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Before Bedale

By News

Today marks the press release of our latest popular publication ‘Before Bedale: Archaeological excavations along the route of the Bedale, Aiskew and Leeming Bar Bypass’ which is available as a free download by clicking here.

PCA undertook excavations in 2015 ahead of the construction of a new road, bypassing Bedale, Aiskew and Leeming Bar, and the results of our excavations of two key sites have been summarised on the North Yorkshire County Council website to mark the release of the booklet. Click here to read their article.

North Yorkshire County Council’s Principal Archaeologist, Peter Rowe, with the booklet.

‘Before Bedale’ throws light on how people lived in the area from around 2,500 years ago onwards. The earliest site excavated was an Iron Age ditched enclosure at Bedale, already identified during aerial survey.

The Iron Age enclosure ditch with associated finds from the site at Bedale.

However, the second site, a Roman villa at Aiskew, was completely unexpected. Excavations revealed the layout of the villa, but only the part that would eventually be beneath the road was excavated. The Yorkshire Post led with the headline ’95 per cent of Roman villa in North Yorkshire field is yet to be uncovered’ – read their article here.

The remainder of the villa has now been scheduled. “With the villa itself, we have only just tickled it,” said Peter Rowe. “Only one room has been excavated and the rest of it recorded in plan, so we have seen perhaps five per cent of the overall villa. There is so much more potential in the site that maybe one day researchers can go back to. There is still this fantastic archaeological resource beneath the fields in Bedale, which one day might give up its secrets.”

A reconstruction of the Roman villa, the hypocausted room during excavation, and some of the unexpected finds from Aiskew.

Peter Rowe, Principal Archaeologist, said: “The discovery of the Roman villa enabled the archaeologists to compare a native style of life, farming that largely relied on keeping cattle in enclosures, with this more developed Roman farm, with stone buildings and crops. It demonstrates the way the landscape changed in that critical 500 to 600 years when the Romans were making contact with the natives.”

There was also a third fascinating discovery that not only physically connected the two sites but also connected them to the present. It was a routeway that ran along the higher, well-drained land on which the settlements sat.

The cover image of the booklet, with an artist’s reconstruction of the enclosure site overlain onto an aerial photo of the excavation, shows how, remarkably, the line of the new bypass follows the route of a trackway established over 2000 years ago, following the higher, well drained land along the Bedale and Scurf Becks.

Involving the community was integral to the project. Jennifer Proctor, then regional manager of PCA, said: “Involving the public as much as possible was important to us, and we did a lot of work with local schools and groups.

“This included a site tour and finds display for pupils of Bedale School, plus community events during the work and involvement afterwards. Following the excavations, pupils from Mowbray School in Bedale enjoyed a talk and finds display as well as an outdoor finds processing session. Local and national archaeological societies and regional community groups also enjoyed talks and displays.

“Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group helped to process finds, including washing the many animal bones, fragments of pottery and other artefacts, and members of Bedale Archaeology and History Society sieved soil excavated from one of the large quarry pits at Aiskew to recover small artefacts and animal bones.”

Peter Rowe talks about the excavation and finds.

Copies of ‘Before Bedale’ can be picked up from libraries in Bedale, Northallerton, Caterick, Ripon and Leyburn as well as County Hall and the County record Office in Northalleton, Bedale Hall and Kiplin Hall.

PCA Summer BBQ!

By News

PCA Cambridge and Norfolk have finally been able to do our annual summer BBQ! It was great to catch up, eat some food, and chat about archaeology and life. We also got a group photo with the drone!

High status Anglo-Saxon burial in Cambridgeshire

By News

While photographing some of the metallic finds from the burials at Three Kings, Haddenham, Cambridgeshire, our RTI specialist Ryan noticed that the decoration and overall shape of one of the small finds, a shield decoration, looked very similar to a sturgeon in its overall morphology. Sturgeon have lines of bony plates (scutes) which run from their head to their tail, along their lateral, dorsal, and ventral sides. The decorated pattern on this small find is very reminiscent of the pattern of scutes on sturgeon (save for the collar). Sturgeon are considered to be high status/royal fish throughout the Anglo-Saxon and subsequent medieval periods, which suggests the individual was someone of significant social status.

The archaeology of Walthamstow – a pop-up exhibition

By News

PCA, in conjunction with MOLA, will be holding a free exhibition at The Mill community centre on Coppermill Lane on Saturday 25th September, from 10am-4pm.

The exhibition will present the results of recent PCA excavations at Holy Family Catholic School and Sixth Form in Walthamstow Village, next to the Church of St Mary. The work was undertaken ahead of the construction of a new sports hall adjacent to Vinegar Alley, a medieval footpath linking the church to Shernhall Street.

The earliest phase of activity revealed by our excavations was a late Bronze Age roundhouse with associated pit groups, probably a farmstead. In the late Roman period a group of four timber framed buildings occupied the site. These have been interpreted as farm buildings, possibly attached to a larger villa complex nearby. A medieval field system was represented by a series of ditches and pits.

A range of fascinating finds from the excavations will be on display, bringing 3000 years of Walthamstow’s past to life.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to see how the River Lea has influenced life in Walthamstow since its earliest prehistory, and to learn more about the techniques archaeologists use to investigate the past.

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Plan of the site showing the wealth of archaeological features revealed during excavations.

Prehistory in Essex

By News

Excavations at one of our recent sites in Essex have revealed a number of relatively high-status urned cremations dating to the late Iron Age. One of the best examples was accompanied by additional vessels, probably to contain offerings. Additionally, on another part of the site, we’ve uncovered a substantial spread of Neolithic worked flint.

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Gathering the harvest

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We’re pleased to help support the Cambridge Antiquarian Society in this innovative venture! Their citizen science project, supported by the Royal Archaeological Institute, will collate evidence for the rural economy of Iron Age and Roman Cambridgeshire. The aim of the project is to understand how the plants cultivated and used by people during these periods were distributed across Cambridgeshire, and Britain as a whole.

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Never judge a book by its cover

By News

Some of us in the post-excavation sections of PCA have recently been working on the report on excavations the company carried out at Ensign Court, off Ensign Street, between Cable Street and The Highway in Tower Hamlets, London, E1. We know, from documentary sources and a previous excavation we conducted over ten years ago on a neighbouring site in Dock Street, that there was a glass house here in the late 17th century, which continued in use into the 18th century. It appears on the famous map of London in 1746 by John Rocque – Glass House Yard and Glass House Hill relate to its location.

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The Brockley Garden Archaeology Roadshow

By Education & Community, News

On Saturday 17 July PCA joined the Hillyfields Midsummer Fayre with ‘The Brockley Garden Archaeology Road Show’.  The Fayre is an annual and very popular event in Lewisham, which is where our London office is based. Our stall, which showcased finds from Lewisham and nearby Greenwich, was also part of the Council for British Archaeology Festival of Archaeology 2021, focused this year on exploring local places. Our stall was a great success, with many visitors stopping for a chat or bringing some of their own garden finds for examination. Unsurprisingly, there is a vivid interest in local history and the little fragments of the past that make up our daily work! We will definitely try to make our presence a recurring feature of the Midsummer Fayre and other local events.

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