Little Driffield Excavation Set To Reveal New Insights Into East Yorkshire’s Roman and Iron Age Past

East Yorkshire is home to some of the most distinctive Iron Age archaeology in the country. But what happened when the Romans arrived, and how did people respond? A crowdfunded archaeological excavation near Little Driffield could be about to provide new insights.

Cropmarks at Elmswell Farm have revealed traces of a Roman ‘ladder settlement’, along with evidence that suggests the site was already inhabited before, and after, the Romans arrived.

Taking place this August, a crowdfunded excavation will target a number of suspected Iron Age and Roman features at the farm in the hope of finding out more about this fascinating juncture in history.

“While each of these periods is relatively well understood individually, it’s the transitions between them that are really interesting. For people living here, it must have been a bit of a culture shock at first, but they obviously adapted. This site could provide crucial evidence about what happened around that time,” said Chris Caswell, Head of Fieldwork at DigVentures, who will be leading the excavation.

Now in its second season, the excavation was triggered by a number of discoveries that were reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and aims to build up a chronology of life in East Yorkshire. Crowdfunders have backed the project year on year, starting with the investigation of an abandoned medieval village. This year, the excavation will step further back in time, targeting suspected Iron Age and Roman features across the site.

Sitting within the Hull Valley, the potential for Iron Age archaeology at Elmswell Farm is impressive as the area is known for its concentration of Iron Age burials belonging to the ‘Arras’ culture, who famously buried their dead in square rather than round barrows. Discoveries at aimilar Iron Age sites further along the valley have garnered international attention, yielding entire square barrow cemeteries and a number of impressive burials, most notably that of the Wetwang Woman – a young, adult female buried with a chariot.

According to DigVentures Projects Director Brendon Wilkins: ‘In terms of its archaeological potential, the landscape at Elmswell Farm is one of the richest in the north of England, but surprisingly one of the least understood. This is a rare opportunity for archaeologists to work with local people and an international community of interest to discover more about this very special place.’

David Renwick, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, who provided a grant to help expand the project said: ”We are delighted to support communities who are passionate about their local heritage and the Excavating Elmswell project will help uncover the stories held beneath our feet. Thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to help people to learn new skills from professional archaeologists and get their hands dirty.”

The excavation will take place from 14th – 26th August 2018, and will be open to the public. Tours will take place at 11am, 1pm and 3pm on Saturday 18th and 25th August 2018. Enthusiasts can also register to join the excavation team and get live updates on the DigVentures website ( 

Notes to editors

Available for comment are

  • Brendon Wilkins, archaeologist, Projects Director and co-founder DigVentures

About DigVentures

DigVentures is a social business that designs and delivers collaborative archaeology projects and experiences in the UK and beyond, using crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and digital technology to increase opportunities for the public to participate in archaeological research.

Participants can support excavations by pledging money in return for a variety of benefits, from joining the team in the field, to masterclasses on identifying artefacts or documenting a dig. Venturers and supporters from around the world can follow the digs live online through DV’s bespoke Digital Dig Team app. Every object and discovery is logged live from the trenches via iPads, tablets and smartphones, making it instantly accessible from anywhere in the world.

DigVentures is a Chartered Institute for Archaeologists Registered Organisation.

Advisory Board

  • Carole Souter CBE, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Sir Tony Robinson, actor and amateur archaeologist
  • David Gilbert, board president, Chair of Creative United and Writer’s Centre of Norwich, and former Managing Director of Currys Group and Waterstones
  • Simon Collister, Senior Lecturer at University of the Arts London
  • Thomas Knowles, Head of Grants at Historic Environment Scotland
  • Tim Schadla-Hall, Reader in Public Archaeology at University College London, Institute of Archaeology
  • Sarah Stannage, Policy and Culture Sector lead for the Understanding Everyday Participation (UEP)

Other upcoming excavations

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.


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Harriet Tatton

Written by Harriet Tatton

Harriet is one of DigVentures' community archaeologists. She loves museums, skeletons, and a good cup of Early Grey. Her first dig was at Bennachie, in Aberdeenshire, and since then she's never gone digging without her signature flowery wellies.

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