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.
Staff from our Newark office have unearthed some exciting archaeology at a new industrial development at Dove Valley Park in Derbyshire, working on behalf of Orion Heritage and Clowes Developments (UK) Ltd.
Cropmarks on aerial photographs hinted at the presence of several ring ditches and linear ditches on and close to the site. Our team confirmed the existence of these features through trial trench evaluation. We then conducted a strip, map and sample excavation to fully reveal and investigate the remains, leading to the discovery of a complete ring ditch and a substantial linear ditch.
The ring ditch during excavation, with a possible entrance visible in the foreground. There was at least one re-cutting of the ring ditch, suggesting maintenance and possible longevity of use.
The ring ditch is thought to be prehistoric, one nearby was excavated in the 1990s and found to be Bronze Age. The feature may have been a stock enclosure since no artefacts were found within it. However, soil samples were retained for potential radiocarbon dating and to recover small artefacts and environmental evidence and we’re looking forward to the results of our post-excavation work.
The long linear ditch is thought to be a post-medieval boundary. These discoveries add to our understanding of the area’s rich history and provides fascinating insights into the way our ancestors lived and worked.
Orthophoto showing the post-medieval boundary ditch running west–east to the north of the ring ditch.
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.
Cameron and Maisie attended a careers fair last week, at the Humanities Department of the University of Winchester, to speak to prospective trainees studying there.
Their career stories, insights and advice were much appreciated and described as inspirational and demonstrative of fabulous graduate outcomes by the Uni’s Faculty Employability Adviser. PCA will be attending the next careers day there too.
In the summer of 2021 our Durham office was lucky enough to discover Hadrian’s Wall in urban Tyneside. Excitingly, we found Turret 3a, perhaps the largest yet discovered, and the northern defensive ditch and six berm obstacle pits. Scott Vance will present our findings at the forthcoming Current Archaeology Live! conference, which will be held at UCL Institute of Education in London on 25 February.
Tickets are selling fast but are still available through the Current Archaeology website:
Urban Tyneside sounds like the last place to uncover surviving elements of Hadrian’s Wall, however what it lacks in picturesque beauty, it more than makes up for in opportunities for archaeological investigations due to intensive modern development. This makes the extreme eastern sector of the wall one of the most dynamic and interesting sections along the whole frontier. Our investigation demonstrates that significant remains relating to the wall can and do survive within the more built-up areas of urban Tyneside. The discovery of Turret 3a also indicates that local factors were allowed to influence the positioning of structures along the wall. The exact positioning of milecastles and turrets within the Newcastle to Wallsend section has always been unclear, with the structures not appearing to follow the assumed spacing. Measurements suggest that Turret 3a should be some way to the south-west of its actual location, which is on a hill with a commanding view over the valley. Interestingly, this shows that strategic interests had outweighed the original spacing scheme during the construction of the wall.
Scott is currently writing an article about Turret 3a which will be published in Current Archaeology in due course; in the meantime you can read more about our discovery here:
The forthcoming CAS conference will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Sir Cyril Fox’s TheArchaeology of the Cambridge Region, covering themes and archaeology relevant to our day-to-day work in the region.
It will be a great opportunity for newer staff to catch up on the last 100 years and start thinking about the century to come!