Reconstruction of the site

Project Profile

Project Title :

Greatham Managed Realignment Scheme, Hartlepool, County Durham

Client :

Environment Agency

Type of Work :

Excavation and Community Outreach

Project Gallery 

Working through the winter   Barrows under excavation  
Prehistoric flint tools   The jet object  
Gav Robinson, the Greatham Project Officer, on hand to explain finds at the open day   Open day was held in Greatham Village Community Centre  


Greatham Managed Realignment Scheme

Life on the Fringe of a Prehistoric Marsh


Archaeological monitoring, carried out on behalf of the Environment Agency during a habitat creation and flood risk management scheme, has revealed previously unknown funerary and settlement evidence spanning several thousand years of activity (approximately 4000BC to 410AD).

The archaeologists toiled through snow, rain and hail, in one of the worst winters recorded in living memory, to recover evidence relating to human activity along the fringe of the prehistoric marshes. The discoveries recorded are significant because they are the first such remains to be found adjacent to the salt marsh on the north bank of the Tees estuary. Once the evidence is fully analysed it will add to the growing picture of life during prehistory in the region, and how this changed with the arrival of the Romans in the 1st century AD.

An open day held in Greatham Village Community Centre on the 14th of March 2013 gave local residents an opportunity to find out what had been discovered on their doorstep. The displays included visual reconstructions based on the excavations, finds from the site and photographs taken during the groundworks. Over 150 people attended including children, residents, professionals, budding archaeologists and representatives of local schools, press and local government.

The main findings during the excavation included early settlement activity in the form of flint tools, pottery and domestic waste, along with pits, postholes and a possible structure. The ploughed-out remains of a small Bronze Age (2,300BC - 700AD) double burial monument (round barrow) was also uncovered as well as a circular structure (roundhouse) from which a piece of an unusual jet object, pottery and metal-working waste was recovered. Part of a small settlement with evidence of crop processing and metal-working was recorded in another area. A small number of pottery fragments recovered from this area suggested that the settlement may have been Iron Age (700BC - 43 AD) in date. This settlement seemed to be contemporary with a long sinuous boundary feature, formed by ditches, which was probably the associated remains of a bank, forming part of a field system. Over time the Iron Age settlement expanded in size, the ditches enclosing it being re-dug to define a larger and larger area and the system of surrounding fields becoming more ordered. The settlement was still in existence during the Roman period (43AD - 410AD) when small-scale clay extraction was taking place and the inhabitants were using mortaria and samian pottery.

The excavation work has been completed and the process of post-excavation analysis has just begun. The artefacts recovered have been sent around the country for specialist analysis. The results of this analysis, including radiocarbon dating of selected charred material, will help in piecing together the story of prehistoric life on the fringes of the salt marshes of Greatham.