Appendix 2: Environmental Archaeology Assessment

Introduction | Methods | Results | Discussion | Recommendations

Appendix 2.4 Discussion

Since the pollen samples have not at this stage been processed, the only palaeoenvironmental evidence is that afforded by the snails and small vertebrates. The fauna in the ditch column clearly reflects a much higher water table than today and a generally open landscape in the immediate vicinity. The few snails from the other samples, including those from the Anglo-Saxon Grubenhäuser, show a similar picture, perhaps suggesting a generally open landscape throughout the history of the occupation of the site. The limited wild vertebrate fauna (Table 9) is not inconsistent with this picture, and the occurrence of house mouse in deposits of Iron Age and Roman date, as well as in the Anglo-Saxon Grubenhäuser, suggest that habitation or buildings are likely to have been nearby in all periods.

The palaeoeconomy of the site is reflected in the animal bones, charred plant remains and hammerscale. The latter suggests iron-smithing in the Anglo-Saxon period, but the few flakes of hammerscale in earlier deposits are inconclusive and could have derived from later periods of activity (such as the Anglo-Saxon period) and been worked down the profile by soil processes. Information on the crops and plant foods is limited, but barley occurs more frequently than spelt wheat, but the oats may be crop contaminants rather than a crop in its own right. Hazelnuts were probably collected at all periods but no other food plants have been identified so far among these small assemblages. The domestic animals are better represented and it appears that sheep were numerically more important throughout the periods identified, although cattle occur with greater frequency in the Anglo-Saxon period. The small sample size of the column and cremation samples, and their context, could, however, account for the relative absence of cattle bone fragments from the Iron Age and Romano-British deposits. Other domestic taxa include chicken, goose and dog, and the occurrence of these in the Grubenhäuser fills is fairly typical of Anglo-Saxon deposits.

Table 9: Summary of the frequency of taxa in terms of the number of samples in which they were found.

  Grubenhäuser Iron Age cemetery Ditch column Trench AC
Total no. samples 22 27 18 3
Barley 16 1 2 3
Spelt wheat cf. 3     1
Wheat sp. 1      
Oat 3   1? 1
?Legume   1    
Hazelnut 1 1 2  
Horse 2     1
Cattle 11   3  
Sheep/goat 15 5 8 3
Pig 4 2    
Dog 1      
Goose 1      
Chicken 1   1  
Unidentified bird 3      
Small bird   3    
Shrew 6     1
Water vole 1   1  
Field vole 1 1 1  
Vole 3   1 2
House mouse 2 1? 1 2
?Yellow necked mouse     1  
Mouse 1      
Rodent 4 5 1 1
Mole 1      
Newt 1      
Frog/toad 10 8 6 3

The possible origin of the Iron Age pottery within the Grubenhäuser fills (D. Powlesland pers. comm.) from turves used to construct the buildings throws some doubt on the date of some of these finds. An assessment of the relative numbers of Anglo-Saxon and Iron Age pottery sherds in the deposits is needed to establish the potential level of derivation of the environmental finds. The chicken and goose bones can confidently be assigned to the Anglo-Saxon period, but the spelt wheat and several other items could derive from Iron Age deposits incorporated in the turves.

There is a consistent domestic rubbish component in all the deposits, even those of the ?cemetery area. This is likely to reflect local habitation at all periods, although some of this material may have been introduced with manure onto land under cultivation, subsequently left fallow and used, for instance, as a cemetery or cut for turves during Grubenhaus construction. There is no positive evidence for crop processing among the charred plant assemblages and chaff fragments are rare.


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Last updated: Wed Nov 11 2009