Staff from our office there have unearthed over 1.5m of a timber-lined medieval well, buried in the alluvium under Upper Brookes Street car park, whilst carrying out a mitigating archaeological excavation ahead of the construction of a new medical practice.
Site Supervisor Tom worked alongside Elliott, Colin and Holly , to recover the brilliantly preserved timbers from the deep urban stratigraphy.
We look forward to what the post-excavation processing can reveal of the timbers and associated sediments.
A red phone box in Great Yeldham has been repurposed in an inspired way by the community: as a mini museum with a display of finds from our excavation in the village!
Prior to the construction of new homes, PCA undertook an archaeological investigation of the site. Trial trenching revealed artefacts dating from the Mesolithic/Neolithic, Iron Age and Roman periods so a second stage of fieldwork, consisting of three excavation areas, was carried out in the summer of 2021.
The earliest human activity encountered was a shallow pit or natural hollow containing 45 pieces of worked flint, including a bladelet core of Mesolithic/early Neolithic date (very broadly 8000–3000 BC), which also contained fragments of animal bone, charcoal and a few charred cereal grains. The site is close to a stream with a good source of flint pebbles suitable for knapping, and a passing band of hunter-gatherers had found it a good spot to spend time making tools and having a meal on at least one occasion.
Many millennia passed before humans left a further imprint on the site. In the Late Iron Age (100BC to AD43) several ditches were dug as part of a nearby farmstead’s extensive field boundary system. Few artefacts of this period were recovered from the ditches, indicating that the farmstead stood some distance from the site; this was further attested to by the discovery of a group of cremations dating to the same period.
Several of the cremation pits were furnished with grave goods, including fineware pottery vessels and a Chatelaine set, a belt adornment that was typically presented to Roman girls as a ‘coming of age’ gift. The range of grave goods suggests that the people buried here were moderately prosperous with access to markets supplying Roman goods in the years before the Roman invasion.
Around the middle of the 1st century AD, perhaps in the decade immediately following the Roman invasion, the area of the Late Iron Age ditch system and cremations was re-organised. This may have been associated with a change in land ownership, as no attempt was made to respect the location of the cremation cemetery and the new ditch system was set out on a different alignment. There was little evidence for domestic occupation, although a number of pits and postholes may be associated with agricultural activities. However, several of the ditches contained relatively sizeable assemblages of Roman pottery and a small Roman knife was recovered from one feature, suggesting that the ditch system lay close to an area of occupation, probably to the south or west of the site. In the western corner of the site two large Roman extraction pits were investigated (probably dug for clay), which were up to 30m in diameter and up to 2.4m deep. This part of the settlement appears to have fallen out of use in the 2nd century AD.
The process of examining the results of the excavation is currently underway and will be reported on in due course. The excavation has provided a great opportunity to learn about Great Yeldham’s distant past, in an area that has seen limited detailed archaeological investigation.
PCA would like to thank Rose Builders (Properties) Ltd for commissioning and funding the work, Nick Cooke of RPS Group for appointing PCA to undertake the excavation and Teresa O’Connor of Place Services at Essex County Council for monitoring the work and providing archaeological advice and guidance. Finally, a big thank you to Christine Caney and her husband for arranging the display.
We have a wonderful rare find from Bermondsey Square – a moulded Chinese stoneware lion sejant figurine from a late 18th century domestic context.
This has been tentatively identified as an incense stick holder, 香插, xiang cha (‘incense device for insertion’) or possibly 香台 xiang tai (‘fragrance platform’). It’s 6cm tall and almost intact except for the missing lower jaw which may have once held a ball. It has applied spiral, snail shell-like objects on its head and along its back to represent the lion’s mane. A damaged small hollow cylinder, possibly an incense stick holder, was applied to the base at the back of the figurine between the fore and hind legs. In experiments carried out recently in the PCA London Offices, it was found that a joss stick can stand nicely in the presumed holder. There is also a rectangular space between the creature’s front legs and into its hollow body. If a joss stick, or possibly a small briquette of incense, is placed there, the smoke comes out of the creatures mouth, which was probably the intention.
Ceramic lion figurines have been made in China since the Tang Dynasty period (AD 618–907), although the Bermondsey find is more likely to date from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) and was probably made in the Fujian or Guangdong provinces.
Incense holders familiar to those of us lucky enough to have visited the Far East and seen them in use in temples are far larger, in order to accommodate multiple sticks, and are generally called ‘censers’ 香爐 xianglu…- there are very many specific terms for these important ritualistic items! The Bermondsey Square figurine is likely more secular, being a small table-top or travelling size incense holder to keep away insects such as flies and mosquitoes while at a desk writing or eating at a table.
The lion figurine, which has been erroneously called Fo-Dogs or “Dogs of Buddha” since C.A.S. Williams (1932) wrongly termed these items, may possibly also represent one of the many mythical creatures in Chinese iconography. In Chinese culture, the lion, not native to the region, symbolizes power, wisdom, and superiority.
Lion figurines could also take the form of water droppers (shuizhu or shuidi) used for adding water to ink stones for calligraphy as part of a stationery kit. These have a cavity in the body and a hole on the spine, whereas this example is hollow with openings at the mouth and between the front legs. Excavations at the Huai An ( 怀安 ) kiln in Fuzhou City, Fujian Province uncovered Tang Dynasty period lion figurines and water droppers as kiln wasters, while a couchant find from the Philippines was dated to the 14th century. Dating the Bermondsey lion figurine is somewhat problematical from published examples, although the item was found with pottery dated c. 1730–50 and indicates a mid-18th-century or earlier date.
How the item was utilized and viewed by its users in Bermondsey can only be guessed at and the find may have simply been an ornamental import from a fashionable source, reflecting the passion at the time for all things oriental!
Green glazed pottery is among the most important (and frequently encountered) finds from medieval/early post medieval sites in London. This is because detailed knowledge of variations in pottery over time make it an extremely valuable dating tool!
This beautiful example of a Surrey-Hampshire border whiteware dish is no. 14 in our ‘find of the week’ series from McAleer & Rushe’s site at Arbor City Hotel. Our specialist has dated it to the late 16th-century based on the mottled glaze and the thickening on the underside of the flat rim.
The post-medieval Surrey-Hampshire border-ware industry developed from the medieval Surrey whiteware potting tradition. During these periods there were potteries making such wares at several locations on the borders of both counties. Both red- and whiteware were made in the post-medieval period, with finer wares produced before c. 1550 and sandier wares after that date. Whiteware continued to be made up to c. 1700, with chamber pots and a few other forms still in production for 50 more years, while redware continued to be manufactured into the early 20th century.
We’ve had an amazing find this week from a site in Suffolk
The coin is an Icenian Bury E type silver unit, of which Talbot (2017) records only 4 known examples. The reverse die of this coin (the side with the horse) is known on three of them, two of which are sub-classified by Cottam and Rudd (2022) as type 30, and the other with this die is a type 31. The remaining Bury E type has a similar (but different) reverse die and is sub-classified by Cottam and Rudd (2022) as type 29. This new coin appears to represent the fourth recorded example of that particular reverse die.
However, the obverse die on this new coin is completely unrecorded, showing a right facing bust (usually thought to be a god) with a two-headed snake in an S-shape in front. This is a different style to the other Bury E types, which usually have ‘roundels’ in front and around the bust. The double-headed snake designs are only really seen on the Bury A and H types, which Cottam and Rudd date c.55-50 BC, while the Bury E types are dated c.40-35 BC, so this coin might potentially require a slight re-think on the dating sequence of those coins.