All posts by Mike Gill


Please note:  The April and May 2020 meetings are cancelled due to the current Coronavirus situation.  We will provide an update here as soon as we are able to re-start our lecture programme.

The Winter meeting programme 2019-20 is shown below.  Visitors are very welcome at the meetings. Please note speakers are booked many months in advance and sometimes have to cancel at short notice. Although we always try to find another speaker the talk may be on a different subject.

MEETINGS: 7.30pm at Ann Rose Hall, Greyfriars Community Centre, Christchurch Road, Ringwood BH24 1DW

Please note:  meetings at Greyfriars for 2020-21 are currently suspended due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation.  Lectures and meetings will be conducted online until further notice, with members contacted by email with joining instructions.

MEETING FEES:- Members £2.00, Visitors £3.50

ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION:- Adult £10.00, Full-time Student £5.00

ENQUIRIES TO:- The Chairman, Mark Vincent 01425 473677 or use the Contact Us page.



4th September 2019: Once upon a hillfort
Speaker: Dave Stewart

This talk will concentrate on an ambitious project to undertake geophysics surveys of the Iron Age hillforts of Dorset.  Dave led this research and has co-authored a book, ‘Hillforts and the Durotriges’, describing the results.

2nd October 2019 Wonderful things: The Army Basing Programme and the Stonehenge Landscape
Speaker:  Simon Cleggett, Wessex Archaeology

The excavation of Bulford, Larkhill and Tidworth over five years. Followed by the international media- discoveries included four henges, a causewayed enclosure, Neolithic pits, Bronze Age burials and cremations, two Anglo Saxon cemeteries and the largest WWI practise battlefield ever excavated. Larkhill turned out to be the largest open area excavation ever undertaken in proximity to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site- truly wonderful things.

6th November 2019: Charles Rolls and Britain’s First International Aviation Meeting
Speaker: Stephen Robson

The seaside town of Bournemouth was the venue for Britain’s first International Aircraft Meeting in 1910. Rolls came from a wealthy background and instead of living a relaxed life he chose to pursue speed whether in cycling, cars, balloons or aeroplanes. He hosted the Wright Brothers when they visited England to meet the Short Brothers, who had been granted a licence to build Wright aircraft and thus created the first specific aircraft production factory in Britain. Rolls completed a non-stop return flight across the English Channel in June 1910 to prove that England had ceased to be an island yet died just over a month later at Bournemouth in the country’s first fatal aircraft crash – such were the hazards for the early pioneers. Today Rolls’ fatal crash is commemorated by a plaque in the private grounds of a Southbourne school but plans for a heritage patio in public view will be revealed.

4th December 2019: The Swash Channel Wreck
Speaker: Dave Parham, Professor in Archaeology, Anthropology & Forensic Science at Bournemouth University

Professor Parham will talk about the latest research on the wreck of a 17th Century merchant ship discovered near the entrance to Poole Harbour.


8th January 2020:  Members Evening:  A Lost Long Barrow Rediscovered?  Recent investigations at Sopley Fruit Farm
Speaker: Mike Gill, AVAS

In the 19th Century, a long barrow (burial mound) was mentioned and briefly described at the inaugural meeting of the Christchurch Archaeological Association.  The site was subsequently lost, probably due to the construction of a Second World War airfield.  Recent documentary research and map regression analysis identified a potential location for this destroyed barrow, and geophysical survey revealed a large anomaly consistent with a long barrow.  Over the last couple of months, AVAS has excavated a trial trench in an attempt to confirm the identity of a long barrow.  This talk will reveal the preliminary but exciting results from this investigation, and attempt to set the monument in its context in the wider landscape.

5th February 2020: Living with Monuments: life and cultural landscape around Avebury, c.4000–1500BC
Speaker: Josh Pollard, Professor in Archaeology at The University of Southampton

4th March 2020: Human, animal and environmental interactions in the earliest farming villages in the Middle East. Using environmental archaeology and ethnoarchaeology to interpret Neolithic archaeological sites.
Speaker: Dr Sarah Elliott, British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Bournemouth University

Lectures suspended until after the Coronovirus situation is resolved.

1st April 2020: Hands on Workshop:  The large animal bones of the Caistor Roman Project
Speaker: Paul Clarkson, Bournemouth University

6th May 2020: Annual General Meeting followed by:  “Iron Age Houses and Furnishings focused on Hengistbury Head”
Speaker: Dave Freeman (

The archaeology of Hengistbury Head is being re-examined, especially with respect to the Iron Age.  There have been proposals to build some replica houses.  Dave’s speciality is in the reconstruction of Iron Age houses, and he will show how these buildings were built and lived in


As well as a high quality Winter lecture and meeting series (see the separate Meetings page), other events are arranged for members throughout the year.

Upcoming events are listed on the Upcoming Events page.  Examples of the types of events arranged by AVAS are described below.

Social Events

A number of social events are organised throughout the year, reaching their pinnacle at the annual barbeque in July, normally held at an idyllic spot next to the River Avon.

AVAS BBQ next to the River Avon
AVAS BBQ next to the River Avon

Field Visits

A number of field visits have been arranged for AVAS members.  One example is the visit to a late Roman site revealed by gravel extraction near Ringwood, as shown below.

Field visit to Late Roman site
Field visit to Late Roman site

A field trip is planned for Clearbury hillfort to examine the earthwork remains and contribute to a national survey of hillforts.


AVAS members can get involved in a range of fieldwork, generally carried out within the valley of the Hampshire Avon.  Most people associate archaeological fieldwork with excavation, but archaeologists use a whole range of different techniques to investigate archaeological remains.

Some of the techniques employed by AVAS members are described below.  You can also read about fieldwork that has been undertaken on the AVAS Blog.

Desktop survey

Even before going out on site, old records and maps can be consulted to understand the history of a location.  Many old maps are now available online;  for example, the National Library of Scotland has scanned a national British set of 6 inch and 1 inch Ordnance Survey maps, along with other map series.  For example, the extract below shows the detail of the survey for Whitsbury hill fort (click on the map to see it in more detail).

Whitsbury hill fort on OS Six Inch 1872 map
Whitsbury hill fort on OS Six Inch 1872 map

Aerial Photography

Aerial photographs have revealed a palimpsest of archaeological remains throughout the Avon Valley, revealed as crop and soil marks.  Crop marks occur where buried features either suppress or promote crop growth, leading to variation in the colour and height of the crops.

The proliferation of online aerial photography has increased the resources available for research.  AVAS supplements this with the use of a model aeroplane, with attached camera.  A couple of members also have access to a private light aircraft.

AVAS members have identified a range of sites using aerial photography, including a possible Neolithic long barrow, numerous ring ditches which probably represent Bronxe Age barrows, as well as a series of enclosures and field systems.  The example below shows two ring ditches near Downton, recently revealed by aerial imagery.

Ring ditches near Downton
Ring ditches near Downton

Field walking

Field walking can be used to determine the distribution of surface finds and help identify new sites.  AVAS was involved in a major survey of the middle Avon Valley which was published in 1995.  This survey revealed a large number of new Prehistoric, Roman and Medieval sites, and helped to demonstrate the density of previous settlement in the Avon Valley.

AVAS members also get involved in more ad hoc surveys, as shown below where finds are being identified.

Fieldwalking Nov 2011

During this particular survey, a broken Palaeolithic stone hand axe was found:

Fieldwalking find Palaeolithic Axe


Geophysics is a technique used to look for anomalies under the ground using electrical currents.  AVAS uses one particular type of geophysics, called resistivity, which measures the variation in an electric current as it passes between two probes in the ground.  Features buried underground such as ditches or walls will cause different readings.

Resistivity survey using AVAS equipment
Resistivity survey using AVAS equipment

Once a grid square has been surveyed, the results can be plotted, using colour to show the variation in the electrical resistance.  The plot below shows a composite plot of a survey done by AVAS members on a possible Neolithic long barrow (click on the plot to enlarge).

Resistivity plot of possible long barrow
Resistivity plot of possible long barrow


Excavation is not undertaken lightly, as it is a destructive method of investigating archaeological remains.  AVAS has tended to use excavation to either rescue threatened remains, or as an evaluation tool where the topsoil is removed to get a clearer picture of what is under the ground.  This latter method is particularly effective in investigating anomalies highlighted by geophysics survey.  The photograph below shows AVAS members undertaking one such survey.

AVAS evaluation excavation
AVAS evaluation excavation