Anglo-Saxon grave excavated at Barrow Clump. Image courtesy of Wessex Archaeology.

Archaeology student involved in excavation shortlisted for prestigious Current Archaeology magazine award.

Archaeology student Richard Bennett is waiting to hear if an excavation he recently took part in has won ‘Rescue Dig of the Year’, a category in the Current Archaeology Magazine Awards 2016.

The ‘Excavating Barrow Clump: soldier archaeologists and warrior graves’ project took place over three years (2012-15), and was part of a military initiative called Operation Nightingale, which uses the technical and social aspects of field archaeology to help service personnel and veterans who have been injured in conflict with their recovery and skills development.

Under the guidance of Richard Osgood (Defence Infrastructure Organisation MOD senior Archaeologist) and Phil Andrews, (Wessex Archaeology Project Manager), Richard Bennett worked alongside other service men and women to excavate over 70 graves which yielded some remarkable and unique finds. Examples included shields, spears, a well-preserved drinking vessel, necklaces and brooches. The dig was and its findings were even significant enough to capture the interest of Time Team, who filmed an episode at the site.

Richard Bennett comments, “After leaving the Royal Marines through an injury that I sustained in Afghanistan, I was in a pretty dark place. My future was uncertain and my mental health was deteriorating through PTSD. Whilst receiving respite help at the Help For Heroes recovery centre at Tedworth House I saw a presentation on Operation Nightingale which rekindled my interest in archaeology that I had had most of my life. 

Barrow Clump was my first excavation and I took my daughter along with me. We were given an area to excavate along with a mentor and we ended up uncovering an Ange-Saxon female skeleton along with a fantastically decorated necklace. From that moment on I knew what I wanted to do and that was archaeology and my future started to look bright again”.

Situated on Salisbury Plain, Barrow Clump has been a site of human activity for over five thousand years. Originally a Neolithic settlement site, a burial mound (or barrow) was constructed there in the Early Bronze Age and was re-used as a cemetery site in the Anglo-Saxon period. Although Barrow Clump is protected by its designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, special permission was given to Operation Nightingale to excavate and record the barrow due to the extensive damage being caused by badgers.

The winner of the Current Archaeology Award for ‘Rescue Dig of the Year’, which recognises excavations that are necessary when a site is under threat from either natural or human causes, will be announced on 26 February.


Date: 15 February 2016

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