18 March 2013

Latest Results: Alfoldean

About a year and a half ago, I started working with the Horsham District Archaeology Group at Alfoldean. I had intended to return last Autumn, but things didn't work out, so the task of continuing where I left off was pushed back to this (almost) spring. It certainly hasn't felt very spring like, but the signs are there, and I am slowly emerging from my winter geophysical hibernation.

(Click for larger image)

Unfortunately, we lost one of our total station resection points, always a risk, so we had to start with a fresh grid layout. You can see a small gap between the old survey to the north and the new survey to the south.

The part we were most interested in was the small enclosure next to the floodplain on the western side. The sort of tile associated with a bath house had been found here, and we wanted to find out more. What we found was quite intriguing. A new, thinner track appeared, heading south-west, directly for Dedisham Manor. Apparently, Roman material had been found there, and there was a theory that there was a villa at the site of what is now the manor. This was further proof that there was indeed something going on in that direction.

There was also a much more substantial track heading south-east, towards Stane Street, which seemed to continue on north-west, into the floodplain. It is possible that rather than just a bath-house, we have a river crossing, or a port, with the building material found being associated with that. Is this the start of a new Roman road? Where would it go? Neatham? I hope to find out.

Another interesting feature appearing in this years results was an enclosure, in the south-east corner of the survey area. The track from the north decreases in width as it approaches the enclosure, like a funnel. There doesn't seem to be much sign of occupation inside. Perhaps the funnel effect of the track is for funnelling animals, and the enclosure is some sort of animal pound. Were animals driven along Stane Street, and was this a place to store them on the journey?

As a final note, it seems that the trade in looted antiquities is alive and well in Sussex. We found several metal detecting holes across the site, including the scheduled area, which is of course illegal. More appeared over night between two days of surveying. Yes, the site is being looted by night hawks. Those people for whom our collective heritage means nothing more that a few quid on ebay. I am not against metal detecting. Having worked with many metal detectorists, I know that responsible metal detecting can provide a wealth of information on a site. Unfortunately, that is not the sort of wealth that these people are after.

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