Roman Road Chichester to Winchester - settlement at Exton
Excavation beside river Meon
First interpretation of the artefacts found during the excavation over the
two May Bank Holidays 2017
Picture 1: Trench 1: Tegulae in position in the Box Section. J.M Daguebert
From Trench 1 the first observations are:
Trench 1 was over an air photo dark line assumed to be a ditch, on a ledge above the flood plain of the river Meon. There was no evidence of a ditch in the 4-metre trench, and we would not expect it to be 4 meters wide. There were finds down to over a metre depth, and no natural found. There was a slight colour change at 15 - 20cms, which we took to be subsoil - but it did not show up for the Section Drawing. This possible subsoil became very stony, which might be the remains of Roman metalling. We stopped at our usual depth of 60 cms, and took a Box Section down to 1m depth. It was in this Box Section that most of the above Roman pottery was found, and a colour change to a more red material can be seen in the top picture above. This may the true subsoil.
- The great presence of tegulae (great fragments and sherds) for a building pavement or directly for a building, measuring between around 5 cm and 20 cm, mainly between 60 to 100 cms below ground surface.
- High percentage of the pottery shards: 2 different types (low % red, high % black). After the first tentative reconstitution, we recognized several types of vessel thanks to their form, granular distribution in the clay and thickness. The small vessels measure around 1.5 cm, for the larger around 10 -12 cm.
- Medium % of iron slag, light oxidation.
- Low % of residues from the resin from trees mixed with vitrified residue and iron ore cast
Picture 2: Trench 1: Pottery vessel shards. J.M Daguebert, http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bb.jpg
Picture 3: Trench 1: Iron slags. J.M Daguebert, http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bc.jpg
Trenches 2 and 3:
Trench 1 ran down to 1m without a natural layer occurring, with finds down to nearly this level. It has subsequently been concluded that this ledge on which we are working is man made, whether in Roman times or later. There was an irrigation scheme created in the 1700s, and the A32 just east of the trenches was made in the 1930s. This will be the reason no ditch was found - it being buried by near 1 m of re-deposited material. Trenches 2 and 3 were left for the moment. Trench 4 was expected to be over the northern part of a Roman Street Grid, and it was opened.
We report our careful work on the Trench 4 which delivered many artefacts interesting for the site’s understanding.
Trench 4 Layer 1:
Picture 4: Trench 4. Layer 1: The stummel from the smoked pipe in white terracotta. J.M Daguebert, http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bd.jpg
- -Low % of modern and medieval pottery shards
- -Low % of modern iron agricultural / farm small finds not identified
- -One fragment of the stummel from a smoked pipe, exactly the ¾ of the bowl with the start of the shank broken at the junction of the stem. The bowl is decorated and is white terracotta. In Britannia in France, in Old Abbaye Landevennec, we found similar smoked pipes (like decoration and material) and they are dated around XVII-XVIII century. A comparison and a perfect dating of this artefact should be interesting to understand it well.
Picture 5: Trench 4. Layer 1: The details of the stummel from the smoked pipe. J.M Daguebert, http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10be.jpg
Trench 4 Layer 2:
- 2 medieval small pottery shards (Early Medieval period?)
- Low % of shells and animals bones
- Poor flints scrapes
- Medium % of Roman building shards / tegulae, light fragments raised by the Chestnut tree roots. That means if we dig more (layer 3 and 4) we should find the same quantity of tegulae as from the trench 1
- Large % of iron slags, several size, light oxidation
- Large % charcoal, resin tree (light vitrified and strong vitrified) and coal. After water test flotation + pen microscope x50:
- Charcoal low - medium % (because of the wet ground not well preserved)
- Light tree resin burn medium %, on the surface and into the alveolus (bubbles or holes in the burn structure of coal, charcoal or resin) we see the iron cast and residue vitrified. Like the charcoal, it’s black with silver colour, and on a flotation test, stays on the surface. To recognize the difference between the charcoal and the tree resin we need to check if there are silver parts on the residue and analyse the alveolus for xylology (wood species) and dendrology.
- Strong tree resin vitrified in great quantity, heavy because the tapping is everywhere into the resin, in the float test it stays a few second on the surface of water before sinking.
- Coal, this residue is totally vitrified – mineralised. We are in presence of a black combustible (sedimentary rock carbonate), some fragments of coal have the iridescent reflections because the carbonate crystal cleavage. Only in microscope is possible to appreciate the alveolus vitrified, the tapping residue and carbonate crystallised.
Picture 6: Trench 4. Layer 2: Shell. J.M Daguebert http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bf.jpg
Picture 7: Trench 4. Layer 2: Flint scrape. J.M Daguebert. http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bg.jpg
Picture 8: Trench 4. Layer 2: Building ceramic shards. J.M Daguebert. http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bh.jpg
Picture 9: Trench 4. Layer 2: Water test. The light tree resin floats on the surface, the others tree resin and the coal sink because they are rich in iron and vitrified residue. J.M Daguebert. http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bi.jpg
Picture 10: Trench 4. Layer 2: Light tree resin burn (top), heavy tree resin burn (bottom).
J.M Daguebert. Picture taken directly on the fieldwork
Picture 11: Trench 4. Layer 2: Light tree resin burn with its silver zone on the top for help in recognition. J.M Daguebert. http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bk.jpg
Picture 12: Trench 4. Layer 2: Light tree resin burn under camera flash. J.M Daguebert. http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bl.jpg
Picture 13: Trench 4. Layer 2: Coal. J.M Daguebert. http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch10bm.jpg
With the conclusion that the ledge we are working on may be man made, we cannot be sure that the materials we found have not been re-deposited from somewhere nearby. The great depth of soil suggests this - you would get this depth on the flood plain - but we hoped this ledge which is several metres above the flood plain would have normal depth soils. The artefacts found reveal human activity in this region of iron working and Roman pottery. But at present we cannot be sure of the age of the iron working - re-deposited materials can jumble up the age of finds - we have stone age flint with medieval pottery. Coal suggests a furnace for ore or lime-kiln or pottery. But wood resin suggests wood furnace generally used for Roman pottery.
- during the Bronze age in Great Britain, coal was used for funeral pyres
- Roman period: people were exploiting coals in all the major coalfields
- Around II AD, the trade of coal grows up. Mostly known in East Anglia and in the landscape of Chester ( See the data of Heronbridge sites)
- Around IV AD, in the Roman fortress and villas coal ash and coal residue are found. (See Northumberland sites) and that could correspond to what we found last year in Exton excavation in August, and in France site Les Charrières Chorges Hautes-Alpes department August 2017 (Roman road project Via Domitia Association ASCEE05 Caligae d’Hermès and Association de sauvegarde du patrimoine caturige, contact Pierre Pascal director of the Caligae d’Hermès and Karine Raynaud archaeological researcher for the second association).
Some chemical analyses may date the iron working, and the tree species in the wood fuel. There should be an iron mill, probably a Roman pottery kiln, and domestic areas nearby.
Voluntary intervention of the French Archaeological Professor & Researcher analyst:
Pr J.M Daguebert
University du Temps Libre Durance- Provence, Laboratory ArtKéo’N’Stone, Archaeological voluntary unit “Les Caligae d’Hermès” ASCEE 05 Hautes-Alpes (Director P. Pascal), member of the N.E.H.H.A.S company since 2016 (Chairman & Field Director: Dr R.H.G. Whaley)