What’s happened so far?
October 2017 – The archaeological and historical background of the fields south of Thorpe Road in Weeley was researched by Colchester Archaeological Trust to understand what was already known about the area. Download the report here.
July 2020 – A geophysical survey was undertaken by Magnitude Surveys to locate archaeological remains under the ground. Sensors were used to detect magnetised archaeological objects, structures, and features within the sub-soil. The signals detected a potential trackway, enclosures, pits, and trenches. Download the report here.
January - February 2021 – As a condition of planning permission, 144 trial trenches were dug by archaeologists at Oxford Archaeology East to investigate the signals detected by the geophysical survey and check the location, condition, and type of archaeological remains ahead of full excavation. The team found several pits and a small amount of struck and burnt flint. These were dated to the Neolithic period, the latest Stone Age, nearly 6,000 years ago, when people were starting to settle in one place and to farm. A set of later field ditches containing pottery dating to the time of the Roman Conquest, about 2,000 years ago, was found in the north of the site. This was probably on the edge of a Romano-British settlement where people threw away their rubbish in the ditches of their fields. Of particular interest was the discovery of brick buildings and military finds associated with a Napoleonic camp and barracks from the late 1700s/1800s in the south-west of the site. Download the report here.
February 2021 – Specialists from the University of Reading, Quest, dug 18 test pits to investigate the potential to recover evidence for human activity from the Palaeolithic, the early Stone Age, at deeper depths than the trial trenches. Only one definite artefact was recovered from 1600 litres of gravel, considered of limited significance. Quest have not recommended further investigation for Palaeolithic material. Download the report here.
What will be happening soon?
August 2021 – Open area excavation starts. The topsoil and sub-soil will be removed using mechanical diggers under direction of archaeologists, to reveal the archaeological features. These will be dug by hand to recover any finds that might give clues about when and why people used this area in the past. The work is being undertaken by Oxford Archaeology East with consultation from RPS Heritage. It has been approved by the archaeological advisor to Tendring District Council (Essex Place Services) and will be regularly monitored by them.
October 2021 – We worked with the Ministry of Defence on Operation Nightingale, an initiative to assist the recovery of wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans by getting them involved in archaeological investigations.
Autumn 2021 – There will be an open day for members of the public to visit the site. Please check back for more details soon.
January 2022 – There will be a final open day before the end of the excavation, which is expected to finish at the end of January. Tendring District Council's archaeological advisor will check and sign off the fieldwork stage of the project.
2022 onwards – Once the excavations end and all the finds have been washed and counted, they will be sent to specialists to identify and make recommendations for further analysis, before a full report is written. This will be checked by Essex Place Services and submitted to the county’s Historic Environment Record. The records and finds will be deposited with the Colchester + Ipswich Museums Service, as required by Essex Place Services, to be accessible to researchers and the public.
Many people might not realise it but the post-excavation work is usually a far longer and more involved process than the excavation itself. The timescale will depend on the quantities of material found and the nature of the archaeological remains, but it would not be unusual for a post-excavation programme for a project of this size to take at least 2 years. It is normal for this phase of work to be split into two phases:
Phase 1. Post excavation assessment
Once an excavation finishes, the finds will be washed and any environmental soil samples processed. All of the paperwork and photographs will be documented and a project database created. All artefacts and environmental samples will be counted, weighed and assessed by finds specialists or environmental archaeologists. Some radiocarbon dating may be deemed useful at this stage if there are specific dating queries which could be resolved. The outcome of this phase of report is a synthesised report which sets out the initial understanding of the archaeological remains on the site based on the excavation records and quantifications and assessment of the finds and environmental remains recovered. It will also contain recommendations from the specialists involved over whether further analysis of their specialism is required and identify research questions which could be investigated through this work.
Overall, the report will determine whether the remains recovered on the excavation site are worthy of further analysis and wider dissemination through a written publication report. It will make recommendations on what work is required, what the likely research outcomes of undertaking this work are, and what form the publication will take. The post-excavation assessment report will be submitted to Tendring District Council’s archaeological advisor for their review and approval as part of their monitoring of the archaeological works.
Phase 2. Analysis and publication
Assuming that the excavations at Weeley will go to this second phase, the analysis work recommended by the specialists will be undertaken, alongside a detailed analysis of the paper and photographic results from the site. It may be appropriate to obtain radiocarbon dates to resolve questions of dating, and if any human burials are excavated, they will be subject to detailed analysis at this point. The outcome of this phase of work will be an illustrated report which describes the archaeological remains on the site and the results of the analysis undertaken, culminating in a discussion on the site and its significance within a wider context.
This report will be submitted to Tendring District Council’s archaeological advisor for approval and sign off. This sign off would signify that all of the work required by the archaeological planning condition on the site had been completed.