NESCOT former animal husbandry land, residential development site, Reigate Road, Ewell (pt 2)

Excavation by A Haslam of PCA targeted three areas of the site, identified following earlier evaluation (SyAC 99, 218). Area 1 was situated in the south-western corner of the site. It revealed two parallel, north-west/south-east orientated ditches, interpreted as a droveway, and a series of small pits and postholes that formed a sub-rectangular enclosure, possibly an animal pen or paddock, to their east. All were of probable Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age date. A further sub-pen was identified within the south-eastern corner of the enclosure. A large naturally-formed feature truncated the westernmost of the two droveway ditches. Measuring 9m in diameter at the surface and narrowing to a central shaft of 5m, its full depth of 9.5m was determined by power auger. The feature appeared to post-date the prehistoric ditch with a fill sequence that indicated final infilling occurred during the Roman period, at some point between AD 160 and 200. Finds recovered from the upper fills included the majority of an articulated horse skeleton. In the extreme north-east corner of Area 2, two early Roman ditches aligned north-west/south-east were revealed. They had a 6m gap between them that may have indicated an entrance while a lack of features to their immediate west suggested that whatever they enclosed lay beyond the site boundary to the east. Truncating the northernmost of these ditches was a series of three large intercutting pits. They contained significant quantities of 3rd century Roman pottery, small finds, and animal bone, including at least one articulated dog skeleton, and the remains of a human neonate. The material within the pits appeared to be structured depositions. The size of the pits indicated they were unlikely to have functioned as storage pits and therefore were most probably excavated as small shafts for chalk and flint quarrying. Chalk and flint quarrying was further revealed across the west of Area 2 where three very large quarry pits were recorded together with smaller pits and isolated postholes. The quarries related to the extraction of chalk and flint, which appears to have been undertaken on an industrial scale. This material may have been used locally, although the quantity of material removed would seem to indicate this resource was being exported out of the immediate area, possibly using the Hogsmill river. The quarries were closed by the 2nd century, although one in particular, which could be determined as a ‘shaft’, may have been backfilled by the end of the 1st century. All the quarries were apparently closed with material associated with the practice of selective deposition, and the shaft appears to have been the focus of that activity. Human remains in disarticulated form recovered from the bottom of the feature have been estimated as representing a minimum number of 53 individuals. These remains were accompanied by animal bone groups comprising 67 partial dogs, seven partial pigs and four partial foetal horses, together with pottery vessels, coins, a gaming piece, a brooch and a spindle whorl. A near-complete, prone human skeleton was also revealed in the shaft and, with the disarticulated human remains, suggest that excarnation was being practised in the area at that time. A bone-handled knife was also recovered above the articulated skeleton. Evidence of Saxon activity consisted of a single north–south aligned grave cutting the northern quarry pit. It contained the remains of a young to middle-aged adult female. She had been buried with her head at the southern end of the grave and was accompanied by an iron knife and a coin dating to between AD 675 and 710. A possibly associated calf burial was recorded just to the west of the grave. Sealing the Saxon grave and many of the Roman features in the western half of Area 2 was a deposit of colluvium. Finds recovered from this deposit included prehistoric flint, numerous Roman small finds, a Saxon strap end and a medieval buckle. These finds are unlikely to have derived from far away and the Roman coins from this context are of particular interest. They date to between AD 313 and 346 and appear to suggest that activity ceased in the area (or at least on the site) prior to the second half of the 4th century. Area 3 revealed no finds or features of archaeological significance. Two possible ditches identified during the evaluation phase were determined to have been the result of cryoturbation