Archaeological Solutions

An extensive Roman site in Suffolk

Post-Excavation work on a site containing extensive Roman archaeology has now been completed.

Beck Row, near Mildenhall in Suffolk, is an area rich in archaeological remains, particularly those relating to the Romano-British period. Land formerly occupied by the Smoke House Inn in this parish was subject to a programme of archaeological excavation conducted by AS between July 2010 and August 2011.

The excavation revealed an extensive Romano-British agricultural/settlement landscape comprising a dense concentration of features dated between the 1st and late 4th centuries+ AD, as well as more ephemeral evidence of prehistoric and medieval/post-medieval activity.

The post-excavation analysis for the project has recently been completed and the publication of the results is planned.

Romano-British archaeology was expected at the site due to the presence, immediately adjacent, of a Roman maltings. The Romano-British period at the former Smoke House Inn site spanned the late 1st to late 4th centuries AD.

Roman features appeared exclusively agricultural in nature and mostly comprising a series of complex, rectilinear enclosure systems. These first developed in the northern part of the site with activity to the south and west developing later. The enclosure systems culminated in a ‘ladder’ system dated to the mid-3rd to early 4th century, associated with a pastoral landscape, which was in turn superseded by one very large and several smaller enclosures prior to the abandonment of the site at the end of the Roman period.

Ten structures dated to the Roman period were identified but none of these could be classified as domestic dwellings or houses. They all appeared to represent agricultural buildings, shelters or pens. Architecturally, they appeared to be closer to pre-Roman forms, perhaps suggesting that the local population had not succumbed to the processes of Romanisation.

The site is notable for the widespread occurrence of whole, articulated animal burials. These have mostly been dated to the periods of Roman activity but some later examples were present. It has been suggested that the Roman animal burials might represent symbolic acts such as sacrifice.

Evidence from the former Smoke House Inn provides an important insight into Romano-British rural settlement along the Suffolk fen-edge, especially in terms of settlement morphology and the rural economy. This represents an important contribution to the regional study of Romano-British rural sites and serves to redress a national bias in the literature towards higher status or villa settlements.

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