By Phil Andrews and Jan Dando
2014 saw the beginning of what is hoped to be a five year fieldwork project for the WAFG, led by the site’s excavation director, Phil Andrews of Wessex Archaeology, and supported during its first year by the Council for British Archaeology’s Mick Aston Fund.
Maud Cunnington was the first to draw attention to a Romano-British settlement in the area, on which she published a paper in the Wiltshire Archaeology Magazine in 1908, but its subsequent description as a village, villa, bathhouse or shrine clearly showed there was a lack of consensus over its nature. The current project grew out of this conundrum, and a B.A. dissertation by a member of the WAFG, which highlighted earlier activity, particularly during the Late Prehistoric period.
Aided by a precisely located magnetometer survey, kindly carried out by Archaeological Surveys Ltd, five trenches were opened over specific targets during the first season. Initial interpretations appear to: confirm the presence of an Early Iron Age enclosure; suggest a possible Middle Bronze Age enclosure; and have begun unravelling some of the chronology of the Romano-British enclosures. As yet, there is no evidence for a Romano-British building. However, the discovery of an extensive deposit of tufa, apparently misinterpreted as structures in the past, appears to be cause of at least some of the misunderstanding of the nature of the Romano-British activity.
The field group's Bromham-Rowdefield project team, again led by Phil Andrews of Wessex Archaeology, completed a second season of excavation in early September. A change in crop necessitated moving to a different area of the site, but this provided the opportunity to investigate a pair of enigmatic oval features, which clearly showed up in aerial photographs. It was also possible to confirm that a pair of linear features, partially excavated last year, are, indeed, part of a Romano-British road/trackway.
Prior to excavation, the area was subject to a magnetometer survey, kindly carried out by Archaeological Surveys Ltd. As well as allowing precise positioning of trenches, the survey also identified further potential archaeological features, including a group of anomalies, which excavation showed to be a rare example of two T-shaped Romano-British corn dryers, sharing a common stoke hole. One of the best finds from this year's excavation came from this feature: a two-pronged Romano-British hoe. Conclusive interpretation of the pair of 'running track' shaped oval features was not possible this year, although they are undoubtedly Prehistoric, probably dating to the Early Bronze Age. A fine example of a late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age plano-convex flint knife was found in one of the ditches.
Again led by Phil Andrew's of Wessex Archaeology, the third season of the WAFG's Bromham/Rowdefield project saw the largest area of excavation to date. Thanks to Clive Green, the main excavation this year was preceded by a highly successful and enjoyable training weekend which provided a welcome 'refresher' for some, and a well received introduction to field work for a group of new members.
The excavation strategy for the project has been to open targeted evaluation trenches over the numerous potentially archaeological anomalies, identified by magnetometer surveys kindly undertaken by Archaeological Surveys Ltd. Five such trenches were excavated this year.
Apparent from this year's results is the increasing evidence for grain processing, suggesting significant arable based agriculture in the area during the later Romano-British period. Last year's excavation found an unusual pairing of two T-shaped corn driers, set at right angles and sharing the same stoke hole. Corn driers now appear to be a recurring feature of the site, with evidence of two further, but separate examples discovered in 2016. One, however, appears to have gone out of use, and its remaining structure then incorporated into the foundations of a later rectangular building. The magnetometer surveys suggest that other corn driers are likely across the site. Further Romano-British features identified this year included another building, a trackway, and a substantial boundary ditch.
One of the most intriguing features of the area are a pair of oval enclosures clearly visible in crop marks and aerial photographs. An anomaly targeted within the larger of these, produced one of the most unexpected and interesting discoveries this year; a pit containing a large quantity of Late Neolithic Grooved Ware (Durrington Walls type), animal bone and struck flint. The assemblage is yet to be fully analysed, and it is hoped that funding can be found for C14 dating in the future. The albeit small scale excavation across the ditches of the enclosures has produced little in terms of finds, although a fine Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age Plano-convex knife was found in the smaller of the two in 2015. Their date and function, therefore, remain uncertain.
Environmental samples from the three seasons of excavation are currently being analysed by Historic England, and a report will be produced in due course. Two further seasons of excavation are planned, with an interim report on the findings to date intended for publication in the 2017 edition of the Wiltshire Archaeology Magazine.
Photographs of three seasons of excavation in 2014, 2015 and 2016, please follow the highlighted links.
Any fieldwork and post-excavation opportunities will be advertised via the WAFG and the Wiltshire Museum's email.