THE SECRETS of an ancient hillfort in Oldbury-on-Severn are finally being unearthed by a team of archaeologists.

Little is known about the Iron Age fort, with mysteries and theories around when it was built and why it was built on the low land rather than, as the name suggests, on a hill.

The two-week excavation dig, which is being led by archaeologists DigVentures and A Forgotten Landscape, a South Gloucestershire Council-funded landscape partnership, is hoping to turn back the hands of time to find out more about the purpose of the hillfort.

More than 60 volunteers have taken part in the project in the first week, ranging from residents in Thornbury and Oldbury, to Bristol, London and even New Zealand, helping to excavate the three trenches around the fort, with further test pits having also been made.

Gazette Series:

In the past, there have been a few fragmented digs on the site, which have provided some initial date, but nothing has ever been done to this extent.

And, despite the dig only having reached the halfway stage, discoveries are already being unearthed, with iron nails, fragments of pottery and animal bones having been found.

But one of the main clues that will help date the monument will come from testing soil from the differing layers as the dig continues, particularly once they reach the original top level of the ramparts.

Maiya Pina-Dacier, head of community at DigVentures, said that the group had made “an astonishing amount of progress.”

“I’m really proud of all the people who have got involved to help us get to where we are now.”

“What is so interesting about this site, is that if you think about the name, a hillfort, you would automatically realise what we have here is not on a hill, which is quite unusual.

“This hillfort, and what it was used for is still something of a mystery. At the moment it is pretty poorly understood and we hope we can find something that will illuminate that.

Having cracked the outer shell of the ramparts, she said that the team would continue to dig, aiming to find the dateable evidence that explains how old the hill fort really is and try and “solve the big mystery that has been hanging over this hill fort for so many years”.

Gazette Series:

Referring to the level of support and interest from the community, as well as the number of volunteers coming forward to help, trench supervisor Barney Harris said it was “very humbling”..

“It’s great to see the enthusiasm, particularly seeing people connecting to the narrative of the area and the monument, wanting to participate in helping solve this age old conundrum.

“I have had so many conversations with the people who have been taking part and it has been great to hear more about them and why they wanted to be here.

“One was the grandson of an archaeologist and spent a lot of his childhood sat by a trench being told not to touch anything but really wanting to. He said it was thrilling to experience a lifelong ambition.

“You forget when you are in the research side the power of archaeology to connect people.”

For more information on the dig, visit www.digventures.com/oldbury-camp

As well as the excavation, DigVentures are also holding a series of educational talks, guided tours around the site and a finds roadshow where residents can also bring their own archaeological objects along.

Talks:

Oldbury Camp and Historic Setting: Thursday, June 29 – 12pm-1pm

What we found at Oldbury: Monday, July 3 – 5pm-6pm

Guided tours:

Saturday, July 1 – 2.30pm and 3.30pm

Finds roadshow:

Friday, June 30 – 5pm-6pm