Digging the large pit
Roman coin

Preparing the basket for lifting

Project: Berryfields Major Development Area (MDA), Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Client: MDA Consortium

Status: Archaeological evaluation in 2001, fieldwork ongoing from 2008

The site is located in an area steeped in the remains of the past. Akeman Street, the Roman road that links London and Cirencester via St Albans, runs along the southern edge of the site, while a Roman roadside settlement or ‘small town’ is located about 1km west at Fleet Marston. Extensive earthworks of a deserted medieval settlement at Quarrendon lie to the north-east of the development area.

Prehistoric remains were uncovered in 2007/8 to the north of the A41 in the western part of the MDA. An Iron Age settlement defined by enclosures, pits, hearths, a trackway, and at least three roundhouses was recorded. Roman field systems, pits and a so-called ladder settlement were detected east of the prehistoric by a geophysical survey in 1999, and investigated subsequently in various stages of fieldwork.

Development on the MDA included the construction of Aylesbury Vale Parkway, a railway station and park-and-ride facility, south of the A41. As with other parts of the MDA, this required an archaeological investigation, and a team from Oxford Archaeology set to work in 2007 and 2008. The earliest features here dated to the early Roman period (c AD 43-100). Ditches in the southern corner of the excavation area marked out an enclosure likely to belong to a more extensive field system.

Excavation in 2011 north and south of Akeman Street uncovered further evidence of Roman fields and enclosures. These were aligned with the road, and also shared orientation with the field ditches in the Parkway site and in areas north of the A41. More settlement evidence was recorded, with the pottery suggesting a mid and late Roman date (c AD 150-400) for occupation.

The most spectacular finds of the 2011 fieldwork were recovered from a large pit on the edge of he Roman road. Wet muddy layers in the pit provided the perfect conditions for the preservation of organic objects, which included worked and unworked timber, leather fragments, a woven basket or tray, and three complete eggs.

The Berryfields MDA continued to be used for farming after the Roman period; medieval ridge-and-furrow extended across all areas of excavation.

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