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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 269: summary

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An archaeological evaluation at Vineyard Gate, Colchester, Essex: January-April 2004 (interim results)
by Crossan, C; Holloway, B.
(with contributions from Spurgeon, E)

Date report completed:
Location: Colchester town centre, Essex
Map reference(s): TL998249, TL9968824980, TL9971424975, TL9976624974, TL9980425009, TL9983824987, TL9980924970, TL9985924936, TL9986924920, TL9984724949, TL9988024917
File size: 800 kb
Project type: Evaluation
Significance of the results: *
Keywords: water-logged, daub, animal bone, medieval pottery, Roman pottery, metalled surface, roman building, roman inhumation, leather, lava quern, small finds, wooden feature, post-medieval pottery

Summary. This report is the first in a series describing the results from archaeological evaluation trenches excavated in the Osborne Street and Vineyard Street areas of Colchester between January and April 2004 (Vineyard Gate). It is presented in a short form in order to disseminate key aspects of the findings to the relevant agencies as early as possible. The overall objective of the exploratory trenches was to gain as much background information as possible in relation to the depth, date and complexity of the archaeological deposits. Trenches were located as far as was practicably possible to achieve a representative sample across the site. In all but one of the sample areas, trenches were excavated by machine down to the uppermost archaeologically signficant level. Excavation beyond that point was then carried out manually either to natural subsoil or to an intermediate level where dictated by operational conditions. Area 1: Trench 1:In the northern part of the trench, Roman deposits were found. Elsewhere, only a thin intervening layer of later soil survived. Area 2: Trench 1: Removal of a late 20th-century spread of topsoil revealed foundations of mortared septaria and brick and c 17th-/18th-century coursed red brick, and floors associated with the post-medieval foundation F38. Trench 2: Removal of late 20th-century spreads of rubble and topsoil revealed a cellar which occupied the greater part of the trench. Area 4: Trench 1: The uppermost Roman level lies at a depth of 70cm. Area 5: Trench 1: At 1.65m depth, a late medieval or early post-medieval compacted gravel surface overlaid oyster shell-rich deposits. Trench 2: Roman levels which include well-preserved structural features. Area 6: Trench 1: At a depth of 75-85cm, probable late Roman dumped material sealed an olive-brown silt loam-filled slot which lay on a north-south orientation. Area 8: Trench 1: The earliest surface was composed of medium to large pebbles. It lay at a depth of 2m, finds were exclusively Roman and the topmost gravel included a 12th-century pot sherd together with Roman pottery and tile. Trench 2: two pits, one of which (F49) contained 15th-/16th-century pottery together with residual Roman sherds. Area 10: Trench 1 : removal of L15 revealed an inhumation burial (F9) orientated north south with the head to the north. Only the skull was exposed, leaving any post cranial remains beyond the southern limit of excavation. A Roman brick fragment stood vertically to the east side of the skull and one nail was found to the west. The skeletal material was left in situ. The grave appears to be Roman, although a medieval date cannot be dismissed. Area 11: Trench 1: A noteworthy find from L50 was a horn core, which may indicate horn-working activity in the vicinity. Area 12: Trench 1: a wide range of finds including pieces of leather footwear, horn cores and 18th-century pottery. The trench also contained a network of waterlogged wooden stakes and planks, the timbers continued into the top of the underlying medieval layer where finds included a large fragment of lava quern, 12th- to 14th-century medieval pottery, and more horn cores. Trench 2: from this layer included animal bone, horn cores, peg tile, slate and pottery from the 15th to 16th centuries, and also a minute fragment of modern clear glass believed to be present by contamination. Removal of L36 revealed two large horizontal fragments of waterlogged timber. These timbers may relate to the waterlogged wood remains in Trench 1. Area 14: Trench 1 :The only closely datable find from limited excavation of L79 was a sherd of 4th century pottery. Area 15: Trench 1: a sporadic layer composed largely of wood fragments may be a remnant of matting laid over this waterlogged soil. Datable finds indicate that post-medieval levels include the foundation F27 and extend at least as far as the clay layer F33 which lies at a depth of 1.5m. Area 16: Trench 1: The only distinct feature in this trench was a pit (F46) which cut L148 and was sealed by L68. Pottery in the fill of F46 points to a late 16th-century or later date for this feature. Area 17: Trench 1: This small-scale investigation took place within a redundant concrete tree planter set into the Osborne Street pavement. A tree stump and modern planter fill were removed to a depth of 1.2m, beyond which lay intact earlier material which was probed by auger to an overall depth of 2.4m. No finds were recovered from the auger cores. Elsewhere, similar soils were found to be of post-medieval date.