COT93.1: Anglian settlement - West

Plan of COT93.1 | Building 1 | North-South ditch | Feature 1073 - the skull in the pit | Finds database | Archive: Pottery from 1993 excavations | Archive: Level III archive report

Figure 39: Cottam 1993 - Area 1
Cottam 1993 Area 1

Period IIa

A series of post-holes was cut into the natural chalk (1081, 1096, 1100, 1103, 1105, 1109, 1112, 1114, 1116, 1118-9), forming a crude L-shape, comprising roughly paired post-holes in an alternating inner and outer line. These are interpreted as representing the corner of a post-hole structure, Building 1.

Most of these post-holes had vertical sides and flat bases and ranged between 0.2 - 0.35m in depth, with an average diameter of 0.3 - 0.35m. Some, such as 1100 and 1116, were shallower, being only c.0.15m deep; the latter, in particular, may not have been a member of the same post-hole group. Similarly, 1119 was very irregular and would have been interpreted as a natural feature, were it not for its position at the corner of the building. The post-holes were backfilled with loose friable silty loam with small chalk fragments, gravel and some bone fragments.

There was a possible continuation of the southern wall-line beyond the eastern edge of the main north-south ditch. One post-hole (1127) was located on the eastern edge of the main ditch; however, this was much smaller than others in this wall line, being only 0.15m in diameter and 0.1m in depth. After a two-metre gap there were four further possible post-holes were observed, after the recognition of the main group (1070, 1072, 1130-1), running into the eastern edge of the excavation. These were between 0.15 - 0.4m in diameter, but only 0.05 - 0.1m in depth. They would have been discounted as structural features if it were not for the fact that they were on the same alignment as the south wall of Building 1, and the absence of other cut features in this area. The relative shallowness of these features may have been a product of truncation through later ploughing, estimated as being up to 0.2m in places, whereas the post-holes on the western edge of the ditch had been protected by the later rubble bank on this side (1129).

No post-holes were found crossing the main north-south ditch (1029). The possibility that a line of post-holes had been masked by the ditch fill was fully explored by the excavators, with careful trowel cleaning in this area, but there was absolutely no trace of any post-holes cut into the ditch fill which, assuming that the post-holes were indeed part of a rectangular building, must therefore be later.

This leaves two possible orientations for Building 1. It may have been built with the long wall aligned north-south, with the north end wall beyond the edge of excavation, and the foundations of the east wall cut away by the later north-south ditch, in which case it could not have been more than 5m wide. In this case, the truncated features on the eastern side of the ditch have to be explained as belonging to some other unknown structure. Alternatively Building 1 may have been aligned with the long wall east-west. In this case, both the north wall and the east wall were beyond the edge of the excavation, and Building 1 must have been at least 5m wide by 12m in length. The gap in the post-holes just to the east of the ditch could possibly represent a doorway in the middle of the long side, making the building c.14m long in total.

There were no associated floor levels, and no dating evidence from the post-holes. An Anglo-Saxon date is preferred on morphological grounds, but a Romano-British interpretation cannot be discounted, although the lack of material culture datable to the Iron Age or Roman periods makes this unlikely.

A pair of shallow linear gullies (1078, 1126) ran north-south along the western edge of COT93.1. The westernmost gully (1078) was between 0.2 - 0.25m in depth; it became shallower to the north, until it was no longer visible as a separate feature. The easternmost gully (1126) was c.0.15m deep. The gullies were parallel, with a narrow ridge preserved between them at the southern end of the excavation. The relationship between them is unknown; they may have been contemporary. At the northern end of the site they respected the west wall of Building 1, suggesting that the gullies were an associated feature, possibly a drainage ditch, or property boundary. The gullies were backfilled with an orange brown clay loam which contained fragments of a lava rotary quern (sf29) and a possible knife blade (sf75), supporting the interpretation of Period II as Anglo-Saxon.

A post-hole (1108), c.0.3m in diameter, was cut into the base of gully 1126. Both cut and fill were similar to those post-holes making up Building 1 and may represent part of an associated structure or a possible fence line within the gully. There was a second possible post-hole (1095), c.0.45 in diameter and 0.35m in depth, c.1m to the south. A number of air voids in the fill were suggestive of rapid removal of a post and subsequent backfilling. There was a third similar irregular post-hole (1099), c.0.5 - 0.7m in diameter by 0.35m in depth, about 2m to the south-east. This had been filled with a mid brown clay loam which also contained air voids suggesting removal of a timber post. It had been sealed by rubble (1129) thrown up from later ditch digging.

Period IIb

A substantial north-south ditch (1079) extended the full length of COT93.1, cutting through the demolished Building 1. This ditch originally appears to have been c.1m wide by 0.4m deep, with a steep V-shaped profile, although in the northern part of the site its western edge had been removed by a later recut (1029); further south the recut had removed all trace of the first ditch. It was probably as a result of cutting the ditch that a layer of chalk rubble (1129) was thrown up along its western edge, covering the backfilled post-holes of the western half of Building 1. It may represent the remains of a ploughed out bank. The first ditch was backfilled with reddish brown clay loam (1028) and recut (1029, 1123) along the full length of the excavation. It was now c.2.8m wide at the surface and 0.5m in depth. It narrowed with stepped sides to a flat base, c.0.5m wide, following the bedding in the natural chalk bedrock.

The primary fill in the recut ditch was a clay loam (1027/1122) containing a lens with a high density of chalk fragments (1124). This was overlain by a cleaner dark brown clay loam (1026/1121) with rare chalk fragments. The upper fill was a mid brown clay loam (1004/1077/1102) which levelled the ditch. A number of Anglo-Saxon finds were recovered from this upper fill, including two fragments of copper-alloy pins (sfs 4, 5), a copper-alloy strap end (sf20), a perforated chalk weight (sf6), an iron knife blade (sf83), a fragment of sandstone hone (sf81), a ceramic lamp base (sf7), a fragment of daub (sf41), an antler handled comb (sf16), and an iron wool/flax comb (sf61). Two fragments of lead-alloy were also recovered from this layer (sfs3, 8). It was noticable that these finds were found in the topmost 0.1m of the fill, and probable that they represent general occupation debris that had become incorporated into an area of subsidence above the earlier ditch fills, and had therefore been afforded some protection from ploughing.

A shallow oval feature (1093), c.0.4 x 0.7m, was cut into the backfilled ditch (1126) running along the western edge of the excavation. It was filled with a medium brown clay loam with chalk fragments (1092). A second shallow oval feature (1068), c.0.7 x 1.15m, had cut through the remains of the rubble bank (1129) against the northern edge of the excavation. It was filled with dark brown silty loam with chalk fragments (1065). The fill contained charcoal fragments, as well as some animal bone.

A large straight-sided circular pit (1073), 2.45m in diameter and 1m deep, was cut into chalk bedrock to the east of the central north-south ditch although its stratigraphic relationship with the ditch is unknown. The initial fill comprised weathered chalk (1091) which had been exposed in the sides of the pit and had slumped into the base fairly soon after its construction (27). There was a spread of reddish brown silty clay (1090) in the base of the pit which also filled a circular hollow in the weathered chalk. This was overlain by a further thin spread of weathered chalk (1088), possibly the product of one season of weathering. This had, in turn, been covered by another fill of reddish brown silty clay (1087), overlain by a substantial slumped deposit of fragmented chalk (1086), presumably the result of another weathering episode. At this point the skull of an adult female, minus the lower jaw, had been placed, face downwards, in the base of the pit. The pit had then been backfilled by a substantial layer of reddish brown clay loam (1003), levelling it with the surrounding ground surface. This layer contained a substantial bone assemblage and a number of finds of Anglo-Saxon date, including two fragments of decorated comb (sfs 26, 56), a copper-alloy garment hook (sf34), a fragment of sandstone hone (sf101), a fragment of daub (sf112), and two iron teeth from wool or flax combs (sfs 23, 42). A block of chalk (sf32) had been placed adjacent to the skull; there was a rectangular slab of limestone (sf31) in the backfill towards the edge of the pit, and two fragments of perforated chalk (sfs18, 100), possibly stone weights. A number of lead-alloy fragments (sfs9, 10, 11) were found in the surface of the pit, as well as a silver penny of Aethelberht of Wessex of 858-c.862/4 (sf13).

Adjacent to this pit there was a second cut feature (1044). This appeared to be smaller than pit 1073, although it extended beyond the edge of excavation, and may have been linear rather than circular. It was certainly shallower, being c.0.7m deep, and had a U-shaped profile. It had been filled with a dark brown clay loam (1043) which was similar to fill 1003 in pit 1073. It contained fewer finds, although a fragment of decorated comb (sf74) appears to have come from the same object as the fragments (sfs26, 56) in 1003, suggesting that both features were backfilled as part of one operation. This layer also contained a fragment of lead-alloy (sf30).

A third adjacent feature (1084) may also have been associated, although this was an irregular roughly linear cut, varying in depth from 0.1 - 0.35m, which also extended beyond the excavation edge. It had been filled with mid brown clay loam that contained very few finds.

To the north-west of these features there were three shallow linear grooves (1048, 1050, 1064), each aligned north-south, with a V- or U-shaped profile. The longest was less than 1m in length, and they were only c.0.1m deep. It is difficult to assign them to any particular period with certainty, although they do not appear to have been natural features as their fills comprised loose dark brown silty clay loam, and included some animal bone. They may have been truncated structural features associated with the three pits and the ditch; there was the trace of a possible stake-hole, 0.15m deep x 0.15m in diameter, at the north end of 1048.

Plan of COT93.1 | Building 1 | North-South ditch | Feature 1073 - the skull in the pit | Finds database | Archive: Pottery from 1993 excavations | Archive: Level III archive report


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Last updated: Wed Apr 25 2001