Our first update from a fascinating site at Melton Mowbray

Excavating a feature © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Mesolithic blades and core © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Roman pottery fragments © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023

We’ve been investigating prehistoric and Roman remains identified during topsoil stripping for Leicestershire County Council’s new road scheme at Melton Mowbray – and we plan to bring you a few updates on this fascinating site as work progresses over the next few weeks.

Early prehistoric activity

The earliest finds to have been unearthed so far are flint artefacts dating to the Mesolithic period (10,000–6,000 years ago). The Eye valley was clearly a landscape favoured by humans who lived by hunting animals, fishing and gathering edible plants.

A later prehistoric burial and farming settlements

The remains of a probable small circular barrow have been discovered. This surrounded a pit that contained an adult, possibly female, inhumation interred in a crouched position. There were no objects found in direct association with it, so it is hoped that a radiocarbon can be obtained from a sample of the bone.

Several field boundary ditches, likely forming various field enclosures, potential structural remains and clusters of pits have been recorded. These have procured fragmented animal bone and pieces of handmade pottery vessels indicate the remains of an Iron Age farmstead.

Roman planting beds during excavation © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Roman planting bed after excavation © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Roman storage jar fragment © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023

Roman farmstead complex

The remains of a large Roman farmstead complex have also come to light. Enclosure ditches and associated features have produced large quantities of Roman pottery and animal bone, fragments of a clay oven, a loom weight, a bone comb and a metal brooch. Fragments of Late Iron Age pottery suggest that the site could have originated in the later prehistoric period, transitioning into the Roman period.

Significant among the archaeological discoveries were cultivation rows with planting beds, the fills of which included fragments of Roman pottery. Planting beds of this nature are considered to be associated with a Mediterranean style of plantation agriculture such as viticulture, or the production of other fruit bearing trees, and would more likely be a commercial endeavour. Roman farms where plantation agriculture was practised have previously been found in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, although one is known in Leicestershire, at Rutland. The Melton Mowbray site is the furthest north of those to be investigated and a range of new scientific techniques, including geochemical analysis, are being deployed to find out as much as possible about how the site functioned.

What now?

Work has started on processing the pottery, animal bone and other finds from the excavations. The results of the geochemical analysis are also being assessed. Look out for further updates as the results of this work are unveiled!

See here for the main project page.

Archaeological Research Services Ltd