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Archaeology at the places in our care

A warm sunset over the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk 1200332.jpg
Sunset over the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk | © National Trust Images/Justin Minns

From insightful Roman mosaics to buried courtyards and discarded champagne bottles, the places we look after hold countless hidden stories. Find out about the archaeological surveys and research revealing their secrets and the approaches we're taking to protect them for generations to come.

Why is archaeology important?

Archaeology helps us tell the stories of the places that we care for, revealing their longer histories of use and people. Through the earthworks of lost landscapes, buildings, buried remains and artefacts, we can make connections with past communities and understand more about the lives that they led.

To me, archaeology roots us in place and time and gives a sense of belonging – of depth of time. And that is why archaeology is important to the Trust. We can display the evidence and tell stories of the habitation of these islands dating back thousands of years.

A quote by Dr Hannah FluckNational Trust Senior National Archaeologist
Low light casts long shadows across the Henge at Avebury, Wiltshire
Low light casts long shadows across the Henge at Avebury, Wiltshire | © National Trust Images / Emma Weston

Discoveries and conservation at the places we look after

Avebury, Wiltshire
This ancient land is still revealing its secrets. In 2017, excavations on Avebury Down uncovered pits, stake-holes, stone tools, pottery fragments and other signs of occupation extending over thousands of years, from the hunters and gatherers of the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age. A geophysical survey also revealed an apparently unique square monument within a stone circle inside Avebury Henge.The history of Avebury
Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire
One of Chedworth's mosaics revealed a surprising new insight into Roman decline in Britain. Radiocarbon dating showed that a mosaic was created in the middle of the 5th century – it was previously believed that the luxury of the Romanised way of life didn't last beyond the economic crash at the end of the 4th century. Excavations have also uncovered bone hair pins, one of the only pieces of physical evidence that women lived in or visited the villa.Archaeological discoveries at Chedworth
Slightly damaged floor mosaic at Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire
Floor mosaic at Chedworth Roman Villa | © National Trust Images / James Dobson
Sheringham Park, Norfolk
Geophysical surveys have been helping to explore Howe's Hill prehistoric barrow, without needing to excavate. It's a rare and complex feature comprising a Neolithic oval barrow with a Bronze Age round barrow constructed on top of it. As part of our conservation work, we've gradually been removing Scots pine planted across the mound.Archaeology at Sheringham Park
Trerice, Cornwall
Volunteers in the Trerice Archaeological Research Group give their time to uncovering new finds, which helps us to better understand the Elizabethan manor house and visualise its development through history. Digs have revealed a 19th-century courtyard, a flagged floor and a tunnel deliberately blocked with rubble, which included a Tudor brick and a medieval mullion.Conservation and archaeology at Trerice
Clent Hills, Worcestershire
With its many lumps and bumps on the hills, and links to Roman battles and Iron Age hillforts, the Clent Hills present plenty of questions about their history. Archaeology holds some of the answers. Excavation of an early 1800s cottage has revealed fireplace features and items such as toy soldiers and egg cups. The team also spoke to one of the last inhabitants of the cottage, using oral history to enhance their finds.Our work in the Clent Hills
Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
Hear 'Sutton Hoo' and you'll probably think of Basil Brown and the 1939 discoveries of the Anglo-Saxon treasure trove. But archaeological discoveries continue to this day. In the early 2000s we found an Anglo-Saxon folk cemetery, and today volunteers are studying the geophysics of Garden Field. We're taking inspiration from the Anglo-Saxons in our conservation work too, using their coppicing technique to manage deciduous woodlands.Our work at Sutton Hoo
Test pit with a cobbled courtyard exposed from the volunteer-led archaeology dig in Trerice garden, Cornwall
Test pit with a cobbled courtyard exposed from the volunteer-led archaeology dig in Trerice garden | © National Trust/Emily Hide
Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
In March 2020, archaeologists carried out a dig to understand the early development of the site as a medieval hospital and Augustinian priory. The first trench revealed the eastern wall of the chantry chapel, along with pieces of stained-glass window and a dog's skeleton. The second trench showed a cloister walkway or stair, and some rather more worldly findings – champagne bottle fragments and 18th-century kitchen scales.Archaeological dig at Anglesey Abbey
Hod Hill, Dorset
Thanks to the People's Postcode Lottery, Hod Hill was part of the Wessex Hillforts and Habitats Project. This has helped protect 13 scheduled monuments dating back over 2,000 years, of national importance not just for their archaeology but for their diverse, fragile habitats. The work carried out has ranged from erosion repairs to paths and ramparts, to improving fencing so that cattle and sheep can graze there. Protecting Hod Hill's archaeology and wildlife
Archaeologist revealing a mosaic floor in the northern wing at Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire

Archaeological work

We look after many rich and diverse archaeological sites. Archaeology helps us to learn more about them and protect them for the future.

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