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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 [Client Report] (Unpublished)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
ID Code:1217
Deposited By: Scott
Deposited On:05 Sep 2013 13:09
Last Modified:06 Sep 2013 13:11

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