Icknield Way and Roman settlement excavated at Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire

Over the summer, a team of archaeologists from ULAS led by Mathew Morris and Roger Kipling have been excavating a nine-acre site in Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire. Commissioned by developers Taylor Wimpey, the work is being carried out before work begins on a new housing development.

The clear lines of a Roman trackway, probably part of the Icknield Way, can be seen running across the site towards Ivinghoe Beacon (visible on the sky line). Image by AerialCam

So far, the excavation has found evidence of Iron Age and Roman settlement within the ‘Icknield Belt’, a corridor following the chalk escarpment of the Chiltern Hills known to have been favoured for settlement in prehistoric and later periods. It also lies close to Akeman Street, a roman road running through the village.

Although only preliminary until excavation is complete, the project has revealed a large rectangular enclosure (measuring c.80m by c.55m) with other smaller enclosures and structures. These are bisected by a wide trackway running across the site from the south-west to north-east. A number of rectangular post-built structures have been recorded, along with a post-built round-house. Some pits are producing good assemblages of domestic waste and a possible corn-dryer has been found along with a small number of human burials.

Archaeologists excavate a post-built roundhouse. Nine posts ring the circumference of the structure with four more marking the site of an entrance porch. Image by AerialCam

Provisional dating suggests that the enclosure and trackway, in their final form, date to the 1st or 2nd century AD with activity in the area continuing as late as the mid-3rd century AD. Several features are also producing bits of Roman tile, predominately box flue, suggesting that more substantial Roman buildings are present in the vicinity, although none have been found on the site itself.

The trackway, which is later than the large rectangular enclosure, is c.13m wide, its edges defined by long, straight ditches. Excavation of the ditches has found one containing an articulated cow skeleton mixed in with dumps of butchery waste. Narrow ‘wheel ruts’ have also been identified along parts of the carriageway; some were filled with packed flint, possibly evidence of people repairing pot-holes, whilst other broader spreads of flint may be the remains of metalling. When viewed on maps of the wider area, the alignment of the trackway matches the projected course of the Lower Icknield Way, so may have its origins in the Iron Age or earlier.

Archaeologist Richard Huxley records one of the human burials.

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