In August 2016 Urban and Civic Plc began a large-scale development at Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. The development has the potential to impact upon an area approaching 280ha in total, and is to deliver key infrastructure linking into both the A1 and A46, as well as mixed residential, commercial and communal facilities.
Oxford Archaeology was engaged to mitigate the potential impact of the development on extensive archaeological remains. OA began work on Phase 1 of the project, which has seen the stripping of nearly 14 square hectares of land located in the northeast corner of the development, on either side of the newly refurbished line of Bowbridge Lane, where significant archaeological features were exposed.
To the east of Bowbridge Lane, excavations identified the remains of a predominantly Iron Age settlement with nearly a dozen roundhouses, numerous pit deposits and various other features, nested within an extensive system of ditched enclosures and associated land divisions. A large assemblage of Iron Age pottery, primarily from the pit deposits, and evidence of metalworking was recovered. There was also a small amount of earlier prehistoric material in the form of worked flint, potentially of Mesolithic to Neolithic date, and Bronze Age pottery, mainly as residual finds in later features, but nevertheless attesting to earlier phases of activity at the site.
A large ditched enclosure appears to have formed the focus for significant activity during the Roman period. On present evidence, this phase of activity saw intensive use of the site for industry, with evidence of metalworking and the excavation of six well-preserved pottery kilns cut into the top of the ditch silts of the enclosure ditch. Click here to see a 3D model of one of the kilns.
To the west of Bowbridge Lane a smaller area was stripped, revealing some very intriguing earlier prehistoric phases of activity. In the north-western corner of the new area, a large, circular, ditched enclosure, c 35m in diameter, was excavated. It appears to have had at least one causewayed entrance, and there is some evidence that it had been subject to modification, with the entrance being cut through at some point to produce a continuous boundary.
Inside the enclosure were many pit, postholes, and other features, some showing signs of in situ burning. Some of these features appear to be grouped and form one or more clear arcs, perhaps suggesting the presence of internal post structures. A number of these features were subsequently used for the interment of cremation deposits, 12 accompanying a selection of Collared and Bucket urns and 2 accompanied by smaller ancillary vessels only. Some had been damaged by ploughing, although the majority were exceptionally well preserved, and were bulk lifted for detailed excavation in the lab.
This sequence of modification and adaptation of a previous monument, which then formed the focus for mortuary rites, is similar to sequences identified at sites such as Ferry Bridge in West Yorkshire, and Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, which may indicate this could be a Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age hengiform monument, though further analysis and work is required.
To the south-west, outside of the hengiform enclosure, there were a small number of the cremation deposits in association with a number pits and gully features. One of these pits contained a fragment of an Early Bronze Age socketed stone axe, and a beautifully decorated jet object from a necklace was recovered from the land surface in this area.
These features sat broadly within an area defined by an arching shallow ditch, which demonstrably cut the hengiform ditch, and may form a D-shaped internal division within a much larger, square shaped enclosure of probable Iron Age date, and, as such, is almost certainly associated with the extensive system of ditches on the other side of Bowbridge Lane. This square enclosure is associated with several other features, including two smaller internal rectangular ditched enclosures, of Iron Age date, and a rather enigmatic double ditched D-shaped enclosure, appended to its western side. This double ditched enclosure had deep cut ditches, which produced a selection of Iron Age pottery, and a clearly defined entrance to the north. No clear function for this feature has yet been ascertained.
To the south of the large square enclosure, a ring ditch with an entrance to the west, contained a relatively deep and large pit, located slightly off centre. The soil conditions did not allow for the preservation of un-burnt bone, but the large pit proved to be of a size which could have accommodated a burial. Further to the east of the ring ditch, an innocuous looking U-shaped gully, produced a potential star find in the guise of a heavily patinated stone axe. Further chemical analysis of the axe will firmly establish its lithic source, but while it appears to have been deliberately placed in relation to a collection of pottery sherds of probable Iron Age origin, the axe is thought to be much earlier in date, and represent an example of Langdale type, prevalent during the Neolithic. The association of the axe with potentially much later ceramic material would appear to hold a very interesting story, which further analysis will hopefully bring out.
Post excavation analysis and synthesis of the results will be required before a full and comprehensive report can be delivered. Preliminary results, however, indicate a long-lived and extensive history to Newark and its wider environment which Oxford Archaeology, in partnership with Urban and Civic Plc, look forward to revealing.
This page will be updated with more news as the excavation progresses. Watch this space!