Archaeology Without a Digger

As with all archaeological projects a good deal of survey and investigation took place at Cresswell before any trenches were planned. This kind of research is necessary to help identify the best places to further investigate with excavation. Around the pele tower, especially where the old mansion house once stood, the potential locations for excavation are more obvious. However the field next to the tower, known as the Fisheries Field, is an unknown and carefully recorded preliminary exploration of the site is invaluable.


A comprehensive magnetometer survey of the field adjacent to the pele tower was undertaken. Some linear features were identified though these were thought to be due to the agricultural use of the field.


Fieldwalking is often one of the first archaeological techniques used to investigate a site. Without the need for complex or expensive equipment, it is a popular and non-invasive method of surveying a landscape to build up a picture of human activity in the area.

Most fieldwalking, as at Cresswell, is carried out in the winter or early spring. At this time arable fields have been ploughed and allowed to weather for a while. Freshly ploughed fields are not ideal as the surface is rough and the artefacts are more difficult to spot. Fields are ploughed to invert the topsoil and bury weeds and crop remains. During ploughing artefacts buried within the reach of the plough often find their way to the surface. These artefacts are circulated through the topsoil on subsequent ploughings.

The fieldwalking results from Cresswell were very interesting and artefacts were found from a wide range of dates. Clay pipe fragments were found as well as earlier Mediaeval pottery sherds with a distinctive green glaze. Astonishingly, Iron Age pottery, possibly 2,000 years old, was found and it is rare that pottery of this kind survives in conditions such as those at Cresswell.

A significant amount of flint tools, microliths and fragments, including some thumb scrapers, were found on site. The scraper shown above could be of Mesolithic date, over 10,000 years old.

The animation below illustrates the distribution of flint finds in the Cresswell Fisheries Field.