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31 December 2006
Amateur archaeologists close in on their ultimate goal

A dedicated band of volunteers in Sutton is throwing light on Bronze Age people who settled, worked and traded in East Cambridgeshire (England). For more than three years now, a group of volunteers, the Sutton Archaeological Group, have worked steadily to excavate a Bronze Age barrow at the village's gravel pits. The barrow - an ancient burial mound - has already provided a glimpse into the activities of the people in the area, but the team hopes to dig deeper and even uncover some human remains.
     The project began after villager Gill Shapland decided an application could be made to the Local Heritage Initiative to investigate Sutton's Bronze Age past. Very little is known about the area, but we do know the Bronze Age people moved from the easily-defended hills to areas like Sutton following the onset of a wetter climate; settlers would have made the most of the plentiful supply of water that surrounded the area on nearly every side.
     A group was formed with fellow enthusiasts Alex Tinker and Liz Hawkins and together they decided on a site to carry out their excavations. The barrow they settled on was the perfect location because Dickersons, the company excavating the quarry, were happy for the group to carry out their work, and have since assisted by providing a mechanical digger. The group then went about making an application to the Local Heritage Initiative through parent organisation the Sutton Conservation Group, and were delighted when they received 25,000. Members of the conservation group and other villagers quickly stepped forward to volunteer their services and work began at the site in 2003.
     "The site is closed for the year now, but we normally go down on Saturdays and Sundays," said treasurer Liz Hawkins. "So little is known about the Bronze Age in this area and the dig has become very exciting now." The group has uncovered tools and animal bones, but as they dug deeper they found a rich supply of pottery that has been the star find so far. "The pottery is just wonderful and it is evidence that these people had trading links with the continent," Miss Hawkins said.
     All of the finds have been carefully catalogued with the help of professional archaeologists from the county council's Archaeology Field Unit, and the group has staged regular exhibitions to keep the community informed about progress. A series of samples have been taken from the dig for pollen analysis. "These will help tie down the dating of the barrow more accurately, and will provide a good picture of the vegetation and environment that people lived with," Miss Hawkins said.
     The real hope for the group, however, is that they find a real Bronze Age person in the mound, or at least what is left of them. It is with this aim that the group will resume the dig next year, and its members hope to recruit some new faces as the project steps up a gear. "We've had our funding extended until 2008, and we would very much welcome anyone who is interested in helping out," Miss Hawkins said.  "Even if people come down for a couple of hours every now and again that would be useful to us and if you stand there and hold a pole, you are helping the project - there is something for everybody to do." If you are interested in helping the Sutton Archaeological Group, contact secretary Alex Tinker on 01353 775256 or Liz Hawkins on 01353 777735.

Source: Ely Standard (27 December 2006)

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