Excavations at Capel St Mary, Suffolk

A targeted archaeological excavation was undertaken on land to the west of Days Road, Capel St Mary in November and December 2017 ahead of a proposed residential development. The project was commissioned by CgMs Ltd on behalf of the developer Hopkins Homes Ltd …

The site was of interest as several archaeological fieldwork projects had previously identified substantial evidence for settlement activity in the vicinity at different times during the Bronze Age and Iron Age, and a known villa site lies c.200m to the west at Windmill Hill. A trial trench evaluation had identified deposits indicative of prehistoric and Roman activity within the site boundary.

Three areas were stripped around features located by the evaluation trenching, revealing a dispersed scatter of archaeological features sealed by the subsoil or topsoil where absent. The evidence indicates past occupation and agricultural activity upon the site in three broad periods, the mid-late Bronze Age, Middle Iron Age and Roman periods, with a small number of undated features which cannot be attributed to any of the identified phases. Stratigraphic evidence was minimal and features have primarily been dated by artefactual evidence.

Bronze Age activity consisted of two apparent sub-phases; an earlier phase characterised by two pits containing ‘Beaker’ style pottery fragments and a later phase principally represented by a post-built roundhouse. The structure consisted of fifteen postholes and had an overall diameter of approximately 8m. Three of the postholes, possibly with a missing fourth, formed a porch or entranceway facing to the east. The small, shallow, nature of the postholes suggests that truncation to the archaeological horizon has occurred, which fits with the evidence suggested by a later phase of Roman ditches which shallowed out and disappeared as they crossed the posthole circle. The possible missing entrance posthole may have originally been wholly obscured/removed by one of the Roman ditches.

Bronze Age roundhouse at Capel St Mary

A Middle Iron Age phase of activity was indicated by three isolated pits, one containing fragments of a probable triangular loomweight and another probably being a domestic hearth debris/rubbish pit. The pits are believed to represent a dispersed low intensity phase of occupation, contemporary with and on the outskirts of an enclosed Middle Iron Age settlement enclosure seen in the CSM 030 excavations to the east.

A phase of Roman agricultural activity on the site was represented by a series of twelve parallel ditches or trenches seen across two of the areas. The ditches were uniformly orientated northwest-southeast with a consistent 3-4m interval between each adjacent ditch and were between 0.2m and 0.6m in width, and up to 0.25m deep. The ditches are presumed to relate to a type of intensive agricultural activity associated with the nearby villa site. Similar examples seen elsewhere in the region have been interpreted as possible trenches for planting of vines or crops such as asparagus, for drainage of interspersed growing beds or for the creation of raised ‘lazy beds’.

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