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Warren Wood Update March 2012

Excited Archaeology In Marlow (AIM) members gathered on the evening of Tuesday the 20th of March, in the Garden Room of Liston Hall to launch our 54 page Warren Wood Members’ Report covering all aspects of our 2 year project. Now available on AIM’s website at www.archaeologyinmarlow.org.uk, or in hard copy at £10. Contact John Laker (see back page) if you wish to purchase a copy. The report for the HER in Aylesbury, and another for inclusion in the Records of Bucks Journal, are now close to completion.

The evening centred around an illustrated talk given by John Laker, detailing AIM’s investigations at Warren Wood. The highlight of the proceedings was the display of the significant artefacts/finds found by members at Warren Wood during the project.

During 2010 and 2011, AIM had investigated the earthwork at Warren Wood, off Winchbottom Lane, Little Marlow, which consists of an Inner and an Outer Enclosure, thought to date from Medieval times (500AD to 1500AD).

Members will remember that eight test pits (four in each enclosure) were excavated to try to discover artefacts, that could be dated, and to try to find any evidence of buildings that may have been constructed on the site.

AIM also intended to give opportunities to as many members and visitors as possible to explore the areas of archaeology they were interested in. Training was given in all aspects to expand people’s knowledge. AIM started its investigations in February 2010 and continued them until November 2011.

A large quantity of important artefacts was unearthed to help date AIM’s archaeological site, but the additional discoveries of artefacts dating from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age were unexpected delights (see below).

The test pits in the Inner Enclosure revealed much Medieval Roof Tile (nearly 41kgs) and 289 pieces of Medieval pottery. Many large flints were unearthed and some smaller flakes that were manmade in the Stone Age. 10 Metal items (badly corroded), 5 pieces of Bone and a little Charcoal (23gms) were also excavated.

In the test pits in the Outer Enclosure, very few artefacts were found (56 as opposed to 1999 in the Inner Enclosure). However, 15 Flint flakes and 10 Pot Boilers (pieces of Flint that had been heated in a fire and then dropped into a pot of water to boil the water – in under 10 seconds!) were found.

To our great surprise in one Inner Enclosure test pit we found small pieces of chalk and 18 pieces of pottery with inclusions, or grit. This test pit was extended and it revealed another 61 pottery sherds, or pieces, with inclusions, 222 pieces of chalk weighing 1.392kgs, along with 18 large burnt stones weighing in at 2.845kgs.

The pottery has now been professionally dated, along with all the other ‘finds’. The Medieval Pottery dates from approximately 1050 to 1400AD and the Roof Tile dates from 1400 to 1700AD. This suggests occupation over a period of at least 350 years, probably starting with a wooden building, which was then replaced with a grander building complete with a tiled roof.

But the biggest surprise was the Pottery with inclusions (82 pieces, of which a few had finger impressions on them), mostly from one large pot, Some of these pieces have now been fitted together, indicating a rim diameter of 30cms. In addition, Flint flakes, Burnt stones and Pot Boilers were also unearthed.

The Pottery was dated from the late Bronze Age (1200 to 800BC) and the early Iron Age (800 to 500BC), whilst the Flint pieces were dated from the late Neolithic (3000 to 2500BC) to the early Bronze Age (2500 to 1800BC). The Burnt Stones were not dateable, but they may have formed part of a hearth.

It can be argued that a large quantity of large flints, plus substantial quantities of roof tile, indicate a building (or buildings) of a relatively high standard. The mixture of large flint pieces, roof tile and pottery sherds, indicate that the building (or buildings), had been demolished at some time, rather than just falling into disrepair.

Using extremely rough guesswork, if the 12 x 12 metre square containing the test pits revealed the same concentration of roof tile that was unearthed from the test pits, the roof area would have been 6 square metres, indicating a building (allowing for a 30 degree angled roof), that would have measured approximately 2 metres wide by 2.5 metres long. If the 12 metre square had been a 17 metre square, and the tile spread were similar, a building 2.5 metres by 4 metres could be feasible, and so on.

Although accurate dating has still not been achieved, it appears that the site was occupied from around 1050AD until 1400AD, but probably not much later.

In addition, despite having a good idea regarding the occupation of the site in Medieval times, we now know that men and women visited the area many years before this period  – truly a historic (or, in part, pre-historic) site!

After the talk members gathered to examine the artefacts, have a chat and enjoy the tea, coffee and biscuits provided on the night.

During 2012, and beyond, AIM will be conducting more investigations within Warren Wood. Not only is there a plan to date the banks and ditches of the earthworks, but plans to investigate another earthwork within the near vicinity are also in preparation. So, anyone wishing to discover more about our past is very welcome to join us. No experience is needed, as training is provided in all the archaeological practices employed on our sites. If you are interested in participating, please contact John Laker 01628 481792, johnlaker@thamesintenet.com, for further information.

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