Possible Romano-British settlement found during A12 widening scheme

national highways archaeologists spent 96 weeks excavating 2117 trial trenches on the a12 between colchester and chelmsford

National highways archaeologists spent 96 weeks excavating 2117 trial trenches - Credit: National Highways

A possible Romano-British settlement, Bronze Age cremations and a prehistoric millstone are among archaeological discoveries made during a survey ordered by National Highways next to the A12.

As part of a scheme to expand the A12 in Essex, National Highways (formerly Highways England) excavated a series of archaeological trial trenches, covering an area of 1,039 hectares, equivalent to 1,445 football pitches. 

Trial trenching is a technique used to characterize and determine the archaeological potential of a site — in simple terms, what's likely to be there. A digger is used to expose potential archaeological features, which are then excavated by hand and recorded. 

trial trenches are exposed at first by a digger, before archaeologists carefully excavate around the a12, near chelmsford

Trial trenches are exposed at first by a digger, before archaeologists carefully excavate around any potential archaeology - Credit: National Highways

Stephen Elderkin, National Highways Project Director, said: “The work we are doing along the A12 route aims to unearth archaeological sites and finds that will help shape our understanding of how life in Essex and beyond has developed through 10,000 years of human history.  

“A good, early understanding of the unique relationship between the improvement scheme and the surrounding historical environment will help us avoid any unexpected surprises and unnecessary delays once construction begins. 

“This is all part of the work we’re doing to respect the area's cultural heritage while we deliver the vital upgrade that will improve journeys for up to 90,000 people every day.” 

Excavations near the a12 in essex near chelmsford found Samian Ware

Samian Ware, high class Roman pottery often decorated with pastoral, pornographic or mythological scenes was found during the excavation - Credit: National Highways

The evidence that led archaeologists to suspect a Romano-British settlement included the remains of refuse pits, ditches and postholes. In addition, Romano-British pottery was found at the site, including Samian Ware: high quality red Roman pottery often depicting pastoral, pornographic or mythological scenes. 

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Other finds include a pair of Roman roof tiles, a collection of animal bones, a prehistoric millstone and evidence of Emmer, the main cereal crop eaten in britain in prehistoric times. This helps give archaeologists a better picture of what ancient peoples in Britain ate. 

The evidence gathered by National Highways will be combined to produce a report. This will provide site by site information on the excavations, and will inform the next stages of archaeological work. 

These later stages may comprise of large scale excavations ahead of construction work, or archaeological monitoring during the works themselves. 

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