We’re heading in for another season at East Park, but where did it all begin?
It’s the summer of 2003 and a new Time Team episode has just aired: ‘A View To A Kiln’. The crew spend three days unearthing the archaeology at East Park, Sedgefield. But, after several surprising discoveries and an ever-growing geophysics map, they leave the site with more questions.
Jump forward to 2019 and East Park remains a unique and wonderful Roman site. On the 17 June, DigVentures get the chance to jump into the archaeology. After three weeks, we’re confident we have enclosures filled with signs of wooden buildings, farming and definite signs of trade. It’s safe to say we have some sort of settlement, but what’s unusual about this site is that we’ve found no trace of fortification, something we’d expect from a Roman site in such close proximity to Rome’s British frontier.
So, what’s going on here?
There are a few theories: currently, we think this site could really be a native site. When the Romans came to Britain, they didn’t just bring an army. Their occupation of this land generated huge opportunities for the people of Britain to take advantage of their need for industry. This would be particularly important in this area, as large fortifications – like Hadrian’s wall – were full of soldiers in need of food, equipment and domestic items!
Evidence of metalworking found at the site supports this theory. Over last year we also uncovered lots of pottery, including Samian ware, Roman Grey Ware, amphorae handles, and even parts of a Nene Valley Hunting Cup depicting a hound chasing a hare. Which could be evidence for the production of ceramic goods!
The most unexpected find of last year was a cremation urn! After analysing this we determined it contained the remains of a middle aged to mature adult male. Cremation urns like this are pretty common in Roman contexts, but human remains of any kind can provide a wealth of knowledge about the demographics and lifestyle of a settlement.
What’s our plan this year?
Even with these great finds, there’s a lot we still don’t know about this site, so we can’t wait to get in there and piece together some more evidence. This year we’re digging a huge area, with mind to a map and date – whilst also looking into the relationships between features. We expect we’ll find some similar things this year, and the geophysics looks particularly packed with potential archaeology, so we have all our fingers crossed that we might find something even more spectacular! The big question remains the same: what were the enclosures were used for, and what can this tell us what the people here were doing, and how they lived?