Community Local News

“Between the Barrows” Community Archaeology Dig Unearths Bronze Age Treasures

The “Between the Barrows” community archaeology dig, a collaborative effort launched in 2016 by Andover Trees United (ATU) and the University of Southampton, has successfully concluded its latest excavation. The project, led by Dr. Chris Elmer, a lecturer in archaeology at the University of Southampton, alongside Dr. Alex Walker and Dominic Barker, continue to bring local history to life through active community involvement.

The initiative began with educational school visits to Harmony Woods in 2016, 2018, and 2019, where students engaged in Bronze Age workshops. Initial geophysical surveys and test trenches were conducted in 2020, leading to the accurate location of one of the barrows. In 2021, a significant discovery was made: the ditch surrounding the barrow was uncovered while digging for the cabin’s timber supports. ATU volunteers excavated a cross-section of the ditch in 2022.

Last year marked a resurgence of public involvement after a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with schools and community members joining professional archaeologists to excavate a second trench and confirm a circular feature around the barrow.

This year, the focus was on extending the second trench to locate the other side of the ditch. A clear band of chalk spotting within the trench indicated the presence of the ditch, spurring excitement among the participants.

The archaeological team arrived on Sunday, June 23rd, setting up camp with the assistance of ATU volunteers. Community volunteers joined in the afternoon to de-turf the trench extension. Over the following two weeks, school groups visited three days a week, public dig days were held twice a week, and the Southampton Young Archaeologists’ Club made a visit. The archaeologists also dedicated several days to recording their findings.

School children engaged in hands-on archaeological activities, learning to excavate, sieve soil for flint, and clean their finds. They also encountered a replica human skeleton, affectionately named Mr. Squires, and recorded the ‘burial’. Additionally, the children explored ancient pottery techniques using clay, a new addition this year!

Approximately 200 children and 50 volunteers, including a group from the home-schooling community, participated in this year’s dig. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing a keen interest in future excavations.

At the conclusion of the two-week dig, all finds were cleaned, recorded, and sent to the University of Southampton for storage. The trenches were carefully covered and protected, preserving them for future exploration. Although the second trench remains incomplete, the archaeologists are optimistic about the ongoing investigation into the barrow ditch.

Dr. Chris Elmer and his colleagues, who dedicate their annual leave to this passion project, are enthusiastic about returning next year. Their commitment to the “Between the Barrows” dig provides invaluable opportunities for the local community to connect with and learn about their heritage.