DORCHESTER ALLOTMENTS EXCAVATION 2012: BRIEF SUMMARY

DOT 2012

Excavation by the Dorchester Project team in the allotments which overlie the south-west quarter of the Roman town continued throughout July after a break in 2011. This was 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. This year’s work concentrated on a number of Roman ditches and related deposits. The Roman road was also partly sectioned, revealing a number of superimposed surfaces. It is possible that there was a roadside ditch on the west side of the road from early in the period, although if so this was sealed by later layers. A fragment of mortar floor suggests that there may also have been at least one roadside building in the same general area. Further west, a building at the west end of the site, some 25 m from the road line, first seen in 2010, is now known to have been larger than originally thought – its east side was at least c 10 m long. This building probably lay within an enclosure with on its eastern side a palisade set in trenches which extended north and south beyond the edges of the site. A gap in the palisade trenches aligns with the mid point of the east wall of the building, suggesting that there was an entrance at that point. The date of these features is not yet known, but the palisade trench was later recut as a boundary ditch, retaining the entrance opening.

Later ditches transformed the use of the area. More work was done on a ditch, already examined in part, 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 through the opening in the north-south palisaded/ditched boundary and cutting the associated building. This curvilinear ditch, perhaps of later 4th century date, had a small entrance in its northern side, between the road and the now disused enclosure/building complex to the west. What it itself enclosed is uncertain, although it must have been more than just the extensive midden deposits located in the southern part of the site, but any potential high status settlement components would have lain south of the excavated area. Two more east-west ditches were found running close to the north edge of the site. These were deeper and more steep-sided than the curvilinear ditch, but were of roughly similar late Roman date. Their function is uncertain, but if they too were enclosure ditches they would have related to an area north of the site.

The curvilinear ditch and the adjacent palisade ditch terminal to the south were cut by a pair of pits. One of these was perhaps very late Roman in date, and contained part of a decorated bone comb along with other finds, while the second pit produced early Anglo-Saxon pottery. Large quantities of finds were recovered, as usual. Most notable amongst these were a fragment from a late Roman pottery vessel decorated with figures of deities in niches, and a coin of Edward the Elder (AD 899-924). The latter, from the top of the fill of the curvilinear ditch, does not seem to relate to excavated features within the site, but is a useful (and rare) indicator of the continued importance of Dorchester in the mid Saxon period.