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Bagendon: Past & Present

Investigations of Bagendon oppidum have a long history and the 2015 season of our project coincides with the anniversaries of a number of previous explorations. It is 60 years since Elsie Clifford’s pioneering excavations. Her campaigns demonstrated the site was a Late Iron Age centre, potentially comparable to those at Verulamium (St Albans) and Camulodunum (Colchester). Her excavations were regarded as internationally significant and were visited by luminaries of the time, including Gordon Childe and Mortimer Wheeler.

The story of exploration continued in the 1980s. It is 35 years since Stephen Trow and Richard Reece opened trenches close to where Clifford had excavated; one of their trenches, which revealed the road which enters the complex, was just down the hill from our current excavations. It is also 30 years since Stephen Trow and Simon James excavated the early Roman villa at ‘Ditches’, which is situated further up the Bagendon valley, near Woodmancote. The fact we are now excavating a Roman building which may have a similar history, but is within the Late Iron Age dyke system, to some extent brings the story of exploration full circle.

The image above, comparing people planning from 1980 and from this year, illustrates how some techniques have changed relatively little in 35 years! However, our discovery of all the sites we have excavated as part of the new project has been due to technologies unavailable to our predecessors: geophysics and LIDAR. These have allowed us to look at Bagendon as a landscape rather than a ‘site’ and identify new elements of the complex. All these investigations, however, have added invaluable pieces to the complex jigsaw of the landscape that represents Bagendon ‘oppidum’.

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