Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Romans at Wattle Syke!

Romans at Wattle Syke! | This Is LS22

Iron Age and Roman Ancestors found at Wattle Syke

I recently attended a presentation arranged by the Boston Spa Archaeology and Heritage Group. The aim was to reveal the findings from recent excavations undertaken at Church Fields in Boston Spa and at Wattle Syke next to the A1/A659 junction between Boston Spa and Collingham.

Some post holes had been unearthed indicating habitation at the Church Fields site but radio carbon tests which would reveal their age had not yet been completed.

The excavation carried out at Wattle Syke by West Yorkshire Archaeological Services in 2007 had revealed a site of regional and national significance. Four major enclosures had been found with smaller enclosures attached. These enclosures “surrounded by 4m wide and 1.5m deep ditches” are known as “washing line” enclosures because they resemble clothes hanging from a line. The enclosures were the most visible element of the site which also included buildings, burials and over 45,000 other finds – mostly pottery shards, animal bones and burnt seeds.

Within the enclosures six round houses dating from the Late Iron Age/ early Roman period (400BC – 250AD) were identified. As the enclosure ditches were abandoned in the later Roman period (250AD – 420AD) the style of house construction changed. In all some fifteen sub-rectangular buildings of a “sunken” floor type previously unseen in West Yorkshire were found. In many cases these appeared to have been sited to take advantage of the protection provided by the remains of the former enclosure banks.

The later Roman buildings had flagged floors and hearths and some contained kilns for metal working. A significant number of disc querns used for grinding cereals were found suggesting that the settlement was supplying flour to the military at Newton Kyme and York. Certainly the abandonment of the site in the early 5th century coincides with the withdrawal of the legions that took place at that time.

In all 54 burials and 3 cremations were found. Of these 5 adult and 12 infant burials relate to the Iron Age. All 10 Early Roman burials were of infants. The infant burials were often found in the enclosure ditches – a practice which appears to have been common in that period. There were 27 Late Roman burials concentrated in the area of the sunken floored buildings. Most of the graves were rectangular and many were stone-lined.

It has been suggested that the Late Roman site might have been an outpost of a Villa but the only one to have been found in the area at Dalton Parlours was abandoned soon after 370AD and so predates the abandonment of Wattle Syke.

For further information the leaflet “Archaeological Investigations A1 Bramham to Wetherby Upgrading Scheme” can be obtained fromadmin@aswyas.com 

George Roe