Excavations at Flower’s Barrow in Dorset have revealed new information about the never-before-excavated – and rapidly eroding – Iron Age hillfort.
The 2,500-year-old fortifications are perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking Worbarrow Bay, within Lulworth Training Area, and although the remains are well preserved (being situated on military land and therefore protected from development, tourist footfall, and agriculture) they are fast disappearing due to processes of natural coastal erosion.
Now Wessex Archaeology and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) have completed a two-week excavation of the site (above), working with Bournemouth University students and volunteers from Operation Nightingale, an award-winning programme which involves wounded and sick service personnel and veterans in archaeological fieldwork.
The LiDAR survey of the hillfort identified two banks encircled by a ditch and, inside this perimeter, the remains of several hut platforms. It was initially thought that these platforms were intended as terraces, to help create level floors, but a trench intersecting two of them revealed no evidence that the hillside had been deliberately terraced (although it did yield fragments of Iron Age pottery). It is now thought that the hillfort’s inhabitants had exploited natural divots in the landscape to construct level flooring. A second trench opened over the hillfort’s inner bank revealed post-holes hinting at an interior palisade whose wooden posts had been used to support the earthworks.
In order to gain a greater understanding of the extent of the site’s ongoing erosion, a third trench was opened where the interior of the hillfort has started to collapse. Post-excavation analysis of the finds is currently under way, and it is hoped that this will add to information gathered in surveys by Historic England, which also plans to carry out a drone survey that will be used to create a model demonstrating the hillfort’s transformation over time. The work this summer will help inform Historic England’s assessment of whether Flower’s Barrow can be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.
TEXT: Florence Chilver