Surrey Archaeological Society Research Volumes

Surrey Archaeological Society, 2016

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Surrey Archaeological Society Research Volumes (1980) Volume 6.


Excavations at Runnymede Bridge, Egham, 1976, by David Longley


Table of Contents

Title pages and contents
Anon. (pp. i-v)
PDF 201 Kb
Runnymede Bridge 1976: Excavations on the site of a Late Bronze Age Settlement, with a report on the bronze finds by Stuart Needham
DAVID LONGLEY and STUART NEEDHAM (pp. 1-85)
Abstract

Abstract

Runnymede Bridge 1976: Excavations on the site of a Late Bronze Age Settlement, with a report on the bronze finds by Stuart Needham
DAVID LONGLEY and STUART NEEDHAM (pp. 1-85)

The Egham area is low lying as the Thames enters the London Basin, flanked by the Chiltern ridge to the north and the Chalk Downs to the south. The river meanders across a predominantly flat landscape to its estuary some 90 km distant. The site (TQ 018 718) is situated on the south bank, opposite the confluence of the Thames and the Colnbrook. Finds of Late Bronze Age metalwork from the river point to marked activity in the lower Thames Valley, and although direct evidence is largely lacking the extent of contemporary settlement may have brought about an increase in land under cultivation. A deteriorating climate may have emphasised a situation where topsoil erosion was contributing to the silt load of the river and both these factors may be manifest at Runnymede, in, on the one hand, the riverine erosion and subsequent inundation which brought an end to the settlement and, on the other hand, the depth of alluvium covering the site. Unfortunately, conditions were not suitable for the recovery of pollen. The molluscan evidence, however, points to damp conditions with perhaps some light woodland in the vicinity. The presence of wild pig bones and red deer antler at the site is in accordance with this conclusion.

It was not possible to estimate the total extent of the settlement and while it seems unlikely that the area excavated was occupied for a long period, the possibility of continuing occupation over a wider area, or even of a shift of settlement away from the river, should not be ruled out, and the results of recent excavations at Petters Sports Field, Egham, may be expected to throw further light on this matter. While occupation was not prolonged there is no evidence for seasonal or periodic use of the site. There was opportunity for the rebuilding of some structures and, perhaps more significantly, the importance of pigs suggests some permanency of occupation. It is suggested that the process of erosion and inundation, once begun, brought an end to occupation over the area excavated after a relatively short period of time, and that the small finds and pottery represent a coherent group of material consistent with a single tradition.

The best indicators of date for the settlement are the bronzes and the pottery. In addition the two radiocarbon determinations are consistent with the conclusions reached on typological grounds. The bronze assemblage has been firmly assigned to the Ewart Park phase of the British Late Bronze Age. The metalwork of the Later Bronze Age has been well studied in this country and a sequence is tolerably well established. The reliance on hoard associations and the rarity of stratigraphically related occupation deposits of the period has, however, posed problems in relating the sequence to an absolute chronological framework. The most recently published statement would have the Ewart Park phase developing out of Wilburton traditions around 800 BC, and a small but growing number of radiocarbon determinations suggest that it begins at least this early, if not earlier.

The importance of the Runnymede site lies in this demonstrable association of metalwork, pottery and organic artefacts in a settlement context, and in the evidence for indigenous metalworking on site. For this reason an exhaustive discussion on the metalwork and pottery is entered into in order to define the affinities and dating of both series independently before attempting to draw this evidence together and place Runnymede Bridge in its chronological context.

Certain bronzes at Runnymede Bridge, which were almost certainly imported from the continent, draw attention to the advantageous siting of the settlement in terms of commercial and social interchange, and contribute further to our knowledge concerning use of the river Thames as a highway. One of the most closely comparable metalwork assemblages to Runnymede Bridge comes from Ivinghoe Beacon, Bucks, situated on the north fringe of the Thames Valley.

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Plates 1 to 7
DAVID LONGLEY
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Plates 8 to 20
DAVID LONGLEY
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