University of Exeter archaeologists have been excavating different parts of the site during the past seven years

Ancient household waste gives more clues about Devon’s Roman history

Recently discovered household waste thrown away by families thousands of years ago will provide valuable clues for archaeologists uncovering the secrets of Devon’s Iron Age, Roman, and Medieval history.

The rubbish, found by experts working on a major archaeological dig in the county, will allow them to reconstruct farming methods thousands of years ago and learn more about what people ate.

Members of the community and experts from the University of Exeter are once again investigating fields near Ipplepen, in South Devon, to discover more about a site occupied by Iron Age, Roman, and early medieval communities who lived more than a thousand years ago.

The public can find out more about the excavations at an Open Day on Saturday 8th September. People will be able to have a tour of the excavation, see some of the finds, and talk to members of the excavation team and two re-enactment groups who will reconstruct what life was like for the Roman army and farming communities.

The excavations have shown features such as ditches and wells were back filled with domestic rubbish including broken pots, butchered animal bones, metal studs from old shoes, and even a dead badger.

The remains of Amphora, large pottery storage vessels used to transport and store wine and olive oil from the Mediterranean, have also been found. This suggests the community in the area enjoyed foreign food and drink.

The settlement was occupied from the Middle and Late Iron Age (about 400 BC to AD43), throughout the Roman period (AD43-410), and into the early medieval period (AD410-800). It was home to a farming community and in the Roman period a road was constructed through the settlement that linked it with Exeter.

Professor Stephen Rippon, from the University of Exeter, who is leading the archaeological work, said: “We can use these animal bones to reconstruct past patterns of farming. If animals such as the sheep were killed at a young age then they were being kept for their meat - lamb, whereas if they were kept into old age then they were being kept for their wool and even their milk!. Some of the bones that have been found have cut marks from when they were butchered.”

University of Exeter archaeologists have been excavating different parts of the site during the past seven years. They are joined by members of the local community who are helping them to excavate the area thanks to support from the National Lottery. Since exploration of the site started in 2012, 200 people have volunteered to help uncover its secrets.

In previous years excavations have uncovered Iron Age roundhouses, a Romano-British settlement and associated field system, Roman road, and an early medieval cemetery. This year the team are exploring the southern part of the site where traces of a settlement have been found that was occupied during the final years of Britain being part of the Roman Empire.

National Lottery funding has allowed the University of Exeter to expand its work with local communities. For example, in 2018 the excavation will play host to groups of pupils from Abbotskerswell and Ipplepen Primary Schools, and by members of the Somerset and Torbay Young Archaeologists Clubs.

During this year’s Open Day it is expected that the 5,000th visitor will be welcomed. The Ipplepen Carnival Club will be running a refreshment marquee, and hot food will also be available.

The Open Day is free and runs from 10.30am to 3.30pm. Directions to the site will be signposted on the day from Ipplepen on the A381 Newton Abbot to Totnes road.

Date: 5 September 2018