Record Details

NHER Number:37158
Type of record:Monument
Name:Prehistoric flint-working site and crouched inhumation, Roman farmstead, Early Saxon settlement and Middle Saxon industrial site, Brandon Road

Summary

An excavation in 2002 revealed evidence for human activity in this area from the early prehistoric to the Middle Saxon period. Evidence for pre-Roman activity was largely represented by assemblages of worked and burnt flint, a significant proportion of which were recovered from two hollows. Although much of the worked flint recovered was not closely datable, a significant proportion was probably associated with blade-based industries of Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic date. The small number of diagnostic pieces recovered included Mesolithic microliths and a Neolithic transverse arrowhead. During the Roman period, the site had an agricultural function. The excavation revealed Roman field systems, stock enclosures, aisled barns, wells and an extensive rubbish dump, with the focus of activity shifting several times during this period. The site was occupied in the Early Saxon period. Remains of this date include sunken-featured buildings, ovens and pits, and there is evidence for metal-working taking place here at this time. In the Middle Saxon period the site reverted to fields, indicated by extensive boundary ditches. Later in this period, a large enclosure was established and two buildings and several ovens were constructed, forming a small industrial complex. The site appears to have been abandoned by the middle of the 9th century. For further information on this site, see NHER 24849.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TL 85524 83305
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

1990. Evaluation.
Trial trench evaluation of south-eastern part of site - see NHER 24849 for full details.
Occupation spanning the Roman period was evident in the northern area, including ditches and pits.
Early Saxon activity focused in the southern part of the site, and comprised a 6th-century sunken-featured building containing unfired clay loomweights, a copper-alloy girdle hanger and an almost complete lugged pottery bowl.
Middle Saxon activity covered most of the evaluation area apart from the northern and north-western extremities. There is no evidence of occupation later than the 9th century.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 14 July 2008.

June - August 2002. Watching brief, metal detecting and excavation over 17 acres.
Evidence for prehistoric activity on the site was relatively limited, being resticted largely to assemblages of worked and burnt flint, much of which was residual in later features. The notable exceptions included a large hollow that was found to contain a large assemblage of in situ knapping debris (358 pieces). This material is thought to have resulted from the initial preparation of a single nodule and the lack of diagnostic pieces means it cannot be closely dated. It does however appear that this debris was associated with blade production, suggesting an Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic date. A shallow depression in another part of the site was found to contain a large assemblage of burnt flint (over 5000 pieces). This material lay above a charcoal rich layer but there was no evidence for in situ burning. The nature of the activity represent by this material is unclear, although the severity and consistency of the burning suggests it was systematic rather than accidental. A small assemblage of worked flints was also recovered from this feature, with all of the diagnostic pieces (including blades and a microburin) likely to be of later Mesolithic date. No other prehistoric features were identified. The majority of the worked flints found elsewhere on the site are not closely datable, although many appear to have been associated with the production of blades and narrow flakes. The more diagnostic pieces included two 'points' of probable Upper Palaeolithic date, two possible Mesolithic microliths and a Late Neolithic transverse arrowhead. Other tools present included scrapers, two notched pieces, a chopper, and a bifacial implement of uncertain nature.

Roman features were present across the site and largely consisted of ditches delineating a farmstead and associated field system. Pottery indicates that the earliest Roman features may have been established in the mid-2nd century AD with the latest Roman pottery possibly continuing into the 5th century. This is significant, as coupled with the 5th century start date for the Saxon pottery, this implies continuity of occupation from the Roman into the Early Saxon period. Features associated with the Roman farmstead included four post-built structures (two of which are probably aisled barns), wells and middens. Each of the four structures and contemporary field systems appear to have been related to animal husbandry, although quern stones and a millstone indicate that secondary processing took place nearby. It appears that there was no domestic occupation at this site in the Roman period, as there is no evidence for craft or industrial activities and no oven or hearth deposits. It is likely that domestic structures lay nearby as a relatively large amount of pottery was recovered, particularly from the north-eastern corner of the site.

Evidence for Early Saxon occupation was concentrated in the south-east corner of the site, where it overlay part of the Roman field system. Seven sunken-featured buildings (grubenhauser) were excavated, all located on higher ground. The buildings were generally sub-rectangular with two postholes at the end of their long axis. Finds recovered from these buildings included loomweights, spindle whorls, a worked bone needle and pin beaters. One building was found to contain a large amount of smithing debris including slag and iron objects. All of the buildings contained moderate to large assemblages of animal bone and pottery in their backfills. A probable hall survived in fragmentary condition and consisted of post-holes and slots. Four or possibly five ovens were recorded together in the north-east corner of the site. The skeletal remains of a child buried in a crouched position was found towards the eastern edge of the site. Although initially thought to be prehistoric radiocarbon dating identified this as an Early Saxon burial (AD 410-600 at 95% probability). The skull of a second human burial was located in the same general area, but no related grave survived.

Evidence for Middle Saxon activity was more widespread. The earliest Middle Saxon activity comprises the excavation of a series of roughly parallel ditches running north-south, possibly field or property boundaries. These were subsequently replaced by a large, slightly irregular enclosure, over 130m in length. Within the eastern part of the enclosure was an industrial complex including ovens, a fragmentary clay floor, pits and post-holes. A small amount of metalworking waste was found in some of the features. A fragmentary possible building lay at the centre of the enclosure. Other possible contemporary features include a scatter of pits within and just outside the enclosure. A large midden deposit extended along the north-eastern corner of the site, spreading over an area c.30m by c.30m and sealing the north-south ditches. This midden contained unabraded pottery, animal bone, several metal objects, worked stone fragments, a piece of worked antler and fired clay including hearth or oven lining. Several large sherds of Ipswich ware were recovered from the fills of pits. The enclosure subsequently went out of use and a post-hole structure comprising ten post-holes was cut into the western side of the enclosure ditch. On the eastern side, a large pit was dug into the former enclosure boundary and was backfilled with iron objects and metalworking waste. The site appears to have gone out of use in the 9th century with later finds restricted to very small quantities of Late Saxon and medieval pottery.

This work was first reported in (S1) and has now been fully published (S2). See file for assessment report (S3), draft publication text (S4) and other interim statements (S5) (S6) (S7).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 15 July 2008. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 29 July 2013.

Before 12 April 2003. Metal detecting.
Modern forgery of Carolingian denier.
See letter in file.
A. Rogerson (NLA), 12 September 2003.

Before 18 April 2007. Metal detecting.
Middle Saxon spoon found on spoil heap.
See file for description and illustration (S8).
A. Rogerson (NLA), 8 February 2008.

November 2008.
A further summary (S2) of the 2002 excavation, in advance of the publication of the report in East Anglian Archaeology.
The excavation, which lay near the historic core of Thetford, covered an area of circa 1.4 hectares and was undertaken in advance of housing development in 2002. Important evidence for occupation spanning the late 1st century (Early Roman) to the 9th century (Middle Saxon) was found, with traces of earlier land use.
The initial phase of a Roman farmstead consisted of a ditched field system, which was altered throughout the Roman period. Stock enclosures, barns, trackways, wells and rubbish dumps were also evident, with shifts in focus over time being suggested by changes in alignment. Environmental and artefactual evidence point to a predominantly pastoral economy. Both pottery and metalwork imply continuity of settlement at the site from the Roman to the Anglo-Saxon period.
Early Saxon activity of the 5th to early 6th centuries is attested by seven sunken-featured buildings, a possible hall, ovens, pits and a 'crouched' burial. Most of the buildings were deliberately set around a rectangular space, perhaps representing an extended family grouping within a much larger settlement. After a possible hiatus, the site was again used as fields in the Middle Saxon period. The field boundary ditches were replaced by a large enclosure containing a posthole building and another oven complex. Metalwork and associated debris attest to ferrous working, possibly including steel production, and the gathering of scrap metal for recycling.
The site evidently formed part of a Middle Saxon settlement such as a large village, engaged in craft activities and perhaps providing a local market: its eventual abandonment was probably a result of the defeat of King Edmund at Thetford in 869 and subsequent changes to the settlement under Danish occupancy.
D. Gurney (NLA), 3 November 2008.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic - 40000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • LITHIC WORKING SITE (Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic - 40000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Mesolithic - 7000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Mesolithic to Middle Saxon - 7000 BC to 850 AD)
  • GRAVE (Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 7000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • OCCUPATION SITE? (Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 7000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Neolithic - 3000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • AISLED BARN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BEAM SLOT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BUILDING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • DITCH (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • DITCHED ENCLOSURE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • ENCLOSURE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FARMSTEAD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FIELD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FIELD BOUNDARY (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FIELD SYSTEM (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • MIDDEN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PIT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POST BUILT STRUCTURE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • WELL (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BEAM SLOT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BUILDING (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • CRAFT INDUSTRY SITE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • CROUCHED INHUMATION (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD?)
  • GRUBENHAUS (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • IRON WORKING SITE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • METAL INDUSTRY SITE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • OVEN (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • POST BUILT STRUCTURE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SETTLEMENT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BOUNDARY DITCH (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • BUILDING (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • DITCH (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • ENCLOSURE (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • FIELD BOUNDARY (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • FLOOR (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • METAL WORKING SITE (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • MIDDEN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • OVEN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • PIT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • POST BUILT STRUCTURE (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)

Associated Finds

  • GAMING PIECE (Unknown date)
  • BLADE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • BURNT FLINT (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • CHOPPER (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • CORE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • DEBITAGE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • END SCRAPER (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FLAKE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • NOTCHED BLADE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • NOTCHED FLAKE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • SIDE SCRAPER (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • BLADE (Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic - 40000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • BLADE CORE (Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic - 40000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • CRESTED BLADE (Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic - 40000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • DEBITAGE (Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic - 40000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic - 40000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • POINT (Upper Palaeolithic to Late Mesolithic - 40000 BC? to 4001 BC?)
  • TRIAL PIECE (Upper Palaeolithic to Early Neolithic - 40000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • BLADE (Late Mesolithic - 7000 BC? to 4001 BC?)
  • DEBITAGE (Late Mesolithic - 7000 BC? to 4001 BC?)
  • MICROBURIN (Late Mesolithic - 7000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Late Mesolithic - 7000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • TRANSVERSE ARROWHEAD (Late Neolithic - 3000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BRICK (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BROOCH (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • COIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • DRESS FASTENER (DRESS) (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FINGER RING (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • HAIR PIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • KNIFE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • MILLSTONE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PLANT MACRO REMAINS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PLANT REMAINS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • QUERN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • TILE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • TWEEZERS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • VESSEL (Saxon - 410 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • BROOCH (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • CHISEL (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • GIRDLE HANGER (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • LOOMWEIGHT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • NAIL (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • NEEDLE (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • PLANT MACRO REMAINS (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • POT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • PUNCH (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SLAG (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • WEFT BEATER (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • AWL (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • COIN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • DRESS FASTENER (DRESS) (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • NAIL (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • PIN (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • PLANT MACRO REMAINS (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • POT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • SPOON (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • TWEEZERS (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • WEIGHT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • WORKED OBJECT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2003. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk, 2002. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIV Pt II pp 368-384. p 382.
<S2>Monograph: Atkins, R. and Connor, A. 2010. Farmers and Ironsmiths: Prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon Settlement beside Brandon Road, Thetford, Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 134.
<S3>Unpublished Document: Atkins, R. & Connor, A.. 2003. Cambridgeshire County Council Report No. PXA 42. Prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon remains at Land off Brandon Road, Thetford: Post-Excavation Assessment. Cambridgeshire County Council AFU Report No. PXA 42..
<S4>Article in Serial: Atkins, R. & Connor, A.. 2008. Farmers and Ironsmiths: Prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon Settlement at Land off Brandon Road, Thetford, Norfolk.. East Anglian Archaeology.
<S5>Unpublished Document: Hinman, M.. 2002. AFU CCC initial statement.
<S6>Unpublished Document: Interim report.
<S7>Publication: Oxford Archaeology East. 2008. Publication: Case Study. Brandon Road, Thetford, Norfolk..
<S8>Illustration: Gibbons, J.. 2008. Drawing of a Middle Saxon sheet spoon.. Film. 2:1.

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