Archaeology surveys

Uncovering Dorset's hidden history

Archaeological excavation work is taking place across the VIP site in the Dorset AONB.

This is helping us to further enhance our knowledge of any archaeological features that we might find during construction activity for the VIP project.

147 trial trenches were dug in 2018

Our appointed contractor Morgan Sindall and its specialist subcontractors will be carrying out archaeological investigations from the week commencing 22 July for a period of up to five months.

This work is taking place at agreed locations along the planned route of the underground cables with full permission from landowners.

Dorset Council’s archaeological advisors and Historic England have both helped to develop the programme.

Archaeology in action in the Dorset AONB

Discoveries to date

The Jurassic Coast is rich with history and has been continuous inhabited for thousands of years.  It’s therefore no surprise that our archaeological exploration to date has revealed some fascinating finds.

The historical landscape that the VIP cable route will pass through is rich in heritage, containing physical evidence for human inhabitation over thousands of years.  This includes the stone tools of some of the first occupants of the landscape in the Mesolithic period and one of the densest concentrations of Bronze Age round barrows in Britain, primarily positioned along the ridgeways that cross the route at Friar Waddon Hill, Bronkham Hill (extending north to the lower slopes of Shorn Hill) and Rew Hill.

There is a Roman road and archaeological remains of contemporary and earlier settlements to the north of Winterbourne Abbas. To the south the route passes through mixed agricultural land in the various sheltered dry valleys, likely established in the Early Medieval period, and there are Medieval settlements and historic buildings around Friar Waddon.

Last year we dug 147 trial trenches to help us learn more about the landscape and ensure that the most important known assets can be protected during construction.  This programme identified previously unknown archaeological remains which would not have been found if it were not for the project.  These discoveries include ploughed-out Bronze Age barrows and settlement enclosures, Iron Age lynchets, Roman settlement and agricultural remains and an Early Medieval cemetery.

One of the most exciting discoveries was ancient stone burial chambers dating from the mid-sixth century which contained seven human skeletons.

Sixth-century remains were uncovered

Next steps

All of the finds made as part of the archaeological programme will undergo expert analysis and where possible will be donated to local museums.

There will be an archaeological watching brief throughout the project’s construction with National Grid and Morgan Sindall continuing to work closely with Dorset Council and Historic England.

A Bronze Age arrowhead