Cothelstone Hill Excavation

Published by Vickie Sellick on

After much delay, the QLPS launched our community archaeology project, Understanding the Landscape, with a two-week excavation on the top of Cothelstone Hill. The aim of the dig was to try to confirm the age of a ‘cross-ridge dyke’, an earthwork bank and ditch which runs for some 280m, roughly north to south across the top of the hill and which, despite no previous excavations having been carried out, was widely believed to date from the Iron Age.

However, the timely arrival of the results of our LiDAR survey just prior to the start of the dig, revealed that rather than a linear feature, the earthwork in fact forms part of an enclosure, encircling a good part of the top of the hill. There is also a suggestion that the origins of the structure might date back much earlier than had previously been thought, perhaps as far back as the Neolithic.

LiDAR of Cothelstone Hill showing enclosure

Volunteer diggers, many of whom had no previous archaeological experience, were recruited from the surrounding area, as well as from community groups that the QLPS are working with. Under the guidance of archaeologists from the South West Heritage Trust, the team worked valiantly through extremes of weather, experiencing temperatures of 30 degrees C during the first week, and dodging torrential showers during the second.

A good deal was learnt about the construction of the earthwork, with evidence suggesting it was originally topped with drystone walling which subsequently collapsed in one rapid phase of destruction. Finds included a good number of flint flakes and some fragile fragments of prehistoric pottery. We also recovered some charcoal samples which will be radiocarbon dated to help narrow down the age of the feature.

The excavations were recorded in a series of three short films, produced for us by The Local Film Company, which can be found below, or you can read the full SWHT report and Geophysics report.

Cothelstone Hill Excavation Part 1
Cothelstone Hill Excavation Part 2
Cothelstone Hill Excavation Part 3