News release

From CAHO Southampton

08 August 2011

New CAHO fieldwork at Hengistbury Head started


The promontory of Hengistbury Head in Dorset (UK) is the spectacular location where a multitude of nationally and internationally significant multi-period archaeological sites are located stretching from the Late Upper Palaeolithic through to the Roman settlement of Britain, all located within a Site of Special Scientific Interest.


CAHO is undertaking a new research project at this site lead by James Cole. The primary focus of this project is on the prehistoric landscapes encapsulated within Hengistbury Head, including a Late Upper Palaeolithic site on the south-eastern tip of the headland and a Mesolithic site on the upper slopes of Warren Hill. Moreover, Hengistbury Head may also contain evidence for a much older and ancient landscape of the British coast evidenced by the presence of a raised beach on the eastern face of the promontory. The context of the Hengistbury Head Prehistoric landscape within the initial colonisations of Britain by ancient hominins has never been fully explored, and the accurate surveying of the raised beach may help to clarify the role of the south coast of Britain in such an exciting and uncertain story.


The Hengistbury Head Survey Project’s primary aim for 2011 is to assess the extent of erosion on the headland and the subsequent threat to the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites since excavated work ceased in the early 1990’s. This will be achieved by collecting a number of data points through a detailed topographic survey conducted using Leica Total Stations and GPS. The data may then be used to create a 3D model of Hengistbury Head which can be compared to data from the Barton excavations, LiDAR surveys of the area (2001 – 2008), OS and historic mapping data. By comparing the data collected in 2011 against past data it should be possible to accurately assess the rate of erosion present on the promontory and the threat to the archaeological sites located there. Furthermore, a detailed topographic survey of Hengistbury Head will allow for an assessment of the damage caused by the footpaths and the many visitors to the site and allow planning authorities an accurate base map from which to plan future conservation strategies.