Monument record FAS 056 - Bronze Age Burnt Mound and cremation cemetery, Iron Age D-shaped enclosure and Roman Enclosure, Land NW of Bury St Edmunds

Please read our .

Summary

Excavation identified large burnt mound/well complex as well as the badly-truncated remains of a small Bronze Age cremation cemetery and the remnants of Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman field systems, including an Iron Age D-shaped enclosure and the corner of a Roman enclosure.

Location

Grid reference Centred TL 8344 6627 (693m by 534m)
Map sheet TL86NW
Civil Parish FORNHAM ALL SAINTS, ST EDMUNDSBURY, SUFFOLK

Map

Type and Period (18)

Full Description

Excavation identified a large burnt mound/well complex dated to the Early Bronze Age and covering an area 23m by 21m in an irregular circular shape, including a cobbled surface overlain by thick deposits of burnt flint and charcoal. It lay within and made use of a natural hollow in which were two large water collection pits dug into the natural clay and seventeen smaller pits for heating water, all with charcoal rich fills and full of heat-altered flint and stone. The burnt mound/well complex produced large amounts of struck flint debitage and tools, including over 250 flint scrapers and smaller amounts of beaker pottery. The site resembles other complexes found on the fen-edge, but its location high above the valley is unusual. Soil samples and various scientific analyses, as well as further research is anticipated to reveal more about the function of this feature. The working hypothesis is that processing of organic materials, perhaps hides or wattle hurdles was taking place, in which water was being collected in the larger pits and heated within the smaller pits.

Cutting the burnt mound/well complex was part of an Iron Age ‘D’-shaped enclosure, and to the east of it was a Bronze Age drove way aligned north-east to south-west consisting of three to four small parallel gullies with an internal routeway of 8-9m, and associated pitting dating to the Bronze Age and later Iron Age along its length.

Also at the top of the slope was a Roman square enclosure with an associated ditched field system, pits, and quarrying. Roman finds, including pottery, CBM and metalworking slag were recovered from these features, with a dense concentration in the north-west corner.

2019: A combination of Strip, Map and Excavate (SME) and open area excavation identified a multi-period landscape dating from the Late Neolithic to modern periods which included two Bronze Age burnt mound complexes of national significance, with areas of Later Prehistoric and Roman activity.

Whilst a scatter of early prehistoric finds was present across both sites the earliest confirmed occupation dated to the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods with a small number of pits, including cremation burials, particularly in the northern FAS 056 site containing decorated Beaker. Much of the Beaker ceramic ware was found in conjunction with Deverel-Rimbury pottery of a similar fabric but dated typologically and stylistically to the slightly later Early to Middle Bronze Age.

Two Middle Bronze Age burnt mound complexes were located on the higher ground to the south-west of the site. They were found 102m apart, one 18.3 x 21.3m across and the other 13.5m x 11.7m, consisting of large mounded deposits of heat-altered flint and charcoal and associated pits. In both cases the mound was no longer present due to a combination of the original deposition of some of the heat altered flint and charcoal in open pits, its deliberate redeposition back into the working hollows at abandonment and later plough truncation. However, both features exhibited evidence for the function, construction, repair and alteration of these complexes. Both complexes were dug into natural hollows, which were probably deliberately selected for their natural geology of a heavier silty-clay than elsewhere. At the centre of each was a large well dug no doubt to hold water, but which unlike the river valley examples could not have filled from natural ground water and must have either been artificially filled, or gradually filled by rain and surface run off. At the larger Burnt Mound 1 there was evidence of a replacement well. The surface around the wells had been metalled and both complexes had smaller pits associated with them. At Burnt Mound 1 this was covered with redeposited debris of charcoal and heat-altered flints which also filled many of the small pits, whereas at Burnt Mound 2, more of this debris was found in a secondary hollow some 10m south-west of the working area.

Lipid analysis has shown that high animal fat contents are present within the firecracked
flint and some pit fills associated with the complexes. This suggests that cooking and perhaps the preparation of hides was taking place within the feature. 305 flint tools, utilised blades and utilised flakes were recovered from the fills of Burnt Mound 1. The worked flint and Early-Middle Bronze Age decorated Beaker pottery found in many deposits associated with Burnt Mound complex 1 place this feature as one of the finds-richest of its type in the country.

Iron Age occupation in the form of a half D-shaped enclosure, ditch systems, further pit
groups and two structures, including another probable four-post granary, was found
dispersed across the southern FAS 056 site, occupying the top and upper reaches of the topography. The pottery recovered from these features is comparable with that from the FAS 055 site, and the possibility that the activity at the top of the hill is related to that at the bottom will be investigated. The volume of pottery suggests that these are habitation sites but no convincing round-houses were identified, and the hill-top activity is more comfortably interpreted as agricultural activity or animal husbandry.

Two sub-square enclosures, encompassing just under 1ha and 1.42ha and dating to the Roman period were seen, again at the top of the hill, from which three related ditches extended forming part of a possible ‘ladder’ field system. The eastern edge of the smaller enclosure showed evidence of quarrying during the Roman Period. No structures were found. A possible loss of archaeological evidence within the centre of the smaller Enclosure 1 could have occurred due to modern quarrying activities. This enclosure occupied a dramatic position at the top of the hill overlooking the Lark Valley to the north appearing to represent an isolated farmstead in a defended location (more probably protecting livestock and settlement against wild animals than other people).

Whilst a considerable quantity of pottery was recovered from specific areas of ditch fills, this was largely of mixed date and the material probably represents a dumped deposit, perhaps clearance when the settlement was abandoned. Lead fragments were also recovered which may indicate metal
working on the site (S3).

Sources/Archives (3)

  • --- Article in serial: Minter, F. and Saunders, A.. 2018. Archaeology in Suffolk 2017, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History.
  • --- Article in serial: Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. 2017. Archaeology in Suffolk, 2016.
  • <S3> Unpublished document: Green, M.. 2018. Post-Excavation Assessment - Marham Park, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Finds (11)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Oct 7 2022 2:13PM

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.