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TVAS News: Baydon pipeline Bronze Age settlement

Recent work carried out by TVAS archaeologists on behalf of Optimise in advance of laying a pipeline between Baydon water tower and Bailey Hill reservoir has revealed evidence of prehistoric occupation and land use. The site, which consisted of a 2km-long narrow strip of ground stretching across the Berkshire Downs on the West Berkshire-Wiltshire border, was monitored as the ground was prepared for the water pipe. Three sets of archaeological features were identified in three separate locations along its length. The first of these consisted of a 2.8m-wide ditch containing a single sherd of Roman pottery and interpreted as being an extension of the near-by Near Down Ditch - a boundary marker with possible prehistoric origins.

Further to the south, the second area of archaeological interest contained a negative lynchet (land eroded by ploughing) of unknown date and two post-built roundhouses. The first roundhouse, only partially exposed, included what is thought to be a south-facing entrance and yielded four sherds of Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age pottery. A puzzling aspect however is the finding of wood charcoal that was radiocarbon dated to cal BC 1450-1370 and a fragment of animal bone that was dated to cal BC 1519-1422. Both of these dates sit firmly in the Middle Bronze Age and it starts to raise interesting questions about how these finds could have been within the same structure as the Late Bronze Age pottery. The second roundhouse, which had much smaller postholes than the first and overlapped it by as much as half its area, was dated to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age by the finding of pottery of that date in the internal postholes. This suggests the interpretation that the pottery in the first roundhouse is perhaps residual from the construction of the second in the later Bronze Age.

The southern-most find of the excavation was the south-western corner of a probable rectangular enclosure defined by a ditch. Four slots dug across the ditch showed it to be between 1.40m and 1.60m wide and 1.00m deep, originally with very steep sides and a rounded base. The only dating evidence recovered from the ditches was a single sherd of Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age pottery and a couple of struck flint flakes of Neolithic or Bronze Age date. This can only be interpreted as a probable broad prehistoric date rather than a specific period.

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

Recording features with the pipeline strip winding over the hills behind. The two post-built roundhouses. The radiocarbon dated one is marked with red posts and the possibly later one with yellow.

Plan of the two roundhouses. The radiocarbon dated one is shown in blue, the other in green. Slot dug through the enclosure ditch showing its cross-section. The steepness of the sides can be clearly seen.