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Clay Farm, Trumpington Print E-mail

Aerial view of the site
The first 7 ha of a 20 ha excavation have been completed by OA East at Clay Farm, Trumpington, on the southern fringe of Cambridge. The excavations began at the end of May and will continue through to the end of April 2011. The site represents the largest single archaeological excavation ever undertaken in the Cambridge area. Despite the density of features recorded, the archaeology is heavily concentrated within two relatively short-lived periods: the middle Bronze Age and the late Iron Age/early Roman.

The form of the late Iron Age occupation – small fields and paddocks bounded by shallower and narrower ditches – contrasts with that of the Middle Bronze Age. No posthole structures have been recorded, but the quantity of artefacts indicates direct occupation in parts. One sub-oval enclosure in particular contained a large finds assemblage and marks the site of a domestic roundhouse. The settlement continued into the early Roman period with some of the larger pottery assemblages coming from a series of waterholes and small wells. As is common in transitional settlements in the area, the site contains a pottery kiln with in situ lining, pedestals and kiln bars.

The area was abandoned, again, before the end of the 2nd century. The only visible later activity was one of the most enigmatic features on the site: a double ditched sub-circular ‘monument’, partially lying beyond the southwestern edge of excavation. Human remains from at least three individuals, five late Roman bracelets and a group of large iron nails, with butchered cattle remains interspersed, were recovered from high up in the inner ditch, suggesting a funerary function for the feature. A small assemblage of abraded late Roman pottery was also recovered, but the fills were generally sterile with very little artefactual or environmental material present, supporting a non-domestic interpretation. The human remains appear to have been redeposited, perhaps from a nearby cemetery, in the very late or post-Roman period and the monument is potentially linked to post-Roman (but pre-Saxon) funerary activity.

An extensive volunteer programme was run over the course of the summer which saw the site host the fieldwork element of the archaeology course of Cambridge University’s Madingley College. In August, the first of a series of public open days was held for the local community, which proved highly successful with a constant flow of visitors throughout the day. Further tours and excavation days have been organized for local schools and sixth form colleges over the coming months.