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Iron Age and Roman Site, Nettleton Top

Reference Name MLI50481

Iron Age and Roman Site, Nettleton Top

A religious/settlement site of Iron Age and Roman date, Nettleton Top.


A series of ditched enclosures and trackways seen on Paul Everson aerial photographs of 1976. {1}{2}

British Gas conducted a geophysical survey along the route of a proposed pipeline in 1993 (There is a plot of the 1993 British Gas geophysical survey in the map chest). Local metal detectorists were also interviewed. A large amount of Romano-British pottery was present in the plough soil, and the metal detectorists reported large numbers of late Iron Age and Roman objects including coins, bronze and silver jewellery, figurines and pottery. Votive objects such as small ceremonial daggers and shields, lead plaques and a bronze statue of Mars were also reported, and led to suggestions that the site could be a Roman temple. The magnetometry survey revealed outlines of possible buildings and streets in the area. One linear feature continued to the west. This was sectioned during the watching brief on the pipeline and discovered to be a ditch with a V-shaped section, measuring 1.46m deep by 3m wide. No finds were recovered from the ditch. {3}{4}{5}{10}

Three evaluation trenches were excavated in 1998 to provide information about the nature of the site. Within the plough soil Roman pottery was present in quantity at all sampled locations, as was Iron Age pottery in small amounts. Below this zone well preserved and deeply stratified deposits were encountered at all three locations. Substantial rock cut ditches, c.1.7m deep, were present at Trench A, on the southern side of the field, and Trench C, on the northern side, these being elements of separate complexes. The scale of the ditches at A and C is monumental and together with the quality of the finds from these excavations, and previously from the field surface, indicate that the site was a regionally significant centre during the Iron Age, perhaps commensurate with sites classified as oppida. The site evolved into a roadside settlement of some status in the Roman period.
From the ditch at Trench A an early Bronze Age axe was recovered (see 50482), apparently representing a votive item within an Iron Age context; a three piece copper alloy cosmetic set was also present. At Trench B a sequence of surfaces was revealed above an earlier series of irregular gullies, evidently representing some form of cultivation. Part of a stone plinth was also encountered, seemingly the corner of a Roman building or other structure. Three brooches came from Trench B including a La Tene III Nauheim type without direct precedent in Britain. {6}

Further excavation in 2000 and 2002 revealed more late Iron Age and Roman features including a stone-founded Roman building and Roman ditches, probably property boundaries. Evidence of agriculture, cereal processing and small scale industry were also present. Another Nauheim type brooch was also recovered. The evidence suggests a medium scale, prosperous settlement continuing from the late Iron Age into the Romano-British period. {7}{8}

Further excavation in 2004 on the east side of the B1225 revealed foundations of a stone walled Roman building. Internal features were visible including a small room on the north side of the building then a set of steps, indicating that the building was slightly terraced into the slope and accessed from the Roman road (evidently underlying the B1225) by steps. The building was dated c.225-350/380AD on evidence of finds. Pottery, nails, a small late Roman coin in poor condition and a piece of Roman glass were recovered. {9}

Investigations of the site continued in 2011, when a trench on the east side of the B1225, previously excavated in 2002-04, was re-opened and expanded, with significant Roman remains being exposed. The excavation was completed with the recording of a former Roman stone building and a sequence of mainly earlier features, including ditches and pits. Finds included a large quantity of Roman pottery, particularly from mortaria, and predominantly made of local greyware, two Roman coins, and a small quantity of Roman brick and tile fragments.
More extensive geophysical survey around the trench was also conducted and identified significant further activity, indicative of a highly organized settlement. The survey revealed a large number of rectangular ditched enclosures, very likely demarcating former property plots and the remains of further possible buildings.
A systematic metal-detector survey was also undertaken as part of the investigation, and a large number of finds were recovered, including 69 Roman coins and an inscribed lead tablet, likely to be a curse tablet, as the inscription refers to a theft, and names several people. {11}{12}{13}

A detailed report on the site and the excavations by the University of Durham and the University of Kent discusses the site comprehensively. The site was a focal point of settlement and activity in the Iron Age and Roman period. Situated by the head of three radial valleys it was also a significant locality in earlier prehistory. The site has yielded a large number of Iron Age coins and contemporary miniatures indicative of votive material and suggesting a shrine. Ten trenches were excavated across the site and middle and late Iron Age deposits and finds were widely encountered, including pottery, brooches, quern stones and coins. Caistor High Street bisects the site and the enclosure systems and tracks, shown by geophysical surveys and fieldwalking evidence on either side of this road, indicate that the modern road must overly a Roman predecessor This was confirmed by the stone-founded buildings and site morphology exposed by excavation. While the evidence of the finds points to votive activity, the site was also a settled community during the Roman period. A continuing religious focus at the site is demonstrated by the presence of an inscribed lead tablet of the late Roman period. It is clear that this was more than a shrine and temple complex in the Roman era and, as a small roadside settlement, will have provided local services and perhaps attended to needs of travellers. These likely roles will have been conducted alongside farming, at what remained an essentially rural community, though with sufficient indications that this was a relatively prosperous one. The occupation comes to a rather abrupt end in the first half of the fourth century, which appears to be part of a widespread re-organization of settlement in the region. There is no post-Roman occupation. {14}

In 1984 a hoard of 24 Iron Age coins and an ingot were found here and almost immediately sold to a dealer. Jeffrey May of Nottingham University was able to make a brief record of part of the contents of the hoard. These earliest finds included staters and South Ferriby silver units. Many coins and other objects were found in subsequent years including small votive shields and Romano-British material. The coins were unlikely to have all come from the single focus found in 1984. More than 230 Iron Age coins have been recorded and it is likely there will have been further unrecorded finds. There may be small hoards or parcels concealed within the list of coins, such as a group of seven South Thames quarter staters. The site is likely to be the location of a Roman temple with an earlier Iron Age phase. {15}

1 Aerial Photograph: Paul Everson. 1975-90. RCHM. 2922/2-5, 7, 1976
2 Map: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1992-1996. National Mapping Programme. LINCOLNSHIRE. TF1397: LI.298.9.1-4
3 Verbal Communication: CATHERALL P. 1993. Information from Phil Catherall, British Gas Archaeologist. -
4 Verbal Communication: M.O.. Information from a local detectorist. -
5 Intervention Report: BRITISH GAS. 1993. Skitter to Hatton Pipeline Report. pp.41-4
6 Excavation Report: University of Durham. 1999. Excavation and Fieldwork at Mount Pleasant, Nettleton. -
7 Article in Serial: Willis, Stephen. 2002. Lincolnshire History and Archaeology. -
8 Excavation Archive: Willis, Stephen. 2002. Nettleton Investigations. LCNCC 2000.193-194
9 Verbal Communication: Willis, Steven. 2004. E-mail regarding excavation at Nettleton Iron Age/Roman site. -
10 Bibliographic Reference: Kiernan. Philip. 2009. Miniature Votive Offerings in the North-West Provinces of the Roman Empire. addendum pp.268-72
11 Intervention Report: University of Kent. 2012. Excavation and Fieldwork in 'Street Furlongs', Mount Pleasant, Rothwell - Interim Report. Site Code: NMPA00
12 Excavation Archive: Willis, Stephen. 2002. Nettleton Investigations. LCNCC 2000.194
13 Article in Serial: Tomlin, R. S. O.. 2012. ‘Roman Britain in 2011, III Inscriptions, B Instrumentum Domesticum, Rothwell’ in Britannia. vol.43, p.403
14 Bibliographic Reference: Willis, Stephen. 2013. The Roman Roadside Settlement and Multi-Period Ritual Complex at Nettleton and Rothwell, Lincolnshire. passim
15 Bibliographic Reference: DE JERSEY, PHILIP. 2014. Coin Hoards in Iron Age Britain. pp.265-7, no.165

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Last updated: 09-December-2017 13:47:45

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