Prehistoric dig set to uncover stories of Eastbourne’s Neolithic ancestors

Heritage Eastbourne excavation SUS-171207-075736001
Heritage Eastbourne excavation SUS-171207-075736001

Heritage Eastbourne is set to return to Butts Brow from next Monday (July 17) in a quest to uncover the stories of Eastbourne’s Neolithic Ancestors as the team excavates more of the nationally significant prehistoric enclosure.

In 2016, Heritage Eastbourne began investigating an intriguing earthwork that appeared to surround the hilltop above the Butts Brow car park near Willingdon.

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A ditch was found to run around the hilltop with an associated bank made up of chalk, dug out of the ditch, but whether this barrier was complete or broken by openings is a question the Heritage team are hoping to answer.

The team believes the barrier was created in the distant Neolithic era, around 5,000-6,000 years ago, when Eastbourne’s ancestors were slowly starting to adopt a more settled lifestyle, beginning to farm and also clearing the Downs of trees.

The Heritage Team is questioning whether the enclosure was built for esoteric reasons as it doesn’t appear to contain settlement or be defensive.

The Neolithic was an era of monument building with the first major flourishing of organised, large scale ritualistic and religious behaviour.

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Experts say there is every possibility the discovery at Butts Brow is connected to the nearby Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure at Combe Hill and the team at Heritage Eastbourne is on a mission to find out.

The dig is part of a nationwide Festival of Archaeology and on July 19, 22 and 26 visitors can discover how the flint tools that were found on site were made thousands of years ago.

Visitors can have a go at ancient weaving and make prehistoric pottery on top of the hill that was used by Eastbourne’s Neolithic ancestors all those years ago.

Eastbourne council’s lead member for tourism and enterprise, Margaret Bannister, said “As we have seen in previous archaeological digs, it is clear Eastbourne was once inhabited by some very interesting people.

“The Heritage Team’s continued efforts to investigate our fascinating heritage mean we are able to gain a deeper understanding about our ancestors and Eastbourne’s exciting past.”

On July 23 at 2.30pm, East Sussex County Council archaeologist Greg Chuter will be leading a free guided walk from Butts Brow to Combe Hill. The walk will explore the archaeology of the area and provide understanding of the bigger picture around the excavation.