29th July 2022:
Oxford Archaeology’s latest book, a report on the results of excavations at Panattoni Park, near Northampton, where prehistoric evidence and part of a Roman villa were found, has just been published.
The earliest evidence was a cluster of flint knapping debris dating from the Mesolithic period. A pit alignment was established during the early Iron Age or at the start of the middle Iron Age, and east of this lay a middle Iron Age settlement of at least seven roundhouses. It is likely that both the boundary and the settlement were associated with grazing of cattle, and the settlement may have been seasonally occupied. An enclosure complex was constructed against the pit alignment during the late Iron Age and occupied until about AD 50/70, after which a hiatus of about a century passed before the establishment of the villa during the mid-2nd century AD.
The villa was first discovered in the 1840s when a mosaic was uncovered accidentally, and it was believed to have been largely destroyed during widening of the adjacent A4500 road in 1966. However, the new excavation has shown that part of the main building complex survived, including a substantial aisled building that may have formed the southern range.
An extensive area of the agricultural landscape surrounding the villa was investigated, including a focus devoted to malting, an enclosure complex used as a stockyard for processing livestock and a building interpreted as a temple-mausoleum of Romano-Celtic form beside a spring channel. Pollen from the channel indicated the presence of a walnut grove and this may be the earliest definite evidence for cultivation of walnut trees in Britain. A further notable find was a small hoard of mower’s tools that may represent the toolkit of an individual agricultural worker.