12th June 2018:
Archaeologists working for Bridgwater Gateway in Somerset have uncovered traces of settlement and ritual sites spanning c 2000 years
The development involved large-scale archaeological excavations, which were requested by South West Heritage during the planning process. A team of archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology worked closely with Bridgwater Gateway, the construction team and South West Heritage Trust to record extensive remains over a 4-month period.
The most unusual and important remains comprised a middle Bronze Age settlement from c 3500 years ago (c 1500-1100 BC). The remains consisted of a large oval ditched enclosure with a row of seven rectangular enclosures, which were lined along the brow of a low ridge overlooking the valley of the River Parret. The faint traces of two circular huts found within the oval enclosure and one of the rectangular ones suggest that they were dwellings, while the other enclosures were probably used for agricultural purposes.
Another exciting discovery is a Bronze Age cemetery, found 100m south of the settlement. This rare find for the south-west region consisted of c 60 cremation burials, tightly clustered on one side of a small 10m wide circular burial mound. Most of the burials contained only a handful of bone fragments but two had larger quantities of bone, which had been buried within pottery vessels.
Steve Membery from the South West Heritage Trust said: “This excavation is the largest investigation of a Bronze Age landscape to have taken place in Somerset, and has revealed significant archaeology that shows Bridgwater as a nexus in prehistory. This would have been because of the way in which the River Parrett links with the Severn Estuary, as rivers were effectively the motorways of periods such as the Bronze Age.”
Following a hiatus of several centuries, a new settlement was established in the later Iron Age, although not on exactly the same site. Three roundhouses were uncovered, along with a complex of overlapping field systems, showing numerous phases of reorganisation that extended throughout the later Iron Age and Roman period (c 400 BC-400 AD).
An exhibition, ‘Bronze Age Bridgwater’, was held earlier this month at Bridgwater Gateway, allowing the public to learn more about the site’s prehistoric past. The findings are currently being assessed back at Oxford Archaeology to determine their significance and what further analysis will be required before the results can be published. This is especially important, as the site has been cleared of archaeological remains.