Left: a late Iron Age pot discovered at the site in 2002. © Bestwall Quarry Archaeological Project.
An amateur archaeological team, whose Dorset quarry dig has revealed 7000 years of history, has been awarded a grant to publish its extraordinary results.
The Bestwall Quarry Archaeological Project was started 12 years ago, led by local historian Lilian Ladle. Over the years it has revealed one of the most substantial ranges of Bronze Age pottery yet discovered in Britain and has become one of the country's most interesting digs.
Now, through the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF), English Heritage has allocated the project a grant of up to £160,000 to enable the recording and publication of the finds.
Right: artefacts found near the roundhouse dated this part of the site to the middle Bronze Age. © Bestwall Quarry Archaeological Project.
Lilian Ladle told the 24 Hour Museum how she got involved in the project and what the extra money will mean in terms of its future.
“I was asked to get involved because it was thought if I found anything I would publish it. I had an interest in archaeology, but came to it through local history. Really it was a case of the right person, in the right place, at the right time.”
“I think it is a relief that we are going to have adequate funding to be able to publish in the way which it deserves. We've got a portakabin stuffed full of finds; we've got everything, it really is a multi-period site.”
Left: a broken Neolithic Cornish granite hand axe found in 2000. © Bestwall Quarry Archaeological Project.
Excavations began in 1991 and have helped build a vivid picture of prehistoric Dorset. Supported by Peter Cox of AC Archaeology and a team of volunteers, Lilian has overseen the discovery of countless nationally important finds.
The huge site has yielded evidence of occupation from the Mesolithic period right up to the seventeenth century. Stand-out finds include rare domestic hoards of Bronze Age pottery, a feasting site complete with ritually placed bracelets and a collection of over 1500 Roman coins dating from between 117 and 275 AD.
“We are delighted to support this nationally important excavation through the ALSF,” explained Buzz Busby of English Heritage.
Right: a conserved bronze bracelet. © Bestwall Quarry Archaeological Project.
“The project is extremely unusual as projects of this size are generally only carried out by professional archaeological units. Thanks to the support of the quarry owners and professional archaeologists, this truly outstanding research has been undertaken by local amateurs.”
Set up in 2002, the ALSF is aimed at providing a wide range of benefits to communities affected by gravel extraction. Funds are distributed by English Heritage, The Countryside Agency and English Nature alongside local organisations and the aggregates industry.
As well as academic papers and publications, a mobile display will depict Bestwall's 7000 years of occupation. Also, artefacts from the dig will be displayed at Dorchester Museum.
To find out more click on this link to visit the project's fantastic website.