Between Two Streams: Findings from Northeast of Melton Mowbray

Pottery from area 5a © ARS Ltd 2024
Samian ware from the site © ARS Ltd 2024
Uncovering a field system © ARS Ltd 2024

As we continue our archaeological investigations along Leicestershire County Council’s road scheme at Melton Mowbray, more evidence for the ancient past of this area has come to light. Last autumn we completed the investigation of two areas situated crossing the gently sloping valleys and the flowing streams of two River Eye tributaries.

The oldest artefacts recovered during our excavations in these valleys belong to the hunter and gatherer communities of the Mesolithic period (10,000-4,000 BC). Worked flint artefacts have been found scattered across an ancient palaeochannel which were probably associated with hunting animals such as deer that roamed this prehistoric landscape.

Moving forward in time some three thousand years to the Iron Age (800 BC – AD 43), these valleys and streams had become farmland. Our excavations along the eastern most stream exposed the remains of a large enclosure system formed by several ditches and gullies. These features produced an assemblage of Iron Age shell-tempered pottery, animal bone, worked antler and burnt stone.

The settlement of these areas intensified in the succeeding Roman period (AD 43-410). A large and complex arrangement of ditches and gullies extended across the area, likely representing an array of enclosures systems and field boundaries. Within the bounds of these enclosures, the remains of a possible well and four-post granary structure were identified. Several refuse pits containing broken pottery and bone fragments were also found scattered across the area, attesting to a once active farmstead.

A large and varied assemblage of Roman pottery was recovered from within many of these features. This included a wide variety of pottery types, including greyware, shell-tempered wares, colour-coated wares and the characteristic Samian wares. One particularly interesting piece of Samian pottery appears to be the stamped base of a vessel, reworked into a smooth disk, potentially to be used as a game piece.

In the succeeding periods, these fertile valleys were part of the agricultural landscape that surrounded Melton Mowbray in the medieval and post-medieval periods as evidenced by the archaeological and earthwork remains of ridge and furrow cultivation, a pattern of landuse that remained in use right up to the 18th century.

Our excavations are continuing to produce interesting and significant results, including the site of a potential Roman vineyard. Be sure to follow along as we publish further updates of our work on our social media here TwitterFacebookLinkedInInstagram, as well as this website.

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