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Guard chambers among finds of national significance at Shropshire Iron Age hillfort dig

By Keri Trigg | North Shropshire | News | Published:

Nationally significant finds were unearthed during the first ever excavation at an Iron Age hillfort.

Archaeologists from Southampton and Oxford Universities spent two weeks working on the dig at Nesscliffe Hillfort, which is estimated to date back to 500 BC.

And there was one find that sparked real excitement among the team – the discovery of what are known as guard chambers, which would have stood at the end of an entrance passage at either side of the roadway. Few of these have been discovered nationally.

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

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Archaeological test pits were also dug and revealed an occupation layer with second century Roman pottery.

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."

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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.

The dig

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

In the second trench, at the north eastern entrance to the hillfort, was the discovery of guard chambers was made. The archaeologists are now hoping to return to the site next year to see what else there is to be found.

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They want to excavate the current path leading to Oliver’s Point and we will be working with access officers to facilitate this and provide an alternative route onto the site.

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."

Shropshire Council’s Outdoor Partnerships team manages Nesscliffe Hill Country Park in partnership with the Natural and Historic Environment Team and will be ensuring that the public are given opportunities to engage with what has been discovered through new interpretation and chances to get involved with the dig next year.

Keri Trigg

By Keri Trigg
Reporter - @KeriTrigg_Star

Reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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