In 1984, the South Yorkshire Archaeology Field and Research Unit were called in to investigate, when limestone quarrying began at Brodsworth quarry.
The archaeologists found evidence for a small farmstead. This comprised of two timber round houses and a droveway leading to fields. The earliest pottery found here was made just a few years before the Romans arrived. Other finds from the farmstead date to the 3rd century AD. This tells us that people were living here for at least 200 years.
Demolition and rebuilding
The archaeologists opened a series of trenches where cropmark evidence suggested there were buried remains. One of these trenches revealed the south-east corner of a rectangular compound, which may have surrounded a farmstead. A lot of effort had gone in to digging the ditch, which was substantial and had been cut through solid limestone bedrock.
The ditch had not simply been allowed to silt up over time. Instead it appears to have been deliberately filled in and then re-excavated on several occasions. Whenever people refilled the ditch, they placed objects in the freshly dumped soil. The archaeologists could tell this because some objects had been left behind when the ditch was subsequently re-excavated in the Roman period. The earliest objects were two almost complete Iron Age hand-made pottery jars, dating from just before the Roman invasion. Other finds included fragments of animal bones and a rotary quern, which would have been used to grind corn into flour.
There are many reasons why the Iron Age farmers might have wanted to bury these objects. It may have been a way of stating their ownership of the boundary or to thank their gods. Local communities and families often took care to bury objects in places that were important to them, in a time before title deeds proved ownership of land.
Farm animals along a lane
A second trench found a lane that ran between fields towards the compound. The ditches on either side of this droveway would have allowed livestock to be moved through the fields without the animals trampling any crops growing to either side.
The ditches of the lane had been cleaned of silt at least three times. An almost complete jar, made in the pottery kilns south-east of Doncaster, and a coin of the Roman Emperor Valerian dating from 257 AD were found. These finds show that the droveway was built after the Romans arrived. This may indicate increasing demand for farm produce under the Romans, which would have meant that larger numbers of livestock were kept in the neighbouring fields.
Timber round houses
Archaeologists thought they would find more field boundaries in the third archaeological trench. Instead, they discovered foundations of two timber round houses that had not been visible on the aerial photographs. One was 12.5 metres in diameter, with a south-east-facing door. The other was slightly smaller. Inside the foundations were 2 post holes that would have held timber posts to support the roof. Little else survived of the buildings because of damage caused by ploughing since the Roman period. Both houses were built in the corners of neighbouring fields, little more than 20 metres apart.
For further information, please contact us:
- tel: 0114 273 6354
- address: South Yorkshire Archaeology Service, Howden House, 1 Union Street, Sheffield, S1 2SH