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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 480: summary

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An archaeological watching brief on the Phase II development at 'Topfield', Rawstorn Road, Colchester, Essex - April-May 2008
by Howard Brooks

Date report completed: 02.07.08
Location: Topfield, Rawstorn Road, Colchester, Essex
Map reference(s): TL99002520 (c)
File size: 160 kb
Project type: Watching brief
Significance of the results: *
Keywords: Roman pottery, quarry-pit, inhumations

Summary. The Topfield site lies to the west of the walled Roman town, and immediately west of the former St Mary's hospital site (now the Balkerne Heights residential development), where Roman burials and domestic activity have been recorded. There is a great depth of topsoil on this site, masking at least six Roman inhumation burials, probably outliers of the Roman cemetery at the adjacent St Mary's hospital site, and a probable quarry-pit. The burials were all placed in the northern and more sloping part of the site, which may have been deliberate. Roman pottery from the 2008 watching brief confirms the results of a previous evaluation that there had been a Roman occupation site nearby. Although it cannot be proven, a case can be made that the site was initially used for sand-quarrying, with some nearby domestic occupation, but was later used as an inhumation cemetery, probably after the mid 3rd century. This change in use may be related to the contraction of the Roman suburbs, when sites previously built on became vacant and, in some cases, were used as burial grounds.