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Bristol digs Berkeley online

Press release issued: 17 May 2013

The University of Bristol's annual archaeological excavations at Berkeley Castle continue this week. For the first time in the dig's nine year history, regular updates of the archaeology students' progress will be posted on Twitter, Facebook, the Bristol Dig Berkeley blog and other social media.

The dig aims to build up a detailed picture of the history and archaeology of the castle and the associated settlement of Berkeley.  It gives  first, second and third year students from Bristol's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology the chance to put into practice what they have learned during their time in the classroom.

For many first year students, this is the first time they have ever been on an archaeological excavation and provides a valuable opportunity for them to get to grips with what practical archaeology is really about.  Second and third year students will be applying skills learnt in previous years, and take on increased responsibility during the dig.

Dr Stuart Prior, Senior Teaching Fellow in Archaeological Practice and one of the site directors, said: "Now in its ninth year, the project aims to build up a detailed picture of the history and archaeology of the castle and the associated settlement of Berkeley.

"Our current focus can best be described as ‘Minster, Manor & Town’.  By combining the results of detailed archaeological fieldwork with information contained in the castle’s impressive collection of 20,000 historical documents, the project will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the early medieval period and the subsequent changes in landscape and society that occurred with the coming of the Normans and the erection of a castle on the former minster site."

This year, the students will be studying Nelme’s Paddock, the Edward Jenner Museum Garden and the Castle Gateway area to the north of the Castle.

In Nelme’s Paddock, the large open-area excavation begun in 2009 will continue with the students  concentrating on six main features identified in the 2010 to 2012 excavations: a series of intercutting pits and stone drains; a ditch of possible early medieval date that may have enclosed the Saxon/Norman church; a potential Anglo-Saxon hearth and any associated remains; the walls of a potential Anglo-Saxon building; a building that is currently thought to be of Norman date; and a cobbled surface, of possible Roman or Anglo-Saxon date.

In the Edward Jenner Museum Garden, excavations will continue in a small evaluation trench opened in 2012 when a deposit of compacted stone, thought to be an external yard or working floor, was discovered that contained a number of small finds.  Beneath this was a layer which contained a large amount of slag, mortar and stone.  Work will continue on this layer to reveal the possible Anglo-Saxon and Roman period features which are believed to exist below.

The Castle Gateway area to the north of the Castle will be investigated for the first time during the 2013 season.  It is thought that this area may once have formed part of the Anglo-Saxon burial ground for the minster.  A small geophysical survey will be conducted within this area prior to the beginning of the excavation to assess the archaeological potential of the site. 

The dig runs until Friday 31 May.

For regular updates on this year's Berkeley Excavations, see:


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