OA South was at Graven Hill, near Bicester in Oxfordshire towards the end of 2016 and in 2017 to carry out an excavation for the Graven Hill Village Development Company (part of Cherwell District Council) in advance of the UK’s largest self-build development.
The results were somewhat low-key to begin with. The team uncovered a Roman field system in use during the 2nd century AD, which, though not particular remarkable, adds to our growing knowledge of the Roman landscape in the Bicester area. This field system was probably associated with a contemporary Roman structure with evidence of opus signinum floors identified some 500m away during an earlier evaluation. Further excavation uncovered evidence for a late Iron Age settlement characterised by, among other features, ditches, pits, postholes and enclosures.
More spectacular, and rather unexpected, was the discovery of the remains of a deserted medieval village. Investigation along a road corridor revealed at least four medieval buildings with shallow stone foundations and stone and earth floor levels. One building is terraced, with a raised platform to one side and a stepped foundation or wall that stands several courses high. Another building is circular and of uncertain function, though environmental samples taken from this and other features may provide clues as to the use of this and other buildings. Among the finds are a copper finger ring, a decorated floor tile, and plenty of domestic pottery dating to the 12th and 14th centuries.
Excavation has moved onto another Iron Age site on the higher slopes of Graven Hill. Post-excavation analysis will commence once fieldwork has been completed, and this will doubtless reveal further secrets of this multi-period site.