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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 485: summary

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An archaeological excavation at Birch Pit, Stage 3 western extension, Maldon Road, Birch, Colchester, Essex - July-August 2007
by Stephen Benfield and Emma Spurgeon

Date report completed: 08.08.08
Location: Birch Pit, Maldon Road, Birch, Colchester, Essex
Map reference(s): TL925192
File size: 2866 kb
Project type: Excavation
Significance of the results: ***
Keywords: Late Bronze Age, Late Iron Age, Roman, enclosure, farmstead, tracks, field system, quarry

Summary. An archaeological excavation was carried out at Birch Pit in 2007 on behalf of Hanson Aggregates. This was due to the expansion of the extraction area on the western side of the quarry-pit. The site is located immediately to the east of Palmer's Farm and to the north of Maldon Road, Birch, near Colchester, Essex. The archaeological work consisted of an excavation adjacent to the north and west sides of areas previously excavated by the Colchester Archaeological Trust in 2004 and 2005-6 (CAT Report 383). The 2007 excavation took place in two areas (Areas D and E), divided by the line of a temporary quarry road excavated in 2004. The 2007 excavation included part of an area showing a surface spread of Roman finds denoting a Roman settlement (CAT Report 8). A few Late Bronze Age features were revealed. These included a large pit, possibly a waterhole, which yielded a substantial group of Late Bronze Age pottery. The most intensive period of occupation recorded on the 2007 site is Late Iron Age and Roman. The area of the Late Iron Age and Roman settlement is more extensive than the areas that have been excavated here altogether. Features of this period extend beyond the north edge of the 2007 excavation site and the recorded spread of surface finds extends further to the west. Most of the features exposed were ditches forming enclosures, one of which had a ditched track or droveway on the west side. These features indicate stock management, probably primarily of cattle. Apart from two large pits, dated to the mid to late Roman period, most of the remaining features which can be attributed to this period consist of pits, and small pits or post-holes. No definite buildings were revealed by any of the excavations. The medieval and post-medieval period saw the establishment of a field system of fields with ditched tracks or droveways, probably associated primarily with sheep farming. There is little evidence of occupation in this area during this period, although a few pits of post-medieval date probably indicate settlement close to the north-eastern part of the excavated area Area D. In the modern period, this field system was replaced by one of ditches forming arable fields. The overall orientation of the post-Roman and modern field system, as represented by ditches, is similar to the orientation of the land divisions of the Roman period. While there is no direct continuity of features, this suggests a continuity in the overall orientation and arrangement of the field system.