COT95: Anglo-Scandinavian settlement

Plan of COT93.3 | Building 2 | Corn-drying oven | Finds database | Archive: Pottery from 1995 excavations | Archive: Level III report | Archive: Mammal bone | Archive: Macro fossils

Figure 41: Cottam 1995 - COT95 from the North

COT95 from the North

Period IIb

Amongst the earliest features detected in COT95 were a number of shallow truncated ditches running ENE-WSW across the north part of the site, growing shallower to the west.

A broad composite feature, some 5m wide, ran across the north part of COT95. Along the north edge there was a primary ditch cut (4087), 1.65m wide x 0.05m deep, filled with dark red brown silty clay (4086) which contained a sherd of pottery (sf 96). This appeared to have been recut by a narrower U-shaped gully (4084), 0.38m wide x 0.1m deep, continuing to the western edge of COT95 as cut 4055. To the east the fills were later covered by general silting (4002). Along the ridge running along the northern edge of 4084 was a line of stake-holes (4109, 4118, 4311), generally 0.13m in diameter x 0.1m in depth. The stake-holes were placed at 1m intervals and are interpreted as representing a fence line running along the north side of the trackway. There was a fourth (4259) at the east end, possibly representing a replacement for 4246.

Along the south edge was a similar shallow ditch (4135, 4175), 0.7m wide x 0.1m deep, with an orange brown silty loam fill. This contained a number of finds, including a sherd of pottery (sf 128). Here there were also traces of recut gullies (4209, 4211) c.0.15m wide x 0.05m deep, again with silty loam fills. The south gully continued to the west as cut 4093 and a ceramic lamp base (sf 58) was recovered from fill 4092.

There was a shallow groove (4161), 0.25-0.45m wide x 0.05-0.12m in depth, possibly a wagon-rut, running down the approximate centre of the trackway. To the west there was a fragment of gully (4127) up to 0.6m wide x 0.2m deep, on a similar alignment. This was also cut by the north-south enclosure boundary and appears be to of the same date as the other east-west features, although its relationship with them is unclear. All these features appeared to grow narrower and shallower to the west, until they disappeared. This may be the result of deeper truncation at this side.

Wherever intersections were examined these features were cut by north-south features. They are interpreted as the first ninth-century arrangement of the land, and may relate to subsidiary trackways and ditches running from the north-south sunken trackway west of COT95.

Period III

Figure 42: Cottam 1995 - during excavation showing trackway and entrance way  Cottam 1995 - during excavation showing trackway and entrance way

The east side of the entrance was sectioned in two places, revealing a massive ditch (4207) c.5-6m wide x 0.6 deep but deepening to 0.8m towards the butt end. The ditch had been terraced into the natural chalk. Its outer edge sloped gradually to the base, although at the butt end it sloped more steeply. The inside edge was more steeply graded, once again especially so at the butt end. The base was narrow but flat bottomed, presumably for drainage. At the centre of the butt end there were traces of an east-west ridge of compacted chalk (4309), 0.4m wide x 0.2m high. This had been cut by a substantial post-hole (4282), 0.35m in diameter. There was a second post-hole (4307-8) with chalk rubble packing (4307) 1m to the east. These features are interpreted as the foundations for a massive timber gateway structure.

This ditch appeared to have been kept clean as there was no evidence of silting. Along the north edge there appears to have been a substantial chalk rampart as a layer of large subangular chalk blocks was pushed into the ditch when the entrance was demolished, towards the end of Period III. At this stage the large entrance posts were removed, and the holes backfilled with reddish brown silty clay loam (4253). The rampart was pushed into the ditch from the north, leaving a tumble of substantial subangular chalk blocks (4302) on the north side of the ditch. A thick layer of red brown silty loam, 0.3-0.4m deep (4264), with large chalk blocks, was then dumped in the bottom of the ditch. This layer was relatively sterile of finds, although two sherds of pottery were recovered (sfs170, 178). This was followed by a massive layer of red brown silty clay with more chalk blocks (4204). This also contained few finds, apart from one Torksey type ware rim sherd, probably from a tenth-century cooking pot (sf 153).

To the north there were ditches on each side of the main entrance trackway, creating a ditched enclosure on each side, although these were much narrower and shallower, until they disappeared altogether. These gullies were sectioned at several points, revealling different depositional sequences. Some 5m within the entrance the gullies were initially broad and flat-bottomed. To the west, 4274 was a shallow feature, c.0.15m deep, and over 1m wide; to the east, 4173 was 0.2-0.3m deep and c.2m wide. Each had been backfilled with reddish brown silty clay loam with chalk fragments (4197 and 4164 respectively). In this area each ditch had then be recut, to the west by an irregular cut (4250), 0.4m deep x c.1m wide; to the east by a U-shaped cut (4114), 0.3m deep x 0.4m wide. To the west there was a primary fill of light brown silty clay loam with frequent small chalk fragments (4251), followed by a layer of silty clay loam with larger chalk fragments (4249) which also contained lenses of carbonised seeds. This was followed by a clean fill of reddish brown silty clay loam (4177), and finally a much rubblier layer (4181), possibly building up after subsidence of the earlier fills. To the east the ditch here contained just a single fill of a clean reddish brown clay loam (4147) which contained a sherd of pottery (sf134). It is assumed that each ditch had an associated bank, on the inside edge of the enclosures.

To the north, the gully on the west side of the track appeared to comprise just a single U-shaped cut (4103) with steep sides and a flat base, varying in depth from 0.3-0.4m. It had been backfilled with dark red brown sandy loam (4102) with chalk fragments. A number of Torksey type ware potsherds (sfs100, 124, 125) were recovered from this fill.

To the south, the gully (4298) started to curve to the west and broadened to form the west side of the gateway. Here it had been cut down into the chalk bedrock and it had gently sloping terraced sides and a flat base. The various fills were excavated as 4281 in this area; two potsherds (sfs189, 190) were recovered. There was a substantial post-hole (4306), c.0.75m in diameter x 0.5m deep, dug into the edge of the ditch. Its fill (4305) was indistinguishable from the backfill of the ditch. There was also apparently a second small post-hole (4304) 0.4m in diameter x 0.2m deep, with a dark brown silty loam fill (4303) just beyond the edge of the ditch. Together these two holes probably correspond with the pair of post-holes (4282, 4308) on the east side of the entrance way.

Running down the centre of the trackway was a shallow groove (4276), c. 0.2m wide x 0.05m deep. This had a clay loam fill (4275) from which a copper alloy pin (sf188) was recovered towards the south end. Rather than following the west curve of the side gully this central groove continued directly to the south where it cut the fills of an earlier shallow gully feature.

This was a two phase gully which was excavated in the south-west corner of COT95. The first phase comprised a shallow cut (4267) c.0.5m wide, with a fill of dark brown silty clay loam with occasional chalk fragments (4157) which contained two sherds of Maxey type ware (sf196). Large quantities of fuel ash slag were recovered from this deposit, in an area some 3 x 2m, against the west baulk. It also contained a hone stone (sf54) lead slag (sfs56, 107) and a potsherd (sf160). This ditch later appears to have been recut by a second shallow scoop (4266) with a similar fill (4265) which contained two copper alloy pins (sf135, 140) and a potsherd (sf150). There was a small post-hole (4195-6) in the angle between ditches 4267 and 4298. There were two parallel slots (4239, 4261) to the east of ditch 4266). The first was at least 2m in length and 0.1m deep; the second was of similar depth but much shorter. The fills (4238, 4260) were clean orange brown silty clay, similar in consistency to that of many of the natural hollows on site. However, although they were devoid of finds, these slots appeared too regular to be the result of animal or root action, and are interpreted as fence lines running north towards the entrance.

In the north-east corner of COT95 there was a short section of ditch (4151) running into the baulk. In one area the sides of the cut (4152) were extremely weathered, the natural chalk having been exposed for some time at this point. From its continuation observed on the geophysical survey this feature is interpreted as the east return of the west enclosure boundary ditch. The ditch was backfilled with reddish brown clay loam (4001) which contained a fragment of iron blade (sf88). A short stretch of gully (4125), 0.8m wide x 0.3m deep, on the same alignment, with a dark brown silty clay fill (4124) is also assumed to belong to this phase, although whilst it has the same stratigraphic relationship as them, it shows no obvious relationship to the other features.

There was a large number of round or sub-rectangular holes cut into the natural chalk, particularly towards the north end of COT95. These were recognised as regularly shaped patches of dark soil although upon excavation several transpired to be natural hollows. On the other hand, others were clearly post-holes with dark fills, regular sides and flat bottoms, and packing stones around the edges. The fills also sometimes contained finds.

It was impossible to define any clear structures during the excavation, and these remain elusive, although it is possible to identify several lines of post-holes. The apparently random pattern may be the result of differential depth of the original posts, and differential truncation. The composite pattern of post-holes also appears to represent several phases of activity. It is also possible that the original structures may have been at least partially ground-level buildings whose sill beams have left no archaeological trace. In the absence of any clear means of distinguishing between them the post-holes have all been grouped together here. They have been categorised as Class A probable post-holes and Class B possible post-holes. The Class C holes are those which are interpreted as almost certainly natural and have been discussed as Period I.1.

The largest post-holes were those identified in the north-west corner of COT95, each 0.3-0.4m in depth. The largest (4280) continued beyond the edge of excavation. It was at least 0.6-0.8m across; its loose dark brown silty clay loam fill (4279) contained a large number of sherds of pottery (sfs174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185) including York ware and a number of conjoining sherds in Late Saxon fabric type 14. To the south-east was a double hole (4284, 4300) and a single (4273) of a similar nature. A substantial rectangular slot, 1.75 x 0.65 x 0.4m deep (4137) may also have been associated with these holes. It was packed with angular chalk blocks and contained two fragments of fuel ash slag (sfs 131, 132) and a decorated bone handle (sf139) as well as charcoal flecks. Its function is indeterminate but it may have been linked to some industrial process. To the south-east of this slot was a group of Class B holes (4169, 4185, 4189, 4252) which may have been associated with the slot, or with the quarry hole to the south-west (Digital archive>III.3). To the south-east of the quarry hole was another substantial post-hole (4074-5), 0.7-0.8m across x 0.3m in depth, filled with loose grey brown silty clay loam.

There were many more post-holes in this north-west area, although they exhibit no obvious alignments. The definite Class A cuts (4010, 4028, 4034, 4046, 4049, 4065, 4071, 4073, 4113, 4122, 4140, 4187, 4194, 4219, 4257) are generally 0.25-0.65m in diameter and 0.2-0.3m deep; their fills are orange brown clay loams with charcoal flecks. One fill (4003) contained a copper alloy strap end (sf49). The Class B cuts (4051, 4067, 4069, 4100, 4146, 4180, 4203, 4206, 4213, 4221, 4223, 4225, 4227, 4229, 4255) were often shallower; their fills were cleaner.

There were also a number of stake-holes in the north-west corner of COT95. A group of these (4291, 4293, 4295, 4297, 4299) formed a definite cluster near the rectangular slot (4137 above). They were recognised as settings of upstanding packing stones after the removal of the ploughsoil. There was another pair of these small holes (4199, 4201) to the north-east.

To the north-east corner of COT95 the number of post-holes declined, but was still high relative to the rest of the trench. Again there was a number of Class A cuts, 0.3m in diameter by 0.25m in depth (4163, 4171, 4215, 4241, 4263, 4271) with dark orange brown silty clay fills and evidence of packing. There was also a substantial post-hole against the northern edge of excavation, at least 0.65m across x 0.45m deep (4231). There were further Class B cuts (4096, 4115, 4131, 4133, 4144, 4155, 4156, 4159, 4168, 4233, 4235) with clean fills in this area. A pair of stake-holes (4150, 4217), parallel with the edge of linear cut 4152 may represent a fence-line associated with it.

Against the western edge of the excavation there was a further cluster of post-holes, possibly representing the remains of a structure beyond the west boundary of the entrance trackway. There was a pair of substantial holes (4101, 4111), some 0.5m in diameter x 0.25m in depth, with steep sides and flat bases, and traces of stone packing, and a third smaller hole c.3m to the north (4237), 0.3m diameter x 0.2m in depth, also with stone packing. However, other hollows in this area appear to be the result of animal or root action, and any building must have continued west beyond the edge of excavation. The fill of each post-hole comprised fairly loose red brown silty clay loam, although there were traces of packing in one (4101).

Towards the north-west corner of COT95 a massive sub-oval pit (4053), 4.1 x 3.2 x 0.65m in depth, was cut into the natural bedrock. The base was defined by a natural horizontal bedding-plane in the chalk; the sides comprised roughly cut sloping edges of natural chalk. There was little trace of weathering or rounding of the chalk edges, nor of any silting in the base, suggesting the pit had been backfilled fairly rapidly after it had been dug. The primary fill (4148) comprised a clay loam with abundant large chalk fragments. A fragment of quernstone (sf141) was recovered from it. A number of flat chalk blocks had apparently been deliberately laid flat towards the centre of the pit to provide a temporary working surface on the top of this layer before it was covered by a similar layer of clay loam (4091) with frequent small and medium chalk fragments. This layer yielded some fragments of lava quern stone (sf98), several gritstone quern fragments (sfs 117, 118, 119, 122, 123), two honestones (sfs116, 137), and two potsherds, one a Maxey type sherd (sf103) and the second a Torksey type sherd (sf102). In turn it was overlain by an upper fill (4052) of clay loam, distinguished from it by a further reduction in the size and quantity of chalk fragments. The upper fill also contained several quernstone fragments (sfs90, 93) and potsherds (sfs94, 95). There was little to distinguish between the fills other than the degree of sorting of the chalk fragments and it is likely that the fills were deposited almost consecutively. All the fills were comparatively sparse in finds and there was little to suggest that any domestic rubbish had found its way into the backfill. The purpose of this pit is unclear. A water hole is one possibility although there was no trace of a chalk lining, and the lack of silting would mean that it had been kept totally clean. A quarry hole to provide chalk blocks for building materials such as padstones is the most likely explanation.

Finally, following the end of activity there was settling of the fills in a number of the larger features and general layers of silting formed in the resulting hollows. In the quarry hole (4053 above) a clean layer of clay loam (4004) with only occasional small chalk fragments, 0.15m in depth, formed in the top of the pit, and appears to represent slumping of ploughsoil. It contained a large honestone fragment (sf44), but a sherd of post-medieval pottery is probably the result of contamination of a plough furrow which cut across the feature. There was a spread of clay loam (4165) to the east of the pit, probably the result of plough disturbance of 4004. To the east a clean reddish brown silty loam (4002) accumulated in the hollow of the E-W trackway 4087. It contained two sherds of pottery (sfs120, 121), one of which (sf121) conjoins a sherd (sf183) in the fill of post-hole 4279. The freshness of this sherd and its relationship to the sherd in the post-hole appears to confirm that this layer of general silting was an immediate post-destruction phase in the Anglo-Scandinavian period. To the south a general layer of silty loam (4242) was cleared from the upper levels of 4281. It contained a fragment of comb (sf167). East of the entrance way settling of the substantial rubble fills in the main ditch (4207) led to the build up of a very clean silty clay layer (4178) in the upper levels of the ditch. This was particularly rich in finds, including a copper alloy ring (sf142), and a pin (sf53), and several sherds of Torksey type ware (sfs144, 147, 148, 149, 186). Finally, a general layer of silty clay loam (4116) formed in a large rectangular area, 6m wide by at least 10m in length, representing an eroded trackway on the inside of the main entrance. This layer masked a series of ditches on each side, defining the edges of the trackway. Each of these layers tended to be rich in artefacts, their depth protecting them from plough disturbance.

Plan of COT93.3 | Building 2 | Corn-drying oven | Finds database | Archive: Pottery from 1995 excavations | Archive: Level III report | Archive: Mammal bone | Archive: Macro fossils


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