3.2 Structural evidence

P. Davenport, A. Hunt and D. Hurst

Commentary on the Site Description (2008)

The 1979 structural text for the Iron Age has been largely retained in the Site Description, but is accompanied by a commentary in order to provide further discussion based on a more current understanding. Feature types are mainly as defined in the late 1970s, when labels were conventionally used without any rigorous definitions; in the 2007–8 analysis a more systematic distinction was made between shallower features and pits, the former being referred to as scoops, and this new terminology has been applied here, along with some limited updating based on fresh specialist analysis in order that terms such as 'Belgic' are now avoided.

Site analysis has been hampered throughout by the general absence of well-defined structures in the interior of the enclosure; buildings were not obvious, and only pit groups were more readily definable although these were quite small clusters in comparison, for instance, with Beckford (Wills in prep. [2010]). In 2008 an earlier prehistoric phase of structural remains was much more widely defined across the site than had been the case in 1979, based mainly on the presence of flint and pre-Iron Age pottery (Fig. 5). It is likely that this has only drawn out the more provable earlier features, as many contained no finds and so were largely undatable. As the excavators (Davenport and Hunt 1979) have emphasised, there was also extensive later animal disturbance and burrowing on the site, which has provided an additional complication. Where the latter was defined by the excavators it has been removed from the phase plans presented in this report. Site grid references are given (e.g. F4) where there is a need to identify a particular location on the site.

3.2.1 Period 1. Late Mesolithic

Pre-Iron Age phases were identified during the 2007–8 analysis, in the first instance on the basis of a number of features containing only flint. A plot of these features does not reveal any obvious structures and most of the features are rather irregular (Fig. 5). It is possible that other irregular features across the site that did not contain any finds were also of this date.

Figure 5

Figure 5: Pre-Iron Age phase plan (lighter tone indicates position of later enclosure ditches).

3.2.2 Period 2. Later Neolithic and Bronze Age

Some Neolithic and Bronze Age features could be clearly identified, but others remained only very tentative suggestions (Fig. 5).

Two pits (0079, 1027) were dated by a small amount of Neolithic pottery. Pit 1027 (C3; Fig. 9) was unlike any other pit on this site, having a deep and wide posthole in the base that must have been dug from the base of the open pit, the inference being that the pit was dug for this purpose. Sherds of pottery from 1027.9 were of Neolithic date (see Pottery), and six flint flakes came from the same context. It was cut by several features further confirming its early date, despite the fact it was also associated with a single Iron Age sherd that could not be assigned to a specific part of the feature.

A gully (0517; 4m long and 1.05m deep) produced no artefacts beyond a scattered group of Bronze Age sherds forming the nearly complete profile of a collared urn. These sherds, though damaged, were fairly unabraded, suggesting that they were a primary deposit in this context. No bone, cremated or otherwise, was found in association, though the acid soils meant that generally only teeth survived to any extent. The absence of bone and the scatter of sherds in the pit seem to rule out a funerary function. This Bronze Age pit may, therefore, be a rubbish or quarry pit, and Longworth (1961, 264) admits a domestic function for collared urns, so it seems likely that this pit and the pot itself may represent domestic activity. Some flint could also be assigned to this period.

A shallow depression (0253 and possible associated posthole 0249), being cut by gully 0517, showed that other features could also potentially be demonstrated stratigraphically to be of Bronze Age or earlier date, though in the absence of associated finds, they could not be firmly assigned to a specific period. Discussion

Neolithic finds other than flint are generally rare in the region, and the nearest find to Blackstone is from Clifton, just south of Worcester (Edwards 2008), and Kemerton in south Worcestershire (Jackson and Napthan 2005), where a few features of this date were also recorded (i.e. two shallow pits).

The nearest known Bronze Age evidence in the vicinity is an isolated ring-ditch about 400m away from the site, on Blackstone Rock under Brant Farm Caravan Park (WSM 8143; SO791739; oblique aerial photograph, WHEAS AS1179) probably representing the site of a round barrow. Its survival was confirmed by resistivity survey during the 1973 season of Blackstone excavation. Stratified Bronze Age material is, however, comparatively rare in the region, though collared urns similar in fabric and decoration to the Blackstone sherds have been found in funerary contexts at Holt, just 7.5 miles (12km) to the south on the west bank of the River Severn (Hunt 1970, 1971; Woodhouse 1972; Hunt et al. 1986).

In the Severn Valley chance earlier prehistoric finds are quite common in the areas around Bewdley and Worcester, where the river was fordable. These concentrations include a large proportion of objects actually dredged from the river, and possibly lost in crossing it, perhaps confirming suggestions that these were focal points of prehistoric route-ways (Smith 1957; Chitty 1963; Woodhouse 1972), though other reasons for deposition may also account for these finds. There are indeed several fordable points between Bewdley and Blackstone, and from the river bank opposite the site at Blackstone, near one of these crossing points, came a middle Bronze Age rapier (Thomas 1965-7).

Slightly further south along the River Severn aerial photographs show several barrow or ring-ditches, individually or in groups, for instance at Holt (Hunt et al. 1986) and Astley (Green 1961), where a Bronze Age date was confirmed for the ring-ditch group, although no associated settlement was found. It may be that some of the numerous enclosures detected as cropmarks in this area, and indeed in several places between Bewdley and Worcester, are of Bronze Age date, but none has yet been dated by excavation or by collection of surface artefact scatters.


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