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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 588: summary

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Stage 2 archaeological excavation, Alienated Land Area L/N (Goojerat Barracks), Colchester Garrison, Colchester, Essex
by Howard Brooks, Stephen Benfield, Ben Holloway (CAT), and R Masefield (RPS)
(with contributions from Nina Crummy, Mark Hassall, Val Rigby, and Adam Wightman)

Date report completed: June 2012
Location: Colchester
Map reference(s): NGR TL 989 238
File size: 6180 kb
Project type: Excavation
Significance of the results: ** (*?)
Keywords: LIA/Roman enclosures, Roman timber building, Late Roman ring-ditch burial

Summary. The land now occupied by Goojerat Barracks (i.e. Colchester Garrison Alienated Land Area L/N) was inside the oppidum of Camulodunum. An evaluation in 2007/2008 identified Late Iron Age (LIA) and early Roman ditches whose configuration indicated the presence of a rectangular Roman enclosure, possibly containing a robbed-out Roman structure (represented by over 11kg of Roman building material), in the south-east corner of Area L/N. In June 2010, an area excavation (approximately 5800m2) on the site of the Roman building debris and the potential enclosure showed that archaeological deposits had survived over substantial areas, despite substantial truncation by recent Garrison infrastructure Residual flints indicate some passing activity here in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Fragments of loom-weights of ?Middle Iron Age type indicate local weaving, and (by implication, more permanent activity here) in the MIA. However, there were no features associated with these MIA finds. The majority of the excavated features were the multi-phased ditches of two rectilinear Late Iron Age and Roman enclosures (Enclosures 1, 2). The excavated areas coincided with most of the southern and western sides of E2, but with only the western and northern parts of E1, which lay mainly off-site. Finds indicate that a demolished Roman structure may have lain off site or that they were associated with the timber framed rectangular structure within a smaller enclosure (E3). Enclosure (E3) was located in the angle between the eastern side of E1 and the northern side of E2 (with which it was probably contemporary). The trapezoidal enclosure contained a well and groups of pits, post-holes and beam slots, the latter group of which are convincing as the ground-fast elements of the structure. Given the existence of the well, and the constrained size of the enclosure around the structure, it is quite likely that this was a domestic structure. Other ‘packed’ post-holes are evidently part of another structure whose ground-plan is not apparent. In the mid-2nd to mid-3rd century the late Iron Age to early Roman enclosures were in part replaced or re-defined by two new field/enclosure ditches that were laid out across the centre of E1 and the western edge of E2. Although it is possible that the alignment of the southern edge of E1 was followed by one of these new ditches, their presence indicates a change in land use which did not involve the continued use of the enclosures or the building within E3. Another change in land use is indicated by the later 3rd-century (or later) ring-ditch which was placed close to the centre of the former E1 and beside one of the later field ditches. This ring-ditch shows strong similarities with the late Roman ring-ditches around cremations excavated on Garrison site C2 (on the southern side of the Roman circus, 1200m to the NE), and to potentially latest Roman to post-Roman ring-ditches associated with Germanic warriors or foederati inhumations in an otherwise Roman cemetery (within Area A1 further to the north-east). The ring-ditch may therefore be the burial of a person with Germanic ancestry.