Biodiversity project reveals Bronze Age spearhead

Archaeologist Joe Price, showing his discovery - Bronze Age spearhead
Archaeologist Joe Price, with his discovery

A near-pristine Bronze Age spearhead is among the artefacts we’ve uncovered during the creation of a new wildlife habitat at a site in South Cerney, Gloucestershire. The spearhead, which is over 3,000 years old, was discovered just below the soil surface, during excavations for Thames Water’s wetland project, which sits in an archaeologically rich landscape.

On the first day, almost on the first machine scrape, this beautiful spearhead appeared at the top of a Bronze Age pit. As Project Manager Alex told the press, “They’re a very rare find and exceptionally special artefacts. Believe me when I say, the preservation of this one is phenomenal.” The pit in which the spearhead was found was shallow and surrounded by a circle of stakeholes; although there is no verifiable purpose for these, they would likely have formed an above-ground structure, possibly acting as a marker for the pit.

The fieldwork identified finds and features from a range of periods including six Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age timber-posted roundhouses, two Roman trackways, and a mix of pottery and animal bone. All of the artefacts are now being examined and catalogued at our Cirencester office, and could go on to be displayed at the town’s Corinium Museum.

Excavations underway
Excavations underway

Excavations in the wider area, mainly completed prior to gravel extraction at Shorncote Quarry, to the south of the wetlands site, have identified continuous and extensive human activity, from the Neolithic through to the Roman period – some 4,000 years. During those excavations, Bronze age settlement – in the form of timber posted structures – was seen throughout the area. A Romano-British farmstead was also discovered, along with associated field boundaries and agricultural activity.

Thames Water archaeologist Victoria Reeve said: “We knew we were likely to come across something, which is why we had Cotswold Archaeology on site ready to record any archaeology that was present, but we were blown away by what was actually discovered. We’re thrilled to have uncovered such interesting finds during the project.”

Roman ditches undergoing excavation
Roman ditches undergoing excavation

Work at the site is ongoing and Thames Water hope to complete it in the coming months. The new wetlands will cover about four hectares of floodplain, providing a valuable habitat for a range of wildlife including amphibians, insects, and wading and migratory birds. Thames Water has committed to increasing biodiversity by 5% across more than 250 of its sites, by 2025 – a target we’re proud to support them with.

Working together, Cotswold Archaeology and Thames Water have uncovered a string of interesting archaeological discoveries in recent years. In 2019, we recovered 26 human skeletons, thought to be around 3,000 years old, during a £14.5m waterpipe scheme in Oxfordshire. Sharon Clough, our Osteoarchaeologist, examined the remains, which are thought to be from the Iron Age and Roman periods, and believed they may have evidenced ritual and deviant burials.

Rosanna Price

One of the roundhouses during excavation
A roundhouse during excavation; the postholes for the supporting timbers are clearly visible
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