In February, through the highlights from OA's history we celebrated World Wetlands Day with one of OA's historic projects, the North West Wetlands Survey and looked at an eggcellent find from Roman Buckhinghamshire. We then travelled from Cambridgeshire to Egypt through a beautifully decorated, Nile-inspired keyhandle fromt he Roman period and ended with a visit to a rare Viking-age cemetery in Cumbria. 

Exploring the wetlands of North West England

In the 1990s, Historic England commissioned a survey of all the lowland wetlands in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire. These are thought to contain around 37,000ha of peat, more than in the whole of the east of England. Wetlands provide an immensely valuable carbon repository, as well as important information about the past environment and its changes; including human activity, since the last Ice Age. However, threats from construction, agriculture, forestry, and refuse disposal have led to huge reductions in their size.

an excavated field with a waterlogged and preserved large tree trunk. area around is extremely muddy and slightly flooded

Roman eggs in Buckinghamshire

One of our most extraordinary finds was discovered in 2010 at the site of a Roman roadside settlement at Berryfields just outside Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. Preserved within the wet, muddy layers of what had been a well or waterlogged pit used for malting and brewing were four chicken’s eggs.

an egg that is white with small grey spots covering its surface

From Egypt to Godmanchester

In 2007, our Cambridge office (then CAM ARC) discovered an unusual Roman key handle in the centre of Godmanchester – Durovigutum – a Roman small town that lies on Ermine Street near the River Ouse, just to the south of Huntingdon. The handle, which is of zoomorphic form, was found alongside 2nd-3rd century AD pottery in an otherwise unremarkable boundary ditch in a very small excavation trench close to the central crossroads of the Roman town. Various possibilities for the creature depicted on the handle were suggested, but the animal is probably a Nilotic beast.  It is almost certainly of continental manufacture, and the animal may be very loosely based (perhaps at several removes) on an Egyptian prototype; it cannot be defined as representative of any one particular Egyptian deity.

a rectangular stone key handle with the head in the shape of a beast

The Viking-age cemetery at Cumwhitton, Cumbria

In 2004, our Lancaster office excavated one of the most important early medieval sites in the North West: a cemetery of six richly furnished burials dating to the early tenth century. Any furnished graves of this period are very rare in England, only about 30 having been excavated, mainly by antiquarians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and cemeteries are even rarer.