Dig the Romans of East Yorkshire

25 - 30 August 2020

Help DigVentures investigate a vast Roman settlement in East Yorkshire, dating all the way back to AD 70.

238.9% Funded
£17,918.00 Pledged
£7,500 Goal

Love the Romans? Want to help us find out more about who lived in East Yorkshire thousands of years ago?

This is your chance to investigate one of the most important Roman settlements ever discovered in the region. Support this dig and you can help us explore it!

Two thousand years ago, the Romans marched north and established a centre at York. But while archaeologists have found many later Roman settlements from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, only a handful of sites inhabited by the earliest Roman settlers in the region have ever been found… until now.

In 2015, three metal detecting friends uncovered a hoard of 18 silver coins. The friends reported the discovery to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and together we began investigating the site to find out what else we could learn.

We now know that the hoard was just one small remnant of a much wider Roman settlement, with buildings, mosaics, more silver coins, hundreds of Roman pottery sherds, and a tiny brooch, found on one of three neonatal burials.

What’s more, with many of the finds dating to the middle of the first century AD, it appears to be one of the earliest Roman settlements ever discovered in East Yorkshire.

Metal detectorists discovered 18 silver coins
DigVentures started excavating...
The site turns out to be one of the earliest Roman settlements in East Yorkshire
We also found hints of a Roman villa
... including mosaic tiles
We want to continue investigating. Will you help us?

There were hundreds of Roman pottery sherds, including decorated bowls and amphorae, in which olive oil and wine would have been transported from the Mediterranean.

And then, when we started exploring another area nearby in 2019, we found traces of a Roman villa. Evidence included hundreds of mosaic tiles (or ‘tesserae’), parts of a hypocaust system (underfloor heating), loads more Roman pottery, and even a beautifully preserved bone hairpin.

Such a significant site can hardly be left – there’s still so much more to investigate.

This year, we want to continue the excavation and unearth more of the site so that we can understand this early Roman settlement, and how it developed over the next few generations.

We’ll examine the pottery, the bones, the coins, the environmental samples, and put everything together to build up a chronology of the site, in order to help tell the bigger story of some of the first Roman settlers ever to make their home in East Yorkshire.

Love archaeology? Always wanted to give it a go? Crowdfund this dig, and you can:

👀 watch the discoveries online

⛏ excavate alongside our team

⚱️ get hands-on in the Finds Room

👪 bring your kids to DigCamp (or DigClub!)

👕 receive one of our FAMOUS archaeology team t-shirts

John Fenton has tended his farm, near Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire, for a lifetime. Over the years, it has produced an extraordinary number of archaeological riches – Roman coins, Anglo-Saxon burials, Bronze Age weapons and even a cache of stone tools. That’s 5,000 years worth of evidence!

So far, John and the detectorists who have made so many of the discoveries have done a marvelous job of keeping all this archaeology safe, and this project has grown out of their exceptionally strong personal commitment to the land’s heritage.

But it’s still a working farm, and with every passing day it becomes more and more important to figure out exactly what archaeology survives and where.

With such a huge and unexplored chunk of history lying just below the surface, more needs to be done, and together we can help them!

In 2017, we took an exploratory look at the medieval remains, proving that they’re full of evidence that can help us chart the ebb and flow of life at this well-preserved village.

In 2018, we made our first foray into the Roman ruins, and found something took us completely by surprise… not only were they very well preserved, they turned out to be some of the earliest ever discovered in the region.

In 2019, we explored another area nearby and found hundreds of mosaic tiles, traces of a Roman hypocaust (underfloor heating) system, loads more pottery, and even a beautifully preserved bone hairpin. Together, it all points to the idea that within a few generations, the settlement and its economy had grown large enough to sustain a Roman villa.

Just below the surface...
we found traces of a probable Roman villa
... including huge post-holes
... lots of pottery
... a bone hairpin - and more!
We want to continue the investigation. Will you help us?

Early Roman sites this far north are rare, at least compared to 3rd-4th century settlements, which makes our site incredibly important for the understanding of what happened when they first arrived.

But there’s far more to it than that. It’s also obvious that this has the potential to become one of Yorkshire’s most important multi-period sites. There are strong links with the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Deira, Roman ruins, and traces of Iron Age settlement.

For archaeologists, there’s little more precious than a multi-period site like this, because these are the ones that really help us tie together the stories of all the different people, traditions and cultures that have come and gone over the millennia.

Each year, we hope to head further back into time, and only with continued excavation can we reveal the full picture, and really begin to understand the stories hidden in this land.

Our goal for this season is to spend one week investigating a new area of the Roman settlement:

  • Excavate the area where lots of mosaic tiles were found. We’ve already unearthed evidence of some large Roman buildings, but we can see that the full extent of the settlement is truly vast
  • Dig trenches over some of the other ‘bits’ of the farm’s archaeology. This will give us all a taste of how well each part survives. We’ve already started investigating the deserted medieval village, the ladder settlement and the areas surrounding where the Roman coin hoards were found. In future, we’d also like your help to take a look at the tumuli (burial mounds) and the field where lots of stone tools were found. This will truly help us build up a multi-period chronology of life in East Yorkshire!
  • Look for more features from the air. We haven’t explored the whole farm yet, or done a complete fly-over with our archaeology drone. Have we missed anything? There might be more that no-one’s even spotted yet!
  • Do a close-up geophysics inspection. This will mean we get to add some great new detail to our maps… before we even start digging!
  • Turn the survey results into virtual landscapes. That way, everyone will be able to explore them in 3D from the comfort of their own computer!

To do it, we need to raise £7,500 – that should be just enough to cover one week of excavation and everything else that goes with it, including what we need in order to:

  • Plan the dig. There are some (fairly complicated) logistics involved!
  • Run the excavation. We need enough archaeologists on site to make sure that everyone who comes digging with us has plenty of expert support
  • Pay for all the ‘aftercare’. We’ll need specialists to analyse, conserve and take care of all the artefacts we find
  • Share lots of updates before, during and after the dig. It doesn’t start and end with excavation. We’ll be publishing videos, live streams, virtual artefacts and blogs so that you can watch the archaeology online!
  • Make sure that all of our data, discoveries and interpretation are freely available online. We think that the results of publicly funded research should be free and easy to access. We’ll be putting all of ours online as soon as they’re made.

At DigVentures, we believe that archaeologists can carry out internationally important research while also bringing as many people on this journey with us as possible, and making the thrill of discovery available to everyone.


What time do we start?

Dig Team(25 – 30 August 2020)

9am – 4:30pm

Finds Room Team (27 – 30 August 2020)

9am – 4:30pm

DigCamp (29 August 2020 only)

10:30am – 3:30pm

Please arrive in plenty of time! This is especially important on your first day, as you’ll need to complete your Archaeological Briefing before we can get you out on site. Don’t miss it!

Where is the dig location and where do we meet you?

Little Driffield is the nearest village, and it won’t be more than a few minutes drive from there.

We’re keeping the exact location private for now, and will send specific information about exactly where to meet us ONE WEEK before the dig begins.

I don't have my own transport - what shall I do?

Buses aren’t very reliable – if you don’t have your own transport please join our Facebook Group Chat to make shared travel arrangements with your fellow DigVenturers (you’ll have received a link to this in your welcome email).

Which dates can I join you on site?

Dig Team

Tuesday 20th – Sunday 25th August 2019

You can choose to join us for a day, two days or the full week, but you can only start your dig experience on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday.

Finds Room Team

Thursday 22nd – Sunday 25th August 2019

You can join us for a day, or two days, but you can only start your finds experience on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday.

What do I need to know about joining the dig team?

Daily schedule

Our excavations run from 9am – 5pm.

You’ll need to plan your journey to ensure you arrive in plenty of time.

This is especially important on your first day, when you’ll be given an in-depth archaeological briefing. We can’t let you into the trenches unless you have completed it.

We’ll email you an exact meeting location ONE WEEK before the dig begins. As long as you can get to Little Driffield, you’ll be fine!

What do I need to know about joining the finds team?

Our finds days run from 9am – 5pm.

You’ll need to plan your journey to ensure you arrive in plenty of time.

This is especially important on your first day, when you’ll be given an in-depth archaeological briefing. We can’t let you into the trenches unless you have completed it.

We’ll email you an exact meeting location ONE WEEK before the dig begins. As long as you can get to Little Driffield, you’ll be fine!

What do I need to know about joining DigCamp?

This DigCamp will run from 10am – 4pm on Saturday 24th August 2019.

We provide all the tools, training and one-to-one instruction you will need in order to learn and have a great time whilst you are on site with our team.

You just need to bring yourself, a packed lunch, a bucketful of curiosity… and your junior archaeologists!

We’ll send you the exact details of where to meet for the, and any other final details you need to know for your big day, ONE WEEK before the dig begins.

As long as you can get to Little Driffield, you’ll be fine!

We can’t wait!

What happens when I make my crowdfunding contribution?

Hooray! So you’ve decided to crowdfund the campaign.

Once you’ve added your chosen benefit level to your basket, we’ll ask you for any relevant details, like t-shirt size, start date, and names of accompanying friends / family at checkout.

You’ll receive a payment confirmation as soon as you make your payment, and a separate follow-up email asking for a few more details that we need to complete your registration.

If you’re joining us on site, you’ll also get a reminder email with any final details you need to know about where to meet us and what to bring two weeks before the dig begins.

If you’re keen to start planning your trip, you’ll find all the basic information you need in these FAQs.

When will I get my t-shirt?

If you’re joining us on site, we’ll give you your t-shirt when you arrive.

If you’re watching from home, we’ll send you your t-shirt at the end of dig season… that’s usually October.

And it will be well worth the wait to be the proud owner of one of the BEST archaeology team t-shirts in the field!

When will I get my digital goodies?

We’ll send you an email when the dig begins, reminding you how to watch the dig online, and what you can expect… there’ll be videos for you to watch, virtual artefacts for you to examine, and plenty of live updates so that you can follow our progress.

Once the dig is over, it usually takes 12-18 months for us to write the official site report. We’ll keep you posted with any significant updates from the lab during that time.

And if you’ve chosen DigNation Beta…

We’ll email you every time there’s an upcoming live event, and keep you posted about the special one day conference we’re planning in September.

What about food, transport and accommodation?

Food: Meals (apart from tea, coffee, biscuits and the occasional cake!) are not included. You’ll need to bring your own packed lunches, and plenty of water!

Transport: You’ll need to make sure that you can be in the vicinity of Little Driffield for a 9am start (10am if you’re joining DigCamp).

Buses aren’t very conveniently timed – join the DigVentures Facebook Group Chat (you’ll receive an invite in your welcome email) to make shared travel arrangements if you don’t have your own transport.

Accommodation: Also not included, which means you are free to stay wherever you are most comfortable in terms of location and budget.

A quick search online will reveal that there’s plenty to choose from, from holiday parks and self-catering cottages, to B&Bs and hotels – something to suit every budget!

What else do I need to bring?

We’ll provide all the tools you need. You just need to bring yourselves, plenty of enthusiasm and:

  • Packed lunch and water
  • Sturdy boots (walking boots, DMs or similar)
  • Clothes for hot weather
  • Clothes for wet weather
  • Sun hat, sun cream, bug spray
What happens if we don't reach our crowdfunding goal?

We’ve set our crowdfunding goal to match the level of excavation and analysis we think this site deserves. Obviously, the closer we get the better, and the more people who join in the more we can discover, but we won’t abandon our plans if we fall shy of the target – this archaeology is too important to miss!

If we don’t reach our goal, we’ll stick to our guns and do the dig anyway – we’ll just scale down the size of the excavation to suite.

For example, we’d excavate a smaller area and send fewer artefacts off for scientific analysis, but the dig would still happen and you’d still be part of our team.

That being said, we’re confident we’ll reach our goal because we know there’s incredible archaeology waiting to be found and people like YOU are willing to help us prove it!

Can I come and visit even if I'm not part of the Dig or Finds team?

Absolutely! We invite all our crowdfunders to come and visit. Just give us a heads up that you’re coming, or check our calendar closer to the time for a list of free events that we’ll be running alongside the dig.

What if I have done archaeology before, or am an archaeology student?

We are the only field school officially accredited by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists in the UK, and we will make sure you get to try an archaeological problem, skill or technique that you’ve not tried before.

We run our excavations to the highest professional standards, and you’ll get to try some of the latest, and most cutting-edge techniques.

What happens if I can't make it in the end?

We can either transfer your dig days to another excavation at our discretion, or you can bequeath them to someone else… go on, pass on the archaeology love!

What if the weather is truly terrible?
Is there anything else I can do to help?

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