries of New Barn Down and Earl's Farm Down and it is possible that the new discovery is connected with the latter. …

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Peace Dividend Brings Archaeological Rewards
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