Female Indiana Jones discovers ancient sites

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‘Sussex’s answer to Indiana Jones’ is what a Fittleworth woman said she feels like after discovering several archaeological sites across West Sussex.

Deborah Lee, 46, said a county archaeologist’s ‘jaw dropped’ when she showed him photographs taken from a gyrocopter piloted by Tony Fowler, from Billingshurst, revealing previously unknown sites in the Horsham, Worthing and Chichester districts.

JPCT 231013 Debbie Lee is a casual archaeologist who has discovered loads of ancient, important sites with the help of Tony Fowler and his gyrocopter. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 231013 Debbie Lee is a casual archaeologist who has discovered loads of ancient, important sites with the help of Tony Fowler and his gyrocopter. Photo by Derek Martin

However, Deborah cannot disclose the exact locations of the sites for fear of gangs of treasure hunters raiding the land.

She said: “I feel like Indiana Jones - Sussex’s answer to Indiana Jones.

“Nothing prepared me for how many we discovered. The archaeologists will be bogged down with work for years ahead.

“In archaeology it is so important to keep it quiet until the excavation, because the land owners will get treasure hunters on their land - there are organised gangs that do that.”

Deborah owns Cezala Hair Salon in the High Street in Billingshurst, but received a diploma in Practical Archaeology from the University of Sussex at the age of 40.

A regular client of hers is Tony’s wife, who helped arrange for the pair to look for archaeological areas from the sky in Tony’s gyrocopter.

Deborah said: “When I showed the pictures to the county archaeologist his jaw dropped.

“He was used to maybe one or two being made apparent to him every few months but to see so many in one go shocked him.

“I get bored on my days off if I am not doing something to do with archaeology, it is just a passion.”

The newly discovered sites could be thousands of years old - Deborah estimates they are from the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman times. One of them is thought to be a burial.

Deborah, who also uses a metal detector, taught herself how to recognise features from the air using Google Earth.

She added: “I thought I was going to die the first time we went up, I was full of fear but Tony is a good pilot so there is always a smooth take off and landing.”

Tony said: “She was brave enough to go up once. She survived, and now there is no stopping her!

“She rang me up after the photos had been looked at by those that know, and she was very excited.”

Deborah added she is always looking for land owners to allow her to explore their land and further her ‘passion’.