Excavating Trusty's Hill

The excavation of thick dark soil on the summit of the hillfort, in the summer of 2012, revealed evidence of the diet of the people who once lived at Trusty’s Hill. Numerous animal bones were recovered just as before; cattle were predominant, with sheep and pigs of less importance. Analysis of organic residues on a pottery sherd recovered from Trusty’s Hill suggests that the pot was perhaps used for cooking stews. Charred barley and oat grains were also found, revealing that the people’s diet probably included food and drink like beer, bannocks, broth, porridge and oatcakes.

 

Other finds like a stone spindle whorl and a triple-toothed socketed iron tool indicate that the inhabitants of Trusty’s Hill also spun their own wool and prepared their own leather, very likely as preparation of textiles for clothes. The excavations also recovered a substantial amount of charcoal, mainly oak and hazel, but also ash, alder, birch and willow, much of which probably came from the timber buildings of this hillfort. But this was not just the settlement of a self-sufficient farming community.

The 2012 excavation also found fragments of clay moulds, crucibles, heating trays, furnace lining, hearth bottoms, a possible crucible stand and a stone anvil. An iron metalworking file and blacksmithing debris were also recovered as were a number of fire-flints and a lot of charcoal that might have derived from the remains of fuel from forges. Altogether, these remains provide evidence for metalworking at Trusty’s Hill.

Isotope analysis of a lead strip recovered from Trusty’s Hill revealed that it originated from lead ore from the Southern Uplands. It is also likely that the inhabitants were using local sources of copper and iron for metalworking.

High status metalwork was also discovered during the 2012 excavation, such as a decorative thistle-headed pin       and an Anglian style copper alloy horse harness mount with leather remains preserved on its reverse side, that date to the late sixth or early seventh century AD. This evidence suggests that the inhabitants of Trusty’s Hill included skilled metalworkers who made fine bronze and iron objects, such as pins, brooches and decorated horsegear.

The people of Trusty’s Hill were also well connected. A sherd of a pottery jar, dating to the late sixth century AD and originating from western France, was recovered during the 2012 excavation. Very few settlements in Britain had access to such rare imported goods from Europe during this period. A well-worn sherd of Roman samian ware was also found. This had been reused, possibly for use in metalworking, but it may have originally been part of a Roman gift to native British tribesmen during the first/second centuries AD.

Radiocarbon dates from charcoal recovered during the 2012 excavation clearly demonstrate, however, it was not until the sixth century AD, after the end of Roman Britain, that Trusty’s Hillfort was constructed and occupied and it is to this period that the vast bulk of the archaeological finds from the 2012 excavation relate.

Next: A Fortified Citadel