Iron Age Ritual, a Hillfort and Evidence for a Minster at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire [Hardback]

Mike Farley (Author); Gillian Jones (Author)

ISBN: 9781842174845 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2012 | Language: English 184p, b/w and colour illustrations

Iron Age Ritual, a Hillfort and Evidence for a Minster at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire


The excavation of an area within the grounds of the Prebendal, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, adjacent to the parish church of St Mary's, showed that the town, which lies on a slight spur, is sited within a univallate Iron Age hillfort. Early-Middle Iron Age activity included the creation of a notable ritual area contaning the burials of four children and a young woman, most accompanied by animals; and a 'bone mass' containing animal bone, mostly disarticulated. Within a generation or so of the deposit's creation, within the first half of the 4th century BC, a univallate hillfort was constructed which did not continue into the later Iron Age. Early in the Middle Saxon period a palisade trench was dug into the hillfort's ditch, which was replaced by a ditch in the 8th century. Both palisade and ditch were almost certainly the boundaries of an early minster church and it is very likely that the former existence of the hillfort influenced its siting here. An unusual piece of Merovingian glass with a moulded cross on its base is likely to have been one of the minster's possessions. The extensive minster cemetery and later Saxon development of the town is briefly noted. A significant Saxo-Norman grain deposit which has been radiocarbon dated to the 11th-12th centuries is described.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to the excavation and to Aylesbury and its early prehistory
The town and the excavation
Early Prehistory
  Worked flint
  Beaker sherds

2. The Iron Age Hillfort
The hillfort ditch
The primary ditch and a human skull on its base
An Iron Age recut of the primary ditch
The problem of the accompanying rampart
Subfossil molluscan fauna from a section through the ditch (Diane FitzMaurice)
Finds from the hillfort ditch
  Iron Age pottery (Barbara Hurman)
  Pottery Fabrics
  Clay slingshot
Animal bone from the Iron Age ditch (Gillian Jones)
Human bone from the recut ditch (C. Osborne)
Charred plant remains from the ditch (Lisa Moffett)
Summary of the hillfort defence

3. The Iron Age ritual deposit: introduction and description of human and animal remains
The human remains from the ritual place (G. G. Jones and M. Farley, including identifications by C. Osborne)
  Human 1
  Human 2
  Human 3
  Human 4
  Human 5
  Other human bones from the ritual deposit
  Summary of human bone from the ritual deposit
The Animal Bone from the ritual deposit (G. G. Jones)
  Articulated groups associated with Human Burials 1 to 5
  Animals associated with Human Burial 1
  Animals associated with Human Burial 2
  Animals associated with Human Burial 3
  Animals probably associated with Human Burial 4
  Animals associated with Human Burial 5
  Discussion of the articulated animal remains associated with humans
  Description of the eastern bone mass
  The identification of sheep and goat
  Evidence for season, from the age at death of the sheep (goat)
  The size of the sheep
  Other species from the ritual deposit
  Bones from the upper layers of the ritual deposit and intrusive features
  Comparison with other sites
An Iron Age fishbone (Andrew K. G. Jone)

4. Other finds from the ritual deposit and further environmental evidence
The pottery from the ritual deposit (Barbara Hurman and Michael Farley)
  Illustrated pottery from the ritual deposit
  The cultural affinity of the pottery from the ritual deposit
Other finds from the ritual deposit (Fig. 46)
  Antler combs
  Copper alloy
  Stone not native to the site
Further environmental evidence from the ritual deposit
  Charred plant remains (Lisa Moffett)
  Wood charcoal macro-remains (Phil Austin)
    Taphonomy and fragment condition
    Wood use and resource management
    The contemporary vegetation
  Parasitological analysis

5. Radiocarbon dating of the skull from the hillfort ditch and human and animal bone from the ritual deposit (John Meadows, Michael Farley, Gillian Jones, Christopher Bronk Ramsey and Gordon Cook)
Approach to sample selection
Laboratory measurement
The Bayesian approach

6. Discussion of the ritual deposit
The character of the ritual deposit
Other human bone from the site and a radiocarbon determination
Comparable discoveries in England
What kind of ‘ritual’ took place at Aylesbury?

7. The hillfort and its region
The interior of the hillfort
  Two pits adjacent to the ritual deposit and a post-hole
  Finds from the two pits
    a. Pottery
    b. Other finds
    c. Charcoal
    d. Animal bone (G. G. Jones)
    e. Fish bone (Andrew K. G. Jone)
  A post-hole (?)
  Residual Iron Age finds
    Pottery (Barbara Hurman)
  The extent of the hillfort
  The hillfort interior
  The skull in the ditch, the date of construction of the fort and its period of use
  Aylesbury hillfort in its region: hillforts and settlements

8. Roman period evidence
Roman building material (Simon Smithson) [with additions]
Other finds
Aylesbury and the surrounding area during the Roman period

9. Early Saxon Aylesbury and a reference in the Anglo -Saxon Chronicle
Archaeology, place-names and documents
Early Saxon finds

10. A Minster boundary and Middle Saxon Aylesbury
The middle Saxon boundary: structure and finds (Figs 61–5)
  Palisade, post-holes and ditch
  Finds from the boundary
  From the post-holes
  From the palisade slot
  From the ditch
    a. The pottery (Barbara Hurman)
    b. Tile
    c. Loomweights
    d. The handled comb (Ian Riddler)
    e. The sceatta (Michael Metcalf)
    f. Iron
    g. Stone
    h. Glass
    i. Slag
    j. Worked flint
The middle Saxon boundary: animal and environmental evidence
Animal Bone (Gillian Jones)
  General description
  Sheep and goat
  Other species
Fish Bones (Andrew K. G. Jones)
The Charred Plant remains (Lisa Moffett)
Mollusca (Diane Fitzmaurice) [adapted]
Wood charcoal samples (Phil Austin)
  Taphonomy and fragment condition
  Wood and resource management
  The contemporary vegetation
The date of the boundary

11. Other Early Mid -Saxon finds from the site, apart from those from the boundary ditch
Pottery (Fig. 65, 8–14)
Antler (Fig. 73, 1–4) (Ian Riddler)
Loomweight (Fig. 73, 5)
Iron and lead (Fig. 73, 6)
The Glass (Figs 74, 2 and Fig. 75) (Jennifer Price)

12. Aylesbury and other minsters
The minster and its boundary
Life at the Aylesbury minster
The structure of an early Aylesbury church
The minster cemetery
The establishment of the minster: early politics, Birinus, St Osyth and Quarrendon
  The conversion of Buckinghamshire
  Tribes and clans
Other early churches in Buckinghamshire

13. The Late Saxon period
Saxo-Norman finds from the site
  The pottery
A Saxo-Norman Grain Spread (Lisa Moffett)
  Crop plants
  Wild plants
Radiocarbon dating of grain from a Saxo-Norman deposit (John Meadows, Michael Farley, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, and Gordon Cook)
The later minster
The town

14. Medieval and Post -Medieval us e of the sit e and an overview of the excavation

1. Catalogue of the human bone from the ritual deposit (C. Osborne with amendments by G. G. Jones)
2. Catalogue of the animal bone from the ritual deposit (G. G. Jones)
3. Catalogue of re-deposited human bone from the site, apart from the ritual deposit (C. Osborne)
4. The subfossil molluscan fauna from a ditch section (Diane FitzMaurice)
5. Report on the examination of some red-finished pottery (A. P. Middleton)

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