Roman dig site in Wellingham reveals treasures

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An archaeological dig in the Ouse Valley north of Lewes has yielded some exciting finds.

An upright urn, which may contain a cremation burial, has been excavated from the site at Bridge Farm, Wellingham.

The Culver Archaeological Project (CAP), supported to the tune of £90,900 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has also discovered a circular kiln, possibly for firing tiles, and a sunken tile-lined basin – which the team is struggling to find anything to compare it to in Britain.

The six-week dig at the Roman settlement began last month and smaller discoveries include glass beads, coins, lead weights, a stylus for writing on a wax tablet, a ceramic spindle whorl and a complete lower quern stone.

Also brooch and glass vessel fragments, Samian pottery with a maker’s mark and hundreds of pieces of pottery and tile fragments from the Roman period.

CAP Deputy Archaeological Director David Millum said it appeared the urn could possibly very late Romano British or even post-Roman as it sat above the main Roman features – and was caught by the bucket of the mechanical digger when clearing away the topsoils.

Luckily Catherine Edwards, Site Manager, AOC Archaeology, who was supervising the digger, got the driver to raise his bucket a few centimetres to avoid the unknown feature.

“The excitement of discovering that we had ‘hit’ upon a complete and upright urn came some five weeks later,” said Mr Millum.

That was when Catherine and Sarah Foster, Site Supervisor for CAP, were able to undertake the delicate and skilled piece of excavation and on-site protection of the artefact.

Mr Millum continued: “With regard to the tile-lined pit/basin we would be very interested in any ideas readers might care to suggest, especially anyone who has worked in or studied rooftile manufacturing.

“The pit appears not to have been designed to hold liquid but to store or mix dry products with the tiles acting as a barrier from the surrounding soil.”

Sunday, August 11, will be the last day of excavation at Bridge Farm. Anyone wishing to have a tour of the site near Barcombe Mills should come at 11am prior to the four trenches dug being back-filled.

Mr Millum added that the number of volunteers had yet to be finally calculated, but there were more than 750 sign-ins on the daily volunteer attendance forms. The site has also been visited by more than 150 local schoolchildren.