Season 2 (2011)

Burrough Hill panorama

Welcome to the 2011 Webdiary

This page contains a week by week summary of the 2011 excavation season as it unfolded, with many pictures and videos of the key discoveries. The excavation season took place for five weeks in June and July 2011.

The digging team consisted of mainly 1st and 2nd year undergraduates, along with MA, distance learners, postgraduates, and academic staff. The project is directed by Dr Jeremy Taylor and John Thomas, Richard Buckley is project manager. The trenches were supervised by Andrew Hyam and Gavin Speed. Postgraduate students duly assisted the student training. Two trenches were opened in 2011 (Trench 3 and Trench 4).


Trench 3 has been located outside the defences of the hillfort, over an area that geophysical survey indicates may contained an Iron Age settlement. This consisted of a series of roundhouses, enclosures and a large boundary ditch to the east of the hillfort.  This was a previously unknown settlement and we do not know if it is earlier, later or contemporary with the hillfort. This year the trench is located over these roundhouses. Excavation of the buildings should provide us with a range of finds that will date when they were occupied and tell us about the range of activities carried out in them. By comparing evidence from Trench 3 with other areas of the hillfort we will be able to establish a better understanding of the sites overall history.
Trench location plan
Plan showing the 2011 trenches

burroughhill2010_wheretodigTrench 4 expands last year’s excavation of the hillfort entrance.  Our aim is to reveal the remainder of the recessed room or ‘guard chamber’ that was partially exposed last year. The trench will also provide more information about the construction of the ramparts.




Trench 3

Week 1

The topsoil has been removed by a machine, next step is for the students to clean the trench by trowelling across the entire trench.

Trench 3 week 1 a
A view of the vast trench looking south
Trench 3 week 1 b
Dr Gillings offers advice on trowelling techniques
Trench 3 week 1 c
A large boundary ditch at the north-end of the trench begins to be dug.
Trench 3 week 1 d
The cows pay close attention to a lecture on earthworks!

Week 2

This week saw the various archaeological features seen in week 1 get investigated and excavated by the 1st year students. The images and video below show one of the roundhouses.

A roundhouse is investigated and excavated in Trench 3, week 2
A roundhouse is investigated and excavated.
Recording a section of an excavated roundhouse gully, Trench 3 week 2
Careful recording of a section of an excavated roundhouse gully.

Click below to view a video clip of the roundhouse being excavated!


1st year students within the roundhouse
Well done to all the 1st year students who finished their two weeks digging this week.

Week 3

This week saw the arrival of the 2nd year undergraduates, along with distance learning students. These promptly continued with the work begun by the 1st years. Many finds are coming up within the excavated slots.

view of the roundhouse with Dr Taylor in the middle
A view of one of the roundhouses. Dr Taylor is standing in the centre, whilst the students watch on.
Trench 3, week 3. Can you spot what is in the hole?
can you spot what is in the roundhouse gully?

Trench 3, week 3. Pottery and daub in situ
Pottery sherds and fragments of daub from the base of a roundhouse gully are revealed.

School tour

Funding from the Ernest Cook Trust enabled children from Highfields Infants, Somerby and Whissendine schools to visit the excavations, go on a tour of the hillfort, and get to hold some of the finds.

Week 4

This week saw a third 'structure' get investigated, along with large storage pits. The second year and distance learning students were joined by local school pupils for an 'archaeology summer school'. There was further media interest from the BBC, and James Dyer - who directed excavations at Burrough Hill in 1960 - also visited.

Trench 3, week 4 happy pit diggers
A large storage pit begins to get excavated, many large sherds of pottery have been recovered from this.
Trench 3, week 4. The summer school team 2011
The team of school pupils and staff from the archaeology summer school.

Students from local schools in Leicester (Riverside Community College, Hamilton College, Lancaster School, and Countesthorpe Community College) had the unique opportunity to excavate for three days this week. The summer school day programme was organised by Debbie Miles-Willams (Outreach Officer, Archaeology Leicester, University of Leicester,

A feature on BBC 'East Midlands Today' can be seen here

Trench 3, week 4. Peter Liddle is interviewed by Michael Woods
Peter Liddle (Community Archaeologist for Leicestershire County Council) is interviewed by Michael Woods for a forthcoming BBC programme.
James Dyer, July 2011
James Dyer, director of excavations in 1960, visited the site this week. Many thanks for his useful insights and discussions.

Week 5

The final week of excavations saw some exciting new discoveries within some of the pits, including a large beehive quern stone and an iron spear! All the features have now been fully investigated and recorded, before the trench is backfilled.

Trench 3 Week 5, a quern revealed!
Part of a beehive quern stone is revealed within a large pit.


Dave shows off his quern
A happy Dave shows off his beehive quern

Trench 3 Week 5, an iron spear
An iron object that may be a spear was found within this pit

Open day 1
Archaeologist Andrew Hyam presents the results of trench 3 to members of the public on the open day

Trench 4

Week 1

As with Trench 3 the topsoil has been removed, the next step is to clean the trench by trowelling across the entire area to remove the remaining areas of topsoil.

Trench 4 week 1 a
The trowelling begins!
Trench 4 week 1 b
Rampart wall and tumble begins to be revealed
Trench 4 week 1 c
A quern stone is revealed (centre of image) following the initial trench clean!
Trench 4 week 1 d
A floor surface of the recessed room or ‘guard chamber’ is revealed

Click below to view a video clip, viewed from the top of the rampart.



Week 2

Week 2 saw the road surface into the main entrance of the hillfort was discovered, whilst the chamber was defined and recorded. Some more interesting finds include part of a bone pin.

Trench 4, week2. The road surface is revealed!
A road surface of the main entrance into the hillfort is revealed. This lay below collapsed wall rubble.
Trench 4, rear wall of the chamber being recorded.
The rear wall of the chamber being recorded, whilst floor surfaces are investigated.

Trench 4, week 2. Careful sieving for finds
Each archaeological deposit is carefully sieved for finds.
Trench 4, week 2. A bone pin.
Part of a bone pin, found within the rubble of the backfilled chamber.

Week 3

As with Trench 3, this week saw the arrival of a new batch of students eager to get digging! A large pit has been discovered below the road surface, meanwhile work continues within the chamber room with the removal of the final backfill layers.

Trench 4, week 3. Recording a pit
Recording a pit. This is one of the earliest features within the trench, it lies below the main road surface into the hillfort, what lies within it?
Trench 4, week 3. BBC crew
Dr Alice Roberts interviews John Thomas, for a feature in the new series of BBC2's Digging For Britain.
Trench 4, week 3. Digging and filming
Digging continues within the chamber room whilst the BBC film crew film

Week 4

Work continued on the large pit below the road, meanwhile the floor surface was reached within the room.

Trench 4, week 4. Can you tell what it is yet?
Students debate the possibilities of what they are looking at...
Trench 4, week 4. The pit is fully investigated.
A crack team of student diggers fully excavate this very large pit.
Trench 4, week 4. Floor surfaces are recorded.
The floor surfaces within the room are revealed and recorded. A hearth can be seen in the centre of the image.
Trench 4, week 4. A posthole revealed.
A large posthole is revealed in the corner of the room.
Trench 4, week 4, recording the rampart
Recording the structual form of the entrance rampart

Click below for a view of Trench 4 towards the end of Week 4.

Week 5

In the final week of the dig an exciting new discovery has been made! A human body has been found lying at the base of the large pit. The skeleton was in a crouched position, it contained no grave goods, though Iron Age pottery was recovered from the grave backfill. The body lay within a stone cairn, over which lay the cobbled road surface of the main hillfort entrance. The skeleton has been removed from the ground for full expert analysis, this will be included in the excavation report out in due course.

Trench 4 Week 4, a skull emerges
At the bottom of the large pit a human skull emerges
Trench 4, week 4, more skull
Another view of the emerging skull


Trench 4, week 5, the body emerges
More of the skeleton is revealed


Trench 4, week 5, recording the skeleton 2
Drawing the skeleton


Trench 4, week 5, pit with skeleton
The huge pit which contained the skeleton at the base. The overlying road surface can be seen on the right part of the section. The area on the left was disturbed by a trench from 1960.


Trench 4, week 5, the skeleton is lifted
The skeleton is carefully removed from the ground for full analysis.



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