Public invited to open day at historic Burrough Hill dig

Posted by pt91 at Jun 26, 2012 03:42 PM |
Visitors invited to take part in archaeological event on Sunday 1 July

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 26 June 2012

An ancient East Leicestershire hillfort will reveal some of its historic secrets this weekend (July 1st), as University of Leicester archaeologists welcome the public to a major excavation of the site.

Situated on the Jurassic scarp with commanding views of the surrounding countryside, Burrough Hill near Melton Mowbray is one of the most striking and frequently visited prehistoric monuments in central Britain.

Despite the site’s importance, relatively little is known about its ancient past. In 2010, a team from the University of Leicester began a five-year survey and excavation of the site, with support from the landowner, national educational charity the Ernest Cook Trust, as well as English Heritage and Leicestershire County Council.

A public open day on Sunday July 1st (11am to 4pm) will include guided tours of the 2012 excavations and a display of archaeological finds from this year and previous excavations at the site.  Excavations at Burrough Hill since the 1930s have generated a substantial amount of artefacts, much of which is held  by Leicestershire County Council’s Museum Service.  A huge Iron Age storage jar will be on display at the Open Day.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to strike their own Iron Age coin, based on a coin from the Hallaton Treasure, which is currently displayed at Harborough Museum, Market Harborough, to take home as a souvenir of the open day.  Skilled re-enactors will help visitors find out about life in a roundhouse and offer the chance to meet an Iron Age warrior and an early Roman soldier.

The technology minded visitor will be able to download information about previous excavations at the hillfort to their smart phones using QR Codes which are spread across the site at strategic points.

A guided walk around the hillfort will also be held at the end of the dig on Saturday 14th  July at 2.30pm as part of the national Festival of Archaeology

The University of Leicester, with funding from the Ernest Cook Trust (, has created resource packs for schools, and an outreach officer will be showing groups around the hillfort and excavations, making the most of the site’s education potential. 

One of the site directors, John Thomas, said: ‘We have been given an extremely rare opportunity to investigate one of the most visible and important prehistoric monuments in the East Midlands and one which has received little attention so far.  The results will help us to re-write the history of the region in the late Iron Age period, showing how sites like this related to other settlements of this period, including that which became the tribal capital of the Corieltauvi itself at Leicester in the Roman period.”

For further information please visit the Burrough Hill Project website:

and follow the links to this years WebDiary featuring regular updates on the excavation finds.

Contact: Richard Buckley or John Thomas

Additional  information:

Last year, excavations revealed much about a previously unknown settlement area outside the hillfort defences, while another trench located at the hillfort entrance showed that the inturned entrance rampart consisted of two phases, the later one incorporating a recessed chamber or guard room.  A large pit also in the entrance area, contained a crouched human burial.  The excavations were visited last year by over a thousand people, including many groups of schoolchildren and they also featured on the BBC archaeology programme Digging for Britain, as well as a more recent appearance on Michael Wood’s ‘The Great British Story’.

This year, we are looking at two areas, both inside the hillfort.  One lies next to a modern gap in the defensive circuit where we are investigating the construction of the rampart (without causing damage to it) and also excavating storage pits and a roundhouse which appeared on the geophysical survey of the site.  Near the main entrance, another trench has been opened to look at a large cluster of pits which should produce some good dating evidence to compare with that from the settlement outside the ramparts excavated in previous years. 

Despite challenging weather, both excavation areas have made good progress and we are gathering some of the best groups of finds from the hillfort so far.  There is a lot of pottery and animal bone, and importantly evidence is now emerging for the later history of the site – in particular the nature of activity in the Roman period.  So far, four querns have been recovered from pits, as well as numerous metalwork including an early Romano-British brooch, two rings and bone gaming pieces, an iron spearhead, hook and two blades.  The ironwork is all coming from a single pit that also held the complete quern and a whetstone – many more small finds in a single feature than we get from an average Iron Age site!

Excavations will be underway until 13th July and will aim to add to results from the first two seasons in 2010 and 2011 as well as those from earlier investigations in 1960 and 1971, which have recently been analysed.

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