The oldest significant features uncovered so far reveal a Roman presence at the site.A ten-foot-wide Roman track advances across the middle of the paddock trench near the castle, made of compacted small stones, complete with ruts from rumbling cartwheels.It is crowned by a stunning church, built in the twelfth century, but with earlier, Anglo-Saxon origins.

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The deepest, oldest pieces, found at spots all over the site, include around 20 flint tools such as scrapers, piercers, and blades, dating to the Neolithic (4000 B. “It would have been an obvious place for people to gather.

It would have given them a 360-degree view, enabling them to spot herds of animals moving across the levels below,” explains Peter Twinn, the project’s small-finds expert.

The early excavations confirmed that the site was indeed deep.

From the disparate trenches—each like a piece in a three-dimensional puzzle—the archaeologists have succeeded in extrapolating the hill’s history and in developing a mental image of its belowground geography.

They were buried around 20 feet apart and both aligned east to west.

“Neither of the graves had grave goods, suggesting that these were not high-status people,” says Emily Glass, site supervisor in the Jenner garden.

The setting, at once bucolic and strategic, has seen the whole of English history, from times of marginality and austerity to periods of great wealth and influence, from Neolithic hunters and a Roman temple to a kingdom of witches and Norman townhouses.

Stuart Prior, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol, encouraged by this long history, commissioned a geophysical survey of the area in 2005 and has directed excavations every year since with his colleague Mark Horton.

The Severn bore [a swift tidal wave that occurs during the highest tides, several times a year] starts around this point on the Severn, and it would have been considered a phenomenal event at that time,” says Twinn.