Archaeologists uncover prehistoric landscape beneath Oxford

Nov 04, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Archaeologists excavating the former Radcliffe Infirmary site in Oxford have uncovered evidence of a prehistoric monumental landscape stretching across the gravel terrace between the Thames and Cherwell rivers.

The work was carried out over the summer in preparation for University’s proposed Radcliffe Observatory Quarter - plans for which were revealed earlier this month.

In addition to these findings, the work has also uncovered evidence of a 6th century Saxon settlement, including a sunken featured craft hut known as a Grübenhauser and a pit containing unfired clay loom weights.

A team from Museum of London (MOLA) has been excavating parts of the 3.7 hectare site. The excavation has revealed evidence of three large prehistoric ‘ring ditches’ along with some evidence of possible associated cremation burials and an enigmatic rectangular enclosure, finds from which are currently being subjected to radio carbon dating.

Mike Wigg, Head of Capital Projects at Oxford University, said: 'The University was delighted to provide the opportunity for an investigation of Oxford heritage to be carried out in advance of any development work.'

The River Thames was an important focus for monument building in the Neolithic and periods when monuments used for burial, ritual and social purposes were constructed along the gravel terraces of the river.

A spokesperson from MOLA explained: ‘Ring ditches are, as the name suggests, circular ditches, which are often the remains of ploughed out barrows, that may be associated with burials of high status individuals in the later Neolithic or Bronze Age, about 4000 years ago.’

The archaeologists had suspected the presence of prehistoric remains because a 12th century documentary source records ‘the croft of the three barrows’ in this area. Parch marks of a possible sequence of ring ditches in University Parks had indicated that similar remains might be present on the Radcliffe site.

The Saxon activity around the much earlier barrow cemetery is not uncommon and is recorded at other similar sites along the Thames. However, this is the first evidence for such a relationship in Oxford. The archaeologists are now working on the post-excavation phase of the project.

A Museum of spokesperson said: 'We are grateful to the University for enabling this unusually large site to be archaeologically investigated. The knowledge obtained should make a significant contribution to public appreciation of this important part of Oxford’s past, when the landscape was very different from that seen today.'

Provided by Oxford University (news : web)

Explore further: Shark-munching Spinosaurus was first-known water dinosaur

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cut marks on bone suggest burial rituals of Early Britons

Aug 07, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Research on human remains from Kent’s Cavern in Devon has led scientists to believe that humans from the Mesolithic period (after the Ice Age) may have engaged in complex ritualistic burial ...

Age of earliest human burial in Britain pinpointed

Oct 30, 2007

The oldest known buried remains in Britain are 29,000 years old, archaeologists have found – 4,000 years older than previously thought. The findings show that ceremonial burials were taking place in western ...

Ancient tombs discovered by Kingston University-led team

Jun 09, 2009

A prehistoric complex including two 6,000-year-old tombs representing some of the earliest monuments built in Britain has been discovered by a team led by a Kingston University archaeologist. Dr Helen Wickstead and her colleagues ...

Recommended for you

Ancient Greek tomb dig finds marble statues

Sep 11, 2014

Archaeologists slowly digging through a huge 2,300-year-old tomb in northern Greece have uncovered two life-sized marble female statues flanking the entrance to one of three underground chambers.

Pelican-like pterosaur enters record books

Sep 11, 2014

Fossil hunters have found the remains of a pterosaur whose jaw suggests the flying reptile skimmed fish from surface water and stored the prey in a pelican-like throat pouch, they said on Thursday.

Ancient swamp creature had lips like Mick Jagger

Sep 10, 2014

Sir Mick Jagger has a new animal named after him. Scientists have named an extinct swamp-dwelling creature that lived 19 million years ago in Africa after the Rolling Stones frontman, in honor of a trait they both share—their ...

User comments : 0