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A14 upgrade - On the road to 6,000 years of discoveries


By Ben Comber


Neolithic henge monument under excavation for A14C2H (c) Highways England, courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure
Neolithic henge monument under excavation for A14C2H (c) Highways England, courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure

Some 250 archaeologists worked through the gruelling winter to uncover some fascinating history at one of the largest excavations to ever take place in the UK.

Roman Samian ware pottery from A14C2H (c) Highways England, courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure
Roman Samian ware pottery from A14C2H (c) Highways England, courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure

They have so far uncovered 6,000 years of occupied sites, including Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age, Roman, Anglo Saxon and medieval, and have found countless artefacts such as a Roman Medusa jet pendant, an Anglo Saxon bone flute and an Iron Age timber ladder.

The archaeologists, led by MOLA Headland Infrastructure, have been digging more than 40 separate excavation areas along Highways England’s £1.5billion A14 scheme.

Dr Steve Sherlock, archaeology lead for the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon project for Highways England, said: “We now have the evidence to rewrite both the prehistoric and historic records of the area for the last 6,000 years. The archive of finds, samples and original records will be stored so that the data and knowledge is preserved for this and future generations.”

Excavating pottery for A14C2H (c) Highways England, courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure
Excavating pottery for A14C2H (c) Highways England, courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure

You can see the archaeologists in action on Saturday, April 7, between 10am and 5pm, as part of an A14 archaeology open day, which will include meeting the archaeologists, seeing the artefacts unearthed so far and taking a tour of one of the digs. It’s a free event, but must be booked in advance.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s senior archaeologist in the historic environment team, Kasia Gdaniec, said: “The A14’s archaeology programme has exposed an astonishing array of remarkable new sites that reveal the previously unknown character of ancient settlement across the western Cambridgeshire clay plain.

“No previous excavation had taken place in these areas, where only a few cropmarked sites indicated the presence of former settlements, but we now know that extensive, thriving long-lived villages were built during the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Saxon periods.

“Earlier prehistoric Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and burial monuments, that are 5,500 and 4,000 years old, have also been investigated, but the new Roman pottery industry that has emerged from sites in the Brampton area and at the new Great Ouse bridge sets apart the host sites from others dug in the county.

Anglo-Saxon bone flute (c) Highways England, courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure
Anglo-Saxon bone flute (c) Highways England, courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure

“The fast-paced excavations have been extremely challenging, especially during this relentlessly wet winter, but a very large, hardy team of British and international archaeologists successfully completed sites in advance of the road crews taking over to build the road structures. There is still more to do, but we want to share the excitement over what they are finding with the wider public and hope that they will enjoy the ongoing displays.”

Visit molaheadland.com/archaeology-excavation-and-discovery-open-day.



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