Digs reveal Anglo-Saxon settlements

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have meticulously built up a picture of ancient settlements in an isolated location near Aldeburgh.

Richard Smith

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have meticulously built up a picture of ancient settlements in an isolated location near Aldeburgh.

Their work follows two digs during which they discovered evidence of life in the Anglo-Saxon period at Barber's Point, which is on the banks of the River Alde opposite Iken.

The digs were carried out in 2004 and 2006 by up to 50 volunteers with the help of the county council's archaeological service.

The Local History Initiative gave £25,000 towards the work which was commissioned by the Aldeburgh and District Local History Society.

Richard Newman, a founder member of the society, had a long-held ambition to dig at Barber's Point and he is delighted with the success of the project.

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“It has been a fascinating time and a lot of people have had a lot of fun, enjoyed a taste of archaeology and developed a greater understanding of what was going on in these parts,” he said.

“When we started we thought we would just find a fairly humble Roman site, possibly linked to salt making of which there are a number of sites on the River Alde. But by the second session it became obvious that it was considerably more.”

Mr Newman added: “I am constantly asked by members whether we are going back to the site.

“The trouble is that the county's archaeological department are now, having been somewhat off-hand about a mere Roman settlement, rather excited and think it could be linked to Iken monastery.

“Now they are saying that, instead of just two professional archaeologists on site, they need four or six and we will have to pay for them which will be rather expensive.”

The site is situated on a slight promontory on the northern bank of the River Alde where erosion of the river cliff originally revealed abundant deposits of pottery on the foreshore.

An excavation in 1907 confirmed Roman activity on the site - but Anglo-Saxon finds were not identified at that time.

The latest excavations produced a total of 3,348 sherds of pottery ranging in date from the prehistoric to the medieval period. The majority of it was Roman.

Also discovered were briquetage, fired clay, worked flint, animal bones and oyster shells.

The realisation in 2004 that there was a substantial Anglo-Saxon presence on the site led to further digs in 2006 to clarify the dating of the ditched enclosure systems and the possibility of timber structures. Parts of three possible rectangular timber buildings were found.

Jezz Meredith, the county council's project officer, said: “Although the original objectives of the 2004 excavation were concerned with elucidating an enigmatic Roman period site, the results have considerably exceeded expectations by establishing Barber's Point as a short-lived settlement of the time of the emergence of the East Anglian kingdom, and possibly part of the early monastic tradition of the 7th and 8th Centuries, exploiting the resources of a now isolated location.”

An opportunity was also taken to undertake historical research at Decoy Farm, near Snape, where evidence was found of a Saxon cemetery.

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