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Bexhill to Hastings Link Road

Champness, Carl (2007) Bexhill to Hastings Link Road. Project Report. Oxford Archaeological Unit Ltd. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Oxford Archaeology (OA) was commissioned by East Sussex County Council to produce a geoarchaeological assessment as a component of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Scheme’). The assessment aimed to review all of the available data and the geotechnical records for the proposed route to identify areas of geoarchaeological or palaeo-environmental potential. During March 2007 Oxford Archaeology (OA), on behalf of East Sussex County Council carried out a field collection survey (fieldwalking) on the proposed Bexhill to Hastings link road. The survey recovered an assemblage of flint artefacts dating from the Mesolithic, Neolithic and possibly Bronze Age. The majority of artefacts logged were fire cracked flint, these were identified in all the fields, with one slight concentration in Field 2. Preparation flakes were the most frequent artefact retained, but other notable finds include two blade tools, probably of Mesolithic or Neolithic date, and two side scrapers of possible Bronze Age and Neolithic date. One significant concentration of flint tools and fire cracked flint was identified in Field 5. These were of varying date and confirm the utilisation of this part of the area, a ridge of higher ground, during the prehistoric period. The geoarchaeological site investigation was designed to deploy a rapid spatial survey (utilising electromagnetic surveys) to characterise the bulk geoelectrical properties of the near surface sediments within the study area. This information was to be used to investigate the distribution of geomorphological features buried beneath the floodplain of the river and subsequently by the staff at OA for locating evaluation trenches in advance of construction activity. The work was undertaken from the 3rd to 6th March by Dr. Richard Bates and Dr. Martin Bates under the guidance from OA staff geoarchaeologist Mr Carl Champness. Oxford Archaeology (OA) was commissioned by East Sussex County Council to undertake a geoarchaeological assessment for a proposed link road between Bexhill and Hastings, East Sussex (centred on NGR 756 108). The work was carried out between March 2006 and October 2007 prior to the determination of the planning application for the scheme. The geoarchaeological assessment consisted of a staged approach in order to assess the archaeological potential of the proposed route that runs along the Battle-Hastings ridge. The route crosses an intricate pattern of river valleys and ridges. The proposed scheme skirts the edges of the Combe Haven Basin, which is a low-lying area that was once part of the Sussex Levels. The first phase of assessment, undertaken as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment, consisted of a desk based study of geotechnical and archaeological watching brief records, and placed these within their wider geoarchaeological context. This information provided baseline data on valley sequences along the route in order to identify deposits and sub-surface features that could be targeted for more detailed field investigation. The second phase consisted of field investigation which comprised nine boreholes and eight test pits targeted on specific deposits within the four valley of the Combe Haven, Watermill Stream, Powdermill Stream and the Decoy Pond Stream, which are crossed by the proposed route. The field investigation was undertaken in order to provide more detailed sedimentary information and provide samples suitable to assess the palaeoenvironmental potential of the sequences. The geoarchaeological assessment identified a high degree of consistency within the valleys sequence, which represented a typical tripartite system of sedimentation. Two main phases of rising sea level (marine transgression) and one phase of falling sea level (regression) were identified. Previous studies have noted that early prehistoric utilisation of the Levels was dependent on episodes of marine regression. The main period of regression was characterised by the accumulation of peats and organic deposits that represent a mosaic of different wetland environments. The formation of these deposits have been radiocarbon dated to between c 4390±60 BC (Late Mesolithic) to c 1790±100 BC (early Bronze Age). More detailed examination of the sequence revealed significant complexity within the main Combe Haven Peat Sequence. This sequence consisted of at least two phases of peat formation inter-dispersed with periods of minrogenic deposition, representing freshwater river flooding and shifting wetland environments. During the field assessment boreholes were used to log valley sequences and collect environmental samples. Palaeoenvironmental assessment for pollen, waterlogged plant remains, insects and diatoms was undertaken for two valley sequences (Watermill Stream Valley and Powdermill Stream Valley). The assessment identified good potential for the preservation of environmental and organic remains. This allowed an interpretation of the vegetation history of the area from the Mesolithic onwards. The first signs of direct human impact within the sequence were identified at -3.12 m depth (-0.80 m OD) associated with the peat accumulation. The pollen provides evidence of small clearings within the valley bottoms dated by radio carbon to c 3430±90 BC (Early-MidNeolithic). Such cleanings can occur naturally through fires or animal activity. However, in this sequence it coincided with an increase in charcoal and other anthropogenic indicators. Based on comparisons with other palaeoenviornmental studies the elevation and deposits are similar to those which have also been dated to the Neolithic / Bronze Age periods. Test pits were positioned on the edges of the valley sequences to look for signs of human activity. Two of these test pits produced archaeological material. A Late Neolithic / Early Bronze Age flint scatter, burnt flint and charcoal, were recovered from a test pit (OATP4) at the edge of the Watermill Stream Valley which also produced the environmental evidence noted above. The stratigraphic location of these finds and their fresh condition, indicate that there is a good possibility that they have been recovered from an in-situ scatter. Such assemblages are exceptionally rare and present unique insights into the performance and structuring of activities in past. It is therefore possible that these flints provide an indication of a regionally, or nationally, important site. A second test pit on the edge of the Combe Haven Stream Valley (OATP1) identified an archaeological deposit buried beneath the topsoil, which produced a quantity of fired clay. This appears to represent material derived from a domestic oven or pottery Kiln, potentially dating to the early historic periods. This assemblage may indicate an area of activity or occupation adjacent to the Combe Haven Stream, which may have been located at the edge of a large tidal inlet. Combined archaeological and palaeoenvironmental research on the Levels are only now starting to reveal the full potential of these deposits. This is surprising considering the studies undertaken in Cambridge, London and Somerset on the Levels, where the early prehistoric period is known as a period of wetland exploitation. The Combe Haven and its tributary valleys are therefore important as an example of a low-lying area devoid of upstanding monuments, which has the potential to produce evidence of significant early prehistoric exploitation and occupation.

Item Type:Monograph (Project Report)
Subjects:Geographical Areas > English Counties > East Sussex
Period > UK Periods > Mesolithic 10,000 - 4,000 BC
Period > UK Periods > Bronze Age 2500 - 700 BC
Period > UK Periods > Neolithic 4000 - 2200 BC
ID Code:573
Deposited By: Scott
Deposited On:11 May 2011 14:18
Last Modified:22 Dec 2011 14:46

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