TO THE PROJECT
The aim of the project is to investigate coastal enclosures at Mount Folly to determine their form, date, function and their relationship, if any, to the later prehistoric and Roman maritime networks.
The archaeological project at Mount Folly was conceived in 2003 as a component of PhD research (Wilkes 2004). It examines three enclosures (two of which were identified by Frances Griffith (1989) during Devon County Council aerial reconnaissance), at Mount Folly, overlooking Bigbury Bay. The third enclosure was discovered by geophysical survey in 2007 and suggests that the Mount Folly enclosures may be one of the largest articulated enclosure settlements in this region. Excavation since 2003 has determined Iron Age – Romano-British dates for two of the enclosures with a Bronze Age phase in the terraced occupation area of the southern enclosure. Evidence of at least two round houses and other structural elements have been recorded. Radiocarbon dates from residues on pot sherds suggest a possibly continuous occupation sequence from c. 1100 BC – third century AD.
The physical setting of the enclosures, the ceramic assemblage and longevity of use of the site are unparalleled in this region. The pottery includes Bronze Age, Iron Age and early Roman material in a number of fabrics and forms not currently known. The assemblage has the potential to illuminate local, regional and international exchange routes, particularly coastal connections, especially for the key transition from the Iron Age to Roman periods, continuing into the mid-Roman period. It is the largest assemblage yet known for such a feature in Devon. Initial post-excavation examination by specialists including Henrietta Quinnell, Dr Roger Taylor, Dr Paul Bidwell and Lisa Brown, has confirmed the importance of the assemblage. Early post-excavation observations have suggested fabric sources in south-west and central southern Britain, north-west and southern France, Germany and Italy. The majority of the material dates from c. 300 BC – AD 300, with the main concentration (in terms of sherd numbers) from 100 BC – AD 100 and with outliers from the late second millennium BC. The main body of material spans the transition from indigenous, late Iron Age forms to pottery styles of the Roman period.
In educational terms, this project has a high local profile and is entirely undertaken by local volunteers (from Bigbury History Society, Plymouth and District Archaeological Society and Devon Archaeological Society). Open days, school and university visits and a number of talks have been organised locally, regionally and nationally. There is a high level of community involvement and plentiful opportunities to increase skills levels in volunteers in excavation, post-excavation and survey.
The project has run for nine years and has been supported by awards including from the Roman Research Trust, the Royal Archaeological Institute, and Devon Archaeological Society. We are grateful for their help and the support, with the loan of specialist equipment, etc., of Bournemouth University (School of Applied Sciences) and the University of Wales (Lampeter). The project is designed for volunteer participation and more than 100 individuals have so far taken part. For many of these people Mount Folly has been their first opportunity to work on an archaeological site; some have since gone on to undertake degrees in the subject and/or to take up archaeological employment. The project has a large and beneficial impact within the community and is visited by local people, schools, colleges and universities.
During the course of the project we have been fortunate to receive the support of the organisations listed on the home page of this web site. In addition, the help and support of a number of individuals has been crucial to the project, including Frances Griffith and the Devon Historic Environment Service, Henrietta Quinnell, Roger Taylor, and the landowner and his family.
Wilkes, E., 2004. Iron Age Coastal Nodes on the English Channel Coast. An investigation into the location, nature and context of early ports and harbours. PhD thesis. Bournemouth University School of Conservation Sciences
Wilkes, E., 2011. Project Design: Mount Folly Enclosures Project [ms research design]
Notes about each year's work on site can be found in the newsletters of the Devon Archaeological Society.