Earlier this year, CA’s Andover team revisited a Surrey site that had previously provided evidence for a later prehistoric settlement and a Romano-British cremation, and this time revealed the remains of an extensive settlement of Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age date (900–400 BC).
Evidence of this settlement included a number of postholes and pits clustered along the southern edge of the site, as well as a c.15m-diameter roundhouse and above-ground ‘granaries’, which would have been very similar to present-day small granaries that sit on ‘staddle stones’ (to protect stored food-grain from vermin). An assemblage of worked and burnt flint collected from the site included ‘pot boilers’ – big stones that were baked in or under a fire, and then used to heat liquids and foodstuffs.
As well as further Romano-British cremation burials, an inhumation (with evidence for shoes) and possibly a horse burial, we were excited to find the remains of five Romano-British bustum burials. British bustum burials are very rare and extremely special, being more common on the continent, and comprise a ‘playing card’-shaped pit which had a funeral pyre built above it. As they burned, the ashes, bones and any artefacts would fall into the pit, which ultimately became the grave. The remains were then covered and probably marked in some way on the surface. One example contained five parallel carbonised timbers at the base of the funeral pyre, still in situ. Another pit contained stakeholes, and three others contained single examples of very large iron nails – all were probably used to try to stabilise the funeral pyre during combustion.
The bustum burials, the inhumation and possibly the horse burial represent Roman funerary and ritual activity on the site, indicating that there had been a Roman settlement in the immediate vicinity. However, no Roman settlement has been found close to the site, although poorly recorded 18th-century Roman finds from the area (including foundations, tiles, pavements, coins, pottery) may indicate the former presence of a villa or large farmstead nearby.
Chris Ellis (Senior Project Officer)
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