Archaeological Finds in Bedale

WhereIngleby Greenhow Village HallType of EventIllustrated Talk
WhenMonday 12th September at 7.30pmTutor Jenny Proctor

Jenny from ‘Pre-Construct Archaeology’ came to tell us about the wealth of exciting archaeological finds which had emerged as the result of plans for a Bedale, Aiskew and Leeming Bar bypass. The area had already been noted on the North Yorkshire Historic Environment Record because crop marks had shown up on aerial photographs suggesting a huge iron-age enclosure and trackways. There was also a large area of Medieval Ridge and Furrow, but there were no known Roman remains. Because of the impending roadworks, geophysical studies were undertaken which confirmed the iron-age enclosure but also showed a pre-medieval field system and a Roman villa in an area which had not been ploughed over the years, probably because of all the stone foundations. Jenny’s organization was then called in to undertake the excavation. The huge iron-age enclosure (50m diameter) proved to have had a massive ditch 2m deep and 6.5 m wide which had been silted up and then re-cut several times. There was nothing to find of the round houses which would have been in the middle as they would have been of flimsy wattle and daub and the area had been persistently ploughed over the centuries. There were 2 inhumanations of whole skeletons, a rare finding from the iron-age, from which much was learnt – they had particularly bad teeth!  The latest re-cut ditch had been filled with refuse, possibly as late as the 2nd century AD, and a trackway formed. Many animal bones were recovered along with copper and iron artefacts, pottery, bone tools and even a Neolithic arrow head which may have been picked up and kept by a later iron-age or Roman person.

The nearby Roman Villa proved to be designed as a corridor with wings and then later additions. It was very well-preserved and the focus was on excavating the section which would be destroyed by the Bypass. The excavation showed a thick-walled 2 storey villa with wall plaster of many different colours over the years and with stone tesserae making mosaic floors. Tiles were also found and a hypocaust was discovered. A clay quarry pit had been filled with refuse and yielded wonderful pottery from other parts of England and abroad, as well as a huge variety of animal bones. Jenny felt this had been a wealthy farm/trading centre, well positioned, looking down on Dere Street with easy access to the Roman garrisons and settlements in the North. A large part of the villa (not involved in the bypass) remains unexcavated and has been Scheduled to preserve it for the future.

Jenny brought many artefacts from the dig which we were able to inspect and handle afterwards, including bone implements, a jet bead and a great variety of pottery including some fine Nene Valley ware. It was a fascinating evening.

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