Archeological dig will shed light on history of cliffs

Archaeological artefact Tom Dommett SUS-150723-163205001
Archaeological artefact Tom Dommett SUS-150723-163205001

Visitors to Seven Sisters and Birling Gap will be able to spot something new on the skyline this summer.

From August 1-11, the National Trust will be running an exciting excavation on the iconic cliffs of the Seven Sisters as part of the Seven Sisters Archaeology Project.

Birling Gap sunset copyright vivenne blakey SUS-150723-163217001

Birling Gap sunset copyright vivenne blakey SUS-150723-163217001

The project has been set up to manage the impact of the dramatic rates of coastal erosion here, which are putting archaeological sites - and the stories they can tell - at risk of destruction.

The excavation on Bailys Hill, near Birling Gap, will see professional archaeologists working alongside National Trust volunteers to unlock some of the secrets of this incredible landscape, investigating features which date back to the Bronze Age. The dig will target burial mounds, hut platforms and traces of prehistoric field systems.

Tom Dommett, regional archaeologist for the National Trust West Sussex and South Downs, said: “With the cliffs retreating by an average of half a metre every year, it’s incredibly important we act now to investigate the archaeological sites along this coast and understand their significance.

“The excavation on Bailys Hill could give us an insight into life, death and ritual for the people who were on this ridge more than 4,000 years ago.

“It’s an incredibly exciting prospect, and a great opportunity to really get hands-on with our heritage”

Throughout the course of the excavations, the site will be open to the public to watch as the dig progresses, take a tour of the trenches and quiz the archaeologists.

They can also see the artefacts as they are cleaned and analysed back at the Birling Gap Visitor Centre, or take an historic landscape tour to discover the complex story of this ever-changing coastline, which includes everything from prehistoric settlements to a Second World War airfield. The excavation site will open daily from 10am to 4pm.

Landscape tours will depart from the visitor Centre at Birling Gap on Saturdays and Sundays at 12.30pm.

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Birling Gap was listed ninth on a list of ‘at risk’ coastlines in England and Wales, according to the ‘Shifting Shores’ report due to be published in November, after the National Trust said more than seven years’ worth of cliff face was lost in a few months due to winter storms and rising sea levels.

In April last year, one of the famous coastguard cottages had to be demolished as it was left just inches away from the cliff-edge following a winter of increased erosion.

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