Dunster Beach

A collaborative project involving  geophysical survey and field walking was undertaken by Alex Bellisario and Rachel Quick of CITiZAN with Historic England and Dunster Archaeological Group (DAG) to investigate the nature and extent of a large deposit of pottery which was identified eroding out of the beach cliff. It was considered that there were three possible interpretations:

  • A singular or isolated pit/ditch containing pottery in isolation of any other features.
  • A pit or ditch system which surrounds a pottery industry, this is suggested due to the large nature of the sherds.
  • The location of a settlement in this area.

Historic England operates a programme of training for community groups to utilise older models of geophysical survey equipment which are held in their stores. Historic England provided training to CITiZAN and DAG as part of the CITiZAN training session between the 6th and 9th of April 2016. The following wider research aims and objectives were established:

  • Train volunteers of the Dunster Museum Archaeological Committee on the techniques, use and application of both resistivity and magnetometery survey
  • Build a relationship with the Dunster Museum Archaeological Committee and Historic England so there is the potential for further sites in this rural area to be investigated using these techniques
  • To establish the nature and extent of the site at Dunster Beach
  • Are the features on this site at serious risk from natural or anthropogenic threats?

Two fields were surveyed as part of a geophysical investigations and the results of which are published in the Historic England Research Report Series 22-2016 (Pearce 2016).

All members of the Dunster Museum Archaeological Group who took part in the April training developed skills in using the Earth Resistance Meter, the Magnetometer, the CITiZAN app and Baseline/offset survey. The members of Dunster Archaeological Group will be using the skills acquired during the training to continue to monitor this site and carry out further geophysical work to define the extent of the archaeological area.

Initial interpretations of the results of the geophysical survey suggest that a previously unrecorded enclosure system has been identified (Pearce 2016). The enclosure is incomplete with an unknown amount already having been lost to coastal erosion, the area that remains is sub-rectangular in form with a single ditch forming the enclosure. The pottery which was identified eroding out of the beach cliff was analysed by Wessex Archaeology and ‘comprises of South East Dorset black burnished ware and South Western greyware dating to the Romano-British period (Mepham 2017, 1). Further work will establish the nature of the occupation will need to be undertaken but should it be substantiated that this is a Roman occupation site it will be the first within the area and link between the site and the Bristol Channel will be explored.

No further work is planned during 2018.