Impact of Bait Digging on Archaeology: Chichester Harbour Pilot Project

Impact of Bait Digging on Archaeology: Chichester Harbour Pilot Project

The MAT planned this project to better understand the impact of bait digging on archaeological artefacts and deposits. There is a lack of understanding of the impact of this potentially damaging activity on a national scale. During previous work in Chichester Harbour at the southern end of the Wadeway particular disturbance from bait digging was recorded. This had left an area heavily truncated and damaged and sediments containing archaeological material had been disturbed. 

The action of bait diggers involves digging through the intertidal sediment and turning it over, which leaves a hole where the material was from and a small mound of sediment with the previously buried material now exposed on top. As fine sediments are washed from the top of the mound of material it often leaves artefacts exposed. At the southern end of the Wadeway there were worked and burnt flint frequently seen on these bait digging mounds.

There is a clear need to further examine the impact of bait digging on intertidal deposits in relation to the historic environment in order to best manage heritage assets and bait digging activity. As there has been recorded issues with bait digging in Chichester Harbour this provided the opportunity to undertake a pilot study that will not only benefit the management of the AONB, but will also act as a demonstration project on a national basis.


The results of the fieldwork are currently being written up and will be available soon. This project has been funded by the Chichester Harbour Sustainable Development Fund.  Two seasons of fieldwork were carried out, the first in June 2014 and the second in January 2015, this allowed us to assess change over time and potential damage from bait digging at different times of the season. This involved a survey of sites containing known archaeological features which are also known to be impacted by bait digging activity. Four areas were selected, The Wadeway. Prinsted, Chidham and Dell Quay to Copperas Point.

For more information on Chichester Harbour, click here.

Below left: Evidence of bait digging near Chidham, this feature, consisting mainly of shingle, rubble and timber is thought to be the remains of an attempt to construct a road to Bosham, although some sources suggest it's the remains of a seawall, a possible jetty or a wharf structure.

Below right: Evidence of bait digging in an area of partially buried trees thought to mark the extent of the former shoreline of Copperas Point.

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