Black Cat Quarry – Late Prehistoric Shrine and Roman Farmstead

Aerial view taken using a drone of the Iron Age shrine looking north during excavation of the rectangular-shaped outer ditch at Black Cat Quarry © Copyright ARS Ltd 2022
The Roman building platform being planned © Copyright ARS Ltd 2022
View of the southern part of the Roman field system and the cemetery looking east © Copyright ARS Ltd 2022

The excavations revealed remains of a fragmentary Iron Age field-system. This had been laid out across the site about a thousand years after the abandonment of the Early Bronze Age farmstead. A focus for Iron Age occupation was not identified, but the field system is likely to have been associated with a settlement that remained just out of reach to the west or north.

A sub-rectangular enclosure with an east-facing entrance was revealed at the northern extent of the site. Inside was a circular structure directly opposite the entrance and slightly offset from the centre. There were no associated artefacts but this feature shares characteristics with Iron Age shrines or sanctuaries found elsewhere in the region and further afield.

The most extensive remains at Black Cat Quarry comprised a Roman farmstead occupied in three phases. Based largely on the analysis of over 2,700 pottery fragments, the farmstead spanned the early 2nd to early 5th centuries AD. Most of the pottery was locally sourced, sandy grey wares, along with a small quantity of coarsewares from Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Only small quantities of samian and other finewares were recovered.

The first and second phases of occupation dated to the early 2nd to early/mid-3rd centuries AD and included a single building platform. This was surrounded by a paddock enclosure and a set of fields where cereals (spelt, emmer, barley and rye) was being cultivated and then processed within the central occupation area. Livestock were also reared, predominantly cattle but also sheep and goats. Floodwaters from the nearby River Ouse engulfed the farmstead in the mid-3rd century AD and buried much of the central area in alluvial sediment. The inhabitants of the farmstead probably retreated further onto the terrace to the west whilst still managing the landscape. The farmstead was then re-occupied in the late 3rd century AD, with new boundary ditches and paddocks cut into the alluvial sediments. Whilst cereals were cultivated and animals, mainly older cattle, were kept, harvested cereals were processed off-site.

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