The hippo dig ended on the 15/10/04 after 5 weeks of excavation (4 weeks by a large team and 1 week by a smaller group). During that time we excavated 2 areas, Trenches A (the black hole) and Trench B, giving us a better view point of many of the most fossiliferous deposits at the site.

The techniques used during the dig were those employed in archaeology. This means that the site was taken apart in more or less the opposite way that it built up. Layers were dug, one by one, with the position in which the bones were found recorded in 3D. In order to record the fossils and the sediments in 3D surveying equipment was used as can be seen in the photo below in the back of Trench B.

Photo 12. Deer

The digging was done carefully although not slowly as an enormous volume of sediment had to be dug through. Therefore spades and mattocks were used and trowels were only reverted to once richer layers were reached.

Sieving of large volumes of sediment was also carried out and samples were taken to be processed later in the laboratory to look for small animals such as rodents, fish, snails and beetles.


Photo 14. Trench B (Trench A in the background) in week 3. (Note a hive of activity).



The excavation was carried out with the help of a large number of volunteers. These included:

  • Glenys Salter
  • Ruth Hatfield
  • Rob "Nobs" Symmons
  • Anne Kilgour
  • Terry Brittin
  • Laura Church
  • Diane Siebrandt
  • Linda Seward
  • Sue Archer
  • Colette Clarke
  • Deborah Wells
  • Yvette Balbaligo
  • Lyrica Lynch
  • Penny Bickle
  • Mat Howell
  • Mary Saunders
  • Christine Messens
  • Meredith Carroll
  • Rob Dinnis
  • Rob Greenwood
  • Zoe Eleanor
  • Elisa Kelly
  • Tim Steele
  • John Nash
  • Amy Thomson
  • Brian Holden
  • Gyanam O’Sullivan
  • Franziska Grossmann
  • Elizabeth Poultney
  • Meredith Carroll
  • Jamie Robinson
  • Craig Koch
  • Colin Barras
  • Chris Stevens
  • Lucy Grimshaw

+ Nadim Safdar, Chris Stringer, Nick Ashton, Mark Lewis and Ian Taylor helped for up to a day each.

The volunteers included individuals from around the country as well as from abroad (USA, Germany and Belgium). They included postgraduate students of palaeontology, social anthropology and archaeology, as well as professional archaeologists (volunteering to dig!), a gardener, an IT specialist, civil servants, a librarian, a cycle courier and a Harley Street dentist for the day.

Thank you to all of you. We certainly could not have done it without you. In the page called photos (under people) most, if not all of you, can be seen.

The staff at Norton Subcourse were Phil Rye, John Stewart, Simon Parfitt and Simon Lewis. Nigel Larkin our conservator also attended as often as he could.


Link to files with photos










The excavation was funded by English Nature and the Aggregrates Levy Sustainability Fund. The Natural Environment Research Council, Quaternary Research Association and Royal Society have also funded this work.