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Exciting finds in Shropshire Iron Age hill fort dig - in pictures and video

By Lucy Todman | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

Archaeologists are close to finishing their dig at a Shropshire landmark and have made some exciting finds.

Co-director Professor Gary Lock

It was always known there was an Iron Age hill fort on Nesscliffe Hill, which stands between Shrewsbury and Oswestry just off the A5, but archaeologists have now found a guard room and rampart dating back to 600-500BC.

Archaeological dig at Shropshire Iron Age hill fort in reveals exciting finds

Experts believe the Nesscliffe Hill camp, a small iron-age hill fort with several defensive earthworks, is made of two conjoined enclosures of different dates.

It was built against the sheer cliffs at the north-western end of the hill.

Now one of Britain's leading experts in the building and history of hill forts from Oxford University was called in by Shropshire Council to direct the dig along with a colleague from Southampton University.

The Iron Age hill fort archaeological dig

And along with a team of archaeologists they have made some very significant and exciting finds.

Blocks for the building of the guard room and rampart appear to come from further afield that the red sandstone quarry which stands at the foot of the hill.

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"They are green sandstone which is much harder and stronger that the red sandstone," said Emeritus Professor Gary Lock.

The team gets stuck in

"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 was all to do with prestige and display. The front face of the hill fort would have been high and then there would have been a ditch. It would have been very spectacular."

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The dig, which began last week, has made great progress and has given a far wider and more in depth understanding of the site.

The archaeological dig

"We have uncovered a guard chamber made from big blocks of stone and then the outer rampart ditch," he added.

"We have been able to see exactly how they built it and it all dates back to the Iron Age of around 600-500BC."

The project follows the clearing of plantation trees which was carried out during the winter of 2017/18. The trees had been suffering from increased, wind blown damage which was damaging the archaeology on the site.

The dig at Nesscliffe Hill

The dig was funded by the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, the Prehistoric Society, the Society of Antiquities and the Robert Kiln trust.

Professor Lock, who has spent 30 years writing about hill forts in different parts of Britain and is a self-confessed 'hill fort freak' was joined on the dig by co-director Dr Paul Riley from Southampton University.

Co-director Dr Paul Reilly

The Nesscliffe Hills and the Cliffe Countryside Heritage Site covers 70 hectares including two wooded hills and a heather covered ridge.

As well as the iron age hill fort the area also have a cave in the sandstone said to have been the hideout of the medieval outlaw Humphrey Kynaston.

There is also the remains of quarries which supplied stone for some of Shropshire's' castles and churches, world war two trenches, squatters cottages, an observation post and a terrace where archery competitions were held 200 years ago.

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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