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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 472: summary

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A watching brief at Colchester new garrison (Phase 2), Colchester, Essex - October 2006-September 2007
by Chris Lister
(with contributions from Stephen Benfield, Howard Brooks and Robert Masefield)

Date report completed: September 2008
Location: Colchester new garrison, Colchester, Essex
Map reference(s): TL 9930 2300 (c)
File size: 18,059 kb
Project type: Archaeological watching brief
Significance of the results: *
Keywords: burial, ditch, oppidum, air-raid shelter

Summary. During 2002-3, large-scale evaluation (over 12km of trial-trenching) and excavation (approximately 3 hectares over three areas) was carried out in advance of the construction of the new garrison at Colchester. These works were designed to identify and record the most significant areas of archaeology within the new garrison development area. The sites included a ditch-enclosed Middle Iron Age site, with the first round-house to be excavated within Colchester; elements of Late Iron Age landscape with settlement-related activity, including a relatively rich burial; and paddocks, trackways, burials and a barn of a Roman farm and associated landscape. Collectively the works comprise the largest single intrusive investigation (covering an area of 101 ha) to have taken place within the oppidum. A watching brief was held during construction work in 2004-5 in concert with Phase 1 of the new garrison construction programme, which largely affected former farmland and public open space areas between the existing military barracks. The watching brief was intended to provide supplementary information on the archaeological landscape within the oppidum and to provide a mechanism to identify and record any significant remains that had not previously been identified. Although the watching brief revealed 72 archaeological features and a number of stray finds, no further settlement areas were identified. Some of the features identified, principally Roman linear ditches, were parts of field ditches and trackways which were already known as cropmarks or revealed in previous evaluations or excavations, whereas others were important new additions to the previously-known network of fields and trackways within the oppidum of Camulodunum. Other features included a Roman burial and a number of undated or modern features. Phase 2 of construction work on the new garrison commenced in May 2006 and was accompanied by a watching brief during groundworks. This watching brief met the same criteria as Phase 1. Thirty-four archaeological features and a small number of stray finds were identified. As with Phase 1, some of the features identified were Roman linear ditches known from cropmarks or excavation, whereas others are new additions to our knowledge of the oppidum of Camulodunum and later landscapes. Six World War II airraid shelters were identified and fully recorded, as well as a number of undated and modern features. The overall results of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 watching brief have confirmed the archaeological potential of the remains that were discovered during the project evaluation and excavations. The low number of archaeological features recorded during the two phases of the watching brief (totalling 31 months of monitoring) does not necessarily indicate a low level of human activity in the areas monitored. Contributing factors could be poor ground conditions, machining techniques, and insufficient depth of ground-reduction. Trench sheeting and other safety measures, such as battering and stepping back, meant that it was often impossible to follow the orientation of features beyond the edges of the excavations.