Archaeologists uncover items of national significance at Nesscliffe Hillfort

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The recent archaeological dig in Nesscliffe Hillfort has been hailed a success after finds of national significance.

The dig during the last two weeks of August, the first official archaeological dig of Nesscliffe Hillfort, was undertaken by Southampton and Oxford University and yielded finds of national significance.

Two trenches were excavated, the first of which established the structure of the inner rampart.  This is 8m wide with stone revetting faces and the middle filled with stone and sand all on a levelled surface.

In the second trench, the discovery of guard chambers is of ‘national significance’ and certainly has the archaeologists very excited about a return visit next summer.

The north eastern entrance to the hillfort, where part of this year’s dig took place, unearthed what are known as guard chambers. These would have stood at the end of an entrance passage at either side of the roadway into the interior. This is an exciting discovery for the archaeologists as few of these structures have been excavated nationally.

Archaeological test pits were also dug and revealed an occupation layer with some layer of 2nd Century Roman pottery. The hillfort was probably constructed in the Iron Age, 500 BC.

Hillforts still poorly understood

Gary Lock, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Oxford University and Co-Director of the excavation, said:

“Hillforts are one of the most impressive types of archaeological sites and yet are poorly understood.

“There is a possibility that this was a highly strategic point. It would have been seen from miles around and would have given a great viewpoint for those inside, it would have been very spectacular.”

The hillfort at Nesscliffe, built against the sheer cliffs at Oliver’s Point would have been easily defendable and also very visible in the landscape.

Council working with Archaeologists

The archaeological dig is the result of several years of previous work by Shropshire Council including habitat management, site protection measures, photographic analysis and geophysical surveys.

Shropshire Council says research into the Iron Age hillforts would benefit greatly if archaeologists could excavate the current path leading to Oliver’s Point. The council is working with its access officers to facilitate this and provide an alternative route onto the site. Further excavations in years to come are guaranteed to reveal more secrets and we will hopefully discover roundhouses and other structures and finds which enables us to picture Shropshire life 2000 years ago.

Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council Cabinet member for culture, leisure, communications and waste, said:

“It’s an exciting time in the discovery of Shropshire’s history. The success of the archaeological dig at Nesscliffe Hillfort follows the recent finds of national significance at Shrewsbury Castle further proving the rich history of Shropshire dating back thousands of years.

“It’s great to know that there is a desire to further explore the Hillfort next year which will broaden our understanding of the area and help us improve even further the management of the site.”

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