Archaeologists in England digging to investigate the site of a future highway have found evidence of human occupation going as far back as 12,000 years. They call it a favored spot for human activity through the millennia.
The site in Lincolnshire has turned up flint tools from thousands of years ago, part of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery, evidence of Iron Age burials and roundhouses, a strong Roman-era presence, medieval features, and post-medieval structures.
A medieval era silver coin. (Lincolnshire County Council) “The archaeological work is already providing a fascinating glimpse into past communities, settlements and landscapes, illustrating that this area has been a continuously favoured spot for human activity from as far back as 12,000 years ago,” says a news release from the Lincolnshire County Council.
The work is being done at the Lincoln Eastern Bypass highway.
In addition to high-status Roman buildings, there are field systems, a possible vineyard, and pottery kilns from the Roman era.
Pre-Christian burial with Roman pottery grave goods. (Emily Norton/The Lincolnite)
There is also a possible stone tower from the medieval age along with a monastic grange (farm) with a boundary wall and substantial stone buildings and stone-lined wells.
From the post-medieval era there are farm buildings and a water management system, in addition to yards.
A medieval well under excavation ( Lincolnshire County Council )
Experts say the finds at the site are of national stature in England. There are still features to explore at the site, but so far it is the largest Mesolithic location ever found in Lincolnshire and among the largest in England.
Network Archaeology Ltd. is the company doing the excavations. Chris Taylor of Network Archaeology told LincolnshireLive :
“Potentially, the site could yield some very important discoveries. We've found signs of a high-status Roman building and, more interestingly, a possible Roman vineyard, which is rare north of the Home Counties.”
He said another big find was a cemetery from an as-yet unknown era near Washingborough Road that has 18 burials. The remains may be of a monastic order, Mr. Taylor said.
The company has also identified possible remains of a 12th century tower that could have been a fort from the time of the 1141 AD Battle of Lincoln. It’s possible it also may have been a beacon or a lookout to identify any hostile parties coming near the settlement.
A Roman bone pin. ( Lincolnshire County Council )
Councillor Richard Davies of Highways and Tranport told LincolnshireLive that it’s necessary to undertake archaeological work when building a new road “to find out what's gone on here for thousands of years for future generations to learn from and understand.”
It has been known for years that the River Witham Valley has been occupied for as long as the prehistoric era and was a focal point of activity. Scholars were aware that a medieval monastic grange was near the railway west of Washingborough.
Of the Stone Age activity, the news release states:
What is certain is that the presence of the Mesolithic flints illustrates that small communities of hunter-fisher-gatherers were exploiting the natural resources present by the river and its creeks. The later Neolithic occupants of this area were the first settled farmers, and whilst we have found flint artefacts of this period, we have yet to find any evidence of their settlements, which were probably sited away from the river on higher, drier ground.
Bronze Age arrowhead. ( Lincolnshire County Council )
The entire length of the roadway will be investigated. This section between River Witham and Washingborough Road will end early this year, but other sites along the route will be explored later.
Top image: The site includes a cemetery of 18 humans buried from east to west in the Christian fashion from an as-yet undated era. As of press time, bits of bone have been sent off for radio carbon dating. Source: Lincolnshire County Council
By Mark Miller