Thornhill Farm, Fairford, Gloucestershire

Alex Smith, 2008

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Alex Smith (2008) Thornhill Farm, Fairford, Gloucestershire [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


Between 1979 and 1989 the Oxford Archaeological Unit (now Oxford Archaeology) undertook extensive excavations of a late prehistoric cropmark complex at Claydon Pike and Thornhill Farm, Fairford. The excavation of the western element of the complex, Thornhill Farm, forms the subject of the current report. The excavations were implemented with the co-operation of the Amey Roadstone Corporation (ARC) and formed part of a co-ordinated archaeological response to the threat posed by gravel extraction during the creation of the Cotswold Water Park. The work at Thornhill involved the excavation of numerous evaluation trenches, four open area excavations and extensive salvage operations over a total area of approximately 40.5 ha.

The excavations recovered an unusually complete plan of a highly specialised agricultural unit consisting of a dense palimpsest of paddocks and larger enclosures which appear to have been designed for the effective control and management of livestock. Environmental evidence confirmed that the immediate landscape was characterised by rough pasture which was grazed by large herbivores including horses and cattle. Ceramic evidence suggests that the earliest enclosures were dug during the middle Iron Age, and that the site continued to develop and be remodelled along similar lines through to the early Roman period.

Evidence for human occupation was recovered in the form of relatively large amounts of domestic waste consisting mainly of pottery, burnt limestone and animal bone. Although a number of roundhouses were revealed, the precise spatial organisation of the settlement proved difficult to discern, largely because of the relatively high degree of truncation and the ephemeral nature of the structural remains.

The site was radically reorganised during the 2nd century AD when the tightly knit group of paddocks and enclosures which had characterised earlier periods was replaced by a series of newly constructed trackways.

Contents of the Digital Archive:

The digital archive currently holds the main context database including pottery table, bulk find table and small finds tables. The archive also includes a separate animal bones database.