Fieldwork October 2014

Posted by ac527 at Jan 29, 2015 03:22 PM |
Fieldwork October 2014

As outlined in a previous blog, part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funding was for high-resolution geophysical survey of a limited number (10-12) of hoard sites. The aim is to see if the hoard finds relate to any underlying Iron Age or Romano-British archaeological features such as pits or ditches.

Our short-list of Iron Age and Romano-British hoard find spots potentially suitable for geophysical survey had produced a cluster of hoards from the Wolds of East and North Yorkshire, and the next ‘window’ of opportunity would arise in the autumn, once the summer harvest was in and arable fields had been drilled and seeded for winter crops.

 

The October fieldwork

Once I had contacted landowners to obtain permission to undertake survey work on their land and arrange access, I could then sort out accommodation and transport. My colleague on this occasion was my fellow Research Assistant on the hoarding project, Dr Adam Rogers.

One end of our cottage at Manor Farm in North Dalton, looking north towards the duck pond and the pub. After so much time spent pouring over HER data and publications, it was fantastic once again to get out of the office for a week. Unfortunately, unlike the June fieldwork, we were less lucky with the weather, and had several days of high winds and torrential rain, though we just had to plod along through it. By the end of the week though, the sun was out again over the Wolds, and we were working in T-shirts. We were staying in lovely self-catering accommodation in the village of North Dalton, part of a converted row of what were originally nineteenth-century labourer’s cottages on the manor farm, and the fact that a rather nice pub was immediately across the road had nothing whatsoever to do with the selection. The landowners were all extremely friendly and informative.

 

Results

A small man in a big field… Chad using the Bartington Fluxgate Gradiometer.As with June’s fieldwork, we carried out magnetometry survey using the Bartington twin array Fluxgate Gradiometer device. All three sites we investigated also had cropmarks of archaeological features close by, previously published in 1997 by Catherine Stoertz in the seminal Ancient Landscapes of the Yorkshire Wolds volume produced by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (now part of English Heritage).

At our first site, where several scattered hoards of Iron Age staters and a small hoard of 2nd century AD Roman denarii had been found in close proximity to one another by detectorists, the survey results were excellent. Trackways, large subrectangular ditched enclosures and other boundaries were revealed, these forming part of a ‘ladder’ settlement characteristic of Late Iron Age and Romano-British East Yorkshire. Possible internal features such as the faint arcs of roundhouse ring gullies and groups of pits were also identifiable.

Part of the geophysical survey results from our first site, showing trackway and enclosure ditches as dark lines; but also possible roundhouses and pit clusters.

The main north-south trackway is just to the south of another linear feature that lines up with various cropmark features on aerial photographs and imagery such as Google Earth, which could be the remnants of another later prehistoric or Romano-British linear trackway, and was clearly a significant landscape route for many centuries.

At the second site, survey revealed part of a double-ditched trackway, another hoard of Iron Age staters having been buried quite close to this. Our survey data filled in a gap and ‘joined up’ two sections of trackway identified from cropmarks on aerial photographs, so this was another good result. It had been raining all night though and the field was so wet on this day that the van bogged down, and we had to get the farmer to drag us out…

Adam laying out grids using tapes. The third site we investigated was in a field on the edge of a ridge, where two pots each containing 4th century Roman coins had been discovered, only a few metres apart. Although separate hoards, it is highly likely that these were buried at the same time or within a short period of one another, and by the same person(s). Stoertz’s aerial survey revealed a large linear cropmark feature extending towards this field, but our results showed that a large linear ditch had continued into the field itself. There was also an unusual ‘kink’ in this linear feature, possible where it respected an earlier feature such a barrow, and a small enclosure or barrow was also revealed in another part of the field. The field was close to a known group of Iron Age square barrows and also Bronze Age round barrows, and so it may be that these features were previously unknown outliers of this group. The large linear feature may once have been a large bank and ditch earthwork, which on the Yorkshire Wolds seem to have been constructed during the later Bronze Age and earlier Iron Age, perhaps as a means of dividing up access to grazing land and water sources. We could not investigate a large area here, unfortunately, as there was already a mustard crop growing across part of the field.

The hoards had been buried close to these features, which could still have been prominent features in the landscape at the time of deposition. This may simply reflect relatively pragmatic use of these features as memorable markers, so that the person(s) burying the hoards could retrieve them at a later date. Alternatively, this site may have been chosen because these older monuments were still considered to be important, and thus this locale was special or sacred in some manner. More data does not necessarily answer all archaeological questions!

These fantastic results have not only added to our understandings of the context of the hoards, but they will also contribute to the wider archaeological knowledge of the Yorkshire Wolds landscape.

A view across the beautiful rolling chalk landscape of the high Wolds. A possible later prehistoric linear earthwork is visible extending from the upper left to the lower right.

Researchers

Beware of the cows… The October 2014 geophysical survey was undertaken by Dr Adrian Chadwick and Dr Adam Rogers of the University of Leicester.

 

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