06 February 2013

Latest Results: Barcombe

This is the big one. I actually did the bulk of this survey a couple of years back, but it has been kept under wraps until the fields had been cleared of coins, to avoid the place being looted by nighthawks. Now, finally, I can talk about it. This survey was done as part of the Culver Project and I thank the members for their help. We originally started this survey on the site of Ivan Margary's section 14 on the London-Lewes road  (See his book, "Roman Ways in the Weald"). Margary had mentioned that he had found pottery in the trench, by the side of the road he had exposed. Occupation is is good for showing up the Roman road ditches using magnetometry on clay, which are invisible on that geology otherwise, so we thought it would be good to look at what was there, and try to find out what was going on with the road further to the south. What Margary didn't know was that he was only a few metres short of the end of the road, and in the middle of a large fortified settlement, making this road the Barcombe to London road instead.

The northern road stops at an east-west road, most likely the Greensand Way, which is somewhat further to the south than Margary anticipated, and also continues to the east into the weald, most likely towards the settlement at Arlington. The settlement itself is quite substantial, with a defensive enclosure 165m square, which seems to cut a lot of other features. Many settlements were enclosed in such a way in the late second century, against a threat not well understood, apparently cutting through existing buildings and roads in the process, suggesting the locals weren't responsible for their construction. In Sussex, the roadside settlements at Alfoldean and Halland have defences dated to this period, though Chichester is a notable exception in Britain, with its walls being built at a later date.

The settlement and road network are surrounded by a number of plots of land enclosed by ditches. They may be fields, or small-holdings, or purely used for occupation, for which there is plenty of evidence in many of them on the geophysics results. One of these enclosures next to the east-west road seems to have been partially replaced by the northern road up to London, suggesting that the east-west road and at least part of the settlement were established before the construction of the road up to London.

Part of this settlement is being excavated this year, and is open to all for excavation, so if you wish to dig on this fantastic site, you can. I shall certainly be spending some time there. It is always nice to see my geophysics excavated, as I learn so much each time. I hope to see you there.

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