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New Excavations at Nesscliffe Hillfort
01 Jun 2022

A team of archaeologists will be returning to Nesscliffe hillfort this summer to open up new trenches - including in the interior of the fort - hoping to find evidence of domestic occupation. 

When archaeologists excavated the spectacular gateway to Nesscliffe hillfort last summer, due to the Covid pandemic, the public were not able to watch. 

However, when they return this July and August, we'll be able to see them at work. They are hoping to find new material for dating and evidence of entrance gates, plus, in the interior, roundhouses and evidence of domestic occupation. 

Gary Lock, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology, University of Oxford, leading the excavations, said: "We will be continuing with the trench from last year on the inturned entrance making it bigger extending down the entrance passage. We will also have a trench across the main outer ditch and one in the interior to explore the roundhouses shown on the geophysical survey. It’s a very unusual hillfort, so interesting archaeologically."

There is evidence for Roman activity on the site, but so far, preliminary digs have not yet turned up any domestic tools or weapons related to Iron Age occupation. The previous dig last summer focused on the original entranceway to the fort, close to the north eastern corner, revealing guard chambers either side of the main gateway. 

Professor Lock (pictured below) estimates that Nesscliffe hillfort would have been constructed around 400-500BC (around 600 years before the Romans arrived), however, dating is crucial to better understand the timeline of activity at the fort. 

Professor Gary Lock at the 2021 Nesscliffe dig

It is hoped that, by excavating the roundhouses in the interior, the team might find material for dating and a better indication of occupation.

Shropshire Council is keen to improve the visitor experience to Nesscliffe Country Park, and the archaeologists' findings will help provide content for new notice boards. The long term aim for the hillfort is to remove the trees, which are damaging to archaeology, and replace it with heathland. 

Working on the site will be a core team of 10 people and also some volunteers. The Nesscliffe Excavation Project involves the universities of Oxford and Southampton working in partnership with Shropshire Council's outdoor partnerships and natural & historic environment teams. The excavations are funded by The Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society and private donations.  

"We want people to come and see us. We will have someone to show them round and explain things," adds Professor Lock. 

The excavations start on Saturday, July 30th and finish Friday, August 19th. The team will not be at work on Saturdays. 

Shropshire Council has created this wonderful interactive 'digital walk through' of the site:  

www.shropshiresgreatoutdoors.co.uk/site/nesscliffe-hills-and-the-cliffe-countryside-heritage-site/ 

 The 2021 excavations at Nesscliffe hillfort