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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 620: summary

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Stage 2 archaeological excavations in Alienated Land Area S2 (north), Colchester Garrison, Colchester, Essex: September-October 2010
by Stephen Benfield of CAT and Robert Masefield of RPS
(with contributions from Adam Wightman, Val Fryer)

Date report completed: June 2012
Location: Alienated Land Area S2 (north), Colchester Garrison, Colchester, Essex
Map reference(s): TL 9950 2214 (c)
File size: 2,670 kb
Project type: excavations
Significance of the results: ***
Keywords: Middle Iron Age, ditches, ?enclosure, Late Iron Age/Roman, rectilinear, landscape, ?Roman, post-built ?structures, metalled trackway, post-medieval/modern, ditches

Summary. Following an evaluation in August-September 2010, six sites - with a total area of approximately 0.56 ha - were excavated in the northern part of the southern half of the former Roman Barracks (Colchester Garrison Alienated Land Area S2 (north)), referred to here as Area S2 (north). This land is situated inside the oppidum of Camulodunum with the Berechurch Dyke (one of the defensive earthworks of Camulodunum) extending along its eastern side. These excavations revealed a number of phases of activity of prehistoric (Neolithic/Bronze Age-Iron Age), Roman, medieval and post-medieval to modern date. Isolated pits may relate to early land-clearance, but may include natural tree-throw holes or glacial features. A number of shallow ditches and a few pits can be dated to the prehistoric period. The pottery recovered from these includes sherds which are likely to date to the Neolithic-Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age period. and some which can be dated to the Middle-Late Iron Age. It seems likely that the earlier-dated sherds were residual in the ditches, which probably date to the Middle-Late Iron Age. Some lengths of ditch appears to be part of a sinuous boundary extending east-west across the site. To the east, where this feature is recorded as a cropmark, it appears to be cut by the Berechurch Dyke. A possible enclosure (or boundary ditch) may also date to this period, although it might date to slightly later, possibly extending into the early Roman period. The quantity of prehistoric pottery recovered would suggest settlement on or close to the site. No traces of any buildings consistent with habitation were located, although a possible cooking-pit (containing burnt flints) was excavated and a possible round-house, situated just beyond the south-west boundary of the development area, is probably of this period. The Late Iron Age-Roman features mostly consist of ditches. These appear to form part of a rectilinear field system orientated south-east/north-west which extends beyond the development area. This fits a pattern of alignments seen in other parts of the Garrison development site relating to field systems of this date. It is noticeable that these ditches are not aligned with the Berechurch Dyke, but later ditches of post-medieval to modern date here appear to respect the alignment of the dyke. Overall, the low level of Late Iron Age-Roman finds suggests an agricultural area, with many of the finds probably deriving from manure scatter. A double trackway survived where the wheels of vehicles had eroded two linear hollows. Wheel-ruts were preserved at the base of the hollows which had been metalled with gravel at some stage. A small quantity of finds from the fill of the hollows are predominantly Roman, with a few being medieval and post-medieval/modern, while the double trackway itself cut ditches dated as Late Iron Age-Roman. The finds might allow a mid-late Roman date with a few later intrusive pieces, or a long-lived route here surviving into later periods. However, the double trackway is more probably of medieval or post-medieval date and is possibly associated with a medieval farmstead enclosure located to the south-east of the current site. Many of the post-Roman features identified could not be closely dated but are of medieval/post-medieval to modern date. Most of these are probably post-medieval to modern and include several modern features associated with the former Roman Barracks. The main features which can be dated to this period are ditches and these are of broadly north-south and east-west orientation.