An excavation at Minchery Paddock, near the Kassam Stadium, which ended last weekend after over a month of digging, has uncovered a Bronze Age arrowhead, estimated to be around 4,000 years old, among other findings of important archeological interest.
The excavation constitutes a major collaboration between the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education and Archeox, the Archeology of East Oxford Community Project.
The original aim of the dig was to explore the area where Littlemore Priory once stood, a nunnery established around AD1110 which was closed in 1525 under Cardinal Thomas Wolsey during the Reformation. A large amount of medieval pottery as well as decorated glazed floor tiles were discovered, while various stone walls, floors and hearths were also found by the archeologists, suggesting that the nunnery was much larger than previously thought.
Project Director Dr David Griffiths commented that “we expected to find traces of the medieval priory, but perhaps not such well-preserved walls or with so much pottery, animal bone and other finds.”
However, according to Dr Griffiths the “real surprise” came with the discovery of a number of prehistoric flints, including a Bronze Age arrowhead as old as 4,000 years old, which could hint to prehistoric settlements in the area. In addition, Roman pottery and tile finds point to the likelihood of Roman presence in the past.
Dr Griffiths wished to highlight the role of volunteers in the excavation, over 500 of whom were involved in the project, pointing to the fact that “volunteers are part of the whole research process – doing more or less everything on site from digging to recording.’ Volunteers include anyone from members of the local community to Oxford University undergraduate and postgraduate students. Moreover, Dr Griffiths stressed the work of the University in “engaging with the community” through this and other projects in conjunction with the Department of Continuing Education.
Oxford University Vice-Chancellor Andrew Hamilton, who visited the site last Friday, agreed, saying that “it is so important that the University and the local community maintain an active and close relationship, and the fascinating discoveries of the excavation are testament to what can happen when town and gown work together.”
Archeox and their volunteers will now prepare a research report of their findings to be released later in the year, and future excavations at the same site have not been ruled out in the coming years.