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2020 / 2021 Edition

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‘Hale Caesar!’ say Wight Building Materials

WBM archaeology

Wealth of Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman artefacts found at Hale Manor Quarry on Isle of Wight

A FASCINATING insight into Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman life on the Isle of Wight is being unearthed in a project by Wight Building Materials and archaeologists from Southampton City Council Archaeology Unit. The discovery of hundreds of artefacts has allowed experts to chart a legacy of intensive farming through the Bronze and Iron ages and has also raised the likelihood that the area is hiding an as-yet undiscovered settlement.

The collection of prehistoric fragments is being dug up at Hale Manor Quarry, near Arreton, where sand and gravel is being carefully extracted by Wight Building Materials. The work is subject to strict planning conditions, one of which is to work closely with archaeologists to ensure the site’s history – that not already lost to time and the plough over the centuries – is preserved.

For the past few years, quarrying has been conducted under the watchful eye of the team from Southampton City Council Archaeology Unit, with each artefact of interest being examined and catalogued. These will be presented to the Isle of Wight Museum Service, helping to paint a picture of life in the Arreton Valley during the Bronze and Iron ages and during the Roman occupation.

‘It’s a really productive site and is showing an unusually intense level of agricultural activity, which is very exciting,’ remarked archaeologist Emma Anderson. ‘All these people working the fields, coupled with the fact we have also found daub, which was used as a building material, means there must be a settlement still to be found here that could be quite significant.’

Ms Anderson is particularly grateful for Wight Building Materials’ diligent work with her team. ‘Without this sort of controlled excavation, we wouldn’t be able to piece together the history of this location,’ she explained. ‘Quarrying has allowed us to find out much, much more. We have hugely increased our archaeological knowledge of this area as a result of working with Wight Building Materials.’

Existing records showed the existence of one nearby Bronze Age burial mound, or barrow, but the work at Hale Manor has uncovered several more along with details of how the land was farmed by the early settlers. Among the fragments collected are Iron Age cutting and scraping tools, pieces of Iron Age and Bronze Age pottery, as well as more sophisticated pottery from Roman times – ‘plebware’ as it is termed in archaeological circles.

‘Most of what we are finding is already broken as it would have been discarded by the early settlers,’ said fellow archaeologist Peter Girdwood-Carroll. ‘The Romans certainly did get through some pottery – it’s fair to say they weren’t big on recycling.’

Wight Building Materials’ general manager, Steve Burton, said: ‘We are very much a local company and are really pleased to be playing a role in helping to uncover and understand the island’s past.

‘Whilst the work with Southampton City Council Archaeology Unit has meant excavation and extraction has sometimes been particularly painstaking, it is extremely important to respect the history buried in the ground beneath us. Planning conditions are in place for very good reason, as this work demonstrates, and we will continue to act responsibly as we undertake the remaining quarrying activity at Hale Manor and, indeed, wherever we operate.’

Jonathan Bacon, Isle of Wight Council cabinet member responsible for heritage and the environment, added: ‘This is an excellent example of how diligent planning, a local company eager to do the right thing and expertise from Southampton City Council are all coming together in the best interest of the island and its heritage.’

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