Dig a hole, who knows what you’ll find!

The dig at  Monks Risborough Church
The dig at Monks Risborough Church

When you get the chance to dig a hole you never know what you will find if you look carefully enough.

The soil is full of flints, bones, coins, horseshoes, jewelry and pottery that to the trained eye tell the story of centuries of activities.

But archaeologists usually only get a chance to do a “dig” when a new development threatens to destroy the evidence of past settlements, so they are always looking for an opportunity.

One arose over the last two years when Monks Risborough Church in Buckinghamshire needed to extend the graveyard and local enthusiasts from the Leighton Buzzard and District Archaeological and History Society went along to help.

To everyone’s surprise there was far more in the soil than the even the most optimistic archaeologists would have believed. This site contained stone tools, but also items from the Romans, Saxons occupying the site from the 5th to the 9th centuries and Medieval finds up to the 14th century.

It changed the history of the church, which up to then people thought was built after 1300 but dating evidence from the dig pushed it back 200 years and it is now believed to have been built about the time of the Norman Conquest.

Among the many finds in the 43 pits, 18 ditches and gullies and 19 postholes and 11 layers of archaeology were amber beads, a valuable jewelry item, and thousands of pieces of pottery.

The picture shows two archaeologists getting to the bottom of a medieval rubbish pit to see what our ancestors threw away.

Jill Eyes, the archaeologist in charge of the dig, who has written a book about the Monks Risborough excavations, is speaking to the Leighton Buzzard and District Archaeological and History Society about these discoveries at its meeting on Wednesday, March 11 at Linslade Community Hall (formerly St Barnabas) at 8pm. Members free, non-members £3.