Who do we think we are?
Over the last 8 months evidence of people living in the local landscape has come to light – It seems that Horndean has been home to small groups of people living in makeshift shelters and surviving off the land for millennia. This, unsurprisingly, is in areas very much outside of the Settlement Policy Boundary! The clues that have been found dating back to Mesolithic, Neolithic, Iron Age, Roman, Saxon and up to modern times and show a fascinating insight into how Horndean and the surrounding area was lived in a long long time before we came along!
In July 2015 Chris Healey, an archaeologist, and his (long suffering and budding archaeologist) wife Pauline, found some bits of pottery in a field after some agricultural works took place. At this time we are keeping the location confidential as ‘Night Hawking’ is a serious problem, where treasure hunters raid and steal from interesting sites at night and sell items they find. So if you do know where the field is please do not make this common knowledge. All finds belong to the landowner, and this is the only person who can give permission to explore the field.
The initial finds have led to some organised field walking, a drone survey and support from Hampshire based organisations and to date well over 200 items have been found. Between them they give some clues as to how our early ancestors, perhaps 400 generations ago, lived in Horndean.
Chris, Pauline and their helpers including professional archaeologists, have found over two hundred items including sections of pottery, flint tools and bone. It is possible there were early settlements in the fields, but credible evidence has yet to be found. There is evidence of there having been fire, but the nature of which, domestic, industrial (pottery or metal working) or even ritual, has yet to be discovered.
A drone survey showed areas of ‘unnatural’ alteration to the ground – areas of chalk had been dug up and shaped into round hollow areas. This suggests a structure or a pit, but may have a more mundane but informative origin, such as dew ponds. More investigation will be needed here. (Photo Right of Drone Survey being carried out and photo below showing round feature in the ploughed field)
Oyster shells have been found on the ground – interesting as we are some 10 miles inland. All of these are signs of habitation. As well as a source of food (a great favourite of the Romans and possibly suggesting trade) they were used as inclusions in pottery and also in the production of lime in later times.
Archaeologists have divided the human past into different ages, as can be seen below. These ages are not universal over the globe, as people progressed through them at different times in different places. As an island and somewhat isolated at the edge of the continent, from Mesolithic times Britain was behind the continent in its progression through them.
Mesolithic Age: 10,000 BC to 4,000 BC
The Mesolithic Age (Middle Stone Age) was inhabited by hunter gatherers. Stones were shaped into tools and it is known they were skilful woodworkers. Lightweight structures made from wood and animal skins provided shelters. These would have been very easy to dismantle and transport to another location as seasons changed. Different foods were available in different places ,and shelter from weather was needed. Lighter items would have been carried to the next place while heavier ones would have been stashed until their return.
The field has shown signs of usage but no evidence of a as dwelling yet. A dwelling would have had a hearth, and are rarely found as they are ephemeral. Two have been found near here, last year at the Heath in Petersfield, and about 10 years ago under the sea at Bouldner Cliff on the Isle of Whight. Evidence may be gathered at a later date using techniques you see on “Time Team”, but ploughing may well have already destroyed what there was.
Some of the more exciting finds from that period have been flint axe heads – three tranchet – which would have been either used by hand to cut meats open or fell wood. Flint cores from which blades were made, and also flint blades and scrapers have also been found and would have been used to skin animals, scrape flesh off bones, or strip the bark from wood to make spears, bows and arrows. No bone tools have yet been discovered. (Photo below of a Tranchet – Axe Head found in the field. this may have been hand held, or lashed to some wood)
Life in the Mesolithic age was tough. This really was people scraping a living; Mesolithic man tended to die young and longer life expectancy was 30 to 35 years, perhaps 40 at a push. Clothing was fur and leather with moccasins or nothing for footwear. Wooden or woven bowls (long since rotted away) would have been used to collect and eat berries and nuts, particularly hazel nuts, which were a staple. As skilled carpenters and weavers of grasses etc they were able to fashion most items needed in life. Pottery was rare in these times. There is growing evidence of communal organisation, but not yet of an obvious élite.
Neolithic Age 4,000 BC to 2,200 BC
The Neolithic (New Stone Age) was when pottery was beginning to be more commonly used. There is evidence of early cereal farming, but it was far from universal. Tombs in the form of long barrows were being built, such as at Petersfield. These provide evidence of perhaps the emergence of an élite, and certainly organisation of populations on differing scales, such as at Stonehenge. Some of the stone tools from the field were likely to be from this period, but have yet to be verified. Domestication of animals was adopted across the country. (Photo right of typical Neolithic tools – Click on the image to enlarge)
In the last 200 years of the Neolithic, now increasingly known as the Chalcolithic, copper began to make an appearance as items of prestige.
Bronze Age 2,200 BC to 800BC:
The Bronze Age saw the introduction of tin in an alloy with copper to fashion bronze tools and items of status. By this time herding of animals was well organised and the hunting of wild animals greatly reduced. Agriculture was widely adopted, and woodland certainly coppiced in many places. Of course wild animals such as bears and wolves were common. There is much evidence of transhumance, from the continent and throughout Britain, including Scotland. Bronze was common and there was an increase in the use of gold as either trade or more often as indications of prestige and status. Fields started to be formed with well defined boundaries, some can still be seen on Dartmoor. Recent research indicates the gold had a west country source.
Sadly there is to date nothing to confidently say we have found as yet any Bronze Age habitation in Horndean, but hopefully it is only a matter of time. We are surrounded by Bronze Age barrows, so we know it was populated. We are hoping some pottery may turn out to represent this exciting and important period of prehistory.
Iron Age 800 BC to Roman Invasion 43 AD
Britain by at this time was an organised place with tribes controlling areas. Britain was exporting tin, gold and probably slaves, and was becoming the bread basket for the northern Roman Empire. Britain was a wealthy country, and thus a tempting target for emperor who needed conquests to keep popularity with their citizens. Britain was importing ceramics, wine and ideas, and towards the end of the period southern tribal leaders were becoming pro Roman, and even becoming client kings. It is such kings, like Togidubnus of the Atrebates of Fishbourne fame, who enabled the successful Roman invasion of 43 AD. (Photo Right Early Nail – Possibly Iron Age)
Many field systems identifiable today were organised in the Iron age, and can be seen on Butser. Some of those boundaries still exist as boundaries today, and it may be later we may identify them here in Horndean with some confidence.
Iron Age pottery has been found in Horndean, and in Catherington Lane close to Victory Avenue, a coin of the local Belgae tribe was found some 30 years ago. The coin was minted about 50 BC, 100 years before the Roman invasion. The Belgae tribe arrived in the late 2nd or early 1st century BC and occupied an area roughly defined by the Hampshire basin, making their capital at Winchester.
Horndean was the eastern edge of their domain. Initially the Roman occupation made little impact in many southern areas, but typically established farmsteads were abandoned at the end of the 1st century AD with redistribution of land with villa complexes by the Romans as they reorganised the country. One such villa may well have been in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
We also hope that a proportion of the recently found pottery will be identified as coming from this early pre Roman and Roman period, along with some ceramic building material (tiles and brick fragments) and nails.
It is probably not commonly recognised, but the Romans were also of the Iron Age, an age which sociologists consider ended as recently as the 1970s when we entered the Silicon Age. It is likely in the south of England the Roman invasion was relatively seamless, with the mantle of Rome being taken up by the local social climbing élite.
Although no Roman settlement site has been found so far in Catherington, pottery from possibly from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD has been found in some quantities. A 1971 report stated that it was found in the “new” graveyard south of the church. However an examination of the pottery two months ago revealed over sixty shards of reasonably good quality were excavated prior to the building the new vicarage, not in the graveyard. From that it is reasonable to assume a Romano British farmstead stood on the same ground. However the theory has to be tested. Pottery has also been found in the field of interest to us. Looking at the geography of the hill, its aspect and slope, the Catherington topography is typical of many Romano British farmsteads in the Southern Downland. Sadly we cannot expect another Fishbourne Palace, those are rare findings, and would probably have been unearthed by now. (Over 100 pieces of pottery have been found so far – Photo of a selection below)
Roman kilns which could be the source of the pottery were active in Rowlands Castle, and further afield at Alice Holt and Portchester. We will hopefully know the answer to the question in the not too distant future.
Pottery probably from the Saxon period (Early Medieval), which took over from the Romans around 450 AD , has also been found, again we are awaiting confirmation of its origins. As mentioned earlier, building material in the form of tiles have been found in the field, as well as in gardens along Catherington Lane. An obvious question is, “Does this mean there have been buildings or settlements in the field?” Disappointingly there is no guarantee, one of the ways in which pottery finds its way into fields is in their manuring, where animal yards were cleared out and the contents spread across land. Later medieval pottery has also been found.
Pottery can be identified by experts looking at it through a microscope. At different times people added different inclusions in their clay, for both social and practical reasons. They include broken and crushed pot, crushed shell, crushed flint both burnt and unburnt, sand and chaff. Colours also vary, black is often Iron Age; grey either Roman or Saxon; red many periods, but colour is only an indication. In the same way quality varies dramatically from fine to extremely rough, hand made or wheel thrown. Most of the pottery is badly abraded, meaning it has been moved a lot in the soil, and worn by weather. There are few large shards.
One of the common finds has been “pot boilers”. They are stones which were heated in a fire, and then placed in pots or pits to cook food. When they were so used we cannot say. There has also been amount iron pyrites, often found in clay. However slag has also been found, which may indicate iron working somewhere in the area.
What do you call treasure? As archaeologists knowledge is treasure, and the clues so far uncovered are the beginnings of treasure. Certainly the tranchet axes alone are wonderful; only 4 have been found in Horndean and the surrounding parishes in the last 150 years, and we have 3 in as many days! As for monetary value, there is little hope of a treasure trove. The field was searched some years ago by a detectorist, but reportedly found nothing. It is important to preserve the archaeology in-situ as it is only by knowing where it is found and in what context can an accurate interpretation be made. Random investigations muddy the already challenging target of discovering more of our fascinating heritage: we are lucky to live somewhere we can learn so much about. We are reminded the land is privately owned, the current investigations are with the permission of the land owner and any other searching or metal detecting is trespass and illegal, as is the removal of any artefacts. Over the coming months Chris and Pauline hope with the support of Cllr Schillemore to plan in further investigation and you can help with this if you are interested!
Photo Below – LIDAR survey helps identify disturbed ground and target where to look
The next step is to work out how the field was used through the ages as different settlements came and went. This will include field walking, some local excavation and geophysical investigation.
Field Walking: Field walking to visually check for artefacts. This is where volunteers assemble in a line and very slowly walk across the ground looking for fragments of pottery and flint or other artefacts. Typically this finds less 5% of the archaeology present. If you would like to take part in this (training is provided) then please email me on email@example.com and I will pass your details on
Geophysical Investigation: As land is used it is disturbed. Two methods can identify these changes without physically disturbing the lands further, magnetometry and resistivity. We plan to use magnetometry which is quicker and easier to use. This will enable targeted excavations should it be seen to be necessary to help understand the land.
Desk Based Research: This is actually an important first step. Old tithe maps, OS maps and historical documentation are valuable resources. aerial photography from the early days of flying have been archived, and will be seen. Photographs from our locality will help. All of the artefacts will go to a museum for archiving or display. As a collection from one area they can give a very useful picture of the area for researchers to look at how the area was used over the 10 millennia.
As has been mentioned earlier pottery was found at the site of the new vicarage. Can anyone remember this happening or were you there? Equally, do you have items you have found in our area which have not been seen and identified by experts? Finds are retained by the finder, and thus cannot be taken from you, do not be shy! Finds help us to learn about our past, basically without them we will learn little. If we do not know what the finds are, there are experts around.