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Exeter: The photo shows a trench across the enclosure ditch

Bronze Age enclosure neither for livestock nor for defenses baffles scholars

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Archaeologists working a dig in Devon County near Exeter, England, have discovered 70 Roman or post-Roman burials in an enclosure with a 2-meter-deep (6.56 feet) ditch. The site, which is being prepared for construction of a new village, apparently was occupied from the Neolithic (New Stone Age) through the medieval periods.

Of particular interest to historians and archaeologists at the site, which is at Tithebarn Green, Redhayes, was its use during the late Roman or post-Roman period. Another feature that has drawn attention is the Bronze Age Pin Brook enclosure.

 “These enclosures are a bit of a mystery in that they don’t appear to be defensive as there are no stores or homes within them but they look far too large to be simply for retaining livestock,” Richard Greatorex of Cotswold Archaeology told Western Morning News. “We have also found a number of furnaces or corn dryers used to dry a variety of cereals and several additional Bronze Age ditches as well as later post- medieval ones. The site had clearly been in use for a long time.”

Ten archaeologists have been excavating at the site for about 10 weeks. Using 20-ton excavators, they have removed about 21,000 cubic meters of dirt, uncovering the ditches and other features.

The team has found evidence of another enclosure, from after the medieval period, that indicates the site, which is 20 hectares (49 acres), was used for even more intensive farming than during prehistoric periods.

The team did a geophysical survey of the site using ground radar to identify where they wanted to dig. They dug trenches in areas of interest.

A Bronze Age stock enclosure with a possible dolmen at Dartmoor, another site in Devon County, England

A Bronze Age stock enclosure with a possible dolmen at Dartmoor, another site in Devon County, England (Photo by Nigel Cox/Wikimedia Commons)

Devon County Council archaeologist Bill Horner said they used aerial photography first to reveal a significant prehistoric site. He told Western Morning News the team was keen to ensure the site was investigated and recorded before the development of housing and a village took place.

The team saved some of the soil they dug up in 900 10-liter (2.6 gallon) tubs from the burials and 300 more tubs from the furnaces at the site.

The researchers will examination the soil for cereal grains and human and animal remains, including piece of bone and tooth enamel. These will help the team to more accurately do scientific dating of the site’s features.

The county will have a public display of the artifacts and findings from the site early in 2016.

Featured image: Of particular interest to scholars are the enclosures found at the site near Exeter, which are a mystery because they don’t appear defensive and they are too large for corralling livestock. The photo shows a trench across the enclosure ditch. (Western Morning News photo)

By Mark Miller



It's a place used as a purification lodge, sometimes called a sweat lodge.

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Mark Miller has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and is a former newspaper and magazine writer and copy editor who's long been interested in anthropology, mythology and ancient history. His hobbies are writing and drawing.

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