INDIANA Jones is back – and ready to prove that archaeology is exciting.
Giant stone balls ready to crush in an instant, menacing tidal waves, angry natives hurling spears – Indy has survived it all. But the real archaeologists of the Fylde laugh at such dangers as Indy’s latest adventure, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, hits cinemas today.
For the members of the Wyre Archaeology group excitement and adventure are stock-in-trade.
Lost cities? How about Fleetwood’s very own Atlantis – the legendary Portus Setantiorum which could be the mystery iron-age settlement discovered by the group last year?
Secret passages? How about the lost Roman road at Stalmine which the group will be probing in the near future?
Danger? How about catching a nasty chill in a boggy field in Pilling?
“It may be small scale stuff round here, but it’s very interesting,” said Brian Hughes, Wyre’s own Indiana Jones and one of the leading lights in the group.
He and partner Michelle Harris, who live in Fleetwood, have penned a number of archaeology-based books on local history and are never happier than when burrowing to find magical pieces of ancient pottery.
Brian said: “It started with local history for both of us.
“When we went on holiday as kids we were always taken to historical places rather than sitting on beaches.
“I have always been interested in local history as long as I can remember.”
The iron-age settlement found at Bourne Hill, Thornton, is of such significance that any future exploration will have to be supervised by professionals.
First a terrain survey of the area will have to be done. Wyre Borough has given the group £500 towards that and now they are seeking other funding so work can start.
There will be more thrills at Stalmine
Brian explained: “We will be digging there but we can’t reveal when we will be doing it – we don ‘t want crowds of people there.
“It’s at Highgate Lane. We hope we can dig it up and prove it’s a Roman road and not just a lump in a field.
“The Romans were definitely in Over Wyre because three coin hoards have been found at Preesall Hill.”
The celluloid Indiana Jones cracks his whip and gets the girl at the end, but misses the genuine fun of real archaeology.
“It is exciting,” said Brian. “For me the excitement is in solving a puzzle. Putting the pieces together and coming up with an answer.
“I wouldn’t be interested in going on a big dig that was already there. I’m interested in tracking it down myself.”
That’s an archaeologist on the trail of a mystery. Sound familiar?
Tower unearthed at castle mound
Work to repair the mound at Oxford Castle has revealed a 10-sided tower that has been hidden for more than 200 years.
The foundations of the 13th century tower which used to stand on top of the mound were discovered during repairs following last year’s landslide, when part of the mound collapsed into New Road.
The mound is the main surviving part of the Norman castle built by Robert D’Oilly in the 1070s.
It was originally crowned by a timber tower, inside a defensive palisade, reached by a bridge from the courtyard below.
But the mound was raised in height during the 13th century, when the stone tower was built overlooking the medieval city. It is a section of the outside wall that has now been exposed, to the delight of archaeologists.
Greg Lowe, who is supervising the project for Oxfordshire County Council , said: “The emergence of the base of the tower is fascinating. Oxford Archaeology has been analysing the structure and will report their full findings when the work is complete.
“This is a postscript that we didn’t expect.
“The foundations were last exposed more than 200 years ago, by the then keeper of the prison, who was a keen archaeologist.
“Since then it has been very much supposition. We didn’t know how close they were to the surface or anything about the configuration of the tower.”
“There’s a little more work to do on the site than we had originally anticipated, so the work will go on for slightly longer.
“This is not something that could have been planned for until we had actually cut into the mound and put ourselves in a position to do a more detailed assessment.”
Arrangements are now being made to allow visitors to see the new discovery, which may be covered up again once work is complete.
Debbie Dance, director of the Oxford Preservation Trust, which spearheaded the restoration of adjoining buildings which now house the Oxford Castle Unlocked visitor attraction, said: “This is a hugely exciting discovery.
“We’re keen to be able to share this discovery with everyone and are working with the council to make this happen.
“But at present it looks as though the foundations will only be open temporarily and may have to be covered again.”
Restoration work on the mound will continue until the end of July – six weeks longer than was originally anticipated.
After workmen began to dig into the earthwork it was discovered that there are gaps between soil layers in areas near to where the work is taking place, increasing the risk of further slippage if not repaired.
Special access arrangements, allowing members of the public to see the tower foundations, are being put in place for the weekend of Saturday, May 31.