On Saturday 30th June 2018 an open day was held at Northstowe for Phase 2 of the ongoing archaeological excavations that are being undertaken by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU). This phase of archaeology began in October 2016 and has focused on the detailed excavations of a large Roman settlement known as site 18.
Site 18 is almost 900m long and 20 hectares in area, making it larger than Roman Cambridge. The rest of Site 15 will be excavated in the spring of next year when work commences focusing on the sites to the north of Rampton Road. The blank area to the south of the farmstead was lost to quarrying in the 19th and 20th centuries, so sadly it may never be known what could have been destroyed at that time. This Roman settlement is arranged along a roadway with three main arms heading southwest-northeast and southeast. Square enclosures have been recorded at the junction with narrower longer ones to the south, with evidence of buildings, wells, rubbish pits, ditches, metal working, textile production, a pottery kiln and cemeteries in the settlement area.
At the north end, the settlement takes on a different form with double and triple ditch lines enclosing about 6 hectares on the northwest side of the road. Presuming there were banks between the ditches, it is possible that this is defensive in nature reflecting the sometimes hazardous nature of life on the Roman fed edge. This is a very similar arrangement to that recorded on the site excavated of Northstowe Phase 1 on the old golf course.
Two other sites have also been or are being investigated. To the west is Site 15. Like Site 18, this has Roman remains overlying those on the Iron Age, but the nature of both differ from that seen on the larger site. A looping ditch-cum-trackway leads from Site 18 to and around Site 15 on to the Phase 1 site. Between the two sites lies a zone being interpreted as a ‘farmstead’, dominated by evidence of activities relating to agriculture, in particular a corn dryer, the first found in the Northstowe landscape.
Work is almost finished on this part of Phase 2, but there are new sites to be investigated in 2019 and the results will be considered along with those of Phase 1 on which analysis is currently underway.
Between 10am and 4pm on the Saturday, the site was opened to the public with tours every 15 minutes of the current excavations, and information boards on display with some of the best finds so far recovered. Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) were also on site with a variety of hands-on activities, including identifying different animal bones, excavating and identifying seed remains, a chest of draws to represent the stratigraphy of excavation and a number of boxes of finds to represent different time periods. Along with Cat Collins from ACA, was Emma Rees, finds officer at the CAU, who talked visitors through the activities on offer.
Until the 20th July, there is also community excavations happening at Northstowe, which is open to all over 18’s between Monday and Friday only. If you’d like to take part in excavations contact email@example.com with the dates that you’d like to attend.