Digging for Britain

A University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) excavation, will feature on BBC4’s Digging for Britain on Wednesday 19 December at 9.00pm.

Over the winter of 2013 and 2014, ULAS excavated an archaeological site at Glenfield Park, Leicester. As well as being an important site locally and nationally, the discovery of a large amount of metalwork, including 11 complete cauldrons, has raised the site to international significance.

Led by John Thomas, Project Manager, ULAS, the excavation revealed evidence of long-term inhabitation throughout most of the Iron Age and Roman periods.

John Thomas said: “The Glenfield Park settlement is unusually large for an Iron-Age site in the East Midlands and our work has shown that it was long-lived, with a complex history of development from its origins in the 5thor 4th century BC through to its end in the late 1st century BC.”

The excavations uncovered a large amount of metalwork, including a complete sword, dress-pins, brooches and socketed tools.

However, the most astonishing discovery was the 11 complete cauldrons, eight of which were found in a ditch alongside the remains of an Iron-Age house.

“The occurrence of 11 complete cauldrons heighten the importance of the discovery significantly. There is nothing quite like this site anywhere in Iron-Age Europe.”

With a capacity of 40-50 litres, the cauldrons were most likely used to prepare large quantities of food or drink at feasting events.

Feasts played a crucial role in Iron-Age society and the cauldrons were central to these activities. It is even possible that the site was used as a ceremonial centre.

John added: “Feasting in the Iron Age would have been a particularly important mechanism to bring large groups of people together at special times of the year to reinforce social bonds. 

“As the centrepiece for such events, the role of the cauldron was critical as the provider of food and drink to the wider community, and their social importance is perhaps reflected in the unusual way in which the cauldrons were eventually buried.

 “The cauldrons and other finds at Glenfield Park are the result of a series of events that took place over a considerable length of time. 

“Repeated episodes of deposition across the settlement mark it out as a potential ceremonial centre that played host to large gatherings at feasts.”

The Glenfield Park excavations were commissioned by Wilson Bowden Developments Ltd.

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