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‘Most impressive’ archaeological site could ‘transform’ understanding of Roman era

One of the “most impressive” archaeological sites spanning different time periods has been discovered in Northamptonshire as part of the HS2 railway project – and has the potential to “transform our understanding” of the Roman landscape.

The site, named Blackgrounds after the soil found in the area, has been known to exist since the 18th century – but officials said the “high quality finds” and scale had exceeded all expectations.

A team of around 80 archaeologists have been excavating the site near Chipping Warden over the last year and found a village made up of 30 roundhouses.

Running through the site is an “exceptional” 10-metre-wide road which indicates how busy the area would have been with carts carrying goods.

Wealth likely to have been based on trade

Evidence from the dig shows the settlement continued to expand and became more prosperous during the Roman period, with new stone buildings and roads being built.

Archaeologists from MOLA Headland Infrastructure believe it is likely people continued to live at the site into the Roman era and adopted new building techniques.

More than 300 Roman coins have been recovered while it is thought the wealth of the settlement is likely to have been based on trade, both from the nearby River Cherwell and from the road.

Roman statues found at abandoned church

Discoveries have also included glass vessels, highly decorative pottery, jewellery and a substance involved in the use of make-up.

The team also found half a set of shackles, which they said may suggest the presence of either criminal activity or slave labour.

The layout of the site indicates the settlement was split into different areas with evidence being uncovered of workshops, kilns and several “beautifully preserved wells”.

Red colour of earth suggests burning activities

In one part of Blackgrounds, the earth was a fiery red colour to suggest activities involving burning, such as for bread-making or a pottery kiln.

James West, MOLA site manager, said: “This is certainly one of the most impressive sites MOLA Headland Infrastructure has discovered whilst working on the HS2 scheme.

“A particular highlight for me has been understanding the emerging story of Blackgrounds, which we now know spans multiple time periods.

“Uncovering such a well-preserved and large Roman road, as well as so many high quality finds, has been extraordinary and tells us so much about the people who lived here.

“The site really does have the potential to transform our understanding of the Roman landscape in the region and beyond.”

‘Unprecedented discoveries’

Mike Court, the lead archaeologist for HS2 Ltd, said: “As we near the end of our archaeological field work between London and Birmingham, we have made some unprecedented discoveries, which we will continue to share with communities near our works.”

He added the Blackgrounds site “has enabled us to provide a more in-depth understanding of what life was like” in the Iron and Roman Age.



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