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TVAS News: Streatley-Moulsford pipeline ring ditch and Bronze Age pits

Recent work carried out by TVAS archaeologists on behalf of Optimise in advance of laying a pipeline between Streatley and Moulsford has revealed evidence of prehistoric occupation and land use. The site, which consisted of a 4.6km-long narrow strip of ground stretching across the Berkshire Downs on the West Berkshire-Oxfordshire border, was monitored as the ground was prepared for the water pipe.

All of the archaeological features identified during the project were found towards the northern, Oxfordshire end of the strip. These consisted of a ring ditch, two 0.7m-deep ditches, thirteen burnt pits, some of which were packed with Bronze Age pottery, and a shallow gully. The ring ditch, probably the remains of a levelled burial mound or round barrow, measured c.15m in diameter with a ditch 1.7m wide and 0.7m deep.

Round barrows are a distinctive feature of the Early Bronze Age and several have been identified in the Streatley and Moulsford areas. While commonly found on the river gravels and, such as this example, the chalk downlands, they have also been recorded on the sandy and clayey soils, indicating exploitation of these zones and presumably an expansion of settled areas. It is possible that the scatter of pits and pottery on the gravel geology on the hill to the north of the barrow indicate the presence of a settlement in the vicinity.

The two ditches that were found at the northern end of the pipeline strip contained Saxon or earlier pottery and a mystery metal object (see photos 5-6). This appears to be made of a copper alloy, possibly with a high lead content, and includes a paisley-like motif, brown enamelling and cut amber-like stones. It is double-sided and has the remains of a loop on one edge, possibly for hanging the object, but it is, so far, of unknown use and date.

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

The ring ditch stripped, cleaned and ready for excavation. Excavating the ring ditch.

Recording the sections of excavated ring ditch. Stripping overburden on the Oxfordshire end of the pipeline. Potential archaeological features can be seen as dark lines in the gravel.

An intriguing-looking metal object found while excavating one of the ditches. The metal object (front and back) after cleaning.