Secrets of life in ancient Runcorn have been unearthed during the first dig at Norton Priory for nearly 30 years.
The excavation of a section of the monastic ruin’s grounds uncovered artefacts including a prehistoric flint blade.
Lead archaeologist Dan Garner lead more than 80 volunteers to try to locate the southern end of a medieval moat.
Although the watercourse was not found, the team discovered other items.
Mr Garner discovered the flint blade himself. The object was pointed and serrated.
Its origins date back to a time never previously recorded at the priory, which is the most heavily excavated monastic site in Europe.
Archaeologists also found a ‘significant assemblage’ of cremated bone fragments. Other finds were a shard of pottery from a Cistercian monk’s drinking cup believed to date to the 16th century and a complete iron horseshoe was discovered using a metal detector.
The excavation was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is part of the preparation work for the major Monastery To Museum 900 project to be applied for later this year.
Dan said: “Archaeological excavation is not always a precise science, and it is sometimes the case that you don’t find what you are looking for, but you do find something you were not expecting.
“This unknown factor is what makes the process so exciting and this year’s excavation at Norton Priory has been no exception.
“I hope that it has fanned the flames of archaeological interest in all of those who took part.”
Lynn Smith, Norton Priory senior keeper, said: “I am delighted that after 26 years we have starting excavating again at Norton Priory.
“Despite the extensive excavations in the 1970s and 1980s, no finds from before the medieval period were recorded.
“It is fantastic that we finally have some evidence of prehistoric life here at Norton.”
Graham Evans, Weaver Vale MP, said: “It was exceptionally exciting to volunteer on the new excavation that began this month.
“It was a real pleasure to try my hand at such an exciting project and it certain was quite different to anything I have ever done.”
Dan will be giving a talk about the dig at 7pm on Thursday, October 17. His talk, Life’s A Ditch, will take place at Norton Priory museum and entry is £3.To book a place call 01928 569 895 , email firstname.lastname@example.org or ask staff during a visit to the site.
Norton Priory is also hosting a conference on Saturday, October 26, at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Life And Death – Stories Of Norton Priory, will reveal the latest research by the universities of Wales, Lancaster and Liverpool on Norton Priory and its collections.
Guest speaker Tom Holland, author and radio and TV presenter, will join academics to put the stories of Norton Priory into context.
Tickets to the event are £35, or £25 for concessions.For groups of 10 or more, the price is £20 per person. Tickets include tea, coffee and a buffet lunch. Tickets can be bought at www.nortonpriory.org or from the priory. Group booking enquiries should be sent by email.