Record Details

NHER Number:35808
Type of record:Monument
Name:Late Saxon butchery site

Summary

Excavation at this site between 2001 and 2006 recorded two areas of large, intercutting Late Saxon pits. At least 44 discrete pits were recorded. Several of these may have initially been dug to extract sand, but after a short time were re-used for rubbish disposal. They contained large quantities of butchered animal bone along with Late Saxon pottery and small quantities of other artefacts including textile implements, a bone skate, and a silver coin of St Edmund possibly minted within Thetford between 890 and 905 AD.
Analysis of the animal bone assemblage indicates that it primarily consists of bones which tend to be discarded during primary stages of butchery, and it is likley that this area, on the edge of the Late Saxon settlement, was dedicated to butchering activities in the 10th and 11th century. The only contemporary features recorded within the excavated area were two shallow ditches or gullies located on the northeastern edge of the site which may have functioned as boundaries, dividing the main area of pitting from the back yards of houses. No Late Saxon structural remains were identified. However, a small number of dispersed graves may have been present on the site prior to its use for sand extraction and rubbish disposal. These graves were represented by several redeposited human bones recovered from the pits and an articulated femur and pelvis identified within a grave which had been truncated by two pits.
Medieval activity in the area was limited to a single 11th to 21th century pit containing several articulated skeletons of cats and dogs in its upper fill. Post medieval activity along the street frontage was represented by a small vaulted cellar structure located in the northwest corner of the site. Although this structure had been infilled with modern material, it was likely constructed in the 18th to early 19th century.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:Not displayed
Map Sheet:TL88SE
Parish:THETFORD, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

January 2001. Trial Trenching. Contexts 1-40.
Excavation of two evaluation trenches recorded a small number of features dated from the Late Saxon to the post medieval period. The earliest feature was located in trench 1. It appears to be the base of an extensive pit or ditch about 0.73m deep, but no edges were visible within the trench. Its fills contained a high density of butchered animal bone (primarily cattle) as well as a bone skate made from a horse bone, a coin of St Edmund possibly minted within Thetford between 890 and 905AD, 10th century pottery, and flint cobbles. Analysis of the bone assemblage revealed that it contained primarily bones which are discarded during primary stages of butchery. A similar deposit was seen during excavation of a foundation for a new door to the existing building and a similar deposit of horn cores and other bone was recorded less than 100m to the southwest, along Newtown (NHER 5866). It appears that this was an area dedicated to butchering within the Late Saxon town, located on the edge of the settlement and roughly contemporary with adjacent occupation at Brandon Road (NHER 5756). Very few St Edmund coins have been recovered from stratified contexts, but three pennies and two halfpennies were found about 300m to the south in 1948-9 (NHER 5847).
Within the second trench, a linear pit or ditch over 0.7m deep was dated to the 11th century. An environmental sample from this feature contained a few uncharred seeds indicating low levels of modern contamination as well as animal bone, fish bone, marine shell, a pottery sherd, mortar, fired earth, a flint flake, one fragment of hammerscale, 40 charred cereal grains (oats, wheat, barley), charred hazelnut shell, and a few weed seeds. This feature may have silted naturally and therefore may have functioned as a boundary between the butchery site and other areas of the town to the southeast.
The Late Saxon features were sealed by layers of re-deposited soil. In trench 2, 13th century pottery and one large sherd of post medieval pottery were recovered from these layers along with inclusions of chalk, charcoal, shell and flint. Further dumping activity in the post medieval and modern periods was indicated by additional make-up layers and indeterminate features. The latter ncluded a gully (trench 1) oriented at right angles to Newtown which has been interpreted as a possible post medieval to early modern land division.
See report (S1) for further details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S2) and (S3).
D. Gurney (NLA) 8 March 2001. Updated by H. Hamilton (NLA), 10 August 2008.

February 2004. Watching Brief. Contexts 101-1003.
Monitoring of groundworks for geotechnical investigations recorded archaeological deposits and features in seven of ten test pits. These include layers and pit or ditch features, three of which contained Late Saxon to Early Medieval pottery sherds. In addition, six of the test pits yielded significant quantities of butchered animal bone, predominantly head and foot bones of cattle and sheep/goat, supporting the interpretation that this area of the Saxon town was occupied by butchers. Other finds from the test pit include mussel and oyster shells, post medieval roof tile, and two probable iron nails.
The test pits verified that archaeological deposits were present in all areas of the site except the southern corner, in the vicinity of the former garage fuel tanks where any remains were likely previously destroyed.
See report (S4) for further details. See also specification (S5).
J. Allen (NLA) 12 July 2006.
Updated H. Hamilton (NLA), 10 August 2008.

June-July 2006. Excavation. Contexts 10000-19003.
Excavation in the northeastern portion of the site recorded approximately 44 to 54 large Late Saxon pits overlain by spreads of Late Saxon material. The pits were concentrated in two areas, in the eastern and western halves of the site, separated by a gap approximately 6.5m wide.
Many of the large, deep Late Saxon pits formed intercutting complexes and may have originally been cut for sand extraction. A portion of the pits appear to have initially silted rapidly but were soon used for rubbish diposal while others appear to have been used immediately for rubbish. The central and upper fills contained large quantities of butchered animal bone and pot sherds, frequently sealed by layers of sterile sand or clay capping deposits. Several may have been cess pits, characterised by almost vertical sides with greenish-stained organic deposits in their lower fills. Many of the pits were likely broadly contemporary and the upper fills of some intercutting examples had silted at the same time, resulting in undifferentiated upper horizons. A small number of early medieval pot sherds were recovered from the upper fills of some of the pits, indicating that activity continued into the 12th century.
Analysis of the animal bone recovered from the pits confirmed that the majority was derived from domesticates, primarily sheep/goat with smaller portions of cattle and some pig. This assemblage consisted primarily of articulated bone, and peripheral and low-meat yielding parts were under-represented. A high level of standardisation was also evident within the butchering marks, indicating that this area may have function as a 'butchery quarter'. Horse was relatively rare, and a few wild animals identified included frog, hedgehog, possible wild boar, rabbit and roe deer. Bird species present included red kite, raven, mallard, smew, and wigeon while fish species included cod, eel, herring, perch, and roach.
Several human bones had also be redeposited within the pits, and an articulated femur and pelvis were identified within a grave which had been truncated by two pits. It is suspected that this, along with the redeposited remains, indicates that a small number of dispersed graves were present on the site, likely of Late Saxon or slightly earlier date. A minimum of four individuals were represented, including one neonate, an infant/juvenile, one young adult female, and one young/mature adult male.
The pits were overlain by three discrete spreads of material. These were rich in Late Saxon finds, particularly animal bone and pottery, and have been interpreted as either middens or layers associated with the Late Saxon pit digging.
Two shallow ditches or gullies excavated in the northeastern edge of the site were also dated to the Late Saxon period. It has been suggested that these may have represented boundaries, dividing the main area of pitting from the back yards of houses. No Late Saxon structural remains were identified.
The medieval period was represented by a single early medieval (11th to 12th century) pit containing several articulated skeletons of at least 8 cats and 5 dogs in its upper fill.
A small vaulted cellar structure was encountered in the northwest corner of the site, orientated at 90 degrees to the Bury Road street frontage. Although this structure has been infilled with modern material, it was likely constructed in the 18th to early 19th century. The cellar was constructed of chalk blocks, with at least one course of red and yellow bricks, and races of a vaulted roof were observed.
Much of the site had been truncated by modern activities. These consisted largely of deep cuttings for fuel tanks associated with the Vauxhall garage and deep soakaways associated with the garage as well as earlier buildings.
Final publication awaited. See draft article (S6), assessment report (S7) and specification (S8) for further details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S9).
H. Hamilton (NLA), 16 December 2008.

Monument Types

  • INHUMATION (Unknown date)
  • INHUMATION (Saxon - 410 AD? to 1065 AD?)
  • ABATTOIR (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CESS PIT? (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • DITCH (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • DITCH? (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Saxon to 19th Century - 851 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GULLY (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PIT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PIT? (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • RUBBISH PIT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SAND PIT? (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PIT (Medieval to 12th Century - 1066 AD to 1199 AD)
  • GULLY (Post Medieval to Mid 20th Century - 1540 AD? to 1950 AD?)
  • PIT? (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WALL (Post Medieval to Mid 20th Century - 1540 AD? to 1950 AD?)
  • CELLAR (17th Century to 19th Century - 1700 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • HUMAN REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • NAIL? (Unknown date)
  • QUERN (Unknown date)
  • WEIGHT (Unknown date)
  • WHETSTONE (Unknown date)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Saxon - 410 AD? to 1065 AD?)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BROOCH (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • COIN (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • COMB (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • DAUB (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • FERRULE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • FISH REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • GOUGE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HECKLE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • HOOKED TAG (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • ICE SKATE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • MARINE MOLLUSCA REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • MOLLUSCA REMAINS (Late Saxon to Medieval - 851 AD to 1539 AD)
  • OYSTER SHELL (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PIN (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PLANT REMAINS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • PUNCH (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • STRAP END (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • TWEEZERS (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • WEFT BEATER (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • COIN (Late Saxon - 890 AD to 905 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • BROOCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STRAP END (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (12th Century to 16th Century - 1200 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>Unpublished Contractor Report: Dymond, M. 2001. Archaeological Evaluation on Land Between St Mary's Road and Newtown, Thetford, Norfolk. Archaeological Project Services. 27/00.
<S2>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2001. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 2000. Norfolk Archaeology. XLIII Pt IV pp 707-728. p 726.
<S3>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2002. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk, 2001. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIV Pt I pp 162-177. p 177.
<S4>Unpublished Contractor Report: Wardill, R. 2004. Former Vauxhall Garage, Bury Road, Thetford, Norfolk. Archaeological Watching Brief Report. Wessex Archaeology. 55490.
<S5>Unpublished Document: Bourn, R. 2004. Specification for an Archaeological Watching Brief. Ex Vauxhall Garage, Bury Road, Thetford. CgMs Consulting.
<S6>Unpublished Report: Gibson, C. 2007. A Late Saxon Butchery Site at Bury Road, Thetford. Publication draft.
<S7>Unpublished Contractor Report: Gibson, C. 2006. Land at Bury Road, Thetford, Norfolk. Assessment Report on the Results of the Excavation, including Proposals for Post-Excavation Analysis and Publication. Wessex Archaeology. 63221.01.
<S8>Unpublished Document: Bourn, R. 2006. Specification for an Archaeological Excavation, Land at Bury Road, Thetford.
<S9>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 2007. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk in 2006. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLV Pt II pp 261-273. p 271.

Related records - none

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