Barnham Excavation 2020

East Farm, Barnham, Suffolk, is an internationally-significant Lower Palaeolithic site dating to 400,000 years ago. Excavations at the site have been ongoing since 2013 and this year we are offering 12 scholarships worth £500 (full information below) to students who have a desire to pursue serious study of Palaeolithic archaeology to participate in the excavation.

About the Site

The site is situated in a disused clay pit and contains a series of fluvial sediments which infill a channel cut into glacial gravels and till deposited during the Anglian glaciation (MIS 12). The fluvial sediments date to the following Hoxnian interglacial (MIS 11c) and contain both handaxe and non-handaxe assemblages associated with a lag gravel on the fringes of the basin. In the centre of the channel fine-grained sediments contain occasional artefacts together with a range of biological remains including pollen, plant macroscopic remains, ostracods, molluscs, vertebrates and beetles. 

Excavations at Barnham in 2019

Starting in 2013, the excavations at Barnham seek to address three key archaeological questions: 

  1. What is the relationship between the handaxe and non-handaxe assemblages at the site? The presence of these two industries makes Barnham a key site for understanding the nature of the Clactonian and its relationship with the Acheulean. 
  2. Can the use of fire be identified at Barnham? The fieldwork between 2013 and 2019 revealed concentrations of burnt flint. These require full investigation to determine if they relate to natural burning events or provide evidence of the human use of fire. 
  3. Who were the humans responsible for the archaeological assemblages? Sediments in the centre of the pit contain a higher density of bone than any other Middle Pleistocene open-air site in the UK. This not only provides an excellent environmental record, but also provides a much higher chance of recovering human fossil material than elsewhere.


Ashton, N.M., Lewis, S.G. & Parfitt, S.A. (Eds), 1998. Excavations at the Lower Palaeolithic Site at East Farm, Barnham, Suffolk 1989-94. British Museum Occasional Paper 125, London.

Ashton, N., Lewis, S.G., Parfitt, S.A., Davis, R.J. & Stringer, C. 2016. Handaxe and non-handaxe assemblages during Marine Isotope Stage 11 in northern Europe: Recent investigations at Barnham, Suffolk, UK. Journal of Quaternary Science 31: 837-843.

Ashton, N., McNabb, J., Irving, B., Lewis, S., Parfitt, S., 1994. Contemporaneity of Clactonian and Acheulian flint industries at Barnham, Suffolk. Antiquity 68: 585-589.

Preece, R.C., Penkman K.E.H., 2005. New faunal analyses and amino acid dating of the Lower Palaeolithic site at East Farm, Barnham, Suffolk. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 116 (3): 363-377.

Further Information

Please click the following link for the main Barnham information page: About Barnham

Scholarship Scheme 2020

Students excavate at Barnham during 2019

The scholarship will pay for food, accommodation and daily travel to the site. Successful candidates will learn the key skills required to conduct Palaeolithic fieldwork on a research excavation. They will be working alongside a team of experts from the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, Queen Mary University of London and Leiden University.

The principal activities will include excavation, on-site recording, environmental sampling, finds processing and surveying. There will also be a field trip to neighbouring sites and some informal lectures. 

Dates — 22nd June 2020 to 11th July 2020 (3 weeks) 

Travel — Participants will need to arrange and pay for their own travel between home and the site at the start and end of the excavation. All other travel will be provided.

Accommodation — The project team will be staying at Forest Lodge ( The student accommodation will consist of static caravans and camping. Participants will be self-catering in groups on a rota basis each evening in a fully-equipped kitchen. All food will be provided daily for cooking.


Applications for the 2020 Barnham Excavation Scholarship closed on 28th February.

If you have applied for the 2020 scholarship, you will hear back about your application by 13th March 2020.