An Iron Age Ditched Enclosure System at Limes Farm, Landbeach, Cambridgeshire

Article excerpt

Landbeach is a parish on the southern edge of the East Anglian Fenland -- an area densely occupied in the Iron Age and Roman periods (Hall 1996: figure 67). The site at Limes Farm is situated on West Water second terrace river gravels at approximately 5.4 m above ordnance datum. On grounds of location, morphology and complexity, the site would be dated to the `maybe Iron Age but probably Roman' period, as indeed it was by Frere & St Joseph (1983: 207-8) who chose it as an example of `villages and native settlement sites'. Surface finds were of Roman date (Hall 1996: gazetteer).

Features at Limes Farm were photographed in six different years between 1962 and 1980 by Cambridge University Committee for Aerial Photography, and by Air Photo Services in 1990. The site spreads across several fields and is not always wholly visible on any single date. 1976 (FIGURE 1) was an exception. These aerial photographs were used for 1:2500 scale interpretation and mapping (FIGURE 2) prior to sampling the 25-ha site to evaluate the survival of sub-surface features for County Farm management policy. Field investigation during August and September 1999 was as a training excavation under the direction of Cambridgeshire County Council Archaeological Field Unit.


Crop cover allowed access only to the northern part of the site in which 18 trenches were opened by machine (FIGURE 2), with two extended to form small areas. Trenches 1, 2, 3, 10 and 11 received detailed investigation: remaining trenches were described and planned, but were not excavated.

The site was characterized by features representing timber structures, pits and intercutting ditches. Characteristically Middle Iron Age pottery was recovered from most feature types in trenches 1 and 2; a small component of `Belgic' and Roman pottery was recovered from features in trenches 10 and 11. The earliest phase of activity in trenches 1 and 2 included a complex sequence of ditches, which provided little direct dating evidence. However, these ditches were stratigraphically earlier than a Middle Iron Age occupation phase. Primary filling of these ditches appears to have been natural silts derived from the sides of the ditches. The final fills contained occupation debris including pottery, animal bones and evidence for spinning and weaving. An articulated juvenile pig burial, and deliberate deposition of cow skulls was also associated with this latest ditch-filling phase.

A Middle Iron Age occupation phase is indicated by the presence of at least one timber building, possibly associated with several pits containing general rubbish including large pieces of unabraded pottery and animal bones. …