East Coast Pipeline

Project Profile

Project Title :

East Coast Pipeline

Client :

Yorkshire Water Services Ltd

Type of Work :

Desk-Based Assessment, Geophysical survey, Fieldwalking, Excavation, Watching brief and post- excavation analysis

Project Gallery 

A section of Argham Dyke   Ring-gullies recorded within Field 2  
A round barrow recorded within Field 13   A crushed Beaker associated with the complex burial monument  
Worked flint and a stone battleaxe found within a cremation urn   A burial discovered close to an Iron Age or Romano-British trackway  


East Coast Pipeline, North Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire

Landscapes of change

The archaeological investigations associated with the construction of the new East Coast Pipeline have provided a unique opportunity to study a continuous transect across two very different landscape areas - the Yorkshire Wolds and the Vale of Pickering wetlands. Although previous excavations have examined small areas of each landscape, this is the first time that such work has been able to investigate the full width of the Wolds from the southern foot at Haisthorpe to its northern scarp at Flixton. The data recorded will not only allow analysis of changes in human activity through time, but also between sites of equivalent date within different landscape areas. Analysis of this data will add greatly to our understanding of the past within this part of eastern Yorkshire, as well as inform wider regional and national research topics.

There were five elements to the investigations, each of which added to the archaeological jigsaw. After a Desk-Based Assessment had suggested minor route re-alignments to avoid nationally-important archaeological sites, a campaign of fieldwalking over recently ploughed fields was accompanied by geophysical survey. These three methods indicated several areas of archaeological significance, where sub-surface remains would need to be investigated in advance of groundworks. The removal of topsoil from the remainder of the pipeline easement was also monitored and any archaeological remains were investigated and recorded.

The excavations revealed a landscape rich in archaeological remains dating from the Neolithic to medieval and post-medieval periods. These remains included Neolithic pits containing possibly ritually deposited flint, pottery and human bone; prehistoric round barrows, boundary systems and possible structural remains; Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano-British pits and burials; Iron Age and Romano-British settlements, enclosures and elements of relict field-systems; a section of a Roman road; traces of Anglo-Saxon settlement; probable Anglo-Saxon burials and activity related to a former medieval village. One of the more complex burial monuments spanned the later Neolithic to the Anglo-Saxon periods and included three burials and two cremations, one of which contained a Bronze Age polished stone battleaxe. An unusual structure, possibly a late Roman-period sunken-floored building, was recorded close to similarly dated settlement evidence. The form of the structure was akin to early medieval buildings known throughout the UK and Europe, but a radiocarbon date suggested that the feature may be somewhat earlier in date, with few parallels in the UK. It is hoped that further radiocarbon dating and analysis will explain the unusually early date for this structure.

One of the most significant areas of archaeology was associated with a multi-period settlement at Caythorpe in the Great Wold Valley. The archaeological evidence recorded within this area demonstrated activity in the earlier prehistoric period, followed by later prehistoric and Romano-British occupation. The majority of the features were probably of Anglo-Saxon date and suggested an extensive multi-phased settlement existed in this area.

A wealth of artefactual and biological evidence was also recovered from the Caythorpe site including Anglo-Saxon, Roman and as yet unidentified handmade pottery. Other finds included: bone combs, a late 7th to mid-8th century porcupine sceat, primary smithing waste, three keys, possible textile working tools, knives, buckles, a strap end, a brooch, pins, various fragments of metal off-cuts, glass vessel sherds, and a single polychrome bead found in association with a possible early Christian burial.

The pottery recovered included six previously unrecorded fabrics and this material, in conjunction with the larger assemblage of other handmade pottery recovered, has the potential to aid the refinement of the dating and typology of such ceramics in the East Yorkshire region, and perhaps beyond. The large assemblages of animal bone and charred botanical remains recovered during the Caythorpe excavations represent an important opportunity to examine changes in the local economy and land use from during the Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods.

At this early stage of the post-excavation process the dating of most of the recorded archaeological remains is broad and imprecise, being heavily reliant on spot-dating of selected pottery sherds and other diagnostic artefacts. The next stage of work will include detailed scientific analysis upon selected aspects of the recovered material and radiocarbon dating of appropriate contexts. These analyses will be instrumental in bringing the separate lines of evidence together into a comprehensive publication which should add much new information regarding prehistoric and later activity in the region.