Unearthing Shakespeare – Part 10

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The earliest features identified in phase two of 2011 were storage pits and a truncated occupation layer, dated to the Later Iron Age (400-300 BC to AD 43). These prove occupation of Statford-upon-Avon in this period. They were extremely well preserved and there are no other recorded examples of Iron Age (or prehistoric) pits in Stratford, making these unique. Two residual Roman pottery sherds were also recovered.

A line of four circular pits was identified at the eastern end of trench 1. These pits were similar in size, shape and contents. They are likely to have been grain storage pits filled in at the end of their useful life. Comparative examples of storage pits are known from the wider Warwickshire area and are typical of the period. The pits contained very fragmentary worn ceramics and fire cracked pebbles (these stones were heated in a fire then dropped into water to boil it for cooking). A fragment of quernstone (used to grind grain) was also recovered.

No other settlement evidence (such as post-holes) was encountered. The site itself would have provided the ideal location for an early settlement. It was on the second terrace river gravels, so unlikely to flood and close to a fording point.

After a long period of inactivity, the site was reoccupied in the 1200-1300s and a significant building was located here at this time. Several 13-14th century pits, post and stake-holes were identified. Some of these pits contained high status pottery and roof tiles confirming the presence of a building on this site during the 13th century. A large foundation stone foundation wall was also constructed in this period. It is well documented that this part of Stratford was laid out on agricultural land in this period by the Bishop of Worcester (1196) and the archaeological evidence shows this to be the case.

This concludes this series of blogs on phases 1 and 2 of ‘Dig for Shakespeare.’ Phase 3 is now in full swing on site!

You can find more images and information about the project here.

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Will Mitchell is Archaeology Supervisor for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and lead archaeologist on 'Dig for Shakespeare.'

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