Land at former Meath Green Farm, North West Development,

Excavation by T Munnery of ASE of two of seven identified areas (SMS1 and WB6) highlighted as being of archaeological significance following evaluation (SyAC 94, 364). SMS1 revealed a multiphase site with evidence of activity from the Mesolithic through to the post-medieval period. Mesolithic flintwork was recovered from the overburden and was frequently found as residual artefacts within later features. Owing to the absence of Mesolithic features and the recovery processes involved with machine stripping, it was difficult to assign a more precise date to the Mesolithic activity; however, some microliths and microburins, characteristic of Late Mesolithic working, were recovered suggesting at least some of the activity dated to that period. Three small pits dating to the Middle Bronze Age were also revealed. They were distributed across the site and did not appear to relate to any of the later features encountered, nor create a discrete area of activity. One of the pits appeared to contain the majority of a single ceramic vessel and some associated charred remains. SMS1 was sub-divided into four areas of excavation. The majority of activity encountered was concentrated in Area 3 and derived from the Late Iron Age/early Roman period with much of the pottery dating to the 1st century AD. Features comprised refuse pits, storage pits, at least two four-post structures, the remains of four roundhouses, field boundaries and a drove or trackway that ran from Area 3 into Area 2. In addition to the four roundhouses, three other ring ditches were revealed. These were complete ditch circuits and in some cases produced large quantities of Late Iron Age/early Roman pottery and small quantities of burnt bone. The function of the ring ditches is as yet unclear, and their relationship to the settlement evidence requires further clarification. A series of small pits, some of which contained burnt bone was identified between two of the ring ditches. In the south-west of Area 3 was a series of pits and two small rectangular enclosure ditches dated to the medieval or early post-medieval period. Evidence of ironworking was associated with some of these, with iron slag being recovered from their fills, sometimes in very large quantities, although no furnace remains were observed. A rectangular structure was recorded at the far south-west corner of the site that is likely to be a sill beam-constructed building. These features form a discrete group all possibly associated with a small-scale iron-smelting industry. However, there is the possibility that some of the features relate to the medieval moated manor that lies c 140m to the west on the opposite bank of the river Mole. The southern half of the site and WB6 was covered by a profusion of post-medieval pits, with an average diameter of between 3 and 3.5m. Approximately 400 pits were observed across SMS1 and WB6, indicating the presence of several thousand across the landscape. A sample, excavated by hand and machine, revealed them to be typically shallow and to coincide with outcrops of natural clay. They are interpreted as clay settling pits, where clay is mixed with water and the heavier sediment allowed to settle, leaving the finer grade towards the surface and extractable for use in tile- or brick-making industries. WB6 was dominated by the clay settling pits but despite the destructive consequences of their excavation, two ditches dating to the Late Iron Age/early Roman period were also recorded.