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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 628: summary

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A Late Iron Age dyke, Roman and Anglo-Saxon burials, a Roman coin hoard, and a Civil War fort: Stage 1b archaeological evaluation and Stage 2 excavation at Colchester Garrison Alienated Land Area A1 (former Meeanee & Hyderabad Barracks) Colchester, Essex: October-December 2010 & January-March and July-September 2011
by Howard Brooks
(with contributions from B Holloway, R Masefield, S Benfield, N Crummy, A Wightman, V Fryer, J Curl, J Bird, S Shrubshall)

Date report completed: July 2016
Location: Colchester Garrison Alienated Land Area A1 (former Meeanee & Hyderabad Barracks), Maldon Road, Colchester, Esse
Map reference(s): TM 0020 2430 (c)
File size: 35,203 kb
Project type: Archaeological evaluation and excavation
Significance of the results: ***
Keywords: Iron Age, Roman, Berechurch Dyke, Anglo-Saxon, burial, coin hoard, Civil War, fortlet

Summary. The 13.39ha former Meeanee & Hyderabad Barracks, Mersea Road, Colchester, Essex, are referred to as Area A1 within the general Colchester Garrison redevelopment project. This is the report on archaeological evaluations (Stage 1b: October-December 2010) and excavations (Stage 2: January-July 2011) carried out by CAT on behalf of Taylor Wimpey. RPS were project consultants (Rob Masefield). Area A1 was excavated as eleven separate Sites (A-K). In many cases, the 2010 Sites overlapped the trenches of the two previous evaluation stages (2002: CAT Report 2002) and 2010 (reported on here). Site A A cemetery of 14 cremation burials and 70 inhumation burials was first used in the mid Roman period, and then (on the evidence of the grave goods) continued in use, or was re-used, in the late 6th century or early 7th century. Eight inhumation burials were uncovered within ring-ditches, and five contained grave-goods including Anglo-Saxon shield-bosses, spearheads, knives and beads. One ring-ditch-enclosed burial was of a female with Eurasian characteristics. Similar characteristics were noted for a nearby Anglo-Saxon-period burial. The question of whether the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ cemetery was connected with immigrant populations with complex ancestries is considered. Two substantial ditches and one smaller section are part of a previously-unknown fortlet and laager constructed in the Civil War Siege of Colchester in 1648, to the north of Fort Needham. Site B Characterised by a large Roman quarry-pit. Site C Included a substantial WSW/ESE Roman ditch with a fence-line on north edge. Possible field-gate. Site D Produced a N/S-aligned Roman field-boundary ditch (also in Site E). Site E A tree-stump clearance pit was found containing 61 Early Neolithic Mildenhall-style potter sherds and nine Neolithic flints is the earliest prehistoric finds assemblage found from a secure context in Colchester. A substantial N/S Roman ditch (also in Site D to the north) was investigated. Site F Two Late Iron Age or early Roman stock enclosures and a third ditch- and fence-enclosed enclosure containing a circular post-built structure may have comprised a stock corral and shepherds' hut. These were cut by a later E/W Roman field ditch (also uncovered in Site D to the east and Site G to the west). Site G Included two intercutting ?Roman graves, and the Roman-period E/W-aligned ditch (also observed in Site F to the west). Site H Included a cemetery zone including 31 grave cuts, 17 with human remains and one with grave goods of probable late Roman date. The general absence of grave goods and their east-west alignments may also indicate a late Roman (Christian?) date. Site I Produced a single E-W Roman field ditch. Site J Included the significant discovery of a previously-unknown northern extension of the late Iron Age/early Roman earthwork (Berechurch Dyke), 1000m north of the previously-known northern extent at a junction with the ‘Barnhall Sector’ at Colchester Cemetery. This ‘Hyderabad Barracks Sector’ of the Berechurch Dyke contained significant dating evidence derived from an adjacent occupation site on its southern side, confirming a Late Iron Age date for the dyke approximately contemporary with the Sheepen Dyke (ie early 1st century AD). A kink north-east suggests the possibility of a protected quayside zone beside the River Colne. Inserted into the top (Roman-period) fills was a hoard of 1,244 antoniniani, the latest being an antoninianus of Tetricus I, AD 271-4. Site K Three phases of Roman field ditch, a possible grave, and an undated semi-circular gully (possibly part of a mortuary-related ring-ditch).