30 Mar 2018

Houghton in Cambridgeshire. The Guardian has a story about archaeological finds during construction of a 21 mile stretch of the Huntingdon by-pass on the A14  (see www.theguardian.com/science/2018/mar/27/anglo-saxon-settlement-and-roman... ...). Beware - all Guardian online articles end by asking for a donation. Do not fall for this trick as they are serial tax avoiders using an offshore account. Like some other newspapers the Guardian has a good archaeology section. They don't tend to get excited about geology but seem to think archaeology is cultural - and therefore part of the arty farty agenda.

The medieval village of Houghton disappeared as a result of the Norman overlords creation of a royal hunting forest, we are told. This appears to be the angle favoured by the Guardian but as it disappeared in the 14th century AD, long after the Norman conquest, one is left wondering if they have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Was the old village abandoned as a result of the plague - the 14th century Black Death. People seem to have moved to a new settlement a mile or so up the road. Ignoring the forest or parkland creation theme we may note the site, albeit a lengthy one, is work still in progress. Some 200 archaeologists have been involved in the project along a 21 mile line of the new dual carraige-way and not only has the medieval village been unearthed (12th to 14th centuries) but Neolithic burial mounds and henges, trackways of indeterminate date, industrial sites such as kilns, and a Roman distribution centre. They also found an A/S period site with huge boundary ditches, a gated entrance, and a beacon on a hill overlooking the flat Cambridgeshire topography. Were beacons lit to warn residents of Houghton of approaching Viking raiding parties and invading armies? Finds include Neolithic stone tools, 7 tons of pottery, and 7000 small personal objects (such as a Roman jet pendant), and in the A/s period, a bone flute - and a well preserved wooden ladder C14 dated to 500BC (in the Iron Age). The excavation uncovered material over 6000 years, including the medieval village - which overlies the A/S period settlement (houses, workshops, and barns etc). Many of the sites appear to have been aligned along a lost stretch of Roman road (mostly now under the modern A1). Other sites cluster close to barrows and henges