Southern Connector Road archaeology

What archaeology has been found before?

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What archaeology has been found before?

In our last article we explored a little about why archaeology is being excavated along the course of the Swindon Southern Connector Road (SCR) route and a little about one of the most well known archaeological sites in the area - the Romano-British town of Durocornovium.

However, Durocornovium is not the only known archaeological site in the area. We know from previous investigations that the town is likely to have originated in the mid-1st Century AD. That’s about 2,000 years ago. But we also know that people have lived in Swindon and Wiltshire for thousands of years, including in the area around the SCR. How do we know this? Because artefacts and sites have been found from several periods throughout the landscape all around Swindon.

Prehistoric sites

Sites to the north of the SCR have been found that date to the Late Neolithic, Early Bronze Age, and the Early Iron Age, showing occupation spanning thousands of years. A significant Bronze Age settlement has also been identified through more than one investigation at Commonhead, to the south of the SCR and Iron Age sites can be found north of the SCR at Lotmead and to the south in the form of Liddington Hillfort. These are just a few prehistoric sites that have been found in the vicinity of the SCR that predate the Roman Town. Prehistoric is the collective term we give to the time before written history (which began in Britain with the Romans).

A photo of a bronze age urn found near Commonhead in 2014

Early Bronze Age collared urn found by Headland Archaeology near Commonhead in 2014

When the town of Durocornovium was constructed, it is likely to have disturbed or entirely removed traces of earlier settlement, especially where the town was most dense. However, where occupation and buildings were less dense, it is common to find remnants of these past time periods. It is also important to remember that time periods didn’t change overnight. When the Romans arrived in Britain, they encountered people living and working in their own unique ways. Roman newcomers-built houses in Roman ways and these would have appeared in the landscape.

However, not everyone would have lived in a Roman style house, and archaeology can show us the ways in which buildings and settlements change over time. This is why you will hear archaeologists use the term Romano-British – as we have been doing throughout these articles. Romano-British is the term we apply to items and buildings that were made after the Roman occupation of Britain that often exhibit traits of both Roman and local British techniques or materials.

Graphic showing a timeline of historical ages

Pre-historic and Romano-British timeline guide

An Iron Age farmstead

One of the sites the geophysical survey identified is a farmstead. This appears to be a late Iron Age, early Romano-British structure because of its visible traits of both periods. This farmstead is visible on the geophysics plan as circular and sub-rectangular and sub-squared features (circled in red in the image below).

Geophysics plan showing a farmstead from the late Iron Age

Geophysics plan showing a farmstead from the late Iron Age

Around the farmstead itself there are several other features. These are not as easy to identify through the geophysical plan as the farmstead itself, as they could belong to any of the occupation we’ve already touched on. This is where testing the geophysical survey through trial trenching is important – to evaluate the significance of the archaeology being impacted by the development. Once trial trenching has ascertained, in consultation with the county archaeologist, that no significant sites are going to be removed by the development, then further archaeological work can begin to investigate and record these features.

Stay tuned to find out more about the archaeology of the SSCR!

Did you know?

Investigations like the one being out at the Swindon Southern Connector Road happen frequently in advance of construction and development.

In fact, development-led archaeological investigation is the major source of archaeological work and discoveries in the UK.

Each time an investigation is carried out, the results are submitted to the local county archaeologist and uploaded to the Historic Environment Record (HER) for the local area. This ensures we have a record of all the commercial investigations and can build a more complete picture of life in the past.

You can search the HER map and records for archaeology sites across Swindon and Wiltshire online:

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