Staff trip to Grimes Graves and West Stow

A happy group of Butser staff travelled to Suffolk last week to visit two great archaeological sites – West Stow and the iconic Neolithic flint mines of Grimes Graves.


West Stow Anglo-Saxon village is a site built around a number of experimental reconstructions of houses from the early phase of Anglo-Saxon Britain, from the 5th – 7th Centuries. The houses are built on the site of the original settlement. As so little is known of housing and culture of the period it was very interesting to see their reconstructions. The site and period are different from our Butser Saxon buildings, which date from around the 7th – 8th Centuries, and have markedly different archaeology, so it was great to see the experimental interpretation of these buildings and enjoy the excellent small museums on site.


Without doubt, the highlight of our trip was the visit to Grimes Graves. Site manager Rob, along with other terrific members of staff, opened the site specially for us on a rather wintry but really lovely sunny Suffolk morning. The site, with its distinctive potholed landscape, features over 400 former flint mining pits. The mines were in operation around 4500 years ago. The miners extracted flint from a below-ground seam by excavating more or less funnel-shaped pits, 20 or more metres deep. There are quite a lot of flint lumps (nodules) above this level, but they were after the finest, black Suffolk flint, which occurs, fairly unusually, in a continuous bed well below ground level. How they knew it was there is just one of the fascinating archaeological questions arising from our visit!


After kitting up with hard hats, we descended into one of the few original pits to have been archaeologically excavated, which has been cleared of the infill that has closed over the vast majority of the others. Inside we experienced what is as close as it is perhaps possible to get to a Neolithic landscape, albeit a subterranean one! The really unexpected, and very cool, part of the Grimes Graves experience was being given access to the normally closed-off excavation tunnels, where miners used their antler picks and hands to form chambers off to the sides of the main pit, following the flint seam. Sitting in a Neolithic flint mine, talking about the archaeology… does it get any better?


We can highly recommend a visit to both sites if you find yourself in Suffolk. Grimes Graves and West Stow are only around 15 miles apart, with the interesting Anglo Saxon town of Thetford more or less in between.

What work-experience at Butser is all about!

Each year we have several wonderful students join us from across Europe for a work-experience placement, whether they are studying archaeology, cultural heritage, museum studies or a range of other relevant subjects, they get the chance to see how somewhere like Butser operates on a day to day basis, conduct their own experiments and research projects, and generally get stuck in to life on the farm.

At the end of last year, Àngels joined us for a 3 month period from Catalonia.  She brought brilliant new ideas to the farm and worked with us on a huge range of projects from painting the Roman Villa to making pottery, designing signs, evaluating and collecting feedback and more.

Àngels has written a great blog piece for the Exarc website about all the things she experienced and learned during her placement. Take a look here.

We want to say a big thank you to Àngels for all her help and hope to see her back on the farm again before too long!


Butser Volunteer success!

A couple of weeks ago we were excited to be invited to the East Hants Volunteer Awards 2019 following the nomination of our regular Wednesday volunteer team for the award of small team of the year!

Members of the team donned their finery for the awards presentation, joining a hall full of inspiring volunteers and nominees. After hearing about some of the wonderful volunteer projects going on locally it was time for the small team award….

After a drumroll, the winner was announced… Continue reading

Samhain adventures this half term

At Samhain it’s believed the veil between the worlds is very thin, it was a time for communication with the ancestors and the spirits of the dead. Spare places were laid at the table during the Samhain feast so that the ancestors could once again join with family and friends.

Others could also slip through this gap in space-time – the faerie, hobgoblins, elves and other mischief makers – this is the root of Halloweens mischief night and our trick or treat tradition.

Bonfires known as ‘Samhnagan’ were lit on hilltops, often the burial grounds of a communities past, with all other fires in the community put out and rekindled from the Samhnagan fire.


Although our Samhain festival may now be sold out there is lot’s more to do at Butser to connect with this special time of year. This half term we are open from Monday to Friday (22-26th October). Each day we’ll have storytelling, a Batty trail following Pippi the Bat around the farm as she learns about ancient beliefs, hands on talks. demonstrations and more. Please see below for a breakdown of what’s happening each day;

Monday 22nd October –

  • Batty trail – follow the adventures of Pippi the Bat
  • Handling session – Samhain, skeletons and all that spooky stuff! 11am
  • Ancient storytelling at 11.30am and 2pm

Tuesday 23rd October

  • Batty trail – follow the adventures of Pippi the Bat
  • Ancient Storytelling at 11.30am
  • Make your own pinecone bat to take home at 1pm – 3pm
  • Flintknapping demonstrations

Wednesday 24th October

  • Batty trail – follow the adventures of Pippi the Bat
  • Handling session – Samhain, skeletons and all that spooky stuff! 11am
  • Spooky storytelling with Fayes Fables – an interactive performance in our roundhouse following the next adventures of Fairy Bigtoe from local theatre company Fayes Fables.
  • Flintknapping demonstrations

Thursday 25th October

  • Batty trail – follow the adventures of Pippi the Bat
  • Handling session – Samhain, skeletons and all that spooky stuff! 11am
  • Ancient Storytelling at 11.30am and 2pm

Friday 26th October

  • Batty trail – follow the adventures of Pippi the Bat
  • Handling session – Samhain, skeletons and all that spooky stuff! 11am
  • Ancient Storytelling at 11.30am and 2pm
  • Chalk carving – carve a spooky ghost to take home from 1pm – 3pm
  • **Evening event**  Museums at Night – After-dark Tour 7pm – 9pm (must be prebooked)


There’ll also be much more going on each day on the farm, from the build of our new Saxon hall, flintknapping, milking the goats and more! We hope to see you there!

Eco for life at Butser

Looking out for the archaeology of the future….

Plastic waste is one of the biggest environmental challenges that we face today, when we think about what the archaeology of the future will look like, plastic waste will be one of the main things left behind by us for future generations.

A plastic bottle will take over 450 years to decompose and some scientists think that some plastic will never fully decompose. This is particularly worrying as it is estimated globally an astonishing one million bottles are bought every minute. The UK alone purchase 38.5m plastic bottles each day, accounting for around 40% of litter by volume found in our environment.

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