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Time Team Series 17: Bridge Over The River Tees (Piercebridge, County Durham)

Broadcast 2 May 2010 | Report available

Roman Piercebridge lies about 200m west of Dere Street (the major Roman road from York to the Antonine Wall) in County Durham. At its heart are the remains of at least three bridges crossing the River Tees. The remains of a civilian settlement (vicus) here date back to the later 1st century AD, and the site became the focus of major military activity from the 180s, although the surviving fort defences date no earlier than the mid 3rd century. Time Team hoped to investigate the bridges, and to trace the remains of a possible early fort at Piercebridge.

The early fort remained elusive. The trenches located a previously unknown area of activity to the north-west of the 3rd century fort, dating to the 2nd century AD. This could have been part of the civilian settlement, although a large area of cobbling suggests a more official or military structure.

To the east of the fort and the present village further remains were found. These included a grave, suggesting that there may have been a cemetery in this area; a cist burial was discovered just to the south-west in 1933. Underwater exploration found a number of timbers to the west of the course of the Roman stone bridge, and a radiocarbon date in the 1st century AD was obtained for an additional line of timber piles to the west of this.

To the south of the River Tees the geophysical survey found the exact route of the earlier alignment of Dere Street, although no further dating evidence was obtained.


Click to view a larger version of each photo with description.

Piercebridge, County DurhamPiercebridge, County DurhamPiercebridge, County DurhamPiercebridge, County DurhamPiercebridge, County Durham

Time Team Series 17: Corridors of Power (Westminster)

Broadcast 18 April 2010

Benedictine monks first came to Westminster in the middle of the 10th century, establishing a tradition of worship that continues to this day. The present church, begun by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the countrywith the medieval shrine of Edward the Confessor at its heart.

Time Team were extremely privileged to be invited to investigate part of this World Heritage Site, in particular the North Green, formerly known as the Sanctuary. Antiquarian illustrations show a row of five substantial houses built there, alongside the nave, probably in the late 16th century. The easternmost house reused the foundations, and perhaps also the walls, of a medieval sacristy built by Henry III. The sacristy would have housed the ceremonial vestments and objects used in services at the Abbey. A series of walls found in 1869 during clearance work were assumed to represent the remains of these houses, but the references are conflicting and unclear.

Part of the Abbey’s massive 13th century raft foundation was revealed, as well as the remains of Henry III’s sacristy. This was confirmed as being an L-shaped building, linking the north door of the nave with a second doorway. Five burials found in situ; all shared their alignment with the present Abbey, and their location in relation to the sacristy suggests that they are also of 13th century date. From a later period, part of a Tudor stairwell was uncovered, as well as brick wall foundations which were considered to be of 16th century date.

Of interest amongst the small quantity of finds recovered were a few fragments of Roman brick and tile, which are assumed to have been brought in from elsewhere for re-use in later construction - none were found in situ. Architectural stonework showed the use of several different types in the medieval Abbey: Reigate stone from Surrey, Taynton stone from Oxfordshire, and imported Caen stone.

Time Team Series 17: A Saintly Site (Baliscate Chapel, Isle of Mull)

Broadcast 25 April 2010 | Report available

One of the more remote and romantic sites visited by Time Team, Baliscate (Coille Creag A’Chait) is located close to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland. Today the site is in woodland owned by the Forestry Commission, but amongst the trees are the tumbled remains of two stone-built enclosures, one containing a rectangular building thought to be the remains of an early Celtic Christian chapel.

Trenches excavated by Time Team were able to confirm that this was indeed a chapel, which originated as a timber building. A burial associated with this first phase gave us a radiocarbon date in the 7th century AD. To set this against the historical background, the arrival of Christianity in Scotland is traditionally associated with St. Ninian of Whithorn whom Bede recorded as having converted the southern Picts, perhaps as early as 397 AD, with a second mission by St. Columba to the northern Picts around565 AD, although the earlier date is now thought to be inaccurate.

The timber chapel was later rebuilt in stone. Exactly when is uncertain, but part of a stone cross recovered from demolition material overlying the chapel was thought to date to the 8th century AD. The chapel sat within a larger monastic complex containing at least one other building; the surrounding enclosure covers an area of just under 1.5 hectares. This is small when compared to sites such as Iona, where by the 8th century the monastic enclosure coveredapproximately 8 hectares. It is clear that Baliscate never sustained a large religious community, but it would have formed part of a larger Celtic Christian network throughout western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Exactly when the chapel went out of use is also uncertain. A few sherds of medieval pottery (late 12th to 15th century) were found on the site, as well as a coin of Edward II (1320-35). The chapel may have been reused as a domestic structure, but the few finds may just have been deposited during demolition. Stone from the chapel was later used to build the adjacent enclosure, which was shown to be a sheep pen (or ‘fank’) with a shieling for the shepherd.


Baliscate Chapel, Isle of MullBaliscate Chapel, Isle of MullFragment of an 8th century stone cross, Baliscate Chapel, Isle of Mull

New Time Team website

Time Team have recently announced the launch of their new website:

Exciting times at Time Team - We have now launched our new website, where we can update you on all the news from our latest digs. We will be using this site to bring together our YouTube videos, latest photos, and interviews with the team.

Not only will this site be a handy hub of information for the current dig, but will also become an archive of additional and behind the scenes information and footage of digs throughout the coming series.

If you are looking for the latest information about Time Team head over to and explore!

New book on the archaeology of Wessex

150 The New AntiquariansA well illustrated book reviewing the last 50 years work and the latest research in Wessex has just been published. The New Antiquarians: 50 years of archaeological innovation in Wessex includes contributions by many Wessex Archaeology staff and the work of Wessex features prominently throughout.

The New Antiquarians is the outcome of a conference which was sponsored by Wessex Archaeology.

The book is published as Research Report 166 of the Council for British Archaeology from whom copies are available.

Find out more on the CBA website.

Heathrow Terminal 5 Book Launched

118 Heathrow Terminal 5 Excavations, volume 2

The second and final volume on the excavations at Heathrow Terminal 5 was launched yesterday at The Royal Society, London. Guests from BAA, who run Heathrow Airport, and the heritage sector gathered to celebrate the successful conclusion of one the biggest and most innovative archaeological projects ever undertaken in the UK.
Over 70 hectares were excavated in advance of the new terminal by an Oxford Wessex Archaeology joint venture ‘Framework Archaeology.’ Key parts of the project were an explicitly research-led approach and new high-tech ways of working. The project was awarded the 2008 British Archaeological Award for Best Project.
Speaking on behalf of the Boards of Directors of Oxford and Wessex Archaeology Professor Geoffrey Wainwright and congratulated both BAA and archaeologists from across the sector for the successful conclusion of what he described as a ’massive endeavour.’

120 Say "cheese"!

121 Folk mingling at the book launch

Learning About Finds

Many of the volunteers from Celts and Romans in North Wiltshire have asked for an opportunity to learn more about the artefacts that they have been working with.  So we organised an Artefact Identification Workshop for Thursday the 3rd of March in order to give them an opportunity to do just that. The workshop was hosted by the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, who put us up in their lovely lecture hall, lined with a collection of old books. (Some of the volunteers were just as fascinated with these shelves of old books as they were with the artefacts). Katie Hinds and Richard Henry from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Lorraine Mepham from Wessex Archaeology presented our volunteers with a wealth of information and a chance to look at some fantastic objects.

108 Katie Hinds speaking to volunteers about Iron Age and Roman metal objects

Katie Hinds spoke to the volunteers about a plethora of different Iron Age and Roman metal objects. The volunteers went away from her talk with information on bracelets, finger rings, metal weights and a number of other useful and decorative items. Richard Henry spoke about Roman coins and how to recognise different types. The number of little clues that a coin may have to tell you when and where it was made is absolutely astonishing. The headgear of the person on the coin, the legend, and the mint mark are only some of the little details that contain all this wonderful information.

109 Two volunteers from the Chiseldon Local History Group working hard to decipher the information on their coins

Working with books and guides - and with tea and coffee to sustain them - the volunteers had the opportunity to try their hands at identifying a selection of coins. The task seemed a bit daunting given all of the information they had just learned. The coins are small, faded and most of the time difficult to read. Despite the challenges, however, our volunteers got on fabulously. The trick to identifying a coin is, as Richard told the volunteers, to write down what you can see first, and then to try to identify the type of coin it is.

110 Lorraine Mepham speaking on Iron
Age and Roman Pottery

After a lunch break Lorraine Mepham talked to the volunteers about Iron Age and Roman pottery. She went through all of the different types of information that a pot can give us, about how it was made, where it came from, and sometimes even what was stored in it. Afterwards the volunteers had the opportunity to go through a fabulous array of pottery set out on the back tables. The volunteers handled the objects, and got to feel the differences in the various types of pottery. Lorraine answered questions about the items, and even quickly identified small collections of pottery that volunteers had brought with them from their own explorations.
The workshop was a great success, with everyone going away having learned something new. Thank you to the Wiltshire Heritage Museum for the use of their space, Katie Hinds, Richard Henry and Lorraine Mepham for making it such an interesting session.
If you’re interested in learning more about Iron Age and Roman objects here are some online resources that can help:

111 Having a chat about some beautiful pieces of Iron Age and Roman pottery

SARRF Update: English Heritage analysis of LiDAR data at Avebury

Wessex Archaeology attended a meeting of the Avebury Archaeological and Historical Research Group (AAHRG) at Devizes Museum in February 2011, and gave AAHRG members an update on progress of the project so far.

At the meeting, Rob Skinner, currently on an EPPIC placement with English Heritage, gave a presentation of the results he had observed so far during an analysis of LiDAR data for the landscape around Avebury. These showed some fabulous features within the Avebury WHS, and built on the previous work undertaken as part of the National Mapping Programme (NMP) in 1999.

Rob has very kindly submitted an interim report of the work he has done so far, which can be downloaded here. This shows a considerable number of new field systems of both prehistoric and later date, as well as additional potential prehistoric mounds.

We’re Throwing a Party!

Celts and Romans in North Wiltshire’ has been working with volunteers to get more people involved in the Iron Age and Roman heritage of North Wiltshire. In order to truly celebrate the fantastic archaeology from the Chiseldon Cauldrons site and the Truckle Hill Roman Nymphaeum and Bath-House site we are hosting a day of family fun. The event ‘Celtic Feasts and Roman Rituals’ will be taking place at Barbury Castle on Saturday 23rd July 2011 from 11:00am to 4:00pm, and will be part of the CBA Festival of British Archaeology.
The day will include tours of Barbury Castle, storytelling, Celtic and Roman themed arts and crafts, and the opportunity to learn about the Chiseldon Cauldrons and Truckle Hill. The event has its own dedicated space on the ‘Celts and Romans’ event page, where we will be posting more details about tours and activities as the day of the event gets closer.
Please join us in celebrating the Iron Age and Roman heritage of North Wiltshire!
If you have any questions or comments, or would like to be involved in the event, please contact:
If you would like to look at our Festival of British Archaeology event listing you can find it here:

Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Revised Research Framework (SARRF)

Wessex Archaeology is pleased to announce that we are co-ordinating the revision and updating of the Avebury and Stonehenge resource assessments, and will also be writing a single revised research framework uniting both parts of the World Heritage Site into a harmonised volume with a five year currency.

101 Inside Stonehenge

The resource assessment aims to be complete by June 2011, and regular updates regarding the progress of the project will be posted on the SARRF website. The revised research agenda will be open to public consultation in September 2011, with both the resource assessments and research agendas publicly accessible online via the project website. Following public consultation and comment, there will also be a public seminar at the end of the year, to discuss the research agenda and develop the strategies to make the agenda achievable, as well as encourage wide stakeholder participation and community ownership of the product.

100 Avebury outer circle. By Paul J Cripps.

It is envisaged that the research strategy will be open to online public consultation during February and March 2012, with the publication of the research framework (both online and in hard copy) during the summer of 2012. Wessex Archaeology will also develop a method of monitoring the progress of the research framework during its five year term to facilitate its revision in 2017.

Visit the SARRF website for more information.

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