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Sheepen: an early Roman industrial site at Camulodunum

Rosalind Niblett

CBA Research Report No 57 (1985)

ISBN 0 906780 46 2


Title page of report 57

Early in 1970 permission was granted by the Colchester Borough Council for 5 hectares (13 acres) over the lower part of Sheepen Hill to be terraced to provide school playing fields. The area lay 0.75 km north-west of the Roman colonia Claudia Victricensis (Colchester), and was sited just above the flood plain of the river Colne. Most of the threatened area lay within the line of the Sheepen dyke, the innermost of the Camulodunum dykes, and was included in regions 3 and 4 of Hawkes' and Hull's excavation in the 1930s. This area was clearly one of major archaeological importance and a rescue excavation, financed by a grant from the Department of the Environment, was mounted by the Colchester Excavation Committee. The available time and money made it impossible for the whole area to be examined and a geophysical survey was undertaken to establish which areas should be given priority. It was decided to concentrate on areas within the dyke as the defences themselves had been the subject of detailed examination in the 1930s and it was considered unreasonable to devote the considerable amount of time required for further sections to be cut. With the aid of the geophysical survey five sites were laid out, covering areas where the most pronounced and frequently occurring anomalies were recorded, all of which were confined to Hawkes' and Hull's region 4. In addition to these, site v, in the northern part of the threatened area, and site vii, over the filled-in Sheepen dyke, were both examined.

The entire area was found to have been severely affected by gravel-working. The eastern side of the area available for excavation in 1970 overlay the edge of a large Roman gravel quarry found in the 1930s, and much of the central part of the threatened area had been quarried away in the post-medieval period, as was demonstrated by the presence of clay pipe stems found at low levels within the back-filled quarry pit. In addition to the destruction caused by quarrying, the site as a whole was found to be very much denuded. Ploughsoil was only 0.4m deep over most of the site, and generally rested directly on the surface of the natural sand or gravel with no intervening stratification.

The excavation lasted for ten weeks in the summer of 1970; the ploughsoil was removed mechanically, and the subsequent work was carried out entirely by student volunteers.


  • Title pages (pp i-iv)
  • Illustrations (p viii)
  • Acknowledgements (p ix)
  • Contributors (p x)
  • The arrangement of the report (p x)
  • The Excavation (p 1)
    • Introduction (p 1)
    • Chronology and summary (p 1)
    • The site report (p 3)
      • The Roman road (p 4)
      • Site i (p 5)
      • Site ii (p 12)
      • Site iii (p 15)
      • Site iv (p 20)
      • Site v (p 20)
      • Site vi (p 22)
      • Site vii (p 22)
      • The burials and cremations (p 22)
    • Discussion (p 22)
      • The pre-Roman phase (p 22)
      • The Claudian phase (p 23)
      • The Claudian/Neronian phase (p 24)
      • Site v (p 26)
      • The Boudiccan revolt (p 26)
      • Period VI (p 26)
    • Index of features (p 26)
      • Date of periods (p 26)
      • Features (p 26)
    • Catalogue of pre-Flavian features and their contents (p 28)
  • The finds (p 48)
    • The ceramics (p 48)
      • The coarse pottery-discussion and conclusions by Rosalind Niblett (p 48)
      • The Gallo-Belgic wares-discussion and conclusions by Valerie Rigby (p 74)
      • The Samian ware-discussion and conclusions by Geoffrey Dannell (p 83)
      • The Mortaria-discussion and conclusions by Katharine F Hartley (p 92)
      • Petrological analysis of the mortaria by Rosalind Niblett (p 93)
      • The amphoras-summary and conclusions by Paul R Sealey (p 98)
    • The metalwork (p 112)
      • Discussion and conclusions by Rosalind Niblett (p 112)
      • The objects of copper alloy-discussion by Graham Webster (p 114)
      • The analysis of copper alloy objects by Justine Bayley (p 115)
      • The brooches-discussion and conclusions by Justine Bayley and Sarnia Butcher (p 116)
    • The glass (p 136)
      • General remarks by Rosalind Niblett (p 136)
      • The glass cameo by Martin Henig (p 136)
    • The stone and flint by Rosalind Niblett (p 142)
    • The fauna by Rosemary Luff (p 143)
      • Bone fragment count of the main domestic species (p 143)
      • Butchery (p 143)
      • Minimum number of animals (p 145)
      • Cattle (p 145)
      • Sheep/goat (p 147)
      • Horse (p 147)
      • Pig (p 147)
      • Dogs (p 147)
      • Birds (p 148)
      • Wild animals (p 148)
      • Cattle size (p 148)
      • Sheep size (p 148)
      • Pig size (p 148)
      • Horse size (p 149)
  • Bibliography (p 150)
    • Abbreviations (p 150)
    • References (p 150)
  • Microfiche
    • Microfiche: The excavation, The Ceramics
    • Microfiche: The Ceramics, The Coins, The Metalwork, The Glass, The Struck flints
    • Microfiche: The Animal bone, Bone objects

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