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Colonisation, Conquest and Continuity on the Cambridgeshire Clay Lands: Earlier Prehistoric evidence, Iron Age, Romano British and Early Saxon Agriculture and Settlement on Land at Love's Farm, St Neots

Hinman, Mark (2008) Colonisation, Conquest and Continuity on the Cambridgeshire Clay Lands: Earlier Prehistoric evidence, Iron Age, Romano British and Early Saxon Agriculture and Settlement on Land at Love's Farm, St Neots. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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The Love’s Farm project represents a detailed archaeological examination of the later prehistoric and Roman agricultural landscape on a previously unprecedented scale within the region. The results of this work are transforming current understanding of the evolution of the local landscape and have radically altered past assumptions on the population and exploitation of Cambridgeshire's western clay lands. The development site, located on heavy clay soils and adjacent to St Neots station, measured 60ha, over half of which was stripped during the course of the excavations.

There was some evidence of tree clearance datable to the early Neolithic period, but it was not until the late Iron Age that the full potential of the area began to be exploited. During the later Iron Age people settled more permanently on the site, choosing sheltered east facing hollows to build roundhouses, digging large enclosures around them that controlled drainage and livestock. Nucleation of settlement into physically separate enclosure complexes occurred during the late Iron Age which appeared to respect earlier boundaries.

Excavation has shown that the site was laid out in the late Iron Age within a regular, possibly pre-existing, grid pattern, bounded to the south by a major east to west route way previously identified as a possible Roman Road (Margary, route 231). The results from the final stage of excavation in 2008 seem to suggest that this roadway led directly to one of the main settlement enclosures at Loves Farm where it stopped. An alternative interpretation is that the roadway was originally and access route from the River Ouse to the west up onto the clay lands to the east and that the focus for this routeway shifted from the river in prehistory to the Godmanchester – Sandy Road (Margary route 22) during the Roman Period. Another roadway exiting the site to the north preserved parts of the metalled surface and wheel ruts. Large gravel quarries on site were exploited in the late Iron Age to surface this road. The scale of the road and the quarries implies that this must have been a communal effort requiring planning and co-ordination.

For 500 years successive generations lived on this land, improving drainage, growing new crops (including vines?), managing livestock, adding enclosures, buildings, roads and monuments. The site started reverting to open pasture towards the end of the Roman period. Evidence of an early Saxon presence was detected along the western boundary of the site and included the careful placement of red deer antlers within ditch lines and as a capping deposit within a 5th century well. These antlers were found in association with hand made pottery (with a visibly high mica content) and Niedemendig lava.

Perhaps the most significant results of the fieldwork so far are the questions that the archaeological evidence raises for our understanding of social organisation and the evolution of the countryside. As a result of this excavation it is now possible to date many boundaries within the site back to the late Iron Age. A significant number of these ancient boundaries were still maintained within the development area as hedgerows and drainage ditches and can be seen to extend beyond the site, westwards towards the River Ouse and eastwards into the clay lands. It is now possible to identify a regular pattern of boundaries that seem to extend over several parishes and appear to constitute the key elements of a previously unknown and relatively intact prehistoric agricultural landscape.

Item Type: Client Report
Uncontrolled Keywords: archaeological excavation, archaeological evaluation, pxa, upd, post-excavation assessment, cambridgeshire, st neots rural, loves farm, iron age, roman, settlement, roundhouse, saxon, field system, roman road, gravel quarry, neolithic, tree clearance, pottery, quern
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Cambridgeshire
Period > UK Periods > Early Medieval 410 - 1066 AD
Period > UK Periods > Iron Age 800 BC - 43 AD
Period > UK Periods > Iron Age 800 BC - 43 AD > Late Iron Age 100 BC - 43 AD
Period > UK Periods > Neolithic 4000 - 2200 BC
Period > UK Periods > Roman 43 - 410 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology East
Depositing User: Chris Faine
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2016 10:08
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2016 10:08
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/3107

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