Monument record ELV 085 - Early and Late Iron Age settlement and agricultural activity, A11 - EXC AREA 10

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Grid reference Centred TL 810 795 (747m by 1054m)
Map sheet TL87NW


Type and Period (15)

Full Description

January 2018. 'Brecks from Above' and Breckland National Mapping Programme.
The cropmarks of enclosures, fields and boundaries associated with this site and the adjacent ELV 086 have been recorded under ELV 120. See record for details.
S. Horlock (Norfolk Historic Environment Service), 24th January 2018.

2012-13: Excavation work prior to the construction of the A11 Improvements identified significant Iron Age activity, particualrly in the Late Iron Age
The Early Iron Age activity is represented by 7 pits, one probable Early Iron Age (EIA) cremation, and an assemblage of residual pottery found in Later Iron Age (LIA) and Romano-British (RB) features; these residual finds being dispersped widely across the entire excavation area. Evidence clearly demonstrates Early Iron Age land-use within the bounds of current excavation, and strongly suggests that small-scale Early Iron Age agricultural settlements are located somewhere within the vicinity.

The Later Iron Age activity was concentrated in three distinct areas which have been labeleld Site 1, Site 2, and Site 3.

Later Iron Age Site 1 is a fragment of a small-scale agricultural settlement, which is likely to include more than the single roundhouse located within the current area of impact; the number of storage pits and enclosures being larger than one would expect for a single household farmstead at this time. These areas of habitation are set within a landscape that includes probable stock enclosures, and it is likely that the boundaries recorded within this site extend into the immediately surrounding area to form divisions within a wider agricultural field system. The existence of these boundaries within the settlement area shows an organised division of the land on this site, and perhaps originally demarcated areas reserved for specific tasks. At present, the broad date ranges provided by the recovered pottery do not allow the definition of a clear intra-site chronology, but the re-establishment of two ditches after these had been allowed to fill with sediment suggest some continuity of settlement. Similarly, the six poorly defined ditch segments hint at the possibility that further roundhouses or enclosures may have once existed on the site, which would itself suggest that there is more than one phase of occupation in this area.

Site 2 appears to have been the most favoured location for settlement, with multiple phases of activity. Stratigraphically the earliest activity is represented by a cluster of probable storage pits, the location of which was later re-sued for at least two successive roundhouses, one or both of which were associated with a further pit group. Located to the south of the main settlement area was a field system that also has two distinctive phases of use; an earlier component consisting of broadly perpendicular boundaries aligned roughly WSW-ENE and NNW-SSE, over which were imposed later boundaries. One of the pit groups includes deliberately placed deposits, providing evidence of ritualised activity on the site. The pit contained deliberately placed deposits including three sheep. Lack of butchery marks demonstrates that these sheep were not consumed, and so their apparent sacrificial internment within this pit was clearly an event of ritual/religious significance. Moreover, this ritualised deposition was evidently repeated – possibly at the same time but perhaps over successive or subsequent years. There is unambiguous evidence of changes to the settlement and associated field system through time, though it is unclear whether this represents continuous or recurrent occupation. It is possible that the site was abandoned for a period and later re-occupied, perhaps within a few years or a decade, but conceivably following a generation or more. The fact that Roundhouse 3 partially overlies Roundhouse 2, which itself overlies storage pits likely to be associated with an earlier dwelling, and the fact that the later of the two field system alignments partially reinstates elements of the former field system, strongly suggest either continuous occupation or re-occupation within living memory. Later Iron Site 2 also shares many of the attributes of Later Iron Age Site 1, both being essentially low status rural agricultural settlements: evidently producing sufficient agricultural products to necessitate the construction of multiple storage pits, but apparently not trading these surpluses at a level that allowed this community to procure high status items. Both sites are therefore best seen as the remains of subsistence level agricultural communities. Indeed, the only possible evidence for wealth on either site is the deliberate sacrifice of valuable food resources in the form of the cattle and sheep deposited within two of the pits but the unmistakably ritual/religious character of these placed deposits would argue against a simple correlation between sacrificial offerings and conspicuous consumption. Whether the placement of one of these sacrificial pits over the top of a silted-up agricultural boundary marks the end of this field system is unclear, since this or similar field boundaries may continue outside the area of excavation.

Site 3 is located approximately 700m to the northeast of Later Iron Age Site 2, a further system of Late Iron Age field boundaries, enclosures and pit groups were identified. These cross the arbitrary boundary between Areas 10 and 11 at the northern end of the Chalk Hall Farm Excavation are.
Composed primarily of agricultural field boundaries and enclosures, this site includes three distinct phases of activity, and represents the best evidence for Later Iron Age field systems and land division on the excavation. There are some suggestions in the form of enclosure boundaries, pit groups and cremation burials that this was once a settlement site, but the more limited quantities of artefacts recovered in this area would seem to indicate that these fields were always located some distance from the nearest settlement, at least in the later phases. Importantly, this site also includes the only example of an Iron Age water acquisition feature recorded as part of the current project. This watering hole evidently tapped a buried spring line, and must be one of several such features within the Iron Age landscape, since it would be impossible to live and farm within this dry breckland environment without a reliable source of water. The presence of this watering hole and its associated spring is thus in itself more than sufficient to explain why a system of agricultural land divisions may have been constructed at some distance from the nearest contemporary settlement. Indeed, although the feature itself cannot be accurately dated, there is some suggestion that the early elements of this field system directly reference this watering hole, and indeed it is possible that a group of human cremation burials located within a 50m radius to the north and south of this feature are in fact centred upon it; perhaps suggesting that the watering hole or the spring itself had religious significance, at least during part of the Iron Age period (S1).

Sources/Archives (1)

  • <S1> Unpublished document: Lees, M., and Hinman, M., and Stump, D.. 2013. A11 Fiveways to Thetford Road Improvements, A Post-Excavation Assessment of Archaeological Excavations 2012-2013.

Finds (10)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Oct 16 2019 4:06PM

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