Interim Report 2013 – Finds

This Interim Report will soon be available as a PDF on the Hampshire County Council website for Basing House.

The authors are:

David Allen
Gareth Beale
Nicole Beale
Chris Elmer
Jude Jones
Kristian Strutt
Clare Allen
Daniel Jones

There are three posts that make up this report. The post below describes the excavation and recording methodology and outlines the research question for the dig for 2013. Two further posts describe the finds and also the geophysical survey that was started in Spring 2013 and which continued through the Summer of 2013. 

Part 2 – Finds

— By Jude Jones

In terms of finds this year’s excavations have revealed a variety of material, much of which was discovered in the partial infill of the AAS box trenches and was therefore residual. However once the old spoil had been removed the excavation of the baulks between the 1960’s boxes allowed a more rigorous investigation of their stratified contents which has helped to confirm the conclusions drawn by Combley, Notman and Pike in their 1964 report.

Prehistoric material found below the Roman levels was mainly represented by Iron Age ceramics. The majority of sherds were remarkably homogeneous, being fragments of  small to medium sized domestic and cooking vessels whose fabric was heavily tempered with roughly ground flint inclusions, identified by Bryony Lalor as similar to Late Pre-Roman Iron Age pottery found recently at Silchester. Several sherds retained internal cooking residue and external sooting. A few lithics were recovered, mainly flint flakes and worked cores. These largely derived from the 1960s spoil which has naturally decontextualised them.  However there were also two recognisable flint scrapers, one of which was plainly retouched.

The Roman finds were chiefly from ceramic vessels and the assemblage included the ceramic building materials already discussed. The domestic ware which emerged from the baulks was remarkably wide ranging in period and included fragments of Samian or terra rubra, black-burnished ware, some Alice Holt sherds, some Oxfordware and a number of fineware beaker sherds decorated with rouletting, encompassing a period from the early 2nd – 4th centuries AD. The earlier Samian pieces were heavily abraded, the later coarse and fineware sherds less so, the whole assemblage suggesting a great deal of continuity of occupation over the Roman period, especially if the earlier sherds were contained in an external working layer covering the burnt flint metalled surface laid down over the pre-Roman levels.  A few fragments of glass were also recovered amongst which was a sliver of window glass and two sherds of blue vessel glass. A yellow ring-shaped glass bead was also found but although this emerged from one of the baulk areas it was found in a bucket of spoil and so cannot be securely dated as Roman.

The baulks however yielded four bronze Roman coins. Two were very small (possibly minimi) and were remarkably fragile, the larger of the two, however, bearing the profile of a head facing right wearing a crested helmet. It remains unidentified presently. The other two coins have been identified by Christina Triantafillou of the University of Southampton. The earlier emerged from the flint-filled post-hole mentioned above and was a coin of Probus (AD 276-282) minted at Lugdunum, Gaul. Its obverse shows the emperor’s cuirassed bust facing right wearing a radiate diadem. On the reverse is the figure of Providentia standing to the left, holding a globe and cornucopia. The second is a larger coin of Gratian (AD 367-375) minted at Arles, Gaul with the inscription DN GRATIANUS AVGG AVG and the emperor’s draped and cuirassed bust facing right and wearing a pearl diadem (Roman Imperial Coinage, Arles 15 Type xiib). On the reverse is the figure of the emperor standing facing with his head to the left, holding a labarum (a military standard which incorporates the symbol of the Chi-Ro) in his right hand and resting his left hand on a shield. This is accompanied by the inscription GLORIA NOVI SAECULI. (RIC 46 AE Antoninianus). Both coins are in good condition.

Notably there appear as yet to be no medieval material whatsoever and finds from the early modern period mainly consist of large quantities of fragmentary demolition brick and stone work and some decorated fragments from high status terracotta architectural mouldings, presumably once adhering to the Old House buildings. Owing to the nature of the already excavated site it is not clear exactly how and when this material was originally deposited but it has been found intermixed with a number of fragile metal objects, many of which appear to be artefact or building fittings, such as a set of heavy-duty iron staples possibly serving as door hinges for a service or agricultural building. A barbless iron arrow-head was amongst these finds which may have come from a cross-bow bolt or possibly from a hunting arrow.  From the Civil War period seven musket balls were found. All were of lead except for one fashioned from lighter metal. This and another were of a smaller gauge, possibly made for pistols and all were round and undamaged, having either been dropped intact or fired as missiles which missed their targets.

Later ceramic material found in the spoil and the baulks consisted of sherds of 19th and 20th century glazed wares which included fragments of 19th century creamware, blue and white transfer decorated vessels and sherds from a number of 20th century glazed crockery items. The most recent ceramic material found in the spoil consisted of a fragmented straight-sided sugar or flour kitchen jar of blue and white striped Cornish ware and the modern replica 17th century decorated and inscribed slipware mug already discussed. Both vessels lay amongst picnic and other debris from the immediate past at the top of the infilling spoil. Much was briefly retained, processed and recorded as a teaching aid for the Southampton archaeology students who discovered this material. The temporary curation of such items was a demonstration of how the recent presence of tourists, visitors and re-enactment groups such as the Sealed Knot , all of whom had left this detritus, formed part of the long and continuing archaeology of the site.

The most complete and easily analysed assemblage is the Roman material which suggests considerable and lengthy occupation and the undoubted existence of a developed Roman domestic building in the area. The emergence of so much homogeneous LPRIA flint-tempered pottery also argues for some continuity of occupation by an Iron Age community prior to Roman or Romano-British development of the site. The conclusions to be drawn from the more securely dated baulk finds therefore can be said to back up the 1960s AAS archaeological findings.

Read the previous post of this Interim Report:

— Introduction and Recording Methodology

Read the next post of this Interim Report:

— Geophysical Survey

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