Results of the 2010 Excavation

July 2010 saw the third consecutive season of excavation by the Dorchester Project team in the allotments which overlie the south-west quarter of the Roman town. Work continued in the same 30 x 20 m area as in previous years, with the main north-south Roman road through the town at its eastern margin. It now seems likely that in the late Roman period most of this was an open area, at least partly surfaced with gravel, and perhaps serving as a market place or other public open space. Fragmentary remains of a building c 5.5 m wide, probably of timber construction on a rubble foundation and fronted by a gravel surface, have been found at the west edge of the site some 25 m from the road line. The date of the building is not yet known, but it must have been out of use by the time it was cut by a late Roman ditch, which lay alongside the Roman road in the south-east corner of the site and then curved away from it to the north-west, eventually running beyond the edge of the excavated area in a westerly direction. By the time that this ditch was dug, probably after AD 350 at the earliest, a considerable number of pits and shallow hollows had been dug in the area between the road and the building to the west. Some of these features were used for rubbish disposal, but whether or not this was their original function is uncertain. Although certainly late Roman in origin its uppermost fill produced early Saxon pottery.


Just to the north, at the western edge of the Roman road, lay a small early Saxon sunken-featured building or Grubenhaus. This is a characteristic building type of the period, represented here by a shallow hollow c 3.2 m x 2.4 m, with a hole for an upright post at each end. The posts are usually reconstructed as supporting the ridge-pole of a simple roof structure with a basic tent-like appearance. There is no indication of any particular use of the sunken area, but most of these buildings are thought to have had wooden floors raised above the sunken area, which may have served for storage. Finds from the structure were mostly of later Roman date, but include a small but significant group of early Saxon pottery, although close dating of the latter is very difficult. Buildings of this type are sometimes found in Roman towns, but are not common in such contexts. The present example is significant because it mirrors one of broadly similar type excavated by Professor Frere in 1962 roughly 50 m south of the current site and in an exactly corresponding roadside location.




Restoration work in the Iron Age ramparts of the Dyke Hills enclosre also brought new information to light, with the discovery of human remains that were radiocarbon dated to approximately AD370 (cal) and which were accompanied by an exquisite chip-carved Late Roman belt set and and iron axe. These items were most kindly donated to the Ashmolean museum by landowner Miss A Bowditch and are currently on display in the England gallery.



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