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Capelands Farm Bratton Fleming Devon & Capelands Farm, Bratton Fleming, Devon: an early Neolithic long enclosure and Beaker activity Post-excavation report

Hughes, Vix and Hayden, Chris Capelands Farm Bratton Fleming Devon & Capelands Farm, Bratton Fleming, Devon: an early Neolithic long enclosure and Beaker activity Post-excavation report. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Oxford Archaeology (OA) was commissioned by Will Bedford of CgMs Consulting,
on behalf of juwi Renewable Energies Limited, to undertake a trial trench evaluation
on land at Capelands Farm, Bratton Fleming, North Devon. The site is situated
approximately 1.75km north-east of the village of Bratton Fleming, to the east of the
A399 and centred on NGR SS 6643 3906.
Archaeological features were generally very sparsely distributed. Several trenches
placed to investigate clearly defined geophysical anomalies contained no
corresponding archaeological features. Nevertheless, three definite and probable
prehistoric cut features were identified and these are concentrated in the general
vicinity of a possible long mortuary enclosure, identified by the magnetometer
survey. The monument is provisionally presumed to be of early Neolithic date on
morphological grounds, although no artefactual dating evidence was recovered from
the evaluation.
Trenches 9, 10 and 14, which were placed to investigate the enclosure, produced
mixed results. A ditch was found in the predicted location in Trench 10, but not in
trenches 9 or 14. Trench 14 did contain a large, stone-packed probable posthole,
which lay inside the enclosure near the north-east end and may have been
associated with it. Trench 9 contained no archaeological features at all. The former
extent of the enclosure is clearly defined on the magnetometer survey plot, but the
monument appears to be very poorly preserved, particularly at the north-east end.
The lack of any evidence at all for surviving ditches in Trenches 9 and 14 is
particularly surprising given the comparative clarity of the monument outline on the
magnetometer plot. Test excavations were dug into the natural geology in Trenches
9 and 14, which confirmed that no ditches were present at the predicted locations.
A Beaker pit deposit (late Neolithic/early Bronze Age) was found in Trench 8 (pit
803) and was the only feature present in this trench. All of the pottery from the site
was recovered from this single feature. The assemblage consists of 68 sherds
(784g) and includes the remains of probably two Beaker vessels and at least one
other very large late Neolithic/early Bronze Age vessel. The only other finds from the
trenches comprised two unstratified worked flints.
Soil samples recovered from possible prehistoric features all contained wellpreserved
wood charcoal, but the fragments were generally too small to identify to
species, except in the case of the samples from the Beaker pit (803), which was
dominated by oak, with some alder and hazel. Other charred material appeared
reasonably well preserved despite external encrustation. Charred seeds were only
present in samples from the large stone-packed posthole in Trench 14. Charred
hazelnut fragments were recovered from the fills of all three of the probable
prehistoric features, providing good short-lived sample material for radiocarbon
dating if required.
A single undated pit in Trench 1 coincided with a discrete magnetic anomaly on the
survey plot, but three linear anomalies in the same trench had no corresponding
archaeological features. Trench 2 was placed to investigate an apparent doubleditched
trackway on the survey plot, but contained no archaeological features at all.

Prior to the construction of a solar farm a series of archaeological investigations was
carried out at Capelands Farm, Bratton Fleming, Devon. The first phase of the
investigations consisted of a geophysical survey which suggested the existence of a
range of features, the most significant of which was a possible Neolithic long
enclosure. Subsequently a series of evaluation trenches was excavated, comprising
a 1% sample of the site. However, of three trenches that were focused on the
possible enclosure, only one revealed the existence of a ditch that could be
associated with the survey results. The same discrepancies occurred in other
trenches where geophysical anomalies did not appear to correspond with
archaeologically visible features.
Additional detailed geophysical work was commissioned to confirm the existence of
the long enclosure and to establish the reasons for the inconsistency between the
geophysical survey and the evaluation and a number of explanations are advanced
in this report, the most persuasive of which may be that the survey detected the
remains of banks rather than features cut into the natural substrate.
Despite these difficulties, the evidence for an early Neolithic enclosure is convincing.
It was 46m long and 21m wide, which places it in the upper range of a group of
enclosures known as ‘long enclosures’, and a modest number of similar enclosures
are already known in Devon. The only evidence for the date of the Capelands
enclosure is provided by a single radiocarbon-dated sample, not entirely
convincingly associated with the construction or use of the enclosure, which
probably falls in the 38th century cal BC. This is a very early date for a linear
monument in Britain, and it suggests that a variety of linear monuments may have
been constructed in different regions at an early date. Nevertheless, it is stressed
that we should not place too much emphasis on a single poorly associated
radiocarbon date, and that further dates would be needed to establish these
possible conclusions.
Other significant archaeological evidence from Capelands Farm comprised two
probably contemporary Bronze Age pits, one of which contained a relatively large
assemblage of Beaker pottery. These features provide potential evidence for the reuse
of an earlier ritual complex.

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Devon
Period > UK Periods > Bronze Age 2500 - 700 BC
Period > UK Periods > Neolithic 4000 - 2200 BC
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology South > Fieldwork
Depositing User: Scott
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2017 11:31
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2017 11:31
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/3245

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