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Middle to Late Bronze Age funerary activity and Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age occupation at Field End, Witchford

Blackbourn, Kathryn (2018) Middle to Late Bronze Age funerary activity and Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age occupation at Field End, Witchford. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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Between the 25th of July and the 20th August 2016 Oxford Archaeology East undertook an archaeological excavation on land north of Field End, Witchford, Cambridgeshire (TL 4986 7916). The excavation covered an area of 2.7ha and revealed six phases of activity.
The earliest use of the site was dated to the Early Bronze Age, evidenced by three pits and a post-hole in the eastern half of the site. There was an increase in activity in the Middle Bronze Age, with an area in the western half of the site being used as the location for a cremation and inhumation cemetery (Cemetery 1), which comprised 35 cremations and five inhumations within four graves. These burials were split into three distinct burial groups based on spatial distribution, thought to represent family plots. The cremation burial pits contained varying amounts of burnt bone, much of which was poorly fired and survived as large fragments. Although only two of the cremations were urned, very small fragments of Middle to Late Bronze Age pottery (often <1g) were recovered from nine of the cremations, thought to represent vessels which were placed on the pyre. A small number of the cremations were clearly buried in an organic container. There was no distinct separation in the cemetery between inhumation burials and the cremations, each group of burials containing a mixture of both. The inhumation burials varied in terms of alignment, preservation, body position, age and sex. None of the graves contained any finds. A series of radiocarbon dates covering the range 1510–1080 cal BC (at 95% confidence) were obtained from both cremations and inhumations in Cemetery 1.
Further funerary activity during the Late Bronze Age was attested to by a smaller cremation cemetery (Cemetery 2), comprising five cremation burials, located in the south-east corner of the site. The cremation burials all contained relatively small quantities of burnt bone, mixed with pyre debris and were less clustered than Cemetery 1. Two of these cremations were radiocarbon dated and yielded dates spanning 1010-810 cal BC. In addition, an inhumation burial of a young female (277) and pre term neonate, enclosed within a post-built mortuary structure, was found to the north of Cemetery 1. The presence of a mortuary structure is a significant find and suggests that these individuals were treated differently after death, potentially due to pregnancy or child birth. This skeleton was radiocarbon dated to 1060-890 cal BC. No other examples of this type of burial have been noted in the East of England dating to the Late Bronze Age.
A contemporary unenclosed settlement was also established during the Late Bronze Age; features were located across the site, with a slight concentration in the south-east corner. This settlement comprised post-built structures, wells and pits, typical of the period. Two features on site (588 and 596) yielded an assemblage of clay mould fragments, indicating that sword production was taking place on or near the site during the Late Bronze Age. No metal objects were recovered from the site, although swords dating to the Late Bronze Age have been recovered from a number of locations across the Cambridgeshire fens, including examples from the immediate environs of the site. The mould fragments represent an important addition to the small but growing corpus of known assemblages in the East of England.
Diagnostic Early Iron Age pottery has allowed for an Early Iron Age phase of settlement to be identified at the site. Although no distinct change in feature types were observed, there was a slight shift in settlement to the south-east, perhaps suggesting the settlement continued outside the excavation area.
A wide and shallow channel extended across the southern part of the site in a roughly east to west direction. There appeared to be a direct association between the channel and the archaeological features, particularly in the Late Bronze Age, despite the fact that it was difficult to establish the date at which the channel may have been active. The majority of the archaeological features were on the northern side of the channel where the land began to rise, with a concentration of Late Bronze Age features and Cemetery 2 positioned directly to the north. A later field system, parts of which truncated the in-filled channel, was observed in the south-west corner of the site and was thought to be of Late Iron Age or Early Roman date – a single sherd of Roman mortarium was recovered from ditch 343.

Item Type: Client Report
Uncontrolled Keywords: archaeological excavation, Excavation, excavation, Cambridgeshire, cambridgeshire, Witchford, witchford, Cremation, cremation, Cremation cemetery, cremation cemetery, HSR, hsr, human remains, cremated bone, cremated human bone, human bone, human bones, Human Skeletal Remains, human skeletal remains, inhumation, inhumation burial, burial, burial structure, Bronze Age, bronze age, Late Bronze Age, late bronze age, Early Bronze Age, early bronze age, Middle Bronze Age, middle bronze age, Iron Age, Early Iron Age, iron age, early iron age, Bronze Age pottery, bronze age pottery, Late Bronze Age pottery, late bronze age pottery, Early Bronze Age pottery, early bronze age pottery, Middle Bronze Age pottery, middle bronze age pottery, Iron Age pottery, Early Iron Age pottery, iron age pottery, early iron age pottery, pottery, Pottery, pot, sherd, ceramic, fired clay, mould, sword chape mould, structure, post hole, post holes, post built structure, well, pit, pit group, ditch, ditches, channel, Beaker, beaker, Deverel-Rimbury, deverel-rimbury, Post Deverel-Rimbury, post deverel rimbury, 2112, report 2112, Report 2112, OAE report 2112
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Cambridgeshire
Period > UK Periods > Bronze Age 2500 - 700 BC
Period > UK Periods > Bronze Age 2500 - 700 BC > Early Bronze Age 2500 - 1500 BC
Period > UK Periods > Iron Age 800 BC - 43 AD > Early Iron Age 800 - 400 BC
Period > UK Periods > Iron Age 800 BC - 43 AD
Period > UK Periods > Bronze Age 2500 - 700 BC > Late Bronze Age 1000 - 700 BC
Period > UK Periods > Bronze Age 2500 - 700 BC > Middle Bronze Age 1600 - 1,000 BC
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology East
Depositing User: Hamilton
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2019 08:21
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 08:29
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/4992

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