Project Profile

Project Title :

Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire

Client :

Aldi Stores Ltd

Type of Work :

Excavation, post-excavation analysis

Project Gallery 

Decorated cremation urn   Oval gully - probably barrow - under excavation  
Excavation of a quern from one of the Romano-British ditches   Romano-British corn-drier under excavation  
Romano-British rock-cut ditches under excavation   Post medieval pottery kiln  


Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire

A Hidden Landscape: Bronze Age burials and Romano-British settlement at Goldthorpe in South Yorkshire

In early 2013 NAA excavated a multi-period site just south-west of Goldthorpe village, South Yorkshire, exposing a range of features dating from the Bronze Age through to the post-medieval period. Principal features included the remains of a Bronze Age burial cairn and associated cremations; an extensive Romano-British field system; two corn-driers; numerous dispersed pits, and a post-medieval kiln. The excavation was undertaken in advance of the development of a new Aldi distribution centre located just to the west of Goldthorpe Industrial Estate.

The site forms part of a wider landscape of known late Iron Age/Romano-British settlement enclosures and field systems, including the nearby sites at Holly Grove (0.5km north) and Thurnscoe (1.6km north). At Holly Grove Farm, two enclosures, a droveway and field boundary ditches have all been identified, some of which appeared to lead south, across the A635 toward the Goldthorpe Industrial Estate and may form part of the field system identified during the recent excavation.

A number of archaeological features were identified extending across the whole site, many of which had registered during an earlier phase of geophysical survey undertaken in 2011. The clearest responses appear to represent a field system comprising four principal ditches, orientated north-east to south-west and north-west to south-east; preliminary examinations of the artefactual assemblage suggests these, and associated features, are probably Romano-British in date.

The earliest features identified were Bronze-Age in date and located in the south-western part of the site. In this area, two cremations were excavated, one of which contained a primary cremation deposit overlain by a secondary urn cremation. A collection of large stones pressed into a naturally occurring band of sand may suggest an overlying cairn associated with the burial. This assumption is further support by the fact that one of the principal Romano-British ditches has been diverted around a pre-existing feature in the landscape. A collection of large stones located to the south-east may be further evidence of the cairn, subsequently destroyed by later ploughing.

A number of shallow pits, truncated by later boundary ditches, were also uncovered. These evidently pre-dated the phase of Romano-British land enclosure but no dateable finds were recovered from the fills. Two pit groups were identified as numerous dispersed pits but only three contained dateable material, comprising three sherds of early prehistoric pottery, a flint flake and core, a fragment of flint, burnt bone, slag, a fragment of blue glass and a sherd of medieval pottery.

An undated oval gully was excavated at the north-western limit of the site. There was no break in the circuit of this feature which would have suggested an entrance, indicating that this may be the remains of another barrow or similar monument rather than a structure. A sinuous gully and a number of pits were identified adjacent to the oval gully and may have been associated with it.

The Romano-British field system was formed by four principal ditches with some evidence of re-cutting. Finds recovered from these comprised a prehistoric flint blade, Iron Age / Romano-British pottery, burnt bone and a sherd of medieval / post-medieval pottery. The areas delimited by the principal ditches were further sub-divided into fields of varying dimensions by a series of smaller ditches, which generally ran parallel and perpendicular to the larger ditches. Dateable artefacts recovered from the fills of these ditches indicated that the whole field system formed part of a single phase.

A corner enclosure, possibly a stock corral, was identified within the north-eastern corner of the site, formed by two of the principal ditches. The enclosure was delimited by two concentric curvilinear ditches, which enclosed areas with a radius of approximately 16m and 28m respectively. The outer ditch was discontinuous and a large pivot stone, which would have supported a substantial door or gate, was recovered from the fill of the ditch terminal. It appeared that there had been some re-cutting of the ditches immediately surrounding the enclosure, indicating the importance of maintaining the boundary in this area. Six large shallow pits were cut into the upper surface of this deposit, indicating a secondary phase of use.
Approximately 15m north of the corner enclosure, a rectilinear enclosure was identified appended to one of the principal ditches. The enclosure ditches were generally V-shaped in profile with a flat base, and may have formed the support for a fence-line. No finds were recovered from the fills of the ditches and no features were identified within the enclosed area to provide any indication of function.

Situated in the north-eastern corner of one of the Romano-British fields was a corn-drier. One of the chambers featured evidence of intense in situ burning and the primary fills of both contained a large quantity of charcoal. Another two-chambered pit was found in the north-west corner of the adjacent field, thought to be associated with a second corn-drier. Both features are believed to be Romano-British in date.

Later features identified included a circular kiln, situated towards the eastern edge of the development area. The kiln had a flue extending from the south-eastern side which was filled by several ashy burnt deposits and had been subjected to high temperatures, the lower levels of the sides were vitrified and the surrounding natural sandstone had been reddened by heat. A single sherd of post-medieval pottery was recovered from one of the lower fills of the kiln, which indicated the date of the feature. Medieval or post-medieval ridge and furrow cultivation survived across the full extent of the stripped area, and a post-medieval field boundary was also identified.

Further analysis of the recovered artefacts, together with targeted radio carbon dating, will hopefully refine the dating and phasing of the features uncovered during the excavation. It is also expected that scientific examination of the environmental samples collected during this phase of work will shed further light on the function of many of the features and provide information on the type of crops being processed in this area during the Roman-British period.