Archaeological Solutions

Iron Age activity at Bridge House Dairies Mildenhall Suffolk

Bridge House Dairy in Mildenhall is a large two acre site located just south of the River Lark. The site was located on the remains of a 1950’s dairy which had undergone demolition and was awaiting redevelopment.

Excavation of a dog skeleton, buried within in an Iron Age pit at Mildenhall. This was one of several animal burials at the site and associated evidence suggests that the area of the site in which this skeleton was found may have been subject to some degree of symbolic activity during the Iron AgeExcavation of a dog skeleton, buried within in an Iron Age pit at Mildenhall. This was one of several animal burials at the site and associated evidence suggests that the area of the site in which this skeleton was found may have been subject to some degree of symbolic activity during the Iron Age

After an initial trial trench evaluation the site was designated for a full strip and map. This was based on the archaeology which comprised several Iron Age pits and ditches. Most of the archaeology was located at the edges of the site as the construction of the dairy buildings had destroyed any archaeological features underneath.

Upon completion of the topsoil removal it became evident that a lot more had survived than was originally thought. The site was divided into two main areas. The south-east of the site contained over one hundred pits and the western side of the site contained a large system of enclosure ditches and drainage gullies with multiple pits thrown in for good measure. As these features were excavated it became apparent that the vast majority were from the late Iron Age although some earlier Bronze Age and Neolithic features were uncovered as well.

After completion of the excavation, it has become clear that three separate enclosure systems were present. Two of these were contemporary and overlay a much older system of gullies. The later two formed a possible causeway leading to the large area of pits in the south-east corner of the site. These pits proved to be extremely interesting and several produced animal burials, including a dog and two sheep. Also, the possibility of structured deposition, a practice sometimes considered to represent symbolic or ritual behaviour, within these pits was observed through the discovery of horn cores and pig and cattle mandibles placed on the bottom of the features.

The most interesting find on the site was that of human remains discovered in a rubbish pit close to the system of intercutting ditches and gullies. The skeleton itself was in very good condition considering the local soil type, although some damage was apparent to the skull. This does not appear to be a burial according to any kind of funerary rites as the position of the body suggests that the remains were dumped into the pit rather than placed. The pit contained pottery which has been dated to the late Iron Age, more specifically the 1st Century BC to 1st Century AD. The body has been removed for specialist analysis and we are awaiting further findings regarding gender, age and possible cause of death.

This site has proved to be significant in understanding the development of the Mildenhall area in the Iron Age. In a wider context it has been of particular interest to the local county council and English Heritage.

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