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III.—Excavations at Kingsdown Camp, Mells, Somerset, 1927–9

  • H. St. George Gray


The survey of Kingsdown Camp began on 12th August 1927, and digging in that year was in progress from 15th August to 27th August. In 1928 operations were continued from 7th February to 1st March, and from 10th April to 5th May. The work was completed in 1929, from 8th April to 24th April, and from 7th October to 19th October.



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page 59 note 1 The Director-General of the Ordnance Survey kindly gave information that the true magnetic variation on 1st July 1927 was 13°55′ west of true north.

page 59 note 2 Besides being responsible for the records, the surveys (plan and sectional diagrams) were done by myself. To our Fellows the Very Rev. Father E. Home and Dr. A. Bulleid I am indebted for the photographs of the excavations in the various stages of the work; and they undertook a certain amount of superintendence in my absence during the 1927–8 operations. In 1929 I was in the field during the greater part of each day. To Dr. and Mrs. Bulleid I am greatly obliged for their hospitality at Midsomer Norton, five miles from the camp.

I am also greatly indebted to Lady Horner for permission to dig on her property, and to her tenants, especially to Mr. Panes who left the district before the completion of the work.

I am also glad to record that it was through the instrumentality of our Fellow Lord Hylton, who is a vice-president and trustee of the Somerset Archaeological Society (under whose auspices the excavations were carried out), that the work was started, and the expenses of the earlier part of the.explorations in 1927 and 1928 were to a large extent defrayed by him.

In addition I have to thank Sir Arthur Keith, F.R.S., Dr. F. S. Wallis (geologist, Bristol Museum), Dr. T. Davies Pryce, and officers of the British Museum for valued assistance in the examination of some of the specimens.

The regular men employed for the digging included Mr. W. E. Young (foreman), who made some useful notes especially in my absence.

page 59 note 3 The site had been visited by Dr. Bulleid and myself on 1st August 1921, when we collected from the mole-heaps a number of flint flakes and some small fragments of Romano-British pottery (Proc. Som. Arch. Soc, lxviii, xc).

page 59 note 4 V.C.H. Somerset, ii, 527. The camp is just alluded to in the History of Kilmersdon, by Lord Hylton, pp. iii, 122. See also the Map at the end of that book.

page 60 note 1 History of Somerset, ii, 462.

page 60 note 2 The Rev. J. Skinner mentions this large tumulus on Buckland Down (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 33681, vol. lxii, p. 59 et seq., ‘Journeys and Travels’). See also Proc. Som. Arch. Soc, lxvii, 43.

page 60 note 3 This land was occupied by Mr. H. W. Panes during the greater part of our work; the succeeding tenant was Mr. A. B. House.

page 60 note 4 V.C.H. Somerset, i, 317.

page 60 note 5 Allcroft, Earthwork of England, 61; Proc. Som. Arch. Soc., xxiv, i, 74; xlix, 177–8; V.C.H. Som., ii, 476; Phelps, History of Somerset (Earthworks Section, 1835), 104–5.

page 60 note 6 Allcroft, Earthwork of England, 61; V.C.H. Som., ii, 477; Phelps, History of Somerset (Earthworks Section), 105.

page 61 note 1 V.C.H. Som., ii, 496; Phelps, History of Somerset (Earthworks Section), 105. I visited this camp for the first time on 15th October 1929, and found the mapping (6 in. Ordn. Sheet, Som. xxx, SW.) somewhat incorrect. On the W. and NW. side the inner bank had been ‘quarried’ in several patches—in places right through the bank. The flat turf surface of the silting is 12 ft. wide on the west side and 14 ft. on the north side.

page 61 note 2 Antiq. Journ., vi, 77–8; Proc. Som. Arch. Soc., lxxiv, lviii.

page 61 note 3 I conducted excavations here in 1920 (Proc. Som. Arch. Soc, lxvii. 39–55). Having learnt, in 1929, that this barrow had been examined and apparently partly excavated by persons known to Philip Crocker in 1803, I have recently made a record of the fact (Proc. Som. Arch. Soc., lxxv, 57–60).

page 61 note 4 Proc. Som. Arch. Soc., xlix, 177; V.C.H. Som., ii, 475; Phelps, History of Somerset (E.S.), 110–11.

page 61 note 5 Allcroft, Earthwork of England, 58–60; V.C.H. Som., ii, 487; Phelps, History of Somerset (E.S.), 104.

page 62 note 1 The position of Cutting IX through the bank which approaches the NE. Entrance of the Camp is shown on the Plan (pl. XV), and a Sectional Diagram on line EE-FF is given in plate XVI. The width of the cutting was 6 ft. The width of the wall appeared to be about 6·5 ft., but the courses exposed to view had slipped, for which allowance had to be made. The third course from the bottom consisted of three large pieces of Forest Marble. The rock bottom in the cutting was very irregular. Five flint flakes were found, but no pottery.

page 62 note 2 This mound, which is seen on the Plan, has a diameter of 26 ft. and an elevation above the surrounding field of 0·6 ft. A cutting (no. X) was made, 25 ft. long and 5 ft. wide, from N. to S. It was disappointing, for the rock, fairly flat but somewhat fissured, was reached at a maximum depth of 1·2 ft. at the centre of the mound; at the margins the minimum depth was only 0·4 ft. The material excavated was a pure fine loam with no black ash nor loose stones, and there was no trace of an old turf line. The finds consisted of four flint flakes, a burnt flint, and five fragments of Romano-British pottery.

page 62 note 3 Cutting XIII.—In the NNE. corner of the ‘camp’ field and beyond the sinuous banks an irregular mound was noticed through which we made a cutting (no. XIII) 35 ft. long by 2·5 ft. wide. The centre of this line on the N. side was 79 ft. from the stile in the NE. corner of the field, and 40·5 ft. from the stone wall on the east.

A ‘cairn’ of stones was found beginning at 12ft. from the W. end, and it extended 17 ft. eastwards. On the bottom of the cutting, depth 1·25 ft., an axis (human) was found and a few pieces of coarse pottery of prehistoric type (P 27). On this account I extended the cutting in this part southwards, making the cutting 8·5 ft. wide. At 18 ft. from the W. end remains of a human skeleton (M 4) were found at a depth of 1 ft. The skeleton was of a young person, the bones not in sequence and incomplete, occupying an area about 2 ft. square. A very small part of the head was found. The bones may have been brought here for re-interment.

P 27 also included a small piece of Romano-British pottery found in the S. extension, depth 1 ft., and off the actual mound.

To the SE. of the centre a ‘cairn’ of largish stones occurred under the turf mould. Below these stones a layer of reddish-yellow mould, rather dark (thickness 4 in. to 6 in.), was met with, in which a small part of the base of a prehistoric urn was found (P 28), also a flint flake. This apparently represented the old surface before the stones were thrown up in this position—stones possibly picked up in cultivating the land. The excavation was carried to a depth of 2·2 ft. below the summit of the mound.

The mound is roughly 60 ft. E. and W. by 35 ft. N. and S., and appeared to be placed on a slight ridge. Its maximum height above the surface of the field is 1·6 ft. No definite results were obtained from this excavation, and time did not permit of our uncovering the whole area.

page 62 note 4 This cutting (no. VI) was 31·5 ft. long and 5 ft. wide. The distance from point ‘M’ on the E. wall of the camp to the highest part of this outlying bank (N. side) was 184 ft. The bank proved to be loose walling, width 11 ft. On the E. side of the wall an oval hole, 4·5 ft. by 2 ft., was uncovered, and on the W. side a circular post-hole, diameter 0·95 ft., depth below the rock 0·8 ft. The average depth of the surface of the rock in this part of the field was 1 ft. No relics were found here.

To the S. of Cutting VI, and 34 ft. W. of the sinuous bank or wall, a depression was noticed, and Cutting VII was made across it, N. and S. It did not prove to be an artificial pit, and no relics were found.

page 64 note 1 Below the slabs forming a flat pavement were other slabs of stone placed on end and fairly close together. Some of the stones used for this purpose were 3 ft. in length.

page 64 note 2 A piece of limonite was found with the stones on the top of the wall in Cutting XII. ‘It is an example of the common mamillated form with a radiating fibrous structure’ (F. S. Wallis).

page 66 note 1 At the NW. end the depth was 5·3ft. Here the mould with turf was 0·75ft. deep, then for a few inches mould and largish stones, then a mass of stones from the overturned wall, and at the bottom 18 inches of comparatively fine silting (pl. XIV, fig. 2).

page 67 note 1 Both ditches were widest at the actual bend.

page 67 note 2 The bottom of the Inner Ditch was flat in the middle, and rose to the extent of 0·75 ft. at the NW. end; at the E. end there was a slight drop.

page 67 note 3 The bottom of the Outer Ditch varied in level to the extent of 1·05 ft., the E. part being deeper than the W. end.

page 67 note 4 The upper two layers of the Inner Ditch generally consisted of a black earthy mould with an admixture of burnt ash and a little charcoal, and very few stones of any size. The larger slabs of stone were found in the silting of the Outer Ditch, and in some places they were met with in Layer 3 of the Inner Ditch.

page 70 note 1 ‘mm’is not so marked on the Plan, but the rounded recess is clearly indicated.

page 76 note 1 The pottery has been preserved in brown-paper bags duly labelled according to the cutting and the layer; all of it has been washed. All the pottery in the camp was much broken up, and fragments of the same vessel were often scattered.

page 76 note 2 The Roman and Romano-British pottery from Kingsdown Camp compares very favourably, in fact very closely, with that found in making trial-excavations on 5th-6th March 1928 on a Roman site in an arable field about 200 yards E. of the Beeches, on Mells Down (forming part of the same farm as Kingsdown Camp). The latter place produced a small piece of hard New Forest ware—a type not met with at the camp.

page 78 note 1 In Layer 1, the pottery included three fragments of red Samian, half an eyelet or loop, and two small discs of pottery (probably for games).

page 78 note 2 On the S. side (Cutting XIV) where the Inner Ditch reached a maximum depth of 5·3 ft., Layer 3 included from 2·6 ft. to 3·5 ft., and Layer 4 was introduced to cover the interval extending from 3·6 ft. to the bottom.

page 80 note 1 Brooch E 10 was found here at a depth of 2·25 ft. Occasionally Romano-British pottery (like P 42) was found deeper than one would expect. This was no doubt due to digging into the silting in the Roman period at such times as the infants were interred, for instance.

page 81 note 1 It is of good texture with brownish-red glaze (Form 27). On the external surface is a circular groove which is characteristic of the first-century examples of this form. Dr. T. D. Pryce says it should be assigned to the Nero-Vespasian period, c. A. D. 55–80 (cf. Oswald and Pryce, Terra Sigillata, xlix, 1–10, 13).

page 81 note 2 Not seen in the drawing.

page 82 note 1 Archaeologia, lxxviii, 163, fig. 13, no. 10.

page 82 note 2 Arch. Cambr., lxxxiv, 256, no. 2. Two found in London are figured in the London Museum Catalogue, no. 3 (1930) fig. 24, no. 4 and fig. 28, no. 23.

page 82 note 3 A brooch having four small circular holes in the catch-plate was found in the bed of the Walbrook, London (London Museum Catalogue, no. 3, fig. 24, no. 3).

page 86 note 1 Layer 1, surface to 1·5 ft.; Layer 2, 1·6 ft. to 2·5 ft; Layer 3, 2·6 ft. to bottom.

page 86 note 2 There were also a few pieces in Layer 1, and one or two in Layer 2, but they were reburied.

page 86 note 3 Bulleid and Gray, Glastonbury Lake Village, ii, 399–400.

page 86 note 4 Proc. Soc. Antiq. Lond., xx, 179–95.

page 88 note 1 Two of them are engraved in the Numis. Chron., i, plate 1, 13 and 14.

page 88 note 2 Mattingly and Sydenham, no. 335.

page 89 note 1 Archaeologia, viii, 373, and plate XXIV.

page 90 note 1 Layer 1, surface to depth of 1·5 ft.; Layer 2, 1·6 to 2·5 ft.; Layer 3, 2·6 ft. to bottom.

page 91 note 1 Layer 1, surface to depth of 1·5 ft.; Layer 2, 1·6 ft. to 2·5 ft.; Layer 3, 2·6 ft. to bottom.

page 92 note 1 Layer 1, surface to depth of 1·5 ft.; Layer 2, 1·6 ft. to 2·5ft.; Layer 3, 2·6 ft. to bottom.

page 92 note 2 The length of Inner Ditch measuring about 60 ft. and known as Cutting XI, for instance, produced eighty-one pieces of Pennant stone in Layer 1, thirty pieces in Layer 2, and eight in Layer 3.

page 93 note 1 The numbers attached to the human remains, including the infants' skeletons, bears the prefix ‘M’. But on the plan, plate XV, the position of the infants is marked by an asterisk (*), together with the numbers.

page 94 note 1 Archaeologia, lxxi, 150.

page 94 note 2 Antiquity, ii, 69–82.

page 94 note 3 Mr. Corder says that for the present they will only mention these interments without describing them in detail, reserving them and many small finds until a later report.

Skeletons of infants were found with Roman remains at Ickleton, Cambs., in 1848 by the Hon. R. C. Neville (Arch. Journ., vi, 21).

page 94 note 4 Glastonbury Lake Village, 137, 154, 157, 674–6.

page 94 note 5 Excavations in Cranborne Chase, ii, 59, 199, 208.

page 95 note 1 Excavations in Cranbourne Chase, i, 16.

page 96 note 1 See report in Glastonbury Lake Village, vol. II (1917), pp. 641–72.

page 96 note 2 The Early Iron Age Inhabited Site, All Cannings Cross Farm, Wilts (1924), pp. 43–50.

page 96 note 3 Wilts Arch. Mag., vol. xliii, pp. 90–3.

page 96 note 4 Ibid., vol. xlii, pp. 492–3.

page 96 note 5 ‘The Animal Remains at Newstead’, by Ewart, J. C., in A Roman Frontier Post and its People, by Curie, James, 1911.

page 97 note 1 Excavations in Cranborne Chase, by Pitt-Rivers, General, vols. i and ii, 18871888.

page 97 note 2 No microscopic (plant) structure was readily discernible, as in wood charcoal, and the substance had all the usual qualities (density, brittleness, hardness, glassiness, etc.) of anthracite coal.


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