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Investigation of the Lower and Middle Wentlooge Formation, and further excavation of a later Romano-British farmstead at Henbury Level (Plot 5000, Western Approaches Distribution Park, Avonmouth, South Gloucestershire)

Champness, Carl Investigation of the Lower and Middle Wentlooge Formation, and further excavation of a later Romano-British farmstead at Henbury Level (Plot 5000, Western Approaches Distribution Park, Avonmouth, South Gloucestershire). [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In 2007 Oxford Archaeology (OA) carried out a staged field investigation at Plot 5000 of the
Avonmouth Western Approaches Distribution Park on behalf of Gazeley UK Ltd, through the
agency of CgMs/John Samuels Archaeological Consulting in relation to a planning
application for warehouse development, associated offices and car parking facilities.
The development area is located within the Avonmouth Levels, a former salt marsh reclaimed
from the sea, which contains a deep sequence of post-glacial alluvial deposits known as the
Wentlooge Formation. The excavation of the site consisted of a twenty-trench evaluation,
targeted excavation of the densest concentration of archaeological features, and an
investigation of the underlying alluvial sequence.
The investigation of the Wentlooge Sequence identified a northeast to southwest aligned ridge
in the Mudstone bedrock underlying Plot 5000, the surface of which drops sharply to the
southeast. The deposits in the depression formed by the Mudstone evidence outer estuarine
influence and episodes of peat formation, and may have formed in a backwater channel or
lagoon that was occasionally cut off from the tide. While the upper part of the sequence in Plot
5000 appears to similar to that which has already been investigated in Plot 4000, the lower
part provides a new sequence through the Lower Wentlooge Formation which has not been
recorded to a comparable depth within the Distribution Park. These lower deposits record a
sequence of earlier Holocene hydrological and sedimentary change which extends beyond the
depths reached in Plot 4000.
Plot 5000 lies close to Plot 4000 where Romano-British settlement has been identified by
Wessex Archaeology. The excavations in Plot 5000 uncovered a series of interconnecting
coaxial enclosures and droveways dating to the mid-late Roman period (2nd to 4th century
AD), probably forming part of a permanent settlement. Several phases of enclosure suggest
that this was part of a managed landscape that saw frequent periods of reorganisation,
perhaps in response to environmental and sedimentary change. No clear structural evidence
was identified in Plot 5000, and it seems likely that the remains in this area where related to
the settlement identified in Plot 4000.
Environmental and sedimentary evidence from the Roman ditches indicates brackish
conditions within an open landscape. The environmental indicators suggest a gradual
transition from a high salt marsh to a slightly dryer and more open environment on an
alluvial island within the Levels. The Roman drainage of the site would appear to have been
successful, but the area may still have been prone to flooding. The presence of domestic refuse,
including crop processing waste and pottery, indicate that the site was predominantly dry,
and more than just a seasonal pastoral settlement.
The archaeology recorded at the site adds to the growing body of evidence for Romano-British
rural settlement on the Avonmouth Levels. Although the evidence from Plot 5000 provides no
conclusive evidence for systematic reclamation in this part of the Levels, the appearance of
permanent settlements on the Levels demonstrates that drainage and settlement did occur in
the later Roman period. Such settlement could, however, have been opportunistic, and was
probably dependent upon local hydrological conditions. It may also have been assisted by a slow down in the rate of sea-level rise during this period.The changes evidenced in Plot 5000 formed part of a process of modification and transformation of the Levels that was played out
in many regions of the Severn Estuary

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Gloucestershire
Period > UK Periods > Roman 43 - 410 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology South > Fieldwork
Depositing User: Scott
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2013 13:09
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2013 13:11
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/1217

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