An archaeological project to research the Stoud Valley in England has revealed early Roman activity dating from the 1st century.
Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology have been carrying out archaeological works in preparation for the construction of a housing development.
The excavations revealed evidence of some of the earliest Roman activity currently known in the Stroud Valleys dating from the mid to late 1st century, and therefore soon after the Roman invasion in AD43. More limited evidence of earlier activity within the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age and Late Iron Age periods was also found, including a tree throw containing at least four individual Beakers (2600 BC-1800 BC)
The main discovery was a large rectangular enclosure, approached by a well used and sunken trackway leading from Doverow Hill, within which a stone-built crop dryer and over 300 pits and postholes were revealed. Four of the pits were heavily scorched and may have been used for small scale iron working as large
quantities of iron slag were found at the site. At least one small roundhouse lay just outside of the enclosure.
Thirteen human burials were excavated, all located, but spatially dispersed, within the early Roman enclosure. The preservation of the human remains varied, with some having been previously damaged by medieval or later ploughing. Particularly notable was a grave that contained the skeletons of two individuals, closely flexed together. The majority of the inhumations appeared to have been laid directly in the graves, most probably in simple shrouds, however the presence of a number of iron nails around the exterior of two of the graves suggests that these bodies at least were likely to have been buried within coffins.
The recovery of hobnails around the feet of three of the individuals indicates they were buried wearing footwear, a practice which became commonplace in rural settlements during the late 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. One of the burials that contained hobnails also contained a coin dated to AD 324-30, that was found close to the mouth area. The custom of placing a coin in the mouth of an inhumation as the fare for the ferryman Charon for safe passage across the River Styx in the afterlife was commonplace by the 4th century AD.
Other notable finds associated with the burials include as yet unidentifiedl ead objects and a sizeable iron cleaver.
Cliff Bateman, Project Manager at Cotswold Archaeology said “Most of our work is undertaken in advance of developments such as this but are usually undertaken throughout the whole of the country, so to work locally in the Stroud Valleys was obviously exciting. We previously knew of the Roman settlements at Standish, Frocester and Eastington as well as the famous mosaic at Woodchester, so the current findings continue to show how densely populated the local area was in the Roman period”.
Although the on-site works have been completed, further study of the records, artefacts and the burials has just begun and may take a year or so to complete. The finds will be donated to the Museum in the Park, Stroud with the burials, under current legislation, being reburied locally.
Header Image Credit : Jongleur100