The Old Sarum Landscapes Project - update October 2017

Preliminary Results from the Summer Field School 2017 - by Kristian Strutt, Alex Langlands and Dominic Barker.

The 2017 Old Sarum Landscapes Project Summer Field School ran from 3rd to 23rd July, with a cohort of Year One students from Southampton University, and around eight volunteers from Stratford sub Castle.

The 2017 season aim was to continue geophysical surveying of Old Sarum's environs, and characterising some survey features with evaluation trenches. Work focused on the area of the possible western suburb of Old Sarum in Dean's Farm Field, immediately south of Phillips Lane. Volunteers and students continued the magnetometer survey initiated at Easter.

The geophysical survey results revealed an array of different anomalies overlying each other across the entire survey area, broadly indicating a possible suburb to the medieval city of Old Sarum, and the presence of a much larger medieval settlement along the River Avon. A substantial bank feature is visible as a slightly negative anomaly in the magnetometry running from north to south for approx 50m, before turning to the SE and running for a further 160m to the edge of the field. Within this enclosed space a number of positive and dipolar anomalies mark a substantial number of possible ditches, structures and other features.

To the south of this a large positive anomaly, measuring 4-5m across and running NW to SE, marks a possible ditch or holloway. In addition a large number of more ephemeral anomalies mark ditches cutting across Dean's Farm Field, including one that respects the line of the possible ditch or holloway. To the west, ditch and pit features indicate medieval settlement along the line of the road through Stratford sub Castle.

Evaluation trenches were located to help characterise the results of the geophysical survey. The trench located over the bank anomaly produced a significant feature indicating a bank and small ditch, and a slightly earlier double ditch feature underlying the bank and cut into the natural chalk. 

The bank material produced finds including a well-preserved 13th century pitcher, and other 12th and 13th century wares including locally-produced Laverstock ware. 

The trench excavating the large linear anomaly running across Dean's Farm Field gave useful material in terms of the anomaly nature, and depth of deposits in the lower part of the field. The feature was covered by about 0.7m of colluvium, containing worked Neolithic and Bronze Age flint, suggesting the possible location of a prehistoric settlement or working site at Old Sarum or immediately below the monument. Further excavation in the 2018 season will be required to elucidate on the nature of this feature.

These results mark research that is very much in progress. The team will return to Old Sarum in 2018 to continue the geophysical survey in and around the monument, and a field school is planned for July 2018.

Images:  Above left - Dominic Barker         Above right - Alex Langlands