In the course of a watching brief along the route of the Drointon to Sutton on the Hill Gas Pipeline, carried out between April and September 2000, a completely unexpected range of archaeological features were encountered on the Dove Floodplain, c. SK 1293 3198. The features were both dug into and sealed by alluvial silts. As a result, more extensive excavation took place.
The earliest evidence consisted of background finds from the Late Mesolithic, Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. The presence of worked flint from these periods indicates that activity took place on or close to the site. There is no spatial evidence amongst the collection of flint to indicate long-term settlement, although there may have been episodic use of the landscape, particularly during the Later Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. Scattered features, including a ring gulley, a ditch and three pits may have been of Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age date. The ring gulley was initially thought to represent the remains of a roundhouse, but the sparseness of settlement-related evidence indicates that this is unlikely to be the case and that, despite a lack of inhumation evidence, the ring gulley is more likely to be the remains of a barrow. A posthole located within the ring gulley was felt to be contemporary with it and may have acted as a 'signal' post. The lack of inhumation evidence could merely reflect a poor level of bone preservation across the entire site. The in-situ scorching of deposits associated with one of the pits, and the presence of charcoal, indicates that it had probably been a hearth. However, the relative lack of evidence for domestic activity suggests that use of the site in the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age was not settlement-related, although settlement is likely to have been located nearby. The probable hearth could represent a one-off or seasonal use of the site. The area may have been used for agricultural purposes at that time, either for cultivation or meadow, and/or as a short-term base for exploiting other resources offered by the River Dove.
Most of the archaeology at the site dates to the Roman period. There appears to have been an interval prior to this when the site was not in use, although possible plough scars suggest that a period of arable agriculture took place at the site after the ring gulley had silted up, but before Roman activity commenced. Roman evidence consists of enclosure ditches and gullies, kilns, and groups of pits and postholes. The ditches were probably part of a field system which was quite long-lived, as some of the ditches appeared to have been re-established on several occasions. Most contained few artefacts, suggesting that they represented the peripheral part of the system, with a settlement focus at some distance (ie the ditches were not used for convenient rubbish disposal). Two Roman kilns and a number of ovens/fire pits were also found, the latter being distinguished from the former by the fact that they were not clay-lined structures. The function of these features is unknown, but it is considered most likely that the kilns represent localised pottery production, despite the absence of kiln furniture or definite pottery wasters from the site. The fuel source was wood, predominantly oak. A pit was located next to each kiln and may have been linked with their use. The ovens or fire pits may have been used for domestic purposes such as cooking and warmth. A number of small, scattered and irregular pits and possible postholes were also present on the site, the function of which is uncertain. No coherent building layouts could be identified. Pottery from the site indicated both domestic and industrial use and included imported wares as well as pottery from Romano-British production sites. It could provide no more than a broad date range within the Roman period, with the first period of substantial occupation occurring during the 2nd century. Pottery dating from the mid 2nd to the early 3rd century is slightly more common. The evidence in general suggests that a small amount of industry and temporary settlement had taken place in the Roman period, possibly as a short-lived seasonal occurrence. (1)
Medieval ridge and furrow earthworks were identified in this area on aerial photographs dating to 1948. (2)