A417: Archaeological investigations move to excavation

Our archaeological investigations ahead of a three-mile road improvement in Gloucestershire are set to reveal further evidence of the changing landscape and the lives of local inhabitants, spanning more than 7,000 years. Joining forces with Oxford Archaeology to form Oxford Cotswold Archaeology (OCA), we’re working closely with contractors Kier as part of National Highways’ A417 Missing Link upgrade, to uncover the archaeology of this heritage-rich area.

A hi-vis clad archaeologist sits in a trench. The background is a view across the valley and hills
The view across the landscape of the site, during previous evaluation works

Excavating between the Brockworth bypass and Cowley roundabout in Gloucestershire, our team will spend the next nine months assessing 33 hectares of land in 27 research areas. It’s hoped we’ll find archaeology dating back to the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman period, to add to the discoveries made during 2020’s evaluation trenching, which included a rare Roman Cupid figurine and brooch, along with a Roman or early Saxon skeleton.

In 2020, our own fieldwork team also identified features of Neolithic, Iron Age, Roman, Saxon, medieval, Post-medieval, and modern date, so we’re clear that the area really is rich with archaeological potential. We recovered some fantastic artefacts during that evaluation stage, including items from WWII, nearly 16kg of pottery, 28 Roman coins, Roman brooches, and a rare figurine depicting Cupid as Hercules.

Michael Goddard, Project Director for the A417 scheme, said: “Construction won’t start until later this year, but in the meantime there’s a lot of groundwork to be done – site preparations, environmental mitigation, and renewed archaeological investigations. Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds have a rich cultural heritage, and the OCA team will bring their expertise to bear in adding to that history – we will be working closely with them throughout the life of the scheme, to ensure that this legacy is preserved for generations to come. In keeping with National Highways’ approach to protecting the country’s cultural heritage, we will ensure that archaeological remains are preserved and recorded.”

The cherub-like Cupid figurine in an archaeologist's hand, freshly unearthed and muddy. Its metal has a green patina
The Cupid figurine, freshly unearthed in 2020

As preparations progress towards construction, work will also include the installation of wildlife fencing and bat boxes, ground investigation surveys, utilities work, and the diversion of public rights of way. Our archaeology team will showcase the artefacts we find, digitally and through community engagement, and there will be a detailed published report of our findings, which will be free to access and provide access to our discoveries for generations to come. 

We’re all looking forward to uncovering what’s bound to be fascinating further evidence of the human stories this landscape holds, and we’ll be sharing those brilliant discoveries soon. In the meantime, you can read more about our previous work on the site here, and learn about the more recent World War II evidence – including an artefact with a link to the incredible man who protected Jewish people fleeing Nazi Germany – here.

Rosanna Price
Digital Engagement Manager

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