Archaeology breakthrough: 2,700 years of British history peeled back in ‘fascinating’ dig

Bronze Age remains found in cave discussed by archaeologist

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Archaeologists discovered a site in Wiltshire that contained artefacts from a wide range of civilizations, from the Iron Age to the Roman Empire. A team from Cotswold Archaeology found this site last year during Wiltshire Council’s preparation of Melksham Community Campus for construction work. According to Councillor Richard Clewer, it had been “fascinating to hear more on their findings and the rich history”.

Cotswold Archaeology added: “Iron Age and Roman remains were found in the two trenches to the south.

“At least two phases of settlement evidence were uncovered here, including large postholes, metalled surfaces and rubbish pits, with field boundary ditches also apparent.”

The researchers found that most archaeology at the site dates to the later prehistoric, Roman (43 AD to 410 AD) and Medieval (AD 1066 AD to 1539 AD) periods.

Finds manager Ed McSloy notes that locally made early Iron Age pottery fragments, including storage vessels and finer tableware, were unearthed, dating from the seventh century BC to the fourth century BC.

He believes that these show “probable evidence” of communal feasting.

The pottery evidence is similar to that found at Budbury Hillfort, approximately 7km to the west.

The team also unearthed a Romano-British ‘tegula’ fired clay roof tiles to the south of the site.

This suggests that the location was perhaps once home to a high-status Roman farmstead or villa.

They also found a ‘box flue tile’ of the kind used with ‘hypocaust’ central heating systems.

The hypocaust heating system was mainly used in wealthy Roman homes and Roman baths and is the closest thing to central heating today.

Archaeologists then discovered four oxshoes with their nails still in, and is believed to be Medieval.

According to Mr McSloy, these oxshoes were not as common as horseshoes for the time.

He believed that these would have been used for “certain agricultural tasks including ploughing, where shoes may have improved traction and reduced injury”.

The researchers also discovered other artefacts such as iron knives, pottery and animal bone from medieval and post-medieval (1540 AD to 1800 AD) periods.

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According to Cotswold Archaeology: “Excavations to the north took place in an area between the parish church to the west and Melksham’s historic marketplace to the east.

“This area was formerly a part of the manorial land of Capital Manor, a large and valuable estate that was founded in the 11th century.

“In the post-medieval period (1540-1800) if not earlier, the manor house is known to have fronted Melksham marketplace to the east, with orchards and gardens to the rear where the northern area of excavation was located.”

Councillor Richard Clewer, Wiltshire Council leader and cabinet member for heritage, thanked Cotswold Archaeology for the “thorough and detailed work” they had carried out.

He said: “These impressive discoveries are a great contribution to the history of Melksham.”

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