1993 Level III Report

Area 1

Abstract

A rectangular post-built hall and associated boundary represents the first identifiable activity in Area 1. These features are provisionally interpreted as Early or Middle Saxon. The hall was later cut by a major ditch system of at least two phases, associated with a9th century pit incorporating a human female skull.

Summary

A number of irregular features cutting the chalk bedrock were filled with sterile orange-brown silty clay (I.1). These have been assigned to Period I, and are interpreted as natural features.

In Period II, a rectangular post-hole structure, Building 1, was constructed (II.1). There were no associated floor levels and no dating evidence from the post-holes, but it is interpreted as being of Anglo-Saxon date on purely morphological grounds. A parallel gully system (II.2) may represent an associated property boundary. The building was subsequently abandoned (II.3) and the gullies backfilled (II.4).

In Period III, a major north-south ditch was dug across the site (III.1), cutting across Building 1. This was subsequently backfilled (III.2) and recut (III.3), creating a rubble bank to the west which protected some of the earlier features from truncation. To the east of the ditch there was a circular pit, containing a human female skull, and associated features (III.4). The ditch was subsequently backfilled (III.5). A number of uninterpretable features (III.6) have also been assigned to Period III. This period is dated to the 9th century AD on the basis of finds evidence from the fills.

Finally, Period IV saw the build up of ploughsoil (IV.2) across the site, including at least one episode of deep ploughing (IV.1).

Area 1: The Stratigraphic Sequence

Period I

I.1 Possible natural features

cut1039-1047103510371041-1052105410561066106710581076
fill1038104210191034103610401045104610531055--10571075

A number of irregular features (1035, 1037, 1039, 1041, 1047, 1052, 1054, 1056, 1058, 1066-7, 1076) cut the chalk bedrock. These formed no interpretable pattern, and apart from occasional surface finds they were archaeologically sterile. They were generally less than 0.2m in depth. The fills were predominantly of a distinctive clean orange brown clay (1034, 1036, 1038, 1042, 1045-6, 1053, 1055, 1057, 1075), although several contained concentrations of angular chalk fragments (1019, 1040). They are interpreted as natural periglacial features.

Period II

II.1 Construction of Building 1

1070 1072 1081 1096 1100 1103 1105 1109 1112 1114 1116 1118 1119 1127 1130 1131

A series of post-holes was cut into the natural chalk (1081, 1096, 1100, 1103, 1105, 1109, 1112, 1114, 1116, 1118-9), forming a crude L-shape, comprising roughly paired post-holes in an alternating inner and outer line. These are interpreted as representing the corner of a post-hole structure, Building 1.

Most of these post-holes had vertical sides and flat bases and ranged between 0.2 - 0.35m in depth, with an average diameter of 0.3 - 0.35m. Some, such as 1100 and 1116, were shallower, being only c.0.15m deep; the latter, in particular, may not have been a member of the same post-hole group. Similarly, 1119 was very irregular and would have been interpreted as a natural feature, were it not for its position at the corner of the building.

There was a possible continuation of the southern wall-line beyond the eastern edge of the main north-south ditch. One post-hole (1127) was located on the eastern edge of the main ditch; however, this was much smaller than others in this wall line, being only 0.15m in diameter and 0.1m in depth. After a two-metre gap there were four further possible post-holes were observed, after the recognition of the main group (1070, 1072, 1130-1), running into the eastern edge of the excavation. These were between 0.15 - 0.4m in diameter, but only 0.05 - 0.1m in depth. They would have been discounted as structural features if it were not for the fact that they were on the same alignment as the south wall of Building 1, and the absence of other cut features in this area. The relative shallowness of these features may have been a product of truncation through later ploughing, estimated as being up to 0.2m in places, whereas the post-holes on the western wide of the ditch had been protected by the later rubble bank on this side (III.3: 1129).

No post-holes were found crossing the main north-south ditch (III.3: 1029). The possibility that a line of post-holes had been masked by the ditch fill was fully explored by the excavators, with careful trowel cleaning in this area, but there was absolutely no trace of any post-holes cut into the ditch fill, which must therefore be later.

This leaves two possible orientations for Building 1. It may have been built with the long wall aligned north-south, with the north end wall beyond the edge of excavation, and the foundations of the east wall cut away by the later north-south ditch, in which case it could not have been more than 5m wide. In this case, the truncated features on the eastern side of the ditch have to be explained as belonging to some other unknown structure. Alternatively Building 1 may have been aligned with the long wall east-west. In this case, both the north wall and the east wall were beyond the edge of the excavation, and Building 1 must have been at least 5m wide by 12m in length. The gap in the post-holes just to the east of the ditch could possibly represent a doorway in the middle of the long side, making the building c.14m long in total.

There were no associated floor levels, and no dating evidence from the post-holes. An Anglo-Saxon date is preferred on morphological grounds, but a Romano-British interpretation cannot be discounted.

II.2 Linear north-south gullies and associated features

1078 1094 1095 1098 1099 1107 1108 1126

A pair of shallow linear gullies (1078, 1126) ran north-south along the western edge of excavation. The westernmost gully (1078) was between 0.2 - 0.25m in depth; it became shallowwer to the north, until it was no longer visible as a separate feature. The easternmost gully (1126) was c.0.15m deep. The gullies were parallel, with a narrow ridge preserved between them at the southern end of the excavation. The relationship between them is unknown; they may have been contemporary. At the northern end of the site they respected the west wall of Building 1, suggesting that the gullies were an associated feature, possibly a drainage ditch, or property boundary.

A post-hole (1108), c.0.3m in diameter, was cut into the base of gully 1126. It was packed with loose friable clay loam with stones and gravel (1107). Both cut and fill were similar to those post-holes making up Building 1 and may represent part of an associated structure or a possible fence line within the gully. There was a second possible post-hole (1095), c.0.45 in diameter and 0.35m in depth, c.1m to the south. It was backfilled with a friable clay loam with angular chalk fragments (1094). A number of air voids were suggestive of rapid removal of a post and subsequent backfilling. There was a third similar irregular post-hole (1099), c.0.5 - 0.7m in diameter by 0.35m in depth, about 2m to the south-east. This had been filled with a mid brown clay loam (1098) which also contained angular chalk fragments and air voids suggesting removal of a timber post. It had been sealed by rubble thrown up from later ditch digging (III.3: 1129).

II.3 Destruction of Building 1

1059 1060 1069 1071 1082 1097 1101 1104 1106 1110 1111 1113 1115 1117 1120 1128

At the end of Period II Building 1 was abandoned. The post-holes were backfilled with loose friable silty loam with small chalk fragments, gravel and some bone fragments (1059-60, 1069, 1071, 1082, 1097, 1101, 1104, 1106, 1110-11, 1113, 1115, 1117, 1120, 1128).

II.4 Filling of north-south gullies

1002 1074 1125

The linear north-south gullies (II.2) were backfilled with an orange brown clay loam containing abundant chalk fragments (1002/1074/1125). This fill contained fragments of a lava rotary quern (sf29) and a possible knife blade (sf75), supporting the interpretation of Period II as Anglo-Saxon.

Period III

III.1 Cutting of main north-south ditch

1079 1129

A substantial north-south ditch (1079) extended the full length of the excavation. It had been cut through the demolished Building 1. This ditch originally appears to have been c.1m wide by 0.4m deep, with a steep U- or V-shaped profile, although in the northern part of the site its western edge had been removed by a later recut (III.3: 1029); further south the recut had removed all trace of the first ditch. It was probably as a result of cutting the ditch that a layer of chalk rubble (1129) was thrown up along its western edge, covering the backfilled post-holes of the western half of Building 1. It may represent the remains of a ploughed out bank.

III.2 Filling of main north-south ditch

1028

The main north-south ditch was backfilled with a reddish brown clay loam (1028), from which four sherds of pottery (sfs 38, 50, 51, 54) were recovered.

III.3 Re-cutting of main north-south ditch

1029 1123

After backfilling (III.2: 1028), the main north-south ditch had been recut (1029, 1123) along the full length of the excavation. The ditch was c.2.8m wide at the surface, narrowing with stepped sides to a flat base folllowing the bedding in the natural chalk bedrock c.0.5m wide. It was 0.5m in depth.

III.4 Circular pit and associated features

10031043 1044 1048 1049 1050 1051 1063 1064 1073 1083 1084 1086 1087 1088 1090 1091

A large straight-sided circular pit (1073), 2.45m in diameter by 1m in depth, was cut into chalk bedrock to the east of the main ditch. Its relationship with the main ditch is unknown. The initial fill comprised weathered chalk (1091) which had been exposed in the sides of the pit and had slumped into the base fairly soon after its construction. There was a spread of reddish brown silty clay (1090) in the base of the pit which also filled a circular hollow in the weathered chalk. This was overlain by a further thin spread of weathered chalk (1088), possibly the product of one season of weathering. This had, in turn, been covered by another fill of reddish brown silty clay (1087), overlain by a substantial slumped deposit of fragmented chalk (1086), presumably the result of another weathering episode. At this point the skull of an adult female, minus the lower jaw, had been placed, face downwards, in the base of the pit. The pit had then been backfilled by a substantial layer of reddish brown clay loam (1003), levelling it with the surrounding ground surface. This layer contained a substantial bone assemblage and a number of finds of Anglo-Saxon date, including two fragments of decorated comb (sfs 26, 56), a copper-alloy garment hook (sf34), a fragment of sandstone hone (sf101), a fragment of daub (sf112), and two iron teeth from wool or flax combs (sfs 23, 42). A block of chalk (sf32) had been placed adjacent to the skull; there was a rectangular slab of limestone (sf31) in the backfill towards the edge of the pit, and two fragments of perforated chalk (sfs18, 100), possibly stone weights. A number of lead-alloy fragments (sfs9, 10, 11) were found in the surface of the pit, as well as a silver penny of Aethelberht of Wessex of 858-c.862/4 (sf13).

Adjacent to this pit there was a second cut feature (1044). This appeared to be smaller than pit 1073, although it extended beyond the edge of excavation, and may have been linear rather than circular. It was certainly shallower, being c.0.7m deep, and had a U-shaped profile. It had been filled with a dark brown clay loam (1043) which was similar to fill 1003 in pit 1073. It contained fewer finds, although a fragment of decorated comb (sf74) appears to have come from the same object as the fragments (sfs26, 56) in 1003, suggesting that both features were backfilled as part of one operation. This layer also contained a fragment of lead-alloy (sf30).

A third adjacent feature (1084) may also have been associated, although this was an irregular roughly linear cut, varying in depth from 0.1 - 0.35m, which also extended beyond the excavation edge. It had been filled with mid brown clay loam (1083) which contained very few finds.

To the north-west of these features there were three shallow linear grooves (1048, 1050, 1064), each aligned north-south, with a V- or U-shaped profile. The longest was less than 1m in length, and they were only c.0.1m deep. It is difficult to assign them to any particular period with certainty, although they do not appear to have been natural features as their fills (1049, 1051, 1063) comprised loose dark brown silty clay loam, and included some animal bone. They may have been truncated structural features associated with the three pits and the ditch; there was the trace of a possible stake-hole, 0.15m deep x 0.15m in diameter, at the north end of 1048.

III.5 Filling of main north-south ditch

1004 1026 1027 1077 1102 1121 1122 1124

The primary fill in the main north-south ditch was a clay loam (1027/1122) containing a lens with a high density of chalk fragments (1124). This was overlain by a cleaner dark brown clay loam (1026/1121) with rare chalk fragments. The upper fill was a mid brown clay loam (1004/1077/1102) which levelled the ditch. A number of Anglo-Saxon finds were recovered from this upper fill, including two fragments of copper-alloy pins (sfs 4, 5), a copper-alloy strap end (sf20), a perforated chalk weight (sf6), an iron knife blade (sf83), a fragment of sandstone hone (sf81), a ceramic lamp base (sf7), a fragment of daub (sf41), an antler handled comb (sf16), and an iron wool/flax comb (sf61). Two fragments of lead-alloy were also recovered from this layer (sfs3, 8). It was noticable that these finds were found in the topmost 0.1m of the fill, and probable that they represent general occupation debris that had become incorporated into an area of subsidence above the earlier ditch fills, and had therefore been afforded some protection from ploughing.

III.6 Miscellaneous cut features

cut10931068
fill10921065
A shallow oval feature (1093), c.0.4 x 0.7m, was cut into the backfilled ditch running along the western edge of the excavation (II.1: 1126). It was filled with a medium brown clay loam with chalk fragments (1092). A second shallow oval feature (1068), c.0.7 x 1.15m, had cut through the remains of the rubble bank (III.1: 1129) against the northern edge of the excavation. It was filled with dark brown silty loam with chalk fragments (1065). The fill contained charcoal fragments, as well as some animal bone.

Period IV

IV.1 Deep ploughing episode

cut100810101012101410161018102210231025103110331062
fill100710091011101310151017102010211024103010321061

A series of regularly-spaced shallow V-shaped grooves (1008, 1010, 1012, 1014, 1016, 1018, 1022-3, 1025, 1031, 1033, 1062) ran across the site, aligned north-north-west / south-south-east. The grooves were generally placed at intervals of 1.8m apart. They are interpreted as plough furrows related to a known episode of deep ploughing associated with potato planting in 1989. The fills (1007, 1009, 1011, 1013, 1015, 1017, 1020-1, 1024, 1030, 1032, 1061) were generally dark grey brown silty clay loam and indistinguishable from the overlying ploughsoil (IV.2: 1000), although where the grooves had cut through underlying features they incorporated fill from the surrounding matrix. A fragment of dressed sandstone (sf99) was recovered from one of these fills (1020).

IV.2 General ploughsoil

1000 1001 1080

Finally, a general layer of dark grey brown clay loam, c.0.2 - 0.3m thick, (1000/1001/1080) overlay the whole trench. This layer represents ploughsoil, accumulated during the 20th century, but incorporating material disturbed from underlying features. It contained abundant chalk fragments of varying size which had probably been disturbed from the underlying chalk bedrock. A number of residual finds were recovered from the ploughsoil, including a Northumbrian styca (sf2), an iron strap end (sf70), an iron pin (sf106), a lead-alloy fragment (sf12), and two copper-alloy dress pin shanks (sfs44, 97).

Index

CONTEXT NO PHASING
1000 IV.2
1001 IV.2
1002 II.4
1003 III.4
1004 III.5
1007 IV.1
1008 IV.1
1009 IV.1
1010 IV.1
1011 IV.1
1012 IV.1
1013 IV.1
1014 IV.1
1015 IV.1
1016 IV.1
1017 IV.1
1018 IV.1
1019 I.1
1020 IV.1
1021 IV.1
1022 IV.1
1023 IV.1
1024 IV.1
1025 IV.1
1026 III.5
1027 III.5
1028 III.2
1029 III.3
1030 IV.1
1031 IV.1
1032 IV.1
1033 IV.1
1034 I.1
1035 I.1
1036 I.1
1037 I.1
1038 I.1
1039 I.1
1040 I.1
1041 I.1
1042 I.1
1043 III.4
1044 III.4
1045 I.1
1046 I.1
1047 I.1
1048 III.4
1049 III.4
1050 III.4
1051 III.4
1052 I.1
1053 I.1
1054 I.1
1055 I.1
1056 I.1
1057 I.1
1058 I.1
1059 II.3
1060 II.3
1061 IV.1
1062 IV.1
1063 III.4
1064 III.4
1065 III.6
CONTEXT NO PHASING
1066 I.1
1067 I.1
1068 III.6
1069 II.3
1070 II.1
1071 II.3
1072 II.1
1073 III.4
1074 II.4
1075 I.1
1076 I.1
1077 III.5
1078 II.2
1079 III.1
1080 IV.2
1081 II.1
1082 II.3
1083 III.4
1084 III.4
1086 III.4
1087 III.4
1088 III.4
1090 III.4
1091 III.4
1092 III.6
1093 III.6
1094 II.2
1095 II.2
1096 II.1
1097 II.3
1098 II.2
1099 II.2
1100 II.1
1101 II.3
1102 III.5
1103 II.1
1104 II.3
1105 II.1
1106 II.3
1107 II.2
1108 II.2
1109 II.1
1110 II.3
1111 II.3
1112 II.1
1113 II.3
1114 II.1
1115 II.3
1116 II.1
1117 II.3
1118 II.1
1119 II.1
1120 II.3
1121 III.5
1122 III.5
1123 III.3
1124 III.5
1125 II.4
1126 II.2
1127 II.1
1128 II.3
1129 III.1
1130 II.1
1131 II.1