Professor Naomi Sykes gave her "inaugural" lecture to the Society in January. She justified this claim with the details that her enthusiasm for archaeology and thus her career was sparked when her father brought her to a WAS lecture given by Con Ainsworth. Having listened to him speaking about Fishbourne she decided to visit the site and join in the digging. She has not looked back.
Her fascination with bones was infectious as the audience sat spellbound listening to a delivery of such wide ranging and detailed knowledge regarding the dating and origin of the animal bones found at Fishbourne and other such sites.
A fallow deer jaw from the Roman period found at Fishbourne proved, by strontium 90 analysis of its teeth, that it had spent its early years in Turkey but its later developed teeth showed that the remainder of its life was spent in Sussex. A jaw dropping discovery!
A widely reported story that hit the headlines in 2019 stating that rabbits had been proven to be a Roman introduction to this country caused raised eyebrow among many archaeologists as it was assumed that rabbits were a Norman introduction. With the remains of rabbits being present in so many excavations they were never seen as a dating tool and thus ignored.
Naomi has spent her career disproving this by dating and tracking the movement of different species across the world. Her research has been further applied to chickens, pigs, dogs, cats and numerous other species thus opening a whole new study of dating and migration. A fascinating lecture.
Malthouse Field, Sompting by Connie Shirley; Sompting Site Director, Surveyor, Project Manager, and WAS Treasurer Con Ainsworth Memorial Lecture 8 October 2019
Connie began with saying she was honoured to give this lecture as it was Con that first introduced her to archaeology way back in 1986 when she took one of his courses, and she has not looked back since - hence her long list of WAS titles.
Connie introduced the site, an area of land currently in use as horse paddocks just south of the A27, opposite Sompting Church and Sompting Abbotts. The project started when WAS were asked in 2017 to investigate the remains of a small flint building in one of the paddocks that was only meant to be a couple of days work…..
The flint wall that started it all
Showing a bird’s eye image that was taken from a members drone, Connie talked through the site history. From the church - built in the 10th century - to the current Tristram family landowners owning the land since 1879. In 1936 the first South of England show was held there and in 1960 it hosted the Donkey Derby. A 1627 survey documented a Malting House on the site, 1772 Map shows the area as Malthouse Barn Field, Malthouse Field and Malthouse Close, 1896 map shows a pond and line of trees and the 1936 South of England show map shows the excavation area as close to the entrance, empties yard and rabbit stand.
The coast had been extremely close to the site but from the 13th century longshore drift led to the silting up of the local coastline and by the 18th century the land was being farmed. Connie added that a bonus to the work at Malthouse field had been the opportunity for WAS to fieldwalk an area further south of the site as part of the EPIC project which had recently dug a new channel for the local watercourse, exposing potentially prehistoric soil layers and worked flint. Members from WAS had found plenty including a broken Barbed and tanged arrowhead, microliths and a knapping site.
Summarising what had been found to date, Connie discussed the structure under the tree which had substantial walls and floor tiles. It could have held water but no drain was located. A pathway leading to it had oyster shell and clay pipe in it. A flint wall running east- west abuts the rectangular building and could be part of an earlier structure. A north-south flint wall contained a chalk block structure that revealed a well. On John Mill’s advice the 2019 excavations targeted the well cut which could date its construction. A clay with flints layer was discovered adjacent to the well cut, potentially deposited at the end of the last ice age and containing worked flint. When it became too deep to excavate the well cut further, an auger sample took the excavation to a total depth of 3.6 meters and revealed medieval pottery and struck flint.
The well cut: the depths members had to sink to
A compact ‘yard like’ surface was located below the north-south flint wall, and features that could be postholes were identified running along the middle of the building complex. The features are comparable with other known excavated Malthouse sites. A pit was also discovered that contained medieval pottery, oyster shell and worked flint, possibly evidence of an earlier occupation. Gordon Hayden then made a guest appearance via a video Connie showed from 2018 where he discussed layers of burning located within one of the trenches.
The 2019 excavations had only just finished so results are still being analysed, but trench targets had been established through Geophysical surveys in the spring. One survey had identified features in other paddocks. One was natural geology but the other (Trench 10) contained a modern water pipe (probably associated with the 1936 show), a degraded chalk surface which is found across the site which had features dug into it, a potentially military-cut trench, Romano-British pottery and a medieval pit containing Saxo-Norman pot sherds.
The enigma that was Trench 10
Building materials from across the site include substantial amount of flint, chalk, brick and evidence of wattle and daub. A piece of Caen stone from a mullion window was also discovered which contained a VV (Virgin of Virgins) apotropaic mark, possibly reused from another site. Finds include Prehistoric, Romano-British, medieval and later pottery, two 16th century Nuremberg Jettons and a French clay pipe stem (Connie likes to think it is evidence of smuggling). A piece of Bronze Age pottery contained a thumb print and some of the medieval pottery could be from Binsted.
More modern finds include glass, a powder compact, a key for a Hornby ‘0’ gauge toy train and a tube of Gleam toothpaste.
The flint finds indicate temporary hunting and farming but not permanent settlement.
Connie finished by revealing that a recent Tristram family document had come to light from 1758 showing another building on the site which could line up with one of the as yet unexcavated geophysical anomalies, possibly evidence of an earlier building. That’s for next year….to be continued ………
Some of the finds
Worthing Library is undergoing building works starting in the Autumn 2019, so beginning with the November 12th lecture, the venue will be The Gordon Room, next to The Assembly Room around the corner in Stoke Abbot Road.
The timing will alter also as the room must close earlier than the library. The venue will be open from 7pm for notices, coffee and chat, the lecture running between 7:30 and 8:30pm.
The John Pull Memorial Lecture this year (12 February 2019), was given by John Skelton of Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society. It was an excellent presentation on excavations of Medieval remains at Hog Croft, Ovingdean, near Brighton. It appears to be the site of a manorial complex that existed during the Saxon/Norman period. The intriguing finds from the site included a possible Pilgrim bottle, spurs, apothecary bottle, and what looked suspiciously like a Boy Scout badge. He concluded with a demonstration of digital photogrammetry techniques for recording 3D models of objects and sites.
The December 2018 edition of the journal is now available on this website: go to the Documents page. Contents include: