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The Settlement and Drainage of the Wentlooge Level, Gwent: Excavation and Survey at Rumney Great Wharf 1992

  • M.G. Fulford (a1), J.R.L. Allen (a1) and S.J. Rippon (a1)


The Wentlooge Level in SE Wales represents an extensive area of some 35 km2 of alluvium reclaimed from estuarine saltmarsh from the Romano-British period onwards (FIGS 1-2). As was noted by Allen, the landscape is characterised at its southern and northern extremities by a pattern of small irregular fields, often fossilizing the meanderings of natural drainage channels (FIG. 2). This arrangement is typical of many of the reclaimed alluvial wetlands that fringe the Severn Estuary. The remainder of the Wentlooge Level is distinguished by a very different landscape, comprising regularly planned blocks of long, narrow, and generally straight-sided fields, quite unique among the wetlands of the Severn Estuary. At Rumney Great Wharf, north east of Cardiff, part of the latter field-system can be seen cut into a clay-peat shelf in the intertidal zone (see below), thus indicating a major episode of coastal retreat and the repositioning of the sea-wall across it; similar evidence from the intertidal zone can be recognised as far to the north-east as Peterstone Gout. An extensive spread of Romano-British pottery and primitive iron-making slag was associated locally with this field-system in the intertidal zone at Rumney Great Wharf, while survey of the adjacent mud cliff revealed at least one ditch, sealed by a buried palaeosol, which yielded stratified Roman material. Further erosion of the mud cliffrevealed more ditches with Romano-British material, as well as other indications of settlement, and prompted a programme of survey and excavation grant-aided by Cadw and the National Museum of Wales in the spring of 1992.



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1 Allen, J.R.L. and Fulford, M.G., Britannia xvii (1986), 91117.

2 See also Allen, J.R.L., Arch. Camb. cxxxvii (1988), 135–40.

3 Rippon, S., Landscape Evolution and Wetland Reclamation around the Severn Estuary, Unpub. Ph. D. thesis, Reading, 1993.

4 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 108-11.

5 ibid., 93-9.

6 Allen, J.R.L., Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 315 (1987), 165–7, fig. 3. Pl. 4. no. 2.

7 Boon, G.C., Archaeology in Wales xv (1975), 48–9.

8 Boon, G.C., ‘Caerleon and the Gwent Levels in early historic times’, in Thompson, F.H. (ed.), Archaeology and Coastal Change, Soc. Ant. London Occas. Paper (n.s.) i (1980), 25–6. Two coins in the National Museum of Wales have been identified by E. Besly: a sestertius of Antoninus Pius, possibly one of the ‘provincial’ series of A.D. 139 (worn), and Urbs Roma, Trier, A.D. 330-335 (worn) (NMW Ace. Nos 61.1, 61.3).

9 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), fig. 6, B1.

10 Allen, op. cit. (note 6), 157-74.

11 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), fig. 6.

12 Parkhouse, J. and Parry, S., Archaeology in Wales xxix (1989), 38–9; J. Parkhouse and S. Parry, Rumney Alternative Feeding Grounds: an Archaeological Assessment, (1990), Test pit 108, figs 16 and 26.

13 ibid., 78-80.

14 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1); Allen, op. cit. (notes 2 and 6).

15 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), fig. 4.

16 ibid.

17 ibid.; Allen, op. cit. (note 6), fig. 3.

18 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 110-12; Allen, op. cit. (note 2).

19 Allen, op. cit. (note 6).

20 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), fig. 4, Feature D.

21 Respectively, Beta 61746, 61748, 61747.

22 Allen, op. cit. (note 6).

23 Beta 61749.

24 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 107, 112.

25 Allen, op. cit. (note 6).

26 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), fig. 5, Feature Bi (= B4, below).

27 Beta 62512.

28 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), fig. 4.

29 Allen, op. cit. (note 6), 162-3.

30 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), fig. 5, Ditch VII.

31 Beta 61751.

32 Respectively, Beta 61752 and 61753.

33 Beta 61750.

34 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), fig. 5, Feature BI.

35 Allen, op. cit. (note 6), 168-9.

36 Allen, J.R.L. and Fulford, M.G., Arch. Journ. cxlix (1992), 108.

37 Barnett, C., Stanley, P., Trett, R., and Webster, P.V., Arch. Journ. cxlvii (1990), 118–47; Vyner, B.E. and Evans, G.C., ‘Excavations of a Roman pottery kiln at Llanedeyrn, Cardiff’, in Boon, G.C. (ed.), Roman Sites, Monographs and Collections 1 (1978), 120–9.

38 cf. examples of similar form at Ilchester: P. Leach, Hchester. I. Excavations 1974-5 (1982), fig. 68, nos 71, 85, 88.

39 Allen, J.R.L. and Fulford, M.G., Antiq. Journ. lxvii (1987), 282–4.

40 Young, C.J., Oxfordshire Roman Pottery, BAR 43 (1977), M19, 240400.

41 J.P. Gillam, Types of Roman Coarse Pottery Vessels in Northern Britain (3rd edn, 1970), Type 227, 210-300; Gillam, J.P., Glasgow Arch. Journ. iv (1976), 70–2, early to mid-third century.

42 Gillam, op. cit. (note 41), (1973), Type 145, 230-300; (1976), 62-5, mid- to late third century.

43 Vyner and Evans, op. cit. (note 37), fig. 5, no. 15.

44 Webster, P.V. in Parkhouse, J., ‘Excavations at Biglis, South Glamorgan’, in Robinson, D.M. (ed.), Biglis, Caldicot and Llandough. Three Late Iron Age and Romano-British Sites in South-East Wales. Excavations 1977-79, BAR 188 (1988), fig. 15, nos 104 and 118–19.

45 Wheeler, R.E.M., Trans. Cardiff Nat. Soc. lv (1922), fig. 13, no. 39.

46 P.V. Webster in ‘Llandough: The rescue excavation of a multi-period site near Cardiff’, in Robinson, op. cit. (note 44), fig. 70, no. 21.

47 M.G. Jarrett and S. Wrathmell, Whitton: An Iron Age and Roman Farmstead in South Glamorgan (1981), fig. 53, no. 181; fig. 60, no. 473.

48 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 102-5.

49 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 36), 106-10.

50 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 104.

51 ibid., fig. 7, nos 13 and 15.

52 Webster, op. cit. (note 44), fig. 13, no. 96; fig. 16, no. 158; fig. 17, no. 213.

53 Webster, op. cit. (note 37).

54 idem.

55 Vyner and Evans, op. cit. (note 37).

56 cf. R.E.M. and Wheeler, T.V., Report on the Excavation of the Prehistoric, Roman, and Post-Roman Site at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, Rep. Res. Com. Soc. Ant. London IX (1932), 82 and fig. 16, nos 53-5, but particularly no. 55, of third-/fourth-century date; also Crummy, N., The Roman Small Finds from Excavations in Colchester 1971-9, Colchester Arch. Rep. 2 (1983), 4950, fig. 52, no. 1791, from a fourth-century grave.

57 M. Guido, The Glass Beads of the Prehistoric and Romano-British Periods in Britain and Ireland, Rep. Res. Com. Soc. Ant. London (1978), 95.

58 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 106-7.

59 H.C. Squirrell and R.A. Downing, Geology of the South Wales Coalfield. Part I. The Country around Newport (Mon.) (3rd edn, 1969); R.A. Waters and D.J.D. Lawrence, Geology of the South Wales Coalfield. Part III. The Country around Cardiff (3rd edn, 1987).

60 J. Boessneck, ‘Osteological differences between sheep (Ovis aries Linné) and goat (Capra hircus Linné), in D. Brothwell and E.S. Higgs (eds). Science and Archaeology (1969), 331-58; Payne, S., Journ. Arch. Science xii (1985), 139–47.

61 A. Grant, ‘The animal bones’, in B.W. Cunliffe, Excavations at Portchester Castle. I. Roman, Rep. Res. Com. Soc. Ant. London (1975), 377-83.

62 Driesch, A. von den and Boessneck, J., Kritische Anmerkungen zur Widerristhöhenberechnung aus Längenmaβen vor- und frühgeschichtlicher Tierknochen, Säugetierkundliche Mitteilungen XXII (1974), 325–48.

63 Noddle, B.A., Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. xlvii (1979), 5161.

64 R.A. Harcourt, ‘The animal bones’, in Wainwright, G.J., Gussage All Saints: An Iron Age Settlement in Dorset, Dept. Environment Arch. Rep. X (1979), 150–60.

65 S. Hillson, Teeth (1986).

66 S. Bököni, ‘Appendix A: Once more on the osteological differences of the horse, half-ass and the ass’, in L. Firouz, The Caspian Miniature Horse of Iran (1972), 12-23.

67 Levine, M.A., ‘The use of crown height measurements and eruption-wear sequences to age horse teeth’, in Wilson, B., Grigson, C. and Payne, S. (eds), Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites, BAR 109 (1982), 223–50.

68 L.R. Binford, Bones: Ancient Men and Modern Myths (1981); S. Payne and P.J. Munson, ‘Ruby and how many squirrels? The destruction of bones by dogs’, in N.R.J. Fieller, D.D. Gilbertson and N.G.A. Ralph, Palaeobiological Investigations: Research Design, Methods and Data Analysis, BAR (1985), 31-41.

69 Luff, R.M., A Zooarchaeological Study of the Roman North-western Provinces, BAR Int. Ser. 137 (1972); J. Maltby, Proc. Hampshire Fid Club & Arch. Soc., forthcoming; S. Hamilton-Dyer, ‘The animal bones’, in G. R. Burleigh, Baldock: the Excavation of a Roman and Pre-Roman Settlement (Upper Walls Common), V, The Settlement, forthcoming.

70 Luff, ibid.

71 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), Feature Bl.

72 A.G. Tansley, The British Islands and their Vegetation (4th edn, 1965), 821-4.

73 A.R. Clapham, T.G. Tutin, and D.M. Moore, Flora of the British Isles (3rd edn, 1987), 545-6.

74 ibid., 42.

75 J.S. Rodwell, British Plant Communities. Final Report of the National Vegetation Classification, forthcoming.

76 Silverside, A.J., A Phytosociological Survey of British Arable-weed and Related Communities, unpub. Ph.D., Durham, 1977.

77 Körber-Grohne, U., Geobotanische Untersuchungen auf der Feddersen Wierde, Band I (1967).

78 Figueiral, I., Britannia xxiii (1992), 189–90.

79 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 112.

80 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 102-6.

81 ibid., 112-13.

82 ibid., 114-16.

83 ibid., 107.

84 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (notes 36 and 38); Allen, J.R.L. and Fulford, M.G., Antiq. Journ. lxx (1990), 288326; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. cviii (1990), 1733.

85 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 38), 282-4, fig. 20.

86 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 101.

87 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 36).

88 Allen, op. cit. (note 6); Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 95.

89 D.M. Robinson, in Robinson, op. cit. (note 44), vii-xxiv; Rippon, op. cit. (note 3), 283-4.

90 Parkhouse and Parry, op. cit. (note 12).

91 e.g. Trial pits III and 105, ibid., 30-2; 53-4.

92 Allen and Fulford, op. cit. (note 1), 113-16.


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