Site Dig Points To Rich Historical Seam
It will soon be a shrine to the modern age of commercialism, where shoppers park their cars as they head into the city. But excavation work on the new park-and-ride site at Harford, south of Norwich, has revealed an insight into a rich and intriguing period of the area's ancient history.
The discoveries made at the site, next to the junction of the A140 and A47 Southern Bypass, have been described as "one of the most important" finds ever recorded in Norfolk.
As well as evidence of settlements from a number of different ages, exciting finds relating to the Neolithic age between 4000 and 2300BC were made. Among them was a Neolithic timber structure.
Gary Trimble, project manager, said: "We already knew this was a very rich Bronze Age site but this is the first time we can push back time to the Neolithic age. It is tremendously exciting and a once-in-a-lifetime dig."
Archaeologists were also excited by the discovery of what is believed to be a mortuary site – the first of its kind in Norfolk. Massive holes show where huge wooden poles would have been and indents reveal where timber walls would have run alongside.
The find has great similarities with a site discovered in Hampshire in the 1950s but, unlike that one, there was no mound at Harford, although it is possible it has been ploughed away.
Another major find was a rectangular enclosure, about 35-40m by 60m, which is also thought to have been used in mortuary activity. At the southern entrance there was a pit containing a broken flint axe.
And the finds did not end there. The dig took place over four months during spring and early summer this year, and items unearthed have now been removed from the site for restoration and cataloguing.
According to David Gurney, principal archaeologist for Norfolk Museum Service, what is particularly exciting about the site was the time-scale covered by the finds.
"It would have been good to have found just the Neolithic finds but to get the rest from the Bronze and Roman Age too is just remarkable. It is the sort of find you get once every 100 years," he said.
Arrowheads and examples of Beaker pottery dating back the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age were also found, as was a cremation burial site containing two bronze axes and bits of burnt bone.
Close to the burial at the highest point of the site was the remains of a Roman aisled building that was possibly used for storage.
Mr Trimble, whose special interest lies in prehistoric archaeology, said the immediate area of the finds, close to a confluence of rivers, was very sensitive, with Arminghall Henge and the Roman fort at Caistor St Edmund nearby.
"I think it was when we found the mortuary structure that we realised we had something very significant and exciting because it was so different for the region. This was an important area where people would probably meet to trade and congregate or for a multitude of different reasons," he said.
But he said it was difficult to be precise about the lifestyles of people from the Neolithic era from these finds. "What the settlement looked like is more complicated than we first thought and it is difficult to know how people lived," he said.
It is now his job to write up his finds in a book. The site is currently being turned into a 1100-capacity car park and in January, the area of land which has been rich in archaeological pickings will begin its new phase.
Source: Norfolk Now 02/10/2003
Posted by Kozmik_Ken
3rd October 2003ce
Edited 15th February 2006ce