Reprinted from Newsletter 90, dated 1999 February

Stanton Drew circles and the north Somerset coast

Adrian Pearse

A talk by Vince Russet

Vince Russet demonstrated with enthusiasm how archaeology is a critically important way of looking at the world, with a selection of slides of two areas of north Somerset.

At Stanton Drew a recent English Heritage geophysical survey has given a tantalizing indication of how much more than the remaining stones, the last surviving structure, is present on this site. The circles are within an area of timber-post structures, perhaps including a causewayed camp, the whole representing one of the largest complexes of its type in the UK and one of the least studied. The surrounding landscape was also shown to be of crucial importance in the examining the site.

Mr Russet, speaking in St John’s Centre on November 16, also presented a review of his research along the north Somerset coast — an area of many changes but with much of archaeological importance preserved by the omnipresent mud.

This section of coastline revolved around the development of Bristol since the tenth century, with a series of small ports based on the tidal streams or pills along the coast from Portishead to Weston-super-Mare. There are many indications of much earlier activity, with a pattern of iron-age hill forts protecting the pills, and evidence of Roman occupation at various sites.

It was fascinating to see how changes in mud levels allows the examination of mediaeval fishing practices, timber wrecks and even the recovery of experimental live explosive shells from the Palmerstonian coastal defences of the last century. The study of exposed peat outcrops has important environmental and climatic research potential.