[A]n air of quiet but optimistic anticipation hangs over the Duddon Valley in Cumbria, with the local History Group planning the third and final year of the excavation of three long house structures in Seathwaite.
This marks the culmination of a ten year programme which started out with members of the Dudddon Valley Local History Group surveying and recording sites of archaeological interest. From those beginnings it quickly transpired that a number of features were similar in appearance, resembling the outline of Norse long houses that had been found elsewhere in the Country. The only way to prove if the sites were of Norse origin was by excavation. Three sites, close to Seathwaite Tarn, offered the greatest potential and were chosen for investigation. The History Group made successful bids for funding, with the bulk coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which enabled work to commence on this community archaeology project.
Under the supervision of archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology North, and with support from the National Trust and Lake District National Park, members of the Duddon Valley Local History Group, aided by volunteers, excavated the first site at Tongue House High Close in 2016. While no evidence of Norse settlement was found, valuable information on high level farming was established, as the site revealed periods of occupation dating from the 16th Century.
The site at Longhouse Close is much more complex. The results last year proved to be highly significant, with three floor layers uncovered and pottery finds dating to the 15th Century, expectations were high that evidence of Viking settlement would be found.
A number of samples were sent for carbon dating but, instead of the expected 10th or 11th Century dates, all the samples revealed dates close to 1300 BC. It is looking as though there have been two significant periods of occupation of the site. Hopefully more will be unearthed when the team return to the site from 16 June to 1 July.
The plan this year is to extend the excavation area to investigate further the earlier features, take in an adjacent structure and to open up a third ‘long house’ farther up the valley.
The work of the History Group has attracted much academic attention. Local children have had Archaeology Days in school and have visited the excavations. For more information go to www.duddonhistory.org.uk and the blog at https://duddondig.wordpress.com/
Volunteers will again be required this year. Anyone interested should register at [email protected]. There will be an Open Day for visitors and Press on Saturday, 23rd June.