Community Archaeology and the Teffont Archaeology Project Exhibition

Last summer I was able to take part in excavations of the landscape of Teffont in Wilshire, for 2 weeks I was in Glebe Field. This area was the focus in previous seasons of fieldwork and uncovered a Roman building with a courtyard and a track-way leading up to the higher ground of the Upper Holt. The 2012 season focused on a shrine located in the Upper Holt wood and areas of Prehistoric, Saxon and Medieval activity in the wider landscape. I was also given the opportunity to take part in community test pitting and supervised a test pit in one of the local gardens. This was a rewarding experience which certainly made me more confident! Further to this for a recent exhibition about the project I was given the task of creating an exhibition board detailing community archaeology in Teffont, below is my contribution, test pit 2 was the one which I excavated.

Teffont Archaeology Project website:

Community archaeology and engagement has been paramount to the Teffont Archaeology project, a collaboration with local residents to understand the surrounding landscape of Teffont Evias. Local volunteers took part in fieldwalking in 2008 on Glebe Field and an area of interest was established. Volunteers also contributed to the digging of test pits in 2009 discovering Roman occupation, and have continually been involved in decisions and subsequent excavations throughout the project. Community engagement extends to contributing to the village fete in 2011, holding talks and events locally throughout to disseminate research and findings, and inviting the Wiltshire Young Archaeologists Club to attend annual open days. Excavation has been complimented by collaborations with metal detectorists, who also showcased finds to the community during the 2012 season end of project talk. An earlier talk also occurred in 2012 outlining the project to residents and subsequently a major extension of engagement took the form of garden test pits. The project has provided archaeological training for students and local volunteers, plus has reached over 50% of the Teffont Evias and Teffont Magna population through talks, open days and site visits.

The community garden test pits of 2012 offered the project a window into areas we would not normally be able to investigate. This enabled the main excavations to be placed in a much wider context and provide a glimpse into the history of Teffont across many periods. Students and residents cooperated an excavating a 1.5m by 1m test pit in each garden, recording differential layers through context sheets and drawings, a summary is presented below. This project enabled residents to join in learning more about archaeology and their properties, a rewarding experience for both residents and students.

The results from the test pits was extremely varied, some more complex than others, with artefacts ranging from Roman to modern. A test pit closer to one of the main excavation trenches provided a piece of medieval green glaze pottery, roman pottery, metal and worked flints, providing further information relating to the nearby trench. Another test pit revealed a layer of cobbles, a horseshoe, and slag waste material associated with possible metalworking nearby in the post medieval period. Two of the test pits contained more substantial and varied evidence, test pits 1 and 2.

Test Pit 1 – This test pit was located behind Greystones House on higher ground, two layers of limestone slabs were established purposefully and compactly arranged in order to create a floor or level for a wall. These layers on limestone differ in that the top layer comprised smaller pieces with larger underneath. Associated finds in this test pit included pottery, bone and iron.

Test Pit 2 – Close to the B3089 in the garden of The Pightle this provided insight into a relatively modern Teffont, located near the 1950s/60s petrol pump and also an old forge. A substantial amount of material was retrieved including post-medieval pottery and a vast amount of metal indicating this area may have been used for disposing of metal working waste. The variety of other find categories included ceramic building material, glass, bone (sheep mandible), slate, nails, and clay pipe. Artefacts of special mention include worked wood which appears to be a handle and an intact ornate glass container, although its function is unknown. Rubble, arranged slabs and bricks, plus a large piece of corrugated Iron suggest a semi-permanent structure on site.

Test Pit 1


Test Pit 2


Boltby Scar – Undugs to Dugs

The Iron Age hillfort at Boltby Scar formed the location for our first year field school, after which we were informed we would no longer be undugs and that digging was the best thing you could do with your clothes on! Many of us had never been to an archaeological site before so this was a great opportunity to learn, or be put off for life in some cases. I came to love digging and in turn volunteered for an extra week. Our assignment was to create a poster about the site for which was also my first experience of creating visual reconstructions.

Map showing the location of sites along the edge of the North York Moors, the low ground on the left is the Tees Valley

Map showing the location of sites along the edge of the North York Moors, the low ground on the left is the Tees Valley

Boltby Scar is located on the North York Moors, strategically positioned allowing for good visibility across the Tees Valley. Connectivity between sites can also be seen with several hillforts along what is now know as the Cleaveland Way, This marks a prehistoric route which was distinguished by the Cleave Dyke, a prominent pit alignment dividing the landscape on the high ground. This route runs alongside Bronze Age barrows, with two also located inside the hillfort at Boltby, this implies continuity and the importance of the location. Whether this was due to practical aspects of defense and visibility, or ancestral links and deeper meaning is unclear, I feel the practical aspects would have given these sites and route-way deeper meaning within prehistoric society over time.

Boltby with Roulston Scar in the background, the cleave dyke can also be seen as a boundary and route way marker

Boltby with Roulston Scar in the background, the cleave dyke can also be seen as a boundary and route way marker

The monument at Boltby was mostly leveled by buldozing in 1961 (including one of the barrows), however the site is split in two by a drystone wall and the side nearest the cliff face still has surviving earthworks. Previous to the levelling the site was investigated by G F Willmot in 1938-1939, minimal information was left however gold hair loops were found beneath the rampart and a ring of stones as part of the barrow construction. From 2009 Boltby has been investigated by Dominic Powesland and the Landscape Research Centre. After small scale excavations in 2009, 2011 saw the addition of University of York students for their summer field school, and again in 2012 which was the summer that I experienced Boltby. I will focus on the 2012 excavations however information about previous work can be found on the Landscape Research Centre website

On arriving at Boltby and over the course of the excavations we soon discovered that it seemed to have its own weather system up there! Incredibly windy… however the views were incredible. We were split into groups and assigned to different areas, many of us were tasked with defining and excavating the palisade which was revealed almost in its entirety. The location of Willmot’s trench was not clear from his sketches however its location was determined through aerial photography and in turn re-excavated, the experience of which is described by my fellow Boltby archaeologist Will in his blog post on the experience here . The upstanding barrow was also excavated. On the other side of the wall a trench was placed across the rampart and ditch earthworks in the hope that this would provide more evidence, indeed a lovely piece of pottery was found. Another trench also hoped to find evidence for occupation with the possibly of greater preservation in this area.

Gallery of photographs taken during the excavation with descriptions


I was mainly tasked with cleaning back the large trench to show the palisade, the difference in soil colour can clearly be seen. We then excavated sections of this as its character and preservation changed across the entire trench, this process certainly taught me how to excavate a feature! we had to firstly excavate the darker soil whilst leaving all stones in place, these would have been packing stones to hold wooden posts in place and in some cases post pipes (holes) can clearly be seen. Once these were successfully recorded we then removed these stones, the aim was to retrieve dating evidence and although none was found it is believed that the palisade predates the rampart and was present when the latter was built as the ditch and rampart follow its trajectory. The construction of the defences can be seen below, i talked to archaeologists on site and consulted previous work to determine dimensions. This shows the time and energy put into creating them. The ditch would have been dug by hand and used to construct the rampart with turf underneath and rubble on top.

Image showing how the hillfort defences would have been constructed

Image showing how the hillfort defences would have been constructed

Excavations across the wall revealed the impressive piece of Iron Age pottery in the image gallery, the hope was also that the trenches would reveal occupation evidence. Although more evidence was found including pottery and flint the small assemblage does not immediately suggest occupation, this could be due to the nature of the acidic soil. However, more evidence would be expected which implies alternative functions for the hillfort including as a ‘stop off’ on the way to Roulston Scarr in the back ground. Alternatively the defences could be indicative of protection of livestock or the display of power or prominance along distinctive route of the cleave dyke.

Excavations in the barrow revealed the stone ring that Willmot discovered. Also a burial was discovered in the centre, however it was very badly preserved and only suggested as being a wooden coffin due to the nature and colour of the deposits. The barrow also produced an impressive section showing its construction phasing, this had already been discovered and is described in the 2011 interim report which can be accessed from the Landscape Reseach Centre website. The stone ring constituted phase 1 of this construction.

Some of us loved the experience so much that we decided to return! the site archaeologists had been very welcoming and taught us a great deal, the opportunity to work with them further was something we couldn’t pass by. On returning I made it over the wall! although only briefly, I contributed to cleaning the upstanding rampart and ditch trench further. Myself and a few others then returned to the barrow where a section of the stone ring had been uncovered. It was discovered that this was the location of another of Willmot’s trenches, as can be seen in the image with Dominic pointing out the difference in soil. So we were tasked with removing the backfill until we reached the bottom, only the bottom was below the stone ring….. it would appear Willmot removed and replaced them, cheeky! an unusually shaped stone was found on the very last day (this always happens, many more questions raised on the last day of digging), it is unclear if this was carved and placed in the ring (ritual?) or alternatively Willmot placed this stone in order to return in the future… as may have been the case with the gold hair loops and the exact location of that trench being unclear.

Our experience came to an end, i had come to love field archaeology and the mysteries it either solved or in turn raised. Boltby had been a fantastic experience learning from the professionals, making friends and being enthusiastic really does pay off. However, the experience did not end as in groups we were tasked with creating boards about the site, ours was titled ‘Boltby, the Bigger Picture’ discussing its relationship with other sites in the area. On site one day i recall a certain student (Will) enthusiastically came over and disturbed me whilst i was lovingly excavating my palisade with the comment ‘i have had a brilliant idea! how do you feel about doing a painting?’ i hadn’t previously thought my artistic would come in handy, how wrong i was! and so i created all of the paintings above plus the main image below showing the Iron Age hillfort at Boltby in use. We won first prize in the competition and i received great comments about my paintings, and so this has no become my area of ‘expertise’ and the subject of my dissertation (further posts to follow)

Boltby Iron Age Hillfort Reconstruction

Boltby Iron Age Hillfort Reconstruction

All images created by myself, now property of Dominic Powesland.


Boltby Scar interim report 2011 (Powlesland, D)

Excavation blog

Landscape Research Centre website

How to Draw Portraits

I have been creating portrait pencil drawings for quite a few years now, mainly as commissions for family and friends. I get quite a few responses to these ranging from ‘they are so life like’ and ‘you have really captured this person’, whilst recently a response took the form of ‘what is the point, you might as well have a photograph!’ although this may be true in that the drawings i have done are lifelike i still believe that a drawing can convey an essence more powerful than a photograph. Drawings are to me more personal and meaningful.

Another response i have received is ‘i could never do that!’ and i do not agree. Firstly, portrait does not have to be lifelike, it is about portraying that person how you see them. Secondly, once you know facial proportions any can be drawn. I have taught sessions on portrait drawing for which i created a help sheet, with proportions and a few tips on drawing and shading specific features. I believe that with these anyone is able to draw a portrait with a little bit of practice, this help sheet is below.


With this and a few little exercises anyone can draw portraits. For commissions i work from photographs as these are much easier to email etc. Although life drawing  is fun it is also more challenging so i would suggest working from photographs to start with (i did and still do this myself), another useful tip is to use a mirror and draw yourself! This works especially well for practicing features such as eyes.

A Few Exercises to Get Started

1. First start with either a photograph or a mirror so you can see yourself, and front on view would work best at the moment. Focusing on line alone draw the face working along side the guidelines i have provided. Thing about the shape of individual features but the proportions will always follow the same rules.

2. Focus on particular features, these could be eyes, nose or mouth. Spend 15 minutes or so on each feature to start with and concentrate on shading to make the drawing come to life.

Shading – A useful tip, and i use this myself, to create a more lifelike image s to always imagine light coming from the far left just above the eye line.  This way the shading and lighting in your drawing will always be consistent. Also do not be too heavy, even light shading or none all in some areas can be more effective, using a  putty rubber for highlights afterwards also works well.

3. Combine the two stages above, i usually draw the proportions then concentrate on the facial features leaving the hair until last (yes t is the hardest part to do so i suggest practicing a little beforehand). Also think about the position of your drawing on the paper, by doing a quick sketch of the basic proportions you can ensure all aspects are included and the paper is covered as you would like it.

4. Practice! try a few different portraits and you will find it becomes easier as you progress and learn the proportions. Try drawing people of different ages thinking about how each persons facial features differ slightly.

5. Once you have drawn a few and become more confident you can think about different positions, (i plan to do a sheet with proportions from different angles in the near future) however the basic proportions will always be the same. Again photographs are particularly useful for this.

Drawing portraits isn’t as difficult as it might seem! hopefully these few steps and the help sheet will allow you to experiment. Below is one of my earlier portraits a friend, others can be seen on my blog ‘Drawing’ page.

I hope this is useful, i plan to do similar artistic technique posts in the future! 🙂