Big Dig discovery makes international news headlines

A discovery by BU archaeology students and lecturers at the Big Dig site, which could rewrite Roman history, received international media coverage.

Five skeletons were found at the site, in Winterborne Kingston, thought to belong to a Roman family – the first time that evidence of a villa and the villa’s occupants have been found in the same location in Britain.

The story has been featured by national newspapers including The Telegraph, The Times and the Mail Online as well as local coverage in the Bournemouth Echo, Blackmore Vale Magazine and the BBC Dorset website.

The story also gained international media appearances – including coverage in Australia and India – as well as a number of industry specific websites. Over 50 BBC radio stations included the news in their hourly bulletins – giving the story wide national exposure.

The widespread media coverage led to a record-breaking Big Dig Open Day – with more than 1,500 members of the public visiting to explore the site and the discoveries.

Speaking to ITV Meridian at the Big Dig site, Paul Cheetham, Senior Lecturer in Archaeological Sciences and co-director of the project, suggested that this is just the start of many more findings to come.

“It’s a fabulous archaeological site, with material going to almost 4,500 years ago through to the end of the Roman period and possibly beyond to the early Dark Ages.

“We could probably dig here for the rest of our lives and still not discover all of the secrets in this part of Dorset.”

The story caught the attention of the British Council, who interviewed international students working on the dig to promote archaeology at BU to an international audience.

One student, Jessica Fangmann, said, “Everyone’s good friends on the dig and I feel like I’m learning the things I’m interested in. I’m so glad I came to the UK and I think this is a really good experience.”

Dr Miles Russell mystery guest on BBC Radio Solent

BU archaeology lecturer Dr Miles Russell was the mystery guest on BBC Radio Solent’s Nick Girdler show.

The regular feature involves Nick having to guess who his studio guest is, having only been told one clue about why they are in the news.

Miles, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology, has recently helped to identify the Bosham Head, which was discovered in a flowerbed in Chicester in around 1800, as a statue of Roman Emperor Trajan.

The only clue Nick was given as to Mile’s identity was that he ‘helped solve a 200 year old mystery.’

With a little help from Miles, Nick worked out who he was and the pair discussed the importance of the Bosham Head and where the statue came from.

“The problem is that the face has been so badly battered that no-one thought we would ever be able to identify who it was, and some people doubted whether it was even Roman,” said Miles.

“What we did was a 3D laser scan of it, which picks up all the finer detail of the eyes and the hair and from that you can see things that aren’t normally visible to the human eye.

“Thankfully, most emperors have a highly realistic image of themselves created so as soon as you get the position of the eyes and the hair, you’ve got your man.”

Miles added that he now planned to work with colleagues to use the technology to try and identify other statue heads at museums around the country.

The pair also discussed Bournemouth University’s reputation for archaeology.

Miles said: “We are renowned for doing practical archaeology and training people up to do that. We’re in a fantastic landscape around Bournemouth with Cranborne Chase and Dorset, up onto Salisbury plain. There’s so much archaeology around us so there’s a lot to do.”

You can listen to the feature at:

BU Archaeologists solve 200 year old mystery of Roman statue


The identity of a huge stone object that has remained a mystery since it was discovered in Chichester over 200 years ago has been revealed by archaeologists at Bournemouth University (BU).

Dr Miles Russell, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at BU and Harry Manley, from the School of Applied Sciences, have used the latest in 3D laser scanning technology to examine the object, known as the Bosham Head.

Little had previously been known about the 170 kg (26 stone), twice life-size stone head – including who it was meant to represent or how it ended up in a flower bed in the vicarage garden in Bosham, where it was discovered in around 1800.

But the BU investigations of the Bosham Head, which is part of the collection at Novium Museum in Chicester, have revealed that it is a statue of Roman Emperor Trajan, and dates from around AD 122.

“The statue is one of the most important finds from Roman Britain and would certainly have been the most impressive,” Dr Russell said, adding that it was the largest Roman statue to have been discovered in Britain so far.

“The problem is because the face has been so battered by weathering – possibly because it was in the sea at one point – people have felt for the last 200 years that there’s not enough left of the face to be that precise on its identification.

“It is a shame that it has been ignored and overlooked for so long, but now that laser scanning has helped resolve its identity, hopefully it will now take pride of place.”

They were able to use 3D laser scans to pick out facial features and a distinctive hairstyle, which led them to conclude that the statue was of Emperor Trajan.

Dr Russell believes the statue, made of Italian marble, was set up by Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, on a visit to Britain in AD 121-122 and would have greeted visitors as they entered Chichester Harbour.

A similar statue of Emperor Trajan was also erected by Hadrian at Ostia Harbour, in Rome.

“The fact that it was on the harbour and mirrors what’s happening in Ostia suggests that this would have been a real monumental greeting not just to Sussex but to the whole of Southern England,” Dr Russell said.

“There would have been this immense statue of the Emperor facing you as you came in to the harbour, so it’s a real Welcome to Britain statue but reminding you that Britain is part of the Roman Empire.”

Dr Russell has been researching the head as part of his work on monumental sculpture and will give a talk on his findings at The Novium museum.

Councillor Eileen Lintill, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Wellbeing and Community Services at Chichester District Council, says: “It is really exciting that more information about the Bosham Head is being uncovered, including new speculation as to who it may depict.

“It has always been a bit of a mystery to museum staff as to who it was meant to represent. It is fascinating that we can learn more about items in The Novium’s collection using new technology such as 3D digital scanning.”

Dr Russell’s lecture – Finding Nero (and other Roman Emperors) – is on Thursday 24 October from 6.30-8pm.

To book tickets or for further information contact The Novium, Tower Street, Chichester on email at or call 01243 775888.

BU archaeologists and the mystery of the Roman statue

Archaeologists from BU gained international news coverage after a breakthrough in identifying a Roman statue that had remained a mystery since it was discovered in the 1800s.

Dr Miles Russell and Harry Manley, from the School of Applied Sciences, used the latest in 3D scanning technology to reveal that the mystery stone head – which was discovered in a flowerbed in Bosham, Chicester, in around 1800 – is from a statue of the Roman Emperor Trajan.

The story was featured on the Daily Mail website, the BBC news website, and the Huffington Post, as well as in the Portsmouth News and on various BBC local radio stations, BBC Five Live and regional radio station Wave 105.

It was also covered by specialist new organisations, including Archaeology magazine and Heritage Daily.

Miles, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at BU, said: “The key thing is that this is certainly the largest Roman statue found so far in Britain and it’s a major piece of archaeology which has been ignored and overlooked for so long.”

The statue, which is made of Italian marble, would have been erected by Emperor Trajan’s successor Hadrian when he visited Britain in around AD 122.

Miles has been researching the head as part of his work on monumental sculpture and will give a talk on his findings at The Novium museum in Chichester.

His lecture – Finding Nero (and other Roman Emperors) – is on Thursday 24 October from 6.30-8pm. To book tickets or for further information contact The Novium, Tower Street, Chichester on email at or call 01243 775888.

BU’s Big Dig a Big success


A team of archaeologists from Bournemouth University (BU) has uncovered the history that lies beneath rural farmland in Dorset.

Delicate glass leaves, a Roman tea strainer and the remains of ritually deposited animals were just some of the finds unearthed by staff and students as part of the Durotriges Project.

The project, otherwise known as The Big Dig, is an archaeological investigation studying the transition from the late Iron Age to the early Roman period in Winterbourne Kingston, near Bere Regis.

The Big Dig is now in its fifth and final year, and this summer’s excavations discovered a prehistoric settlement, Roman villa and two late Roman longhouses, as well as countless finds from the period, including jewellery and pottery.

Dr Miles Russell, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at BU, said: “The key thing this year is that much of the evidence is showing what happens after Roman Britain comes to an end.

“We can see how people came to this land, how they cannibalised the villa, ripped everything out of it and made their own life here before the Saxons arrived.”

As well as staff and students from the university, volunteers and schoolchildren visited the site to help out and experience archaeological excavation first hand.

A public open day attracted more than 620 visitors, and around 50 young archaeologists, aged between 8 and 16, visited the site from as far afield as Poole, Salisbury, Southampton and Taunton.

The youngsters, who are members of Young Archaeologists’ Clubs from across the region, took part in the examination of Roman buildings, geophysical survey and finds processing.

Sarah MacNaughton, of the Poole branch of Young Archaeologists’ Club said: “It was brilliant. The youngsters really enjoyed getting their hands dirty and finding things.”

Find out more about The Big Dig