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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 652: summary

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Stages 2 & 3 archaeological monitoring and excavation on the Napier Road car-parks and footpath (GAL Area B1b and Area C2), Colchester garrison, Essex: February 2011-January 2013
by Adam Wightman, Donald Shimmin, Stephen Benfield (CAT) and R Masefield (RPS)
(with contributions from J Curle, N Crummy, V Fryer, B Holloway)

Date report completed: September 2014
Location: the Napier Road car-parks and footpath (GAL Area B1b and Area C2), Colchester garrison, Essex
Map reference(s): TL 9986 2452 (c), TL9977 2449 (c), TL 9966 2454 to TL 9982 2450
File size: 11,293 kb
Project type: Archaeological monitoring and excavation
Significance of the results:

Summary. Archaeological monitoring and excavation was carried out on three sites on the northern and southern sides of the eastern end of Napier Road during groundworks for two car-parks (Phase 1 & Phase 2), and for a new footpath along the northern side of Napier Road (Phase 3). The northern car-park (ie, the Phase 1 site) revealed a large early or mid-Roman quarry pit, evidence of iron-working (smithing) and possibly bone-working. In the mid-late Roman period, the site was primarily used for burial (two cremations and 27 inhumations, some of which were intercutting, with one cremation cut into the backfill of one of the inhumations). The graves can be divided into groups which share distinct alignments, possibly in small areas reflecting either socially-related groups, or (over a wider areas) chronological patterns of burials. The variation in the alignment of graves is similar to that of graves on the southern car park (Phase 2 here). An unusual line of intercutting burials on the southern edge of the site may mark the cemetery boundary, and may follow an otherwise invisible boundary (one side of a ?trackway). Of significant interest is the skeleton of a juvenile which has physical traits indicative of a possible Negroid ancestry or origin. The Phase 2 area (south of Napier Road) produced a small quantity of residual Neolithic-Early Iron Age finds. During the mid-late Roman period the site was primarily used for burials (three cremations and thirteen inhumations). While the variation in grave alignment is similar to that on the northern car-park (Phase 1 site), there are no east-west aligned burials here. Unusually, one cremation had been placed at the centre of a ring-ditch. This burial post-dates several of the inhumations, one of which can be dated to after the late 2nd century. The footpath watching brief (Phase 3) revealed traces of the Roman circus. Spreads of building materials from the circus stands (cavea) were uncovered surprisingly close to the modern ground-level. The rubble spread associated with the outer cavea wall contained mainly large stones, probably from the dismantling of the circus in later Roman times. The rubble spread near the inner cavea wall consisted of mortar debris with stone chips and a few small fragments of Roman brick. This was probably waste from the robbing of larger pieces of stone and brick for re-use in medieval times. The rubble spreads were left intact and given a protective covering.