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Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 1610: summary

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Archaeological evaluation on land east of Colchester Zoo, Maldon Road, Colchester, Essex, CO3 0SL: September-November 2020
by Sarah Carter and Adam Wightman
(with contributions from Philip Crummy, Dr Matthew Loughton, Laura Pooley, Alec Wade, Chris Lister, Robin Mathieson, Emma Holloway)

Date report completed: November 2020
Location: Land east of Colchester Zoo, Maldon Road, Colchester, Essex, CO3 0SL
Map reference(s): TL 95535 21766
File size: kb
Project type: Evaluation
Significance of the results:

Summary. An archaeological evaluation (116 trial-trenches) was carried out on land east of Colchester Zoo, Maldon Road, Colchester, Essex, in advance of the proposed expansion of Stanway Quarry for mineral extraction. The site lies within an area of high archaeological potential, with the Late Iron Age and Roman Colchester Dykes and Gosbecks site immediately to the east and the nationally important late Iron Age-early Roman Stanway burial site c 525m to the north. Excavations at Fiveways Fruit Farm c 1km to the north revealed two conjoined Middle Iron Age enclosures and associated agricultural landscape.

The Evaluation revealed 245 features, primarily ditches and pits, but including also geological features and tree-throw pits. The main period of activity at the site was in the Late Iron Age-early Roman period. This activity was centred on a plateau of flat ground at the northern edge of the site. The number of features and the quantity of finds recovered suggests that the site was either occupied during the Late Iron Age-early Roman period, or that an area of occupation is located immediately to the north. The finds dating evidence indicates that the main period of activity on the site began sometime after c 30 BC and continued into the early Roman period (? c 30 BC- AD 60). The site appears to have been abandoned not long after the Roman conquest, when any activity in this area would have likely moved eastwards to within the area defended by Gryme's Dyke. The infilled ditch of Gryme's Dyke was identified in three of the evaluation trenches. The upper-part of the ditch had been infilled in the mid-20th century and the bank levelled.

Prehistoric flints and pottery were also recovered during the evaluation. Four pits dated to the Middle Iron Age may be associated with the farmsteads identified to the north of the site or could indicate the presence of another close by.

Five cropmarks were targeted by trial-trenches, with ditches identified in close proximity to the plotted locations in all but one instance. Two of the ditches date to the Late Iron Age-early Roman period. The others were medieval/post-medieval field boundaries and a ditch which may have enclosed land belonging to Baymill Cottages.

A magnetometer survey undertaken by TigerGeo in March 2020 identified a series of large palaeochannels and 27 linear anomalies typical of ditch fills. A sterile silt, which filled the palaeochannels and other large hollows on the valley slope, was recorded in 26 of the trial-trenches. 12 of the linear anomalies were intersected by the trial trenches. Three are likely to correspond to shallow ditches, two of which have been dated to the Late Iron Age-early Roman period.