Bodicote, Oxfordshire

Barbed and tanged arrowhead © ARS Ltd 2024
Ring ditch from the air © ARS Ltd 2024
Skeleton in Iron Age pit © ARS Ltd 2024

In 2014-2020 Archaeological Research Services Ltd undertook archaeological fieldwork prior to the development of residential housing on land at Bodicote, south of Banbury, on behalf of Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes Ltd.

Initially, we carried out a geophysical survey. This identified a number of magnetic anomalies in the western part of the site that were considered to be evidence for late prehistoric or Roman settlement, as well as four circular anomalies in the central area that were interpreted as potentially Neolithic or Bronze Age monuments. This was followed by evaluation trenching, which demonstrated that the suspected settlement in the western area, comprising a series of enclosures and pits, was indeed Iron Age in date, and that the circular features in the central area were the remains of ring ditches (Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age monuments often associated with human burials). Open-area excavation of these areas was then undertaken.

In the central area the remains of a large ring ditch with five entrances, as well as three smaller ring ditches, were revealed. The only finds from these ditches were humanly-struck flints of Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age date. A small number of pits were encountered in both this area and the western part of the site which also contained flints dating to the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods which may have pre-dated or been contemporary with the ring ditches.

The archaeological features in the western area included field boundary ditches, a series of enclosures and over 200 pits, nine of which contained human burials. Charred cereal remains dominated by hulled wheat but also including barley were recovered from the fills of the ditches and pits, along with the bones of cattle, sheep/goat, horse and pig. Pottery and radiocarbon dates obtained on charred cereal remains and human bone indicated that these features dated mainly to the Middle Iron Age (4th-2nd century BC). A large outer boundary ditch was established which demarcated the northern, western and southern limits of the Iron Age settlement. Two or three phases of laying out enclosures, probably associated with animal husbandry, and digging pits which were probably used for grain storage ensued, before the settlement was abandoned during the Late Iron Age. Although there was no direct evidence of domestic structures, the sheer number and density of storage pits indicates that they formed part of an Iron Age farmstead, with the main living area probably situated the field immediately adjacent to the western edge of the site.

A report on the results of the excavations is due to be published later this year.

Archaeological Research Services Ltd