Land at Spicers, Mill Lane, Sawston, Cambridgeshire. Archaeological Excavation

Birmingham Archaeology, 2017

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Birmingham Archaeology (2017) Land at Spicers, Mill Lane, Sawston, Cambridgeshire. Archaeological Excavation [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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Land at Spicers, Mill Lane, Sawston, Cambridgeshire. Archaeological Excavation

Birmingham Archaeology was commissioned by RPS Planning and Development, acting on behalf of Spicers Limited, to undertake an archaeological excavation in advance of the construction of a warehouse and ancillary offices at Spicers, Mill Lane, Sawston, Cambridgeshire (NGR TL 4712 4984; Planning Reference: S/0750/01/F). The development site is on a slight spur of land comprising gleyic brown calcareous earths with deep fine loams over chalk drift and chalk falling from about 19m AOD in the east to about 16.7m AOD in the west. The site is bounded to the west and north by woodland, to the east by a hedgerow and to the south by an arable field.

The excavation successfully characterised the archaeological features and deposits across the site. Seven phases of complex archaeological activity were identified ranging from the Mesolithic to the post-medieval periods. Despite the absence of specific features dating to the Mesolithic period, a number of high quality flint artefacts dated to this period were recovered, including a flint axe head. Evidence of archaeological activity during the Early to mid Neolithic period consisted of cut features and discrete spreads of material containing notable quantities of pottery and flint artefacts. A number of sub-circular hollows and a shallow ditch situated along the eastern side of the site produced finds suggesting occupation during the Late Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age. No archaeological remains were identified dating to the Iron Age, an intriguing result given the proximity of Borough Hill Iron Age hillfort.

Evidence of habitation in the Early Saxon period was provided by a number of Sunken Floored Buildings and isolated pits, the majority of which contained residual Romano-British finds. Continued use of the site is demonstrated as large ditched enclosures were excavated during the early medieval period. Evidence suggests that the site has been prone to frequent flooding, as demonstrated by a network of recut drainage ditches apparently dating to between the 12th and 14th centuries. Signs of activity during the post-medieval period were seen in further recut ditch sections; the most recent archaeological remains appeared to relate to a number of horse burials probably dating to the 19th century.

Several large features were identified across the site and are interpreted as palaeochannels. A comprehensive programme of environmental sampling and recording was undertaken producing well preserved peat deposits dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Age (at the lowest sequences).

The results from the excavation have produced extensive evidence which will greatly enhance the archaeological record for Cambridgeshire and significantly contribute to our understanding of the chronological development of the site and its immediate environment. The multi period nature of the archaeological features, deposits and artefacts ranging from the Mesolithic to Post-Medieval create a rare opportunity to investigate human activity, settlement and landscape utilisation of a considerable length of time and to advance the research framework model for archaeological work in Cambridgeshire. In addition, the presence of good environmental preservation of datable deposits within probable former channels of the River Cam creates an excellent opportunity to reconstruct the past natural landscape and allow the archaeological activity to be assessed in conjunction with environmental characteristics and landscape change.