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Sunday, 6 November 2011

Highways Agency unearths hidden past along the A46 in Nottinghamshire

HIGHWAYS AGENCY News Release issued by COI News Distribution Service on 25 August 2010

Archaeological remains dating back to the last Ice Age together with Iron Age and Roman settlements have been uncovered as part of a Highways Agency scheme to upgrade the A46 between Newark and Widmerpool.

Among the finds were ancient flint tools and flint knapping debris that date back to about 11,000 BC - this was around the end of the last Ice Age, when Stone Age hunter-gathers returned as the climate began to warm up.
Geoff Bethel, A46 Highways Agency project manager, said:

"As the A46 follows the route of the old Roman road, we expected to uncover a number of artefacts from Roman Britain and we were not disappointed; but to uncover such rare flint tools dating back to the end of the Ice Age was very exciting.
"We worked very closely with English Heritage, our contractor and the archaeology teams to make sure the road route design avoided the important areas of archaeology during construction."

The design for the A46 route ensured that the majority of the nationally important site of Margidunum Roman town, near Bingham, was avoided by the new road scheme.

Most evidence of such early people has been found in caves. The pieces of flint found at Farndon appear to show these people were making things out in the open, indicating the possibility of a temporary campsite.

The excavations also provided valuable insight into the Iron Age and Roman communities that used to live in the area. Evidence of an Iron Age settlement at Owthorpe Junction, just east of Cotgrave, was uncovered. Further north at Stragglethorpe junction, a 4,000 year old Neolithic circular monument was located, with eight Bronze Age burials.
The archaeological team uncovered part of the settlement that lined the road leading into the town. Finds included Roman timber buildings, rubbish pits, wells and track ways, as well as a number of burials, all dating back around two thousand years. The stone lining of one of the wells has already been donated to the local Bingham Heritage Trails Association.

Phil Harding, Stone Age expert and presenter of Channel 4's 'Time Team', worked on the excavations as a field archaeologist for Cotswold Wessex Archaeology. He said:

"Among the findings was a piece from a Neolithic axe made of greenstone, a type of stone from the Lake District. It was very distinctive, only a chip the size of a stamp, but exciting nonetheless. The stone was very good quality and very distinctive - you could tell a person's wealth or status by the number of axes he owned, or the flint it was made from."
"Overall, there were enough bits and pieces to suggest we have evidence of hunting people, gathering, camping, and visiting the confluence of two rivers right through to the time of the first farmers.

Neil Macnab, of Scott Wilson Ltd, principal archaeologist for the contractor Balfour Beatty, said:
"The exciting discovery was of the flint tools and tiny fragments of flint knapping debris, which show very primitive activity occurring in an open area by hunter gathers. To find this in an open area, rather than in a cave is what is unusual, and could mean that they stopped to make something while out on the move."

Jon Humble, English Heritage's regional Inspector of Ancient Monuments, said:

"The line of the A46 coincides with part of one of the most important roads from Roman Britain - the Fosse Way that linked Exeter with Lincoln. So when the dualling of the A46 was being planned, we knew that the Highways Agency would have to consider the potential for important archaeological discoveries over the full length of the road scheme.

"More than a hundred archaeologists have worked very closely with the road designers, highway engineers and earth-moving contractors to ensure that important archaeological remains have been properly recorded and recovered. The Romans understood the value of first-rate team-work - I like to think they would have been impressed!"

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