BUTSER ANCIENT FARM ARCHIVE 1973-2007 Archivist Christine Shaw
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Outstations and Related Locations

Over the years numerous opportunities have arisen, both in the UK and abroad, for Reynolds to offer advice to others planning similar research and, on occasion, to work on such sites himself .... a case in point being the earthworks and crop studies at L'Esquerda in Spain. Equally, it is useful to show here the earthworks at Overton and Wareham Down, both for contrast and to show how designs have evolved consequent on the behaviour of these experimental systems. This somewhat hazy photograph shows Peter Reynolds inspecting the Overton Earthwork in 1986. This earthwork, inspired by the British Council for Archaeology, is arguably the first major UK experimental archaeology project, which studies far more than mere physical decay of the ditch and bank. Buried in the bank is a range of materials commonly found during excavation. The rate of decay of such things as wood, leather, assorted cloths and so on has been studied in a rolling programme at 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32 years since its construction [It is intended to do a survey at 64 years, if anyone is around to do so !!]. It was the seemingly atypical behaviour of the ditch and bank, which were initially separated by a metre, that, amongst other things, led Reynolds to design his own scheme of earthworks studies.

Peter Reynolds earliest work was carried out in the Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire. Later, the Trustees of the Avoncroft Museum of Building, Stoke Prior, Worcestershire invited him to continue certain elements of his studies into the Iron Age on their site, including further building constructs. Click here to view a copy of the leaflet dated 1969. Below are two images of roundhouses he created at Avoncroft.                              

The left shows a construct of a post-hole type of hut based on evidence from excavations at Glastonbury.

The right shows a construct of a stone hut based on excavations of Conderton Camp, Bredon Hill. This is very reminiscent of a building put up by Peter as part of a project at St Fagans, Cardiff for the Welsh Museum of Rural Life, much later in the 1990s.

Another early site in which Peter Reynolds was involved, as consultant and for which he provided design details, was at Grimsby. The work commenced in May 1987.

For those who may wish to delve deeper into this project there was report in 1989 : Wise, P.J. "Go and build an Iron Age House they said" - the Grimsby Project. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 8 (2), 239-45.

Not all projects came to fruition. In February 1992, Peter Reynolds was invited to the Matrica Museum, Szazhalombatta, Hungary. He discussed details of his work in the context of their plans for an Archaeological Park on a multi-layer tell site including both Iron Age and Bronze Age settlements,25km south of Budapest on the banks of the Danube ...... picture below. Although remaining in touch with them over the years and, indeed, lecturing in Hungary, no constructs resulted.

Much of Peter's last work was in Spain, while a Visiting Professor at Barcelona University. It is this work on the site at L'Esquerda that comes closest to the detail of work at Butser. However, the general setting could not be more different, as seen in the view below, for the crop trials fields.

Another surprise arose, when the earthworks ditch was dug in the local limestone basement rock . At the time of preparing the ditch, the view was superficially similar to that at other sites in the UK [left view] but, once weathering had started, then the ditch became pronouncedly different in appearance[right view]. The erosion was perhaps aggravated by the summer dryness preventing sufficient plant colonisation to protect the ditch faces from winter rains.                                                                             


The experiments at L’Esquerda continue.