Highwood House, Purdown, Bristol

An archaeological watching brief funded by the Priory Healthcare group during construction of a new healthcare building at Heath House Lane, Purdown has found part of a late prehistoric or Roman settlement.

The possibility of prehistoric settlement on Purdown has been conjectured since a possible prehistoric earthwork was surveyed to the south west of the present site in the 1940s. Despite suggestions that this may be of 18th century date stray finds have also been encountered which include the discovery of a Bronze Age barbed and tanged flint arrowhead in the 1950s.

The present, ongoing, groundworks have revealed a row of post pits, which contain the packing stones which originally held the timber posts in place. The placement of the posts would seem to suggest that they formed part of an enclosure. A series of smaller stake holes, which again show evidence for stone packing were also, recorded which suggest the presence of fencing or small storage structures. Further domestic occupation was suggested by the presence of several circular pits and a single rectangular pit. The biggest of the circular pits contained a large amount of charcoal in its primary fill and the clay at the base of the pit had been fired.

circular fire affected pit showing primary fill of charcoal and partially fired clay base

Circular fire affected pit showing primary fill of charcoal and partially fired clay base

The archaeological features were sealed by a buried soil horizon (palaeosol) that lay up to one metre below the present ground surface. The palaeosol was stratified between two stages of deposition which appear to have resulted from sediments being washed down the slope (colluvial activity). Initial artefactual analysis suggest the palaeosol was of a Romano-British date and the features themselves were late Iron Age to Early Romano-British date. Work is ongoing on the site and we hope to discover more of the settlement to the east of the already excavated area.

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