A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme

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Archaeology

Archaeological investigation is an important part of major infrastructure projects and with 250 archaeologists working on site during the peak of work, this scheme was one of the biggest and most complex archaeological projects ever undertaken in the UK.

What we’ve been doing and why

We worked closely with Cambridgeshire County Council to ensure that areas of possible historical interest were either investigated or preserved.

Archaeological work began with geophysical surveys in 2009, when the scheme was first being considered. These helped to identify possible archaeological remains and make informed decisions about where trial trenching (excavations) should take place.

The programme, which covered around 350 hectares, is now complete. A 30-strong team is now recording and analysing the material. Several years of work lie ahead, but during that time we’ll keep you updated as stories spanning thousands of years continue to emerge.

More than 40 separate excavations, covering some 350 hectares, have unearthed:

  • Several old woolly mammoth tusks and woolly rhino skulls, potentially dating back to 100,000 years ago

  • Three Neolithic henges, between four and five thousand years old, and seven prehistoric burial grounds, most from the Bronze Age

  • Fifteen Iron Age and Roman settlements, three Anglo-Saxon settlements and one deserted medieval village

  • Around 15,000 objects such as coins, brooches and ironwork, over 500 human burials and cremations, more than six tonnes of pottery and almost five tonnes of animal bone

You can read more about the work carried out here:

  • The construction team found several woolly mammoth tusks and woolly rhino skulls while digging for construction materials in one of the A14 scheme’s borrow pits.
  • Artist’s impression of what the woolly mammoths roaming Cambridgeshire around 100,000 years ago may have looked like.
  • One of six woolly rhino skulls the team found while digging for construction materials in one of the A14 scheme’s borrow pits.
  • Artist’s impression of what the woolly rhinos roaming Cambridgeshire around 100,000 years ago may have looked like.
  • Prehistory (neolithic to bronze age, 4000-800BC). There were six burial mounds excavated on the A14. This was the largest and was found near the Offords.

  • A later, early Bronze Age burial mound 38m in diameter surrounded the Neolithic site. 68 cremation burials were found in the burial mound, some placed in the ground.

     

  • Prehistory (neolithic to bronze age, 4000-800BC). Three henge-like monuments were excavated on the project, in Alconbury, Brampton and here, near Buckden.

  • Prehistory (neolithic to bronze age, 4000-800BC). The largest site (picture here, near Brampton), was defined by a large ditch (38m in diameter). This would have been an imposing feature within the landscape. This site is interesting because an entrance was not found during the excavation, leading archaeologists to wonder what was happening here.

  • Prehistory (neolithic to bronze age, 4000-800BC). This bronze age collared urn was found with the cremation burials.

  • Other finds near Brampton included middle Neolithic pottery, Bronze Age burials and this stone axe. The henge survived as a monument for millennia, other Bronze Age burials were found close by, as well as later Anglo-Saxon buildings.

  • Iron age (800BC to 43AD) settlement near the A1.

  • Iron age settlement discovered close to Bar Hill. The settlements found here were farmsteads where crops were grown and we have evidence for livestock.

  • Domestic items from the iron age sites excavated include pottery vessels.

  • We also found this Iron Age weaving comb, which would be used in the production of textiles.

  • This iron age gold coin was found near Cambridge. Called a stater, this is the first example of this mint uncovered in an archaeological excavation in this country.

  • MOLA Headland Infrastructure archaeobotanist Lara Gonzalez Carretero studying the earliest physical evidence of beer-making in Britain, after organic remains of beer-making dating back to the Iron Age were discovered on the A14 site.
  • These ceramic pots are from the Romano-British period (AD43 to 410) and were found near Fenstanton

  •  This copper alloy brooch (Romano-British period, AD43 to 410) was discovered on a site near Alconbury, which also had evidence of a fine mosaic floor and tesserea tiles.

  • This romano-british jet pendant, found near Alconbury, depicts the gorgon Medusa, who is always shown with snakes in place of her hair

  • This roman belt buckle indicates that a supply depot located near Fenstanton held military status.

  • This sunken feature building (anglo-saxon, AD410 to 1066) at Conington was photographed during excavations in 2018.

  •  This rare bone flute made from a carved deer bone was found within an Anglo-Saxon building at Brampton.

  • We also found evidence for Anglo-Saxon craft activities such as spinning and weaving, including the bone needle illustrated here.


What’s happening next?

The team is now to using their findings from the excavations, which includes over 250,000 artefacts, to develop a more detailed picture of the last 6,000 years of human occupation.

This will help archaeologists understand how people lived, how their societies worked, their spiritual lives and the impact of major events such as the Roman conquest and collapse of Roman rule.

A 30-strong expert team is now recording and analysing the material. Several years of work lie ahead, but during that time there will be regular updates as the story of thousands of years of human occupation along the route of the scheme starts to emerge. One exciting story is the discovery of the earliest beer in Britain on an Iron Age site, as presented on BBC’s The One Show in December and then BBC Breakfast TV in January 2009. You can read more about the story by clicking here.

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