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Excavation of "Avenell" Way: A Roman track-way at Station Quarry, Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire

Atkins, Robert and Graham, Steven (2013) Excavation of "Avenell" Way: A Roman track-way at Station Quarry, Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire. Project Report. Oxford Archaeological Unit Ltd. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In a six week period during August and September 2012, OA East conducted an archaeological excavation over a c.600m by c.20m area at Station Quarry, Steeple Morden. This work was the last in a sequence of investigations undertaken since 2002 by Oxford Archaeology at Station Quarry. Three residual struck flint were recovered from the excavation indicating that sparse prehistoric activity took place within this location. A few of the tree bowls may date to this period. Up to four undated prehistoric stream channels running north to south along a dry valley were encountered at the far eastern side of the excavation at 61m OD. Cropmarks seen in air photographs show that the channel deposits continued beyond the excavation area to the east over more than a c.150m distance. The "Avenell" Way, a long serving routeway which was probably the road linking the small town of Baldock (Hertfordshire) to Cambridge, was examined within the excavation area. This routeway comprised up to three successive track-ways with the earliest only tentatively assigned this label of track-way but could have been a ditch. It was seen only at the extreme northern end of the site and was dated by a single small Late Iron Age pottery sherd. The excavation area had been aligned on two adjacent track-ways which had been assessed in an earlier evaluation within the site and had also been recorded in previous archaeological work directly to the west. The earlier of these two track-ways started either in the Late Iron Age or Early Roman period and the latter superseded it probably in the later Roman period and possibly went out of use in c. the Early Saxon period within the excavation area. The track-ways were found to be of modest size, built originally for one main carriage way width, but in the case of the middle track-way, it had been worn in several places to form a large hollow way where it was wide enough for two carriages. This hollow way had formed despite evidence the track-way had been maintained with areas of rutting being repaired. The problems of rutting was especially seen in the deepest two areas and it is likely water would have pooled in both areas causing faster erosion. The deep rutted hollow way was likely to be the reason why this track-way was abandoned and a new one was located. This later track-way did not have any significant hollow ways suggesting that it had probably not been in use for the same length of time as its predecessor. A 'cause way' had been constructed within the extreme eastern part of the site where the routeway crossed the area of former prehistoric channels with the latest track-way shown to be cambered at this point. Repair of many rutting tracks in this cambered surface demonstrate that this later track-way was also being maintained. There were three very small beam slot buildings adjacent to the 'main' two track-ways on their southern side. They seemed to be deliberately positioned at areas where there had been most rutting and may have been barns where carts stopped to load and/or unload goods or were perhaps used as temporary shelters for travelling herdsmen. Two of the buildings were next to each other suggesting possible continuity over a period of time. The extensive investigation shows the process of development and management of the track during the Roman period and contributes to our understanding of rural routes in the region.

Item Type:Monograph (Project Report)
Subjects:Geographical Areas > English Counties > Cambridgeshire
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Period > UK Periods > Roman 43 - 410 AD
ID Code:1988
Deposited By: Chris Faine
Deposited On:25 Sep 2014 15:32
Last Modified:25 Sep 2014 15:32

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