Archaeological excavations have provided a fascinating insight into Evesham’s past with the discovery of remains and artefacts more than a thousand years older than expected.
A team of archaeologists from RSK uncovered archaeological features containing Bronze Age pottery and, most intriguingly, a burial vessel likely to have been associated with a prominent local figure, during their investigations on land off Offenham Road.
The dig took place before groundworks got underway on Redrow’s new development Maple Gardens but details have just been released to coincide with May being Local and Community History Month.
An initial survey of the land in 2013 indicated its use as an orchard in the 20th century, before further investigations suggested the site could contain part of a much earlier Iron Age or Roman field system.
It wasn’t until the local planning authority’s archaeological advisor requested a survey of a larger area of land that the pottery and burial vessel, seeming to originate from the Bronze Age – around 1,000 years earlier than first expected – were recovered.
Laurence Hayes, principal archaeologist for RSK who carried out the investigations on behalf of Redrow, explains:
“The starting point for our investigations was a geophysical survey carried out in 2013 which showed a series of linear anomalies thought to relate to its use as an orchard in the early 20th century. Trial trenches dug in 2015 established that they were deep ‘V’-shaped ditches, potentially part of a prehistoric or Roman field system. The ditches were tentatively dated to the Middle Iron Age on the basis of some very poorly preserved pottery in one of the ditches.”
“On widening our investigation to a larger area of land, the ditches were found to represent part of a track or drove way with surrounding fields. We recovered pottery from the ditches that appear to be more likely Bronze Age.”
“The really unexpected find was a ‘beaker’ burial. This large burial pit contained a near complete Early Bronze Age vessel known as a beaker, covered with intricate patterns, and a polished stone archer’s wrist guard. No other remains were uncovered due to the poor preservation qualities of the local soil and geology.”
Typically associated with high-status individuals, the wrist guard indicated the person buried was a male, and these burial practices form part of a European-wide cultural phenomenon in the late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age period (around 2,500-2,100 BC in Britain).
The grave would probably have been located beneath a burial mound which has long-since been ploughed away, but is likely to have been a standing monument in the landscape at the time the adjacent drove way and field system were in use. A cluster of pits next to the grave included another near complete, but badly damaged, Bronze Age vessel and a possible cooking pit.
“The findings corroborate local evidence for Bronze Age settlement on the gravel ridge above the River Avon.”
“Similar burial goods were recorded at Aldington in the 19th century, however the work funded by Redrow provides a first look at understanding the wider context of ritual activity, domestic and agricultural practices using modern archaeological techniques in this location.”
The beaker has been sent to the Birmingham Museums Trust for conservation. Other finds are with specialists and will be analysed as part of the post-excavation reporting process, which will include trying to establish more precisely the period of activity through radiocarbon dating and other scientific methods.
Ultimately the site archive will go to Museums Worcestershire, who have expressed an interest in putting the beaker and wrist guard on public display.
Pauline Turnbull, sales director for Redrow Homes (Midlands), said:
“The archaeological works carried out at our Maple Gardens site have uncovered a fascinating insight into the area’s past. It’s interesting to think that there were people living in this part of Evesham thousands of years ago.”
The first homes will soon be available to buy ‘off plan’ and prospective purchasers can register their interest via the website www.redrow.co.uk/developments/maple-gardens.