Archaeologists from Bournemouth University have uncovered the remains of an Iron Age ‘banjo enclosure’ at Winterborne Kingston in Dorset. The circular enclosure, named for its small area and long protruding entranceway, is located half a mile to the north-west of a large prehistoric settlement found in 2015 and dubbed ‘Duropolis’ by the excavators, after the Durotriges tribe who lived in the region prior to the Roman invasion of Britain (see CA 306, 313, and 319).
The newly uncovered banjo enclosure, which contains at least three roundhouses and 65 deep, cylindrical storage pits dating from c.300-100 BC, was discovered during a geophysical survey conducted last September. A month-long excavation carried out by a team of 55 student archaeologists earlier this summer then revealed further traces of human habitation. Sarah Maryon, one of the archaeology students involved in the excavations, said: ‘The people who lived here 2,000 years ago back-filled these storage pits with their rubbish, and we have found a large amount of pottery, bone, and charcoal.’
Some of the pits, however, also contained human remains (pictured above), and the team unearthed six skeletons (four female and two male) lying in crouched positions in individual graves alongside joints of meat and pottery bowls that would probably have contained drinks for the afterlife. ‘The Durotriges buried their dead in a very specific way, so they are very identifiable,’ Sarah explained.
Other pits contained evidence of animal sacrifices, and the team hopes that their discoveries will help to shed more light on pre-Roman religious practices in the region. As Lead Archaeologist Dr Miles Russell commented: ‘The animal remains that we’re finding placed in the bottom of pits would have provided weeks of food for this settlement, so it’s a significant offering to their gods to bury so much in the ground. In some pits, articulated animal body parts had been placed on to and together with other animals. To us, it’s a frankly bizarre thing to do, but it’s a fascinating insight into their belief systems.’