Time Team experts left lost for superlatives after secret dig at Norfolk's Branodunum fort

By Culture24 Reporter | 13 August 2012
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A photo of a group of archaeologists posing side by side on an archaeological site
Branodunum, a Roman fort built near the modern village of Brancaster almost 1,800 years ago, has been the site for a secret Time Team investigation
Experts at Branodunum, a fort near Brancaster on the north Norfolk coast, say a rapid excavation by Channel 4’s Time Team has resulted in “unparalleled insights” into the lives of Roman communities in Britain.

Tony Robinson and his televisual accomplices deployed ground imaging and exploratory trenches in the most thorough survey of the fort ever held. Although the archaeological importance of the nature reserve is well known, the last dig at the site took place during the 1930s.

A photo of a man smiling at the camera in front of a long brown archaeological trench
The four-gate fort was one of the largest settlements in the territory of the Iceni tribe
“I haven’t enough superlatives to describe this site,” says John Gator, a “geophys” expert for Time Team.

“Because the site has been protected for so long, we have had amazingly clear results.

“Not many buildings showed physically, so ground radar has revealed the site in all its glory.

“We have had the best results of any Time Team dig I’ve been involved with.”

Only locals were allowed access to an investigation which was kept top-secret.

“I can’t wait for the show to be aired in the spring,” says Victoria Francis, the area Countryside Manager for the National Trust, which has owned the site since 1967.

“There are some amazing finds that we can’t say anything about just yet.

“I’ve loved every minute of it, as have all of our team helping out.

“I overheard Tony Robinson saying ‘this is what archaeology is all about’, and I’m so pleased Branodunum surpassed all of our expectations.”

The fort area and neighbouring civil settlement have been investigated before, but the scale of the finds have been particularly enlightening in a project joined by English Heritage, Norfolk County Council, Natural England and the Kings Lynn Archaeological Society.

“In three days we’ve achieved as much as many archaeological teams could in a month,” says Francis Pryor, an archaeologist and the director on the site.

“We’ve undertaken a complete survey of the fort and large areas of surrounding land.

“We’ve gained unparalleled and unexpected insights into the way that communities lived here in the Roman period.”

Phil Harding, a small screen favourite who has served Time Team since its first series in 1994, calls the development “hugely exciting”.

“I have to say I’ve been blown away with the sheer impressiveness of this site, from the really big stuff to the small personal finds,” he confessed.

“The two disciplines of ground radar and digging have enabled us to bring this place to life again.

“We’ve had masses of finds, more than we could have anticipated.”

David Gurney, the Historic Environment Manager at Norfolk County Council, seems equally taken aback.

“Once all the results are processed, our understanding of this important Roman site will be significantly enhanced,” he reckons.

“The story of Branodunum will probably have to be rewritten.”

More pictures:

A photo of a group of people digging up a trench in a grassy field during the day
The walls still stood up to 12 feet tall in the 17th century, but only the site and the earthworks now remain
A photo of a group of people examining a brown archaeological trench in a green field
Evidence of the eastern and western gates and of flanking towers survives
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