Roman and Anglo-Saxon finds discovered near Towcester, Northamptonshire

Early in 2021, our site team undertook evaluation trenching at a site near Towcester, Northamptonshire. A small group of mid to late Roman pottery was uncovered, including wares produced in the areas around Oxford, Buckingham, and the Lower Nene Valley. The Roman group dated to between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD. Two small sherds of Samian ware, produced in central Gaul, would have been imported into Britain from what is modern day France.

Early Anglo-Saxon pottery, dating to between the 5th and 7th centuries AD, was also discovered. The Anglo-Saxon pottery is in better condition than the Roman assemblage and includes two sherds decorated with intricate stamp designs. One is stamped with rows of triangles (right), the other is stamped with a combination of S-shaped and circular ‘floral’ patterns (left). The presence of the stamps enabled us to send these pieces to a specialist in Anglo-Saxon pottery stamps at the Archive of Anglian & Saxon Pottery Stamps (AASPS), for identification.  Although the use of the triangular and circular ‘floral’ stamps is relatively common in Early Anglo-Saxon pottery, the combination of S-shaped and ‘floral’ designs is thought to be unique. The remainder of the Anglo-Saxon pottery would have been for everyday domestic use, and included jars (pictured) and bowls. Stamped Anglo-Saxon pottery from settlements is rare and more commonly associated with cemetery sites. The proximity of the site to Watling Street may explain the presence of Early Anglo-Saxon pottery, as there is plenty of evidence that the road continued in use throughout the 5th and 6th centuries, and beyond.

stamped pottery
Stamped Anglo-Saxon pottery fragments
piece of Anglo-Saxon gold
Fragment of gold sheet

Two other artefacts from the evaluation are also of interest. One is a small fragment of gold sheet with small triangular stab decoration (pictured). The fragment is very small, measuring just 11mm x 9mm. It came from a deposit containing moderate quantities of Roman and Early Anglo-Saxon pottery, and an Anglo-Saxon date would be reasonable. It was probably once part of a personal adornment that may have been broken-up to prepare for its reworking, although its exact nature is uncertain.

worked bone
Worked bone fragment

The other find of note is a fragment of worked bone. The fragment is perforated at one end and the function of similar objects is sometimes interpreted as needles used in the manufacturing of textiles or baskets. However, finds from Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, such as those from Lechlade, Gloucestershire, support the interpretation that they were used to fasten garments, with the perforation retaining a cord that secured the pin. Similar examples from sunken-featured buildings from West Stow, Suffolk, have been dated to the between 5th to 7th century.

The fieldwork to date does not provide us with a clear picture of what was taking place on site, but of course suggests that there was activity spanning the Late Roman to Early Anglo-Saxon periods.

Peter Banks

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