Archaeologists find coins, bow brooches and bones among Iron Age and Roman discoveries in Peterborough

By Ben Miller | 18 April 2015

Phased hypocaust, terraced walls and bones among discoveries during excavation which has inspired community in Peterborough

A photo of people digging a large brown archaeological trench under a blue sky
© Oxford Archaeology
Archaeologists in Peterborough are holding a triumphant exhibition of artefacts at the city’s museum to mark the success of a major community excavation.

Fuelled by cakes and eggs provided by local supporters and allotment holders, the dig revealed substantial amounts of Roman material at Fane Road, backed by an £88,200 Heritage Lottery Fund award.

A photo of people digging a large brown archaeological trench under a blue sky
© Oxford Archaeology
Oxford Archaeology East helped hundreds of intrigued volunteers dig the surface of the site, based around initial investigations of a high-status Roman villa beneath gardening grounds earmarked for a housing development.

“Many of them kept returning during the excavation,” says David Crawford-White, of Oxford Archaeology East, who helped welcome an impressively diverse range of participants - two of whom came from Canada - to activities around the site and local area.

A photo of people digging a large brown archaeological trench under a blue sky
© Oxford Archaeology
“One visitor came with her young children twice – once to see the site and listen to a tour, then again when she returned to bring a tray of newly-baked cakes for all the participants.

“Some people made the tea and coffee. Cakes were brought in for the break times as well as eggs from one allotment holder for early morning egg sandwiches. The allotment has a large number of resident hens.”

A photo of young women sifting through archaeological artefacts on a table outdoors
© Oxford Archaeology
Two books, a walk around the famous Flag Fen Bronze Age stomping ground and handling sessions with precious ancient discoveries have been a few of the results of the productive 20-day dig.

Three areas were opened by a digger before the start, with the known western wing of the Roman villa, found during a previous investigation between August 2011 and February 2012, continuing south in the first trench.

A photo of people digging a large brown archaeological trench under a blue sky
© Oxford Archaeology
“An extensive range of features were found there, including part of a phased hypocaust area, a large area of ash and charcoal, faced stone and robbed out walls, several areas of cobbled surfaces and a range of herringbone walls running under the hypocaust,” says Crawford-White.

“A possible plinth set away from any other structure was also found. There was speculation as to what sort of statue would have been placed on the plinth – we are looking for suggestions on a postcard.

A photo of people digging a large brown archaeological trench under a blue sky
© Oxford Archaeology
“Two Iron Age ditches were also found under one of the cobbled surfaces.

“They contained several Iron Age pottery sherds, and one contained two fragile loom weights. A total of six loom weights were found in this area.

An overhead photo showing people digging a large archaeological trench of brown mud
© Oxford Archaeology
“It is highly likely that the southern wing of the villa lies between trench one and trench two, but with a gas pipeline running between the two we couldn’t fully establish that.

“However, close to the southern baulk of trench one there was a large area of demolition and robbed foundations.

A photo of people digging a brown archaeological site outdoors under a blue sky
© Oxford Archaeology
“The villa certainly did not extend south into trench two, where a terrace wall was found running west to east. Below that, abutting the wall, was another cobbled surface.”

Two small test pits, excavated nearby, also revealed a cobbled surface.

“It was considerably lower than anything found in trench one, suggesting a lower terrace south of the villa probably early on in the villa’s life.

“The wall in trench two may well, at a later period, have been used as the southern extent of the southern wing.”

A photo of people digging a brown archaeological site outdoors under a blue sky
© Oxford Archaeology
Coins, two bow brooches and worked bone are among the finds which will be turned into teaching resources in local schools, returning the interest of pupils who saw two creative potters construct and blaze a Roman-type kiln in the compound, firing 150 pots decorated by visitors.

“The result was similar to pottery fired locally during the Roman period called Nene Valley Colour Coated ware,” explains Crawford-White.  “The new Roman Gallery at Peterborough Museum has some great examples of this type of pottery, which has been found throughout  Roman Britain.

“Since the excavation, we have continued to visit schools and groups to talk about the project.

“A dedicated group have met over the past few months, marking all the artefacts that will be either archived with Peterborough Museum or made into sets of Roman learning resources and given to schools, museum and groups.”

A children’s book, a publication for teenagers and interpretation boards will now be produced.


What do you think? Leave a comment below.

The Management Committee of Romans of Fane Road Heritage Lottery Project wish to thank the many hundreds of participants who have made the project so enjoyable, educational and fun.They also wish to thank the Fane Road Allotment Association, Peterborough City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund for its support financially and/or in kind.

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