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Beccles Triple Post Alignment, Beccles Marshes, Suffolk: Excavation and Palaeoenvironmental Analyses of an Iron Age Wetland Site

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2013

Benjamin R. Gearey
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT.
Henry P. Chapman
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT.
Andrew J. Howard
Affiliation:
Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT.
Kristina Krawiec
Affiliation:
15 Pendrell House, New Compton Street, London
Michael Bamforth
Affiliation:
L-P. Archaeology, The Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL
William G. Fletcher
Affiliation:
English Heritage, Brooklands, 24 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge, CB2 8BU
Thomas C.B. Hill
Affiliation:
Bath Spa University, Newtown Park, Bath, BA2 9BN
Peter Marshall
Affiliation:
Chronologies, 25 Onslow Road, Sheffield, S11 7AF
Emma Tetlow
Affiliation:
Headland Archaeology, 13 Jane Street, Edinburgh, EH6 5HE
Ian Tyers
Affiliation:
Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd, 65 Crimcar Drive, Sheffield S10 4EF
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

This paper describes the results of two seasons of excavation and associated palaeoenvironmental analyses of a wetland site on Beccles Marshes, Beccles, Suffolk. The site has been identified as a triple post alignment of oak timbers (0.6–2.0 m long), over 100 m in length, and 3–4 m wide, running north-west to south-east towards the River Waveney. It was constructed in a single phase which has been dated dendrochronologically to 75 BC, although discrete brushwood features identified as possible short trackways have been dated by radiocarbon to both before and after the alignment was built. It is unclear if the posts ever supported a superstructure but notches (‘halving lap joints’) in some of the posts appear to have held timbers to support the posts and/or aid in their insertion. In addition, fragments of both Iron Age and Romano-British pottery were recovered. A substantial assemblage of worked wooden remains appears to reflect the construction of the post row itself and perhaps the on-site clearance of floodplain vegetation. This assemblage also contains waste material derived from the reduction splitting of timbers larger than the posts of the alignment, but which have not been recovered from the site. Environmental analyses indicate that the current landscape context of the site with respect to the River Waveney is probably similar to that which pertained in prehistory. The coleoptera (beetle) record illustrates a series of changes in the on-site vegetation in the period before, during and after the main phase of human activity which may be related to a range of factors including floodplain hydrology and anthropogenic utilisation of Beccles Marshes. The possible form and function of the site is discussed in relation to the later prehistoric period in Suffolk.

Résumé

On a effectué deux saisons de fouilles et les analyses paléo-environnementales associées du site marécageux de Beccles, Beccles Marshes, Suffolk. On a identifié le site comme un triple alignement de poteaux de chêne (0,6–2 m de long) sur une longueur de 100m. et une largeur de 3–4 m, orienté du nord-ouest au sud-est en direction de la rivière Waveney. La construction avait été effectuée en une seule phase dont la datation dendrochronologique indiquait 75 av.J.-C., bien que des traits de broussailles peu visibles identifiés comme peut-être de courtes traces de chemin ont donné des dates au C14 aussi bien antérieures que postérieures à la construction de l'alignement. Il n'est pas certain que les poteaux aient jamais soutenu une superstructure mais des entailles (‘assemblage à.demi-bois’) dans certains des poteaux semblent avoir maintenu des bois d'oeuvre pour soutenir les poteaux et/ou aider à leur insertion. En plus, on a recouvré des fragments de poterie à la fois de l'âge du fer et de la période romano-britannique. Un substantiel assemblage de restes de bois travaillés semble refléter la construction de la rangée de poteaux elle-même et peut-être le défrichage sur le site de la végétation de plaine inondable. Cet assemblage contient aussi du matériel rejeté provenant du fait qu'on avait fendu pour les réduire des bois plus gros que les poteaux de l'alignement mais qui n'ont pas été retrouvés sur le site. Des analyses environnementales indiquent que le contexte du paysage actuel du site, en ce qui concerne la rivière Waveney, ressemble probablement à celui qui s'appliquait à la préhistoire. Le répertoriage des coléoptères illustre une série de changements dans la végétation du site, aussi bien dans les périodes avant, pendant et après la principale phase d'activité humaine, qui pourraient avoir un lien avec certains facteurs y compris l'hydrologie de la plaine inondable et l'utilisation anthropogénique des marais de Beccles On discute de la possible forme et de la fonction du site dans le cadre de la préhistoire tardive du Suffolk.

Zussamenfassung

Zwei Kampagnen mit Grabungen und zugehörigen Paläoumweltanalysen wurden durchgeführt auf einem Feuchtbodenfundplatz in den Beccles Marshes, Beccles, Suffolk. Es konnte eine dreifache Pfostenreihe beobachtet werden, die aus Eichenstämmen von 0,60 m bis 2 m Höhe bestand, über 100 m lang und 3 bis 4 m breit war und von Nordwest nach Südost in Richtung des Flusses Waveney verlief. Sie wurde in einer einzigen Bauphase errichtet, die dendrochronologisch auf 75 v. Chr. datiert werden konnte, obwohl separate Lagen von Reisig, die als mögliche kurze Holzpfade angesprochen werden, anhand von C14-Daten auf die Zeit sowohl vor als auch nach Errichtung der Pfostenreihen datiert werden. Es ist unklar, ob die Pfosten je einen Oberbau trugen, doch Aussparungen in manchen Pfosten scheinen Holzbalken gehalten zu haben, die die Pfosten stützten, und/oder bei ihrer Einsetzung geholfen haben. Zudem wurden Fragmente von sowohl eisenzeitlicher als auch romano-britischer Keramik gefunden. Ein umfangreiches Ensemble von Resten von bearbeitetem Holz scheint auf die Errichtung der Pfostenreihen selbst zurückzuführen zu sein wie auch eventuell auf die Rodung der Auenvegetation. Dieses Ensemble umfasst auch Abfallmaterial, das von der Überarbeitung von Bauhölzern stammt, die größer waren als die Pfosten der Reihen, die jedoch nicht auf dem Fundplatz entdeckt wurden. Umweltanalysen deuten an, dass die heutige Landschaft im Umfeld des Flusses Waveney wohl jener der prähistorischen Epoche ähnelt, in der das Monument errichtet wurde. Die Koleopterologie (käferkundliche Untersuchung) bildet eine Reihe von Veränderungen der Vegetation am Fundort ab, die aus der Zeit vor, während und nach der Hauptphase menschlicher Aktivität stammen, und die mit einer Reihe von Faktoren in Beziehung stehen dürften, einschließlich der Auenhydrologie und der anthropogenen Nutzung der Beccles Marschen. Die mögliche Form und Funktion des Monuments wird diskutiert in Bezug auf die jüngere Vorgeschichte Suffolks.

Resumen

Se han desarrollado dos temporadas de excavación y análisis paleo-medioambiental de un yacimiento en zona húmeda en Beccles Marshes, Beccles, Suffolk. El yacimiento ha sido identificado como una triple alineación de postes de roble (de 0.6–2.0 m de largo) de una longitud de más de 100 m y una anchura de 3–4 m, en dirección noroeste a sureste hacia el rio Waveney. Fue construido en una sola fase que ha sido datada dendrocronológicamente al año 75 a.C., aunque unos elementos aislados de maleza – identificados como posibles caminos cortos – han producido dataciones al carbono-14 correspondientes tanto a antes como después de la construcción de la alineación. No está claro si los postes sostuvieron una superestructura en algún momento, pero los cortes (‘ensambles a media madera’) en algunos de los postes parecen indicar haber sido hechos para albergar vigas que sostenían los postes y/o facilitaron su inserción. Además, se recuperaron fragmentos de cerámica tanto de la Edad del Hierro como de tipo romano-británico. Un numeroso conjunto de restos en madera trabajada parece reflejar la construcción de la línea de postes misma y quizás el desbrozo de la vegetación de la planicie aluvial. Este conjunto también contiene material de desecho procedente de la reducción por hendimiento de vigas más grandes que los postes de la alineación, pero que no han sido halladas en el yacimiento. Los análisis medioambientales indican que el contexto del paisaje actual del yacimiento con respecto al rio Waveney es probablemente similar al que se dio en la prehistoria. El registro de coleóptera ilustra una serie de cambios en la vegetación local en el periodo antes, durante y después de la principal fase de actividad humana que puede haber estado relacionado con una variedad de factores, desde la hidrología de la planicie aluvial, a la utilización antropogénica de Beccles Marshes. Se discute la posible forma y función del yacimiento en relación a la tarda prehistoria de Suffolk.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 2011

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Beccles Triple Post Alignment, Beccles Marshes, Suffolk: Excavation and Palaeoenvironmental Analyses of an Iron Age Wetland Site
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