01 September 2013

Latest Results: Barcombe (and Roman agricultural planning)

Now the crop is coming of at Barcombe, I have returned for some more magnetometer survey at Bridge Farm, extending the settlement eastwards. The process was speeded up with the aid of a second Bartington, which was on loan to the Culver Project from AOC Archaeology following the recent excavations. Members of the Culver Project and Ringmer Group aided with the survey, enabling the area to be finished in a day. Here are the results.

Latest results. Click for a larger image.

The roadside settlement continued east, with strong evidence of settlement close to the road. The extent of the settlement either side of the road is less than to the west, but it is still substantial. The strong pit features cluster within 50 metres of the road, with a very strong outlier to the north-west, which may be some sort of kiln. One puzzling element are the two linear features heading north and south, at a different alignment to the road. They are parallel to eachother, but their alignment is strange. Eventually, I worked out that they are exactly parallel to the Barcombe to London Roman road, which is further to the west, as seen in the image below.

Click for larger image.

What I had been expecting is more of the carefully laid out ditches near the centre left of the image, where a square block of land had been marked out with side of 4 actus. An actus is a unit of Roman measurement used for setting out land in an ordered way, set up by Roman surveyors in a repeating pattern of squares known as a Centuriate. I was hoping to see this continue to the east, but my theory was wrong. Instead we found these linear features extending out at the same angle as a Roman road about 300m to the west. Was there some link between the two?

Click for larger image.

Rather fortuitously, a further example of exactly this had been found recently by members of the Culver project using their borrowed magnetometer. They had been looking at more of the north-south Roman road that the project had found to the west of the river. These fields have been more heavily ploughed, so the results are not as clear. As well as the road, they have found a series of ditches parallel to the road. One of the measurements in between ditches is 2 actus, but the further ditch is 5 metres above the 2 actus mark.

Is this an example of Roman planned cultivation? The results in the image above seem sparse. Either the more shallow ditches have been ploughed away, or only part of the system was surveyed and never used. Hopefully this is something further geophysics will answer.

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