Digging for Britain episode 4: This episode reveals more of the best archaeology happening in the south of Britain. Five miles east of Bristol, hidden among ancient woods are some old ruins which could provide very rare evidence of a skirmish during the medieval civil war between two contenders for the British throne, Matilda and Stephen, in a period known as the Anarchy. This archaeological dig is led by Digging for Britain medieval expert Stuart Prior, who has been investigating if this was the site of a royal hunting lodge that was besieged during that long, chaotic 12th-century war. Alice Roberts joins Stuart to ask what happened to the lodge. Did it fall into ruin through neglect, was it demolished, or was it attacked? There is plenty of evidence uncovered that could solve the mystery.
Off the coast of Eastbourne, the Nautical Archaeology Society team dive to record and recover evidence that may finally solve the mystery identity of a ship whose wreck has been discovered over 30 metres deep. The wreck has over 30 huge bronze cannons, suggesting it was a warship, but it was also carrying a valuable cargo of marble and ceramics. Team leader Mark Beattie Edwards joins Alice in the tent to look at the remarkable artefacts recovered from the wreck and to finally reveal the ship’s identity, before expert Onyaka Nubia digs into the archive to learn how many men were lost when she sank.
Alice journeys to Dorchester, where Victorian blockbuster novelist and amateur archaeologist Thomas Hardy built his dream house 135 years before. He didn’t know it at the time, but it’s possible he erected it right on top of a 5,000-year-old Neolithic circular enclosure. Now the National Trust is exploring the surrounding land to search for proof that the house and garden are encircled by a huge series of ditches, built at around the same time as Stonehenge.
Digging for Britain episode 4
We travel to the small village of Roche in Cornwall, where a big discovery has been made. Until now, the most westerly evidence of the invading Roman legions has been in Devon, but here, a team of archaeologists are helping redraw the map of the Roman military advance with the discovery of a marching camp big enough for an entire legion of 10,000 men. Stunning evidence of the brutal Roman ankle breaker defensive ditch provides a vivid idea of how thorough and professional this invading army was.
Finally, in Oxfordshire, archaeologists uncover deep cylindrical storage pits, one after another… after another. These pits date back to the first century BC, a time when the Thames Valley was being heavily exploited for growing cereal crops like emmer and spelt. But the well-drained sand and gravel also proved ideal conditions for storing the grain thanks to some prehistoric ingenuity. Later in their lives, the pits became rubbish pits and even graves, turning into fantastic time capsules for 21st-century investigation into Iron Age life. Alice gets a close look at the best finds from the site, including shears, a scythe and a stunning ammonite pendant.
Digging for Britain episode 4 – Unearthing Britain’s Past: Tracing The Anarchy through Archaeological Finds
Exploring a Medieval Lodge Near Bristol
Hugging Bristol’s eastern fringes, a bewitching trail of ruins echo tales of an age-long medieval civil war – a cataclysmic period fittingly termed “The Anarchy”. This bitter clash, with Matilda and Stephen vying for the throne, rendered the land a battlefield of power. Amidst these woodland relics, our search for the past has intensified, targeting a royal hunting lodge supposedly ensnared during this tumultuous time. Stuart Prior, renowned medieval expert and torchbearer of Digging for Britain, is steering this archaeological excavation.
Guided by Stuart, we aim to decode the fate of this lodge. Did it crumble from neglect, meet deliberate demolition, or fall victim to an attack? Several clues lay bare, ready to unlock this riddle. An archaeological narrative is being etched from the fragments of yesteryears, each artifact a sentence in the chronicles of the Anarchy.
Diving Deeper off Eastbourne Coast
Our journey takes us from land to sea, where a maritime mystery awaits resolution off Eastbourne’s coast. Here, a submerged shipwreck teases archaeologists with a cache of bronze cannons, marble, and ceramics – a testament to its dual role as a warship and a valuable cargo vessel. The Nautical Archaeology Society team, led by Mark Beattie Edwards, has undertaken the task of recording and retrieving the relics strewn around this underwater grave.
With remarkable artifacts in hand and Onyaka Nubia’s expertise probing historical archives, we hope to unfurl the ship’s tale and honour the memory of the seamen lost with her sinking.
Thomas Hardy’s Dream House: Sitting Atop History?
Our next destination is Dorchester, the backdrop for Victorian novelist Thomas Hardy’s dream abode. A quirk of fate, Hardy may have unwittingly constructed his house atop a 5,000-year-old Neolithic circular enclosure. The National Trust’s extensive exploration hints at a labyrinth of ancient ditches, possibly contemporaneous to Stonehenge, encircling the property.
Roman Footprints in Roche, Cornwall
From Hardy’s house, we journey to Roche, Cornwall, where fresh evidence is shifting the Roman legions’ perceived frontier from Devon. Here, archaeologists have unveiled a Roman marching camp vast enough to house an entire legion – a staggering 10,000 men. This discovery, augmented by the brutal Roman ankle-breaker defensive ditch, amplifies our understanding of the Romans as a meticulously professional invading force.
Oxfordshire’s Ancient Storage Pits
Finally, in Oxfordshire, we delve into cylindrical storage pits dating back to the first century BC. These ingenious granaries, now brimming with artifacts, shears, a scythe, an exquisite ammonite pendant, and more, offer vivid insights into Iron Age life. Once the heart of cereal cultivation, these pits transformed into dumping grounds and even graves over time, serving as time capsules for modern-day historians.
Unearthing Britain’s past is like weaving together a tapestry of tales, each artifact intricately interconnected with the others. As we delve into these archaeological sites, we can better appreciate our shared heritage, keeping the past alive in the narrative of our present.