3. Site Description

Commentary on the Site Description (2008)

The following structural narrative, where describing the Iron Age, was largely composed in 1979, and has been published here with minimal alteration. A separate section has been provided as a commentary, based on limited further analysis in 2007–8, and which highlights some aspects of the report where today there might be a differing emphasis or interpretation. Some field drawings have been lost, but it has been possible to include more field information in the report (pit sections in particular) than was the original intention in 1979. Site photographs are by A. Hunt unless otherwise stated.

3.1 General observations about the site

Since the nature, incidence and degree of site damage influenced data recovery and interpretation, it is worth discussing this in some detail. The ploughsoil was so disturbed as to be of minimal archaeological interest. Damage below the ploughsoil was very uneven, and was probably minimal as finds from the lower part of the soil horizon were mainly post-medieval, and there was very little associated residual Roman or prehistoric pottery. In addition the most substantial features were still of considerable dimensions (e.g. the inner ditch was on average 1.42m deep and 2.83m wide).

Immediately under the modern ploughsoil, and usually recessed into the tops of features (e.g. pit 0098), there occurred in a few places what appears to be an horizon of dark brown (7.5YR 4/6) silty loam; a similar horizon occurred over the ditch terminals in the entrance (layer 1010). A sparse scatter of Roman pottery was found in this general layer, where it occurred at the entrance and over pit 0098. A possible explanation of the entrance area layer is that it results from spreading bank material after site abandonment, but it seems more likely that elsewhere it is the remains of an ancient (?Roman) soil preserved from later mixing into the modern ploughsoil by its recessed position.

Another possible ancient surface occurs on the outer edge of the outer ditch, in grid square K7 (Fig. 14). This consisted of a reddened gravel spread (1548.15), which overlay the southern half of the outer ditch (1548) and also patchily covered the natural gravel surface, and the few features cut into it, to a line parallel with the outer ditch and c. 6m south of it. This layer produced a sherd of wheel-thrown fabric TF7B of indeterminate late Iron Age/early Roman type (see Prehistoric pottery). It was, however, adjacent to a large modern disturbance in K8 (see below).

There were also a few positive or upstanding features resting on the gravel surface which had not been removed by ploughing. These included 2018 (Fig. 12) and 2032 (Fig. 13). A large piece of the packing of gate post-pit 1015 (Fig. 9), probably still in situ, also stood proud of the local subsoil level. Not upstanding, but also potentially evidence of the limits to plough-damage, were reddened patches of gravel in grid squares H8 and B7. These were interpreted as the last relics of hearths otherwise totally flattened by the plough.

These observations imply that, although very little archaeological evidence remained above the gravel surface, in certain areas of the site at least, post-Iron Age disturbance of site deposits was minimal. Plough-marks (presumably modern, since they seem to follow the present field boundaries) occurred generally over the site. In grid squares B7 and B8 (Fig. 12), where there is a slight break of slope into the large gully to the north, looking down into the gully from the occupation area, there were deep, wide and closely set plough-marks, which may account for the lack of features in this area, although any deeper pits or gullies would surely have survived in truncated form. That such damage is limited, even in this, the most affected area of the site, is shown by the proximity of surviving features such as the hearth 2009 (B7; Fig. 12).

The fills of some features were clearly truncated, for instance pits 0098 (Fig. 10), and perhaps 1550 (Fig. 13). Most, however, are not, and indeed most profiles exhibit complete erosion cones. Thus it is believed that apart from a few localised areas (in particular grid squares B7, B8, C3, D3 and D7), the subsoil surface has hardly been eroded, although all occupation layers have been destroyed. The 'upstanding' features and vestiges of ancient surfaces indicate that locally many sub-surface features probably survived largely intact.

However, not all of these dug features were of ancient origin. Much effort was expended in 1977 in investigating a large backfilled machine-cut trench, which turned out to have been dug for testing purposes by the quarry operators. This was, by an unhappy coincidence, laid out precisely under our own machine-cut trial trench; it is shown as an area of modern disturbance in grid square K8 (Fig. 14).

Some other features on site were considered, because of their irregularity, undercut sides, and/or indefinable edges, to be animal burrows or root holes. The majority of these appeared on the line of the presumed enclosure banks, which would have provided ideal habitats for burrowing animals such as rabbits, whose activities would extend into the gravels as well. Other irregular features, such as pit 1631 (Fig. 14), probably represent a tree-clearance hole.

The soil fills of features were, at first glance, everywhere the same dark reddish-brown (5YR 3/4) sandy loam. Changes in fills, except where gross differences (due to burning for example) could be seen, were usually detected only by the subtlest of changes in colour, texture or inclusions. Many single-fill features, such as shallow scoops or post-footings, contained this standard fill. It was so standardised that it probably represented silting of features deriving from the contemporary surface material/topsoil. In total 965 site contexts were recorded.

3.1.1 Finds

The acid soil fills in the excavated features were generally not conducive to the preservation of organic material, so that bone survived only in a very fragmented and softened state, whereas carbonised plant remains were recovered. Pottery was largely unaffected, and ironwork, though badly corroded, in a sense survived well as it responded remarkably to conservation work.


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