12th August 2014:
The Dorchester Project training excavation, which is a collaboration between Oxford Archaeology, Dorchester Abbey Museum, the University of Oxford, and the people of Dorchester-on-Thames, ran throughout July 2014 in the allotments in the south-west quarter of the Oxfordshire village. As the broad sequence of development of this site, located close to the centre of the Roman 'small town', becomes clearer, some puzzling characteristics are increasingly evident.
Early Roman features are present, but not enough of these have yet been seen for their character to be clear, so it is uncertain if any relate to a postulated early Roman fort perhaps underlying the later town. All the early features were sealed beneath a deep layer of clayey loam, which suggests a fairly low level of activity in the later 1st century AD.
The earliest gravel surface of the main north-south Roman road at the east end of the site was laid on top of this deposit. The relatively late date for the road is surprising, as is the apparent lack of any evidence for street frontage buildings in what should have been a prime location. The clearest structural evidence lies in an enclosure set back some 20m west of the road. A well within the enclosure produced no waterlogged environmental evidence, but the fills included a complete small pottery beaker, perhaps deposited deliberately, of mid-late 2nd century date.
In the later Roman period the area between the building enclosure and the road seems to have remained an open space. The latest of the three road surfaces overlay a coin dated AD 388-402, so it is associated with the abundant evidence for very late-Roman activity examined in previous seasons. One element of this activity is a pair of ditches aligned perpendicular to the road at the northern margin of the site, one of which now appears to have cut the road.
The excavation involved a team of about 30 students and staff, many from Oxford University's Institute of Archaeology.