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Somerset Lost Islands, Hidden Landscapes Conference

January 15, 2012
  1. The event was a public conference, which quickly sold out. It was part supported by the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society.
  2. off to Strode Theatre for the Somerset Lost Islands and Hidden Landscapes conference #slihl
  3. Strode College Conference – Lost Islands and Hidden Landscapes going well – over 350 people here
  4. Strode arch conf. – this morning’s talks covered ancient river channels, coastal change in Somerset Levels
  5. Strode arch conf. – Somerset Archaeology & Natural History Society 150 years old
  6. Dr Richard Brunning of Somerset County Council’s talk was an overview of coastal change through time. This is the dominant feature of lowland archaeology in Somerset, with some very significant changes throughout the period of human occupation.
  7. First up Richard Brunning (SCC) talking about Somerset’s changing coast #slihl
  8. In the early Holocene, Somerset was actually quite far inland
  9. Brunning: 10 ka Severm Estuary was a river valley rather than an estuary #slihl
  10. By about 5000 BC, sea level rises and much of the Levels and Moors are submerged. The coastline retreats again at about 3500 BC, before another sea level rise in the middle Bronze Age (c.1500 BC). The coastline retreats once more, and land is drained in the Romano-British period; however in AD 390 – during the Roman occupation of Britain – there is another phase of marine transgression. By roughly AD 1000 the coastline is back to its present position. 
  11. Now up Keith Wilkinson (Winchester) on Parrett valley prehistory. #slihl
  12. This work is a mixture of research funded by Somerset County Council and developer-led work funded by the Environment Agency
  13. Wilkinson: c.7000bc a large freshwater lake at Burrowbridge # slihl
  14. Some of the Holocene deposits here are 25 metres deep.
  15. Now Tony Brown (Southampton) on the River Siger, a lost river #slihl
  16. The river is visible on aerial photographs and by using LiDAR, especially a very large meander at Edithmead. Large meanders occur in lowland rivers close to the sea (such as the Thames at Greenwich or the Parrett at Bridgwater) because the volume of water the river has to carry is both the river flow and the tidal flow, meaning that the wavelength of the meander adjusts to to take into account the increased discharge. 

    As the Siger became increasingly tidal, it began to silt up, and is now completely infilled. 
  17. Break time gave a chance to meet former colleagues and fellow members of SSARG (South Somerset Archaeological Research Group)
  18. Back from break.lovely to see some fellow Somerset diggers. #slihl
  19. Next up Andy Crockett (Wessex Archaeology) on Steart peninsula # slihl
  20. This project has revealed some very interesting multi-period settlement in quite a deserted area of the county.
  21. Now up Toby Catchpole (Gloucs CC) on the rapid coastal zone assessment #slihl.
  22. The coast is an area where the density of known archaeology is lower than inland, hence the surveys were commissioned by English Heritage. In particular, a number of relics of fishing were found dating from medieval to relatively recent times. 
  23. Next up Nancy Hollinrake (my boss) on Walpole (where I work) #slihl
  24. Walpole is a very large area, which contains a lost island with Mesolithic to Bronze Age occupation, saltmarsh with Neolithic trackways and Romano-British and Medieval field systems. 
  25. Nancy’s talk well-received. Lots of interest in the site. #slihl
  26. Steve Booth of the British Geological Survey has been mapping some of the buried islands.
  27. Steve Booth (BGS) on the Burtles – lost islands #slihl
  28. Booth: -ney and -zoy in placenames are indicators of lost islands #slihl
  29. In 2009, Somerset County Council funded a dig on the outskirts of Ilchester
  30. Up now Steve Membery (SCC) on Ilchester oppidum community dig #slihl
  31. Strode arch conf. – Steve Membery Ilchester pre-Roman ‘oppidum’ or town excavated – bank, wall & ditch found
  32. I did the snails for the oppidum dig #slihl
  33. Ilchester is a very important site in the Iron Age and the Romano-British period.
  34. Ilchester at border of three Iron Age tribal areas #slihl
  35. Somerset’s new Finds Liaison Officer introduced her work, and showed off some stunning finds which are currently displayed in the museum in Taunton.
  36. Laura Burnett (PAS) on finds from the islands. #slihl
  37. Burnett: almost 50% of PAS recorded finds on Somerset are Roman. #slihl
  38. There were a lot of members of community archaeology groups in the audience, but the presentations were primarily from commercial archaeologists and academics
  39. Observation from volunteer archaeologist friend: today’s all about the professionals #slihl
  40. Somerset County Council have been researching the lost islands of Somerset.
  41. Next up Richard Brunning (again) Somerset Lost Islands Project #slihl
  42. Brunning: 118 lost islands in Somerset. Not much archaeological investigation to date #slihl
  43. Strode arch conf. – Richard Brunning – medieval hermits on lost Somerset “islands”
  44. Bob Croft, Somerset County Archaeologist on Iron Age to medieval Athelney #slihl
  45. Strode arch conf. – Bob Croft – remimisces about Time Team’s work on Athelney island & report due out this year
  46. Prof Tony Brown returned to the stage to summarise the day, and in particular to note how important environmental archaeology has become in understanding past landscapes and human activities
  47. Prof Tony Brown (summing up) Walpole occupation clearly related to a changing environment #slihl
  48. I’ve heard a lot about the possibility that the 1607 flood was a tsunami, not a storm surge. Professor Brown didn’t seem to be buying that though. 
  49. Prof Tony Brown emphatic 1607 event was flood not tsunami. Not familar with the evidence but I wonder why. #slihl
  50. The conference ended with a short film the council have commissioned
  51. Strode arch conf. – conference ends with short film on Somerset Levels & Moors
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