Archaeologists from OA South, assisted by members of the Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group (HAARG), began an excavation along the route of the Bexhill to Hastings link road in summer 2013. The main focus of the archaeologists work has been a series of excavations along the route carried out before road construction in areas thought to have the potential to contain archaeological remains.
These excavations are ongoing but have already revealed finds which demonstrate the utilisation of particularly the higher, dryer areas for farming over a long period of time. Evidence from multiple excavation sites is allowing the archaeologists to piece together a picture of the landscape in the prehistoric period where hunter-gatherers were camping, hunting, fishing and using the resources available in the wetter environments of the valley bottoms. These people left us a series of flint scatters, dense spreads of struck and burnt flints, often amounting to many hundreds of pieces per square metre. These often form circular concentrations believed to represent single flint knapping events that may have taken place over an hour or less and date back as far as 12000 years ago.
The position of the flints is very carefully recorded as these sites can allow the archaeologists a fascinating insight into the activities taking place. Some of the flints are extremely small ‘microliths’ which were used for a variety of purposes including barbs and heads for arrows and composite tools such as scrapper boards for processing food. Other common tools include burins for working bone and antler, and pieces for shaping arrow shafts.
At the eastern extent of the road corridor the archaeologists are carrying out a major excavation located to the west of the Crowhurst Road on land formally part of Upper Wilting Farm. The flat top of the hill here had potential to contain evidence for settlement, and after the topsoil had been carefully removed by a mechanical excavator a pattern of archaeological features was revealed.
The majority of these features date to the late Iron Age. The earliest feature was a large rectangular enclosure, and further ditches indicate a number of phases of activity and re-organisation of the site. Other features include pits containing pottery fragments, a ceramic loom weight and deposits of animal bone and shell, which are all indicative of domestic occupation.
The most significant feature of the Upper Wilting site is a large slag heap, approximately 55m by 18m, located away from the settlement features in the northern half of site where the hill top begins to slope down. This is very exciting as initial indications are that this is an Iron Age bloomery, a site where iron ore would be processed in furnaces to extract the iron. Roman period sites such as this are known in the wider area, but if the Iron Age date is confirmed, the excellent levels of preservation and adjacent settlement will make this an important site.
The discoveries have attracted much media interest. Our work has featured in an article on the BBC News website (click here to read the article), and has also featured on ITV News (click here to see the feature).
More information on the archaeological work can be found on the East Sussex County Council website, which includes a regular newsletter with news about the latest discoveries.
There will be a talk by Casper Johnson of East Sussex County Council on the archaeology of the Bexhill-Hastings link road at the Sussex Archaeology Symposium held by the Sussex School of Archaeology at the University of Brighton on Saturday 15th March 2014. Click here for more details.