Marcus & The Mystery of the Pudding Pans

CA is pleased to present you with a fantastic animation produced for The Seaside Museum Herne Bay exhibition ‘The Mystery of the Roman Pudding Pans’.

The Kentish mystery, which is now the subject of an ongoing exhibition and animation, concerns the story of the contents of a Roman ship that sank or jettisoned its cargo off the Kent coast, c. AD 180 –200. Pottery from the wreck has been recovered by fishermen since at least the 18th century and was used to cook a Kentish pudding, hence the site being known as ‘pudding pan’.

The animation was written, produced and directed by Phil Gomm, and CA’s very own Senior Marine Consultant Dr Michael Walsh acted as archaeological consultant, due to his ongoing research into the site. Michael’s research was published in 2017 by the British Museum Press, and is available from their online bookshop.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the animation is the result of a partnership between staff and graduates of the Computer Animation Arts at the University of the Creative Arts (UCA) Rochester, professional voice actors, The Seaside Museum and pupils from Herne Bay Junior School, where Michael led a whole school assembly on Friday 26 April. We have thoroughly enjoyed being part of this wonderful project.

You can visit The Seaside Museum Herne Bay exhibition and see the pottery on display until the 2nd June 2019.

Copyright: © Phil Gomm

Iron Age settlement at Childrey Warren, Oxfordshire

bone comb
Bone comb

A multi-million pound Thames Water project to protect the future of a rare Oxfordshire chalk stream has revealed some fascinating and gruesome discoveries dating back almost 3,000 years. The excavation, led by CA’s Project Officer Paolo Guarino revealed an ancient settlement containing an array of historic artefacts. Among the important finds were 26 human skeletons believed to be from the Iron Age and Roman periods, and some likely to have been involved in ritual burials, along with evidence of dwellings, animal carcasses and household items including pottery, cutting implements and a decorative comb.

Unusual Iron Age burial
Unusual Iron Age burial

Our CEO Neil Holbrook, said: “The new Thames Water pipeline provided us with an opportunity to examine a number of previously unknown archaeological sites. The Iron Age site at Childrey Warren was particularly fascinating as it provided a glimpse into the beliefs and superstitions of people living in Oxfordshire before the Roman conquest. Evidence elsewhere suggests that burials in pits might have involved human sacrifice. The discovery challenges our perceptions about the past, and invites us to try to understand the beliefs of people who lived and died more than 2,000 years ago. We’ve had a tremendous reaction to this discovery on social media with people wondering just what was going on here – see what people have been saying at our Facebook post.”

Project Officer Paolo added: “These findings open a unique window into the lives and deaths of communities we often know only for their monumental buildings, such as hillforts or the Uffington White Horse. The results from the analysis of the artefacts, animal bones, the human skeletons and the soil samples will help us add some important information to the history of the communities that occupied these lands so many years ago.”

Excavation of an Iron Age pottery vessel

Cotswold Archaeology has now carefully removed the items for examination, allowing Thames Water to start laying the six kilometre pipe which, following consultation with residents, will supply nearby villages with water taken from groundwater boreholes near the River Thames and not Letcombe Brook. The archaeological findings have already been shared with residents at events in Letcombe Bassett and Letcombe Regis village halls.

Related events:

9 July 2019 Childrey Warren exavation results. Talk at Letcombe Regis village hall


Cotswold Looks East

Cotswold Archaeology and Suffolk Archaeology Merge.

We are pleased to announce that from today Suffolk Archaeology Community Interest Company has become part of Cotswold Archaeology. This initiative builds on the strong history of collaboration between the two companies in East Anglia over the past few years on projects such as Sizewell Nuclear Power Station and the cable connection to East Anglia One offshore wind farm.

CA chairman Tim Darvill signing the agreement with Suffolk Archaeology
CA chairman Tim Darvill signing the agreement with Suffolk Archaeology

Cotswold Archaeology Chief Executive Neil Holbrook said “I am delighted that Cotswold Archaeology and Suffolk Archaeology have merged operations. We have enjoyed working with Suffolk over the last few years and have the utmost respect for their unrivalled regional archaeological expertise. Suffolk’s core operating area of Suffolk and surrounding counties is a great match with the territory we currently service from our office in Milton Keynes, so the synergies are obvious. Suffolk Archaeology’s current premises in Needham Market near Ipswich will from today trade as the Suffolk office of Cotswold Archaeology, and I am particularly pleased that their Managing Director Dr Rhodri Gardner will remain office head and join Cotswold’s Senior Management Group. Rhod will be a great asset to us, as will his colleagues who between them have decades of first-hand expert knowledge of the archaeology of East Anglia. We are looking forward to harnessing that expertise for the benefit of our clients, and building on their excellent track record of community engagement and outreach”.

Suffolk Archaeology’s Managing Director Rhodri Gardner said “The merger of Suffolk Archaeology and Cotswold Archaeology represents an exciting new development for archaeology in East Anglia. For our employees it will offer increased security and the chance to become a vital part of a larger national organisation with a tremendous reputation for high quality fieldwork and research. For our customers it will very much be “business as usual” in the short term, but we also look forward to being able to grow our regional capacity with the increased investment potential the merger offers. We look forward to working with our Cotswold colleagues in the coming years and using our knowledge and experience to strengthen the business as a whole and provide enhanced capability to all our clients and the local archaeological community”.

About Suffolk Archaeology

Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service was created in 1974 with a remit to conserve and record the county’s heritage. It originally carried out research or rescue projects as funding allowed, but from the early 1990s the Field Team developed into a self-financing contracting service for private and public sector clients.

By 2014 the Field Team was the dominant archaeological contractor in Suffolk, with projects ranging from small watching briefs to long-running investigations of extensive multi-period archaeological landscapes. It had also expanded its operating area into the neighbouring counties of Cambridgeshire, Essex and Norfolk. This success led to the County Council’s decision in 2015 to outsource the Field Team as an independent Community Interest Company. Suffolk Archaeology now carries out in the order of 150 projects a year and maintains a staff of around 40. Find out more about Suffolk Archaeology here.

four people in a trench digging together, two wearing CA PPE and two in Suffolk archaeology brand clothes

Archaeology Session at Wickham CoE Primary School

Supported by Croudace Homes and Winchester City Archaeology, Cotswold Archaeology were keen to engage children with our investigations at Wickham.

On the 28th February, Years 3 and 4 from Wickham Church of England Primary School welcomed Project Officers Jeremy and Sam to lead an interactive hands-on workshop about the investigations in Wickham.

wickham times maemay

In preparation for the workshop, the pupils spent time learning about archaeology and watching the on-site video. Encouraged by their teachers, they produced imaginary newspaper reports about the investigations on site. Sharing these with Jeremy and Sam on the day, we felt they deserved wider publicity and have included two fantastic examples below (please note poetic licence will be required when reading).

Through a combination of talks and practical activities, involving sorting, identifying and dating artefacts, the pupils developed their knowledge of archaeology and the methods and techniques used at Wickham.

The workshop aimed to raise awareness and spark interest, and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting the pupils of Wickham Church of England Primary School. If you are interested in learning more about the school workshops we offer, please contact

Children’s reports on Wickham excavations:


Rough Justice in Saxon and Norman Hampshire?

When many people think about archaeology they focus on amazing new discoveries which are totally unexpected – that’s the exciting bit, right? Of course this is part of the romance of archaeology, but it poses a conundrum with modern commercial archaeology as significant and unexpected finds are what developers want least: they hold up the builders and can be expensive to deal with. Consequently much of the work of Cotswold Archaeology is, to use contemporary jargon, associated with de-risking proposed developments (i.e. avoid surprises when the construction work begins). But despite archaeologists’ best endeavours the old adage that you never know what’s under the ground still holds true, as a recent example at the site of a new Aldi supermarket in Andover, Hampshire, shows very clearly. Here a routine watching brief made a most unexpected discovery, but thanks to the generosity and genuine interest of Aldi this story has a highly satisfactory ending.

Archaeologist excavate human remains on Wenhill siteDuring the watching brief human remains began to be found, laid in graves dug into the natural chalk. In all 124 bodies were revealed, but what was even more surprising is that most were of young men and a number had injuries that clearly showed that they had been executed. Radiocarbon dating demonstrates that the cemetery was in use between c.AD 900 and 1300, and we conclude that this was an execution cemetery established in the Saxon period, but which carried on in use after the Norman Conquest. Perhaps the cemetery lay near a gallows where public hangings and executions took place? In the past justice could be harsh and summarily delivered; we will never know the perceived crimes the individuals buried here were judged to have been guilty of (although history tells us that some might seem by modern standards to have been trivial misdemeanours). This amazing discovery provides a fascinating window onto crime and punishment in this formative period of English history; find out more at Weyhil, Andover – an Anglo-Norman execution.

Fully excavated graveThis highlight brings us up to date and we’ve now selected one great project for each of the thirty years of our existence. The Andover dig is a great way to mark Cotswold Archaeology’s 30th birthday which fell on 17 March. If the archaeology we investigate in the coming decades is anywhere near as good as that which we have done over the last thirty years, then being an archaeologist with us in the coming years will be a great career choice.

Neil Holbrook

Living a Good(ish) Life in Roman South Gloucestershire

Channelled hypocaust system in south ranget
Channelled hypocaust system in south ranget

We all know what a Roman villa is – don’t we? They were one of the most distinctive elements of the Roman countryside – nice houses with some level of architectural pretension, often furnished with mosaic floors, painted walls, and private bath suites. But villas were actually always a rarity in Roman Britain: they are unlikely to have formed more than 1% of the total number of rural settlements in the province, and over large swathes of the country you don’t find them at all. So even a relatively humble villa (they came in all shapes and sizes) is noteworthy as the residence of the local moneyed classes. Excitement was high therefore when we found a previously unknown villa beneath a disused rugby pitch in Stoke Gifford, a northern suburb of Bristol, when working for Redrow Homes and CgMs Heritage in advance of a new housing development.

Roman lamp held in someone's hand
The unusual 1st century AD copper alloy lamp

The villa house dates to the late Roman period, as is common in Gloucestershire (a villa hotspot on a national level). What particularly fascinates me about this site is that it represents an attempt by someone to express their wealth and prestige through building – a trend we still see today of course. The owners clearly wanted to be seen to be doing something that would be recognised by their peers as embracing a modern, up market, way of life, and one that perhaps signified their alignment with the perceived norms of Roman administration. The house was nice, but not spectacular. It had two rooms with under floor heating, and what seems to have been a rudimentary bath suite, but no mosaics.

But we shouldn’t envisage a fancy house set within its own private parkland. Associated buildings show that this was a place of production, a place where wealth was generated. While agriculture undoubtedly underpinned the economy of the house, other activities included metal-working and perhaps beer making. So the people who lived here were local entrepreneurs who managed to make a decent living, but never made it to the mega-wealthy heights seen in some other Gloucestershire villas. Nevertheless the owners had access to nice things, including a fantastic bronze oil lamp which seems to have been made in Egypt.  How did that make its way to Gloucestershire?

Extension at the front of the north range
Extension at the front of the north range

Roman Britain has always been my favourite period of the past, and I’ve a particular affection for this site. It was just such great fun to work on. You can read more about the villa on this page.

Neil Holbrook