Today was the first day of the first of three week long practical archaeology courses running this year at Down Farm, Sixpenny Handley, on Cranborne Chase in Dorset. This week the team is made up of people who are considering archaeology as a degree subject or career and want to gain some practical experience first.

The day began for our fourteen-strong team with introductions from Margaret Bunyard (Education Manager) and Dr Catriona Gibson (Site Senior Project Officer) and a site tour and introduction to Down Farm from Dr Martin Green.

Martin’s family have owned the farm for three generations and he has spent much of his life exploring and excavating the archaeology of the farm. He is a highly respected archaeologist and an excellent on-site resource! Introductions over, we had a guided tour of the archaeological features on the farm, and the finds from them which are now in his wonderful museum – plenty of inspiration here for the week to come.

In the afternoon we started work on site. This year we will be excavating an area between the 2004 and 2005 excavation areas to try and gain a fuller understanding of prehistoric activity in this part of the farm. Our first viewing of the site revealed a few indistinct “blobs”, but after the 20 x 20 metre site was cleaned with hoes, brooms and shovels the site was transformed to reveal a pattern of postholes and possible pits spread right across the area. Based on previous work here it is thought that these features date from the late Bronze Age, however this will need to be confirmed by excavation, which will take place over the next three weeks.