REMNANTS from a Bronze Age settlement in Evesham have been unearthed.
The artefacts including a clay burial vessel and a wrist guard were found by a team of archaeologists from environmental consultants RSK at Redrow Homes' new development in Maple Gardens.
The excavation, on land off Offenham Road, took place before groundworks got underway.
An initial survey of the land three years ago indicated its use as an orchard in the 20th century, before further investigations suggested the site could contain part of a much earlier Iron Age or Roman field system.
It wasn’t until the local planning authority’s archaeological advisor requested a survey of a larger area of land that the pottery and burial vessel, seeming to originate from the Bronze Age – around 1,000 years earlier than first expected – were recovered.
Laurence Hayes, principal archaeologist for RSK said: “The starting point for our investigations was a geophysical survey carried out in 2013 which showed a series of linear anomalies thought to relate to its use as an orchard in the early 20th century. Trial trenches dug in 2015 established that they were deep ‘V’-shaped ditches, potentially part of a prehistoric or Roman field system. The ditches were tentatively dated to the Middle Iron Age on the basis of some very poorly preserved pottery in one of the ditches.
“On widening our investigation to a larger area of land, the ditches were found to represent part of a track or drove way with surrounding fields. We recovered pottery from the ditches that appear to be more likely Bronze Age.
“The really unexpected find was a ‘beaker’ burial. This large burial pit contained a near complete Early Bronze Age vessel known as a beaker, covered with intricate patterns, and a polished stone archer’s wrist guard. No other remains were uncovered due to the poor preservation qualities of the local soil and geology.”
Typically associated with high-status individuals, the wrist guard indicated the person buried was a male, and these burial practices form part of a European-wide cultural phenomenon in the late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age period (around 2,500-2,100 BC in Britain).
The grave would probably have been located beneath a burial mound which has long-since been ploughed away, but is likely to have been a standing monument in the landscape at the time the adjacent drove way and field system were in use. A cluster of pits next to the grave included another near complete, but badly damaged, Bronze Age vessel and a possible cooking pit.
The beaker has been sent to the Birmingham Museums Trust for conservation. Other finds are with specialists and will be analysed as part of the post-excavation reporting process.
Ultimately the site archive will go to Museums Worcestershire, who have expressed an interest in putting the beaker and wrist guard on public display.