The latest training session to be delivered as part of the Discovering the Archaeological Landscape of the Brecks project concerned the excavation of archaeological test-pits. Between 21st and 24th July, fifty volunteers joined experts from the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service and the Norfolk Historic Environment Service to learn how to dig and record a series of 1m x 1m test-pits in and around the area of the visitor centre at the West Stow Anglo-Saxon village.
Ten pits were excavated during the course of the four days, each of which told us something new about the depth and nature of the buried archaeology on the site. Previous excavations have shown that further Anglo-Saxon buildings of the kind found on the main site lay in the area of the visitor centre, where they are covered by a thick layer of blown sand laid down in the medieval period. As a result of the week’s work we now have a much better understanding of how deeply buried these layers are, which will aid greatly in the management of the site.
A wide range of archaeological artefacts was discovered, including medieval, Anglo-Saxon and Roman pottery, as well as large quantities of prehistoric worked flint. The ‘Find of the Week’ was made by a young girl joining us for her first ever day of digging who discovered a Neolithic (4000—2500 BC) flint blade core within her first 20 minutes on site. This core is the piece of flint which was left after a series of blades had been struck from it, giving it a characteristically angular appearance.
The buried remains of an Ancient British warrior were discovered in one of the test-pits, complete with helmet, shield and sword. Unfortunately, he was only 2cm tall and made of plastic – experts have dated the burial to the 1970s ‘Airfix’ period…
In addition to being a part of Breaking New Ground, the test-pitting was also part of the national Festival of Archaeology and also coincided with a week of celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the start of the excavations which revealed the main archaeological site. To mark this anniversary we have made PDFs of the reports freely available via the Suffolk Heritage Explorer website: https://heritage.suffolk.gov.uk/west-stow. Full results of the test-pitting will also be published here when the final report is finished.
Dr Richard Hoggett, Senior Archaeological Officer, Suffolk County Council