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Monday, February 17

Solving a Derbyshire Mysteryheritage Lottery Fund Logo

Solving a Derbyshire Mystery

 January 2015   The final dig of this Fin Cop Hill Fort Project took place last summer. The 2014 trench was a lateral extension of one that had been dug in 2012. Once again, this was located across the rampart and ditch defences, but well away from the 2009 & 2010 digs.

The 2012 dig unearthed more human remains from the ditch whereas the 2014 excavation only found animal bones there. So the archaeologists were able to investigate beneath the foundations of the rampart to see if there had been an earlier wooden palisade. But they found neither a construction slot nor post holes.

The final video report on all of the digs is HERE 

January 2012  Click HERE to see The Dying Days of Fin Cop which had its official public premiere as the finale to Derbyshire Archaeology Day at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield where it got a really great reception.

  Also, ARS's work which was nominated in the RESEARCH PROJECT of the YEAR, 2012 category - won the award!!    

September 2011 The youth group's film about the Dying Days of Fin Cop was well received at its Longstone Preview in the upstairs room of the White Lion. Its still under wraps until its official premiere at Chesterfield next January.   

January 2011  ARS's Clive Waddington told the packed Derbyshire Archaeology Day gathering about the finds from last summer's dig.

The headline item was about the skeletons that were unearthed.

They were 7 women and children whose bodies had been dumped in the fort's ditch some 2,300 years ago and they were in amongst the destruction debris of the main defensive wall.

In other words, they must have died when Fin Cop was sacked, and it's once proud walls were leveled into the ditch - by attackers, as yet unknown.

More details of the lab results will follow asap.

We also had the opportunity to show the youth group's 2009 video (see below) as well as a short trailer for their current in-production film - a dramatic reconstruction of The Dying Days of Fin Cop. It's HERE.

October 2010 This year's excavations on Fin Cop have now been back filled. The finds are awaiting analysis. The lab results aren't expected until the new year, and the first report of this year's findings is due be given at the 2011 Derbyshire Archaeological Day at Chesterfield in January.

Solving a Derbyshire Mystery - Winning a National Award

July 2010 Last year’s excavation on the hillfort at Fin Cop has won the 2010British Archaeological Award for the community archaeological project which best advances the knowledge & practice of archaeology in the United Kingdom.

The award was presented by Judy Cligman a director of the Heritage Lottery Fund at a formal ceremony at the British Museum, London,on the 19 July.

This prestigious national award recognises the detailed organisation & management of the project by Longstone Local History Group and the expert professional supervision by Clive Waddington of Archaeological Research Services. Most importantly the award is mainly for the really tremendous amount of time and effort spent by young and old throughout our local community.

In May 2010 we posted the following - Thanks to another lottery grant the project will continue this summer when we hope that new excavations at the Iron Age hillfort of Fin Cop, overlooking Monsal Dale in the Peak District National Park, will reveal more about its story, following the discovery last year of a female skeleton dating from 400 to 200 BC Longstone Local History Group has been awarded a further £49,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to re-examine the site, under supervision of Bakewell-based experts Archaeological Research Services Ltd. Last year, some 160 schoolchildren and 80 adult volunteers discovered hundreds of pieces of worked Mesolithic flint, chert and fragments of Iron Age pottery.This year, young people from schools in Longstone, Bakewell, Buxton and Ashbourne were involved, and a local youth group is making a DVD.The excavation – on private farmland – will run throughout July.

  • The project is also supported by English Heritage and Natural England
  • The 2009 results have now been written up and can be seen on Archaeological Research Services website.

The Longstone Local History Youth Group's prize winning video - which was inspired by last summer's dig and includes folklore, archaeology and the carbon14 lab results which arrived in February, can be seen by clicking HERE

In JANUARY 2010 we posted the following report

Human skeleton unearthed at Iron Age Hillfort

There has been great excitement as unexpected finds came to light during a three week excavation at the site of an ancient hillfort near Monsal Head, Derbyshire, thought to date from the Iron Age (700 BC – AD 60). Longstone Local History Group (LLHG) members have been uncovering all kinds of evidence which will help to solve a Derbyshire mystery, using a Heritage Lottery grant of £49000.

Their main focus was to find how the ramparts of the hillfort were built and when they were erected. But members were most surprised by the unearthing of a prehistoric skeleton as they excavated in the rock-cut ditch outside the ramparts.

School children from Longstone School made another unexpected discovery. Hundreds of Mesolithic (10500-3900 BC) chipped stone artefacts, such as scrapers for working hides, were unearthed when they helped excavate test pits over the fort interior. The test pits also produced over a hundred fragments of prehistoric pottery thought to have been used by the fort’s inhabitants and if this were not enough a flake from a Neolithic (3900-2400 BC) stone axe head was also found.

The excavation was directed by a professional team from Archaeological Research Services Ltd. Their leader, Dr Clive Waddington said “The excavation has been tremendously rewarding because it has supplied significant new information for understanding hillforts in the Peak District, a type of monument which has remained poorly understood in the region.”

Ann Hall, LLHG Project Manager, was particularly pleased that so many locals had given their time and energy to help remove up to 2 metres depth of soil and rubble to help solve the mystery of how the fort and ditch had been constructed. She said that the poor weather had not dampened the enthusiasm of the 78 volunteers and 160 school children who worked on the site. Even constant rain on the Open Day did not deter 71 people from joining the site tours. She said “We all feel very privileged to have been given permission to investigate below the surface of this scheduled ancient monument; even for just a short time. The site is on private land with no public access and now we have restored the land, there is nothing left on site to show all the amazing features which have been discovered. The skeleton has been carefully removed along with all the finds. These will be analysed by specialists to give us much more information about what happened in the past.”

The English Heritage Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Derbyshire, Jon Humble, said, 'This project shows, quite literally in spades, what can be achieved when professional archaeologists, community and school groups work together on an archaeological mystery - and there are many more mysteries out there in the Peak District that have yet to be solved. The Heritage Lottery Fund should be congratulated for their vision in financially supporting this hugely worthwhile project'.

The Peak District National Park Authority gave practical support and advice for the project. Its senior conservation archaeologist Sarah Whiteley said: “We’ve been really pleased to work with the Longstone Local History Group, Archaeological Research Services and the landowner. The project has given so many people a unique experience, helping them develop their understanding of the locality and their archaeological skills. The excavations cast new light on our understanding of the site, it’s been a tremendous achievement and we’d like to thank everyone involved.”

The Mesolithic artefacts were found by a team of 160 school children helped by their teachers and a PDNPA ranger. These finds were mostly made from chert which can be found within the limestone bedrock on the hilltop. The chert had been worked into blades and then modified into a range of different tools. Piercers, awls and microliths, the latter used as barbs in hunting weapons, were found along with the scrapers. Some tools were made of flint which is not from the local region. This material must have been imported from further afield, possibly the Lincolnshire or Yorkshire Wolds.

The flake from a Neolithic polished stone axe head was made from volcanic tuff which is likely to have come from the Lake District.

The Iron Age hill fort is probably between 3000 and 2000 years old although this will be established with much greater precision once the radiocarbon dating has been undertaken. Excavation of what appeared at first sight to be a gently undulating bank and ditch showed that the defences would have been much more impressive in their heyday. They were made of a stone faced rampart and a rubble core which sloped to the rear. In front of the rampart was a substantial rock-cut ditch with a vertical inner face. The ditch base was over 2 metres below the modern ground surface. There was evidence for a ditch terminal and what could be a blocked up entrance. At some time a second rampart was added outside the inner rampart to protect the eastern approach to the fort and a new entrance placed further along the rampart circuit. The ditch fill provided evidence that the fort may have come to a grim end as a result of Iron Age hostilities. The fort had been decommissioned by pushing the stone ramparts into the rock cut ditch. During this destruction a human corpse had been unceremoniously thrown in along with the rampart debris. The skeleton is clearly of an adult but further analysis will establish its age, sex and hopefully the region of the person’s origin.

Luckily, samples suitable for radiocarbon dating survived. It should be possible to date the construction of the original rampart, the construction of the second rampart and the destruction of the fort’s defences, as well as the skeleton. Dr Clive Waddington said “I am very pleased with the results to date because the survival of these organic remains will allow us to finally put in place a chronology for one the Peak District’s impressive hillfort sites.”

Over a hundred pieces of prehistoric pot survived in the topsoil below the limit of earlier ploughing on the site. A preliminary analysis suggests that people occupying the hill fort used a range of coarseware jars and bowls for storing, cooking and serving food. The scale of occupation remains to be established but this preliminary investigation has shown that the site has far more potential to inform us about the past than was originally anticipated.

The first results of the post-excavation analysis were presented at the Derbyshire Archaeology Day which was held at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield on 16th January 2010. The final batch have now arrived and can be seen in full on the ARS website, as well as being summarised in the Youth Group's February 2010 video. Click on the links at the top of this page.

You can now see highlights of the actual dig in this VIDEO from August 2009.



Tuesday 21 April 2009

So far,volunteers from the LLHG have been doing archive research about the history of the hill fort area. This has taken us to places such as libraries and museums, but today we had our first trip up to the site itself. It's on private land, and normally there's no public access, but we had permission to be there so that we could learn how to, and then actually survey the surviving earth works.

The day was blessed with wall to wall sunshine which warmed the gentle breeze and gave us all a rather benign introduction to what can be a very windswept headland.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Today was the first time we actually got our hands dirty - not by digging but by starting to measure and record the humps and bumps on the site. The real archaeologists had already planted loads of pegs in the ground, and, using their high grade GPS system, they'd been able to mark the pegs' positions on a plan of the site. The first feature that we surveyed was the defensive ditch and bank. We used pairs of the marked points along the top of the bank to define a series of base lines from which we measured the width and shape of the earthworks. You need to get your eye in for this because centuries of ploughing and erosion have blurred what were once sharp outlines, but by lunchtime we'd produced our first bit of what will soon be a 1:1,000 scale drawing of the whole site.

This work continued with different groups of volunteers (and a wide spectrum of weather conditions) for the next week or so, and as well as surveying the ditch and bank we also recorded a nearby area of limestone quarrying. This had been investigated several years earlier because it was thought that it might have been another prehistoric earthwork.

Friday 8 May 2009

This week it's the turn of the Geophys experts to give the site the once-over. Twice, in fact, because they surveyed using both magnetometry and resistivity to see if they could spot any anomalies that might be interesting to dig. Their data, added to our site plan and the stack of background information that we've unearthed from local libraries, museums, memories and the internet, will now be studied by the project managers, and before long they'll decide where they'd like to put their trenches when the dig proper begins in July.

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