Northstowe Open Day

On Saturday 8th July the current ongoing excavations at Northstowe, run by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), held an open day for members of the public. The archaeology is being undertaken in advance of construction of the new town development.

A simple Phase Plan for the current excavations

Phase 1 was focused on the golf course and uncovered four distinct sites from the Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods and was completed in late 2015. The site of the open day is part of the phase 2 works on the old airfield site which began in  October 2016 and will continue into 2018. The archaeology of this phase focuses on a large Roman settlement, of at least 20 hectares (50 acres) in extent.

Some of the Roman roof tile from site

The Roman settlement here is arranged around a crossroad with arms heading out roughly northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast (plan above). A series of squared enclosures sit at the crossroads and along the longer southwest-northeast axis, with evidence of wells, rubbish pits, ditches, cemeteries and a pottery kiln. Several building have been identified from within the enclosures, some have produced large quantities of roof tile and a stone column, both of which may eventually hint at the status of this building. From the artefacts already excavated, we can say that 1600 years ago this place was a thriving centre of domestic activity, industry, commerce and worship.

Some of the pottery excavated, included a head from a jog or flagon

Site tours were given by CAU staff currently working on the phase 2 excavations and a count by the wonderful men on the security gate at the end of the day recorded nearly 500 visitors to the site, which may have been helped by the lovely sunny weather!  Many of the finds were on display, including posters of further information about the archaeology and the history of the airfield, when it was in use during the Second World War. A drone video of the whole excavation area was also playing on a loop, giving visitors the true sense of scale to the size of the settlement.

Site tours and the display area for the open day

Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) were also on site to promote the upcoming test pit excavations in Longstanton village. These are planned to take place over the weekend of the 9th-10th September 2017 and will follow on from excavations in the village in 2015. It is hoped that the results from these smaller excavations will tie in with what has been found at Northstowe to bring together a bigger picture of the archaeology of this region. If live in Longstanton and are interested in volunteering your garden please get in contact with us directly, or if you are local to the area and want to take part in the test pitting please also get in contact.

Volunteers signing up for the Longstanton test pitting and signing the visitors book

ACA also had a range of hand-on activities for the younger visitors to site to learn more about archaeology. This is based on the work we undertake in Primary Schools targeting the Key Stage 1 and 2 History curriculum and was a chance for children to experience archaeology first hand and even relate back to things they had learnt in the classroom.  For further information about these days or to book a session with us, please click here, or if your children what to do more archaeology, the Young Archaeologists Club, Cambridge, takes all children between the ages of 8 and 16.

ACA’s Emily Ryley showing some of the younger visitors about viking weaving methods and what artefacts can tell us about the past

ITV Anglia also came out and filmed the excavations with CAU senior manager Alison Dickens, who explained the archaeology. The video can be watched here.

Filming for ITV Anglia news

The CAU and ACA would like to thank all the many visitors who came out on Saturday to see the archaeology and learn more about the local area. All the comments left in the visitors book were very positive, commenting on how interesting the site is “Absolutely fascinating window into our past – just beneath our feet. Fantastic heritage. Well done!” (JS), the knowledge of the archaeologists “Extremely interesting to see and a fantastic and informative talk given” (SS) and the range of activities available for the young visitors to site “Fantastic insight into local area and made interesting for kids” (FT) and “Great activities for kids” (ER). ACA will try and keep you all updated on a future developments on site.

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