Bellway Homes Ltd
In 2018, NAA carried out an excavation in the small village of Medburn, north-east of Newcastle upon Tyne, in advance of a new housing development. The archaeological work focused on part of the site where evaluation trenching had identified undated archaeological features.
The excavation showed that the site had been heavily truncated by medieval and post-medieval ploughing; however, a number of archaeological features survived. The earliest were several small pits and postholes scattered across the area. None of these features contained any artefacts, although soil sampling recovered charcoal and an assemblage of charred plant remains including wheat grains. One of the pits was radiocarbon dated to the Early Bronze Age.
The most significant discovery was an oval gully, probably for drainage around a structure of which almost no evidence survived. The gully enclosed an area measuring approximately 12m by 11m, with an area of 132.m2. A gap in the gully suggested that the entrance to the building had faced to the south-east. A group of three postholes at the centre of the oval described by the gully possibly represented successive replacements of a structural support in the middle of the building. Two very similar radiocarbon dates from the gully and one of the postholes showed that the structure had been used in the 2nd or 1st centuries BC, during the Late Iron Age. Carbonised remains of wheat, barley and other charred seeds recovered from the gully provided a useful insight into the Iron Age economy of the site, while the presence of barley chaff showed that crop-processing had occurred in the immediate vicinity, rather than grain being processed elsewhere and brought to the site.
Several ditches crossing the excavation area could not be dated, although they pre-dated medieval agricultural furrows. They may have formed a field system contemporary with the Iron Age occupation of the site.
NAA has excavated a number of other settlement sites of this period on the south Northumberland coastal plain, but the Medburn site provided more well-dated and important material than the others. It is only a short distance north of Hadrian’s Wall in an area that was densely occupied during the Iron Age; and, although the remains at Medburn were heavily truncated by later activity, they add to our knowledge of the area’s native society and economy during the centuries prior to the Roman invasion.
A full account of the results of the project can be found on the Archaeology Data Service website: