Early & Middle Bronze Age Resource Assessment

by Anwen Cooper

Overview

Understandings of the Early to Middle Bronze Age (E/MBA) in the Eastern Region have transformed over the last 8–10 years primarily as a result of findings from development-led archaeology. Excavation on an unprecedented scale undertaken by a burgeoning number of fieldwork organisations, particularly in the northern part of the region, has produced a huge diversity of evidence spanning the period 2500–1150 BC. The results have been published in major monographs (Boulter et al 2012; Evans et al 2016, 2018, forthcoming a and b; Luke 2016; Richmond et al 2010; Wilkinson et al 2012) and international peer reviewed journals (Gilmour et al 2014, Robertson and Ames 2015, Robertson et al 2016, Tabor et al 2016) as well as in county journals (NA, PCAS and the PSIAH) and periodicals (e.g. Current Archaeology). Finds recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, university-based studies (dissertations, PhDs, syntheses, etc.) and the outcomes of non-intrusive and palaeoenvironmental surveys provide a vital counterpart to this wealth of excavated evidence.

Over 162 objects dating to the period 2500–1150 BC have been recorded in the Eastern region by the Portable Antiquities Scheme since January 2011. Unsurprisingly given the strong history of metal detecting in these counties, the vast majority of these objects were from Suffolk and Norfolk. Key gold finds (11 in total) include two separate finds of complete torcs from Great Dunham, Norfolk and East Cambridge. A biconical gold bead was recovered from Salthouse, Norfolk; findspots of penannular rings and torc/bracelet fragments span the region. Recently recovered copper-alloy items from the PAS (92 in total) are dominated by axeheads, palstaves and spearheads along with knives, rapiers and pins. A rare MBA ceremonial dirk was recovered from a farm office at East Rudham and is now on display at Norwich Castle Museum. Of the four multiple-object hoards recovered, perhaps the most intriguing is a pair of two-piece looped palstave moulds from Hempnall, Norfolk (PAS ID SF-2D55E2).

University-based and independent research projects have synthesised aspects of the E/MBA in the Eastern Region as part of national surveys, and focused on particular themes or sites that are specific to this region. Overall, the emphasis of these studies has been on hoards, other metalwork finds and burials.

At a national level, evidence from the Eastern Region features strongly in Bradley’s (forthcoming) updated Prehistory of Britain and Ireland. British Bronze Age cremation burials are synthesised in Caswell and Roberts (forthcoming). The Leverhulme-funded Social Context of Technology project (University of Bristol) examines evidence for non-ferrous metalworking in later prehistoric northwest Europe (Webley and Adams 2016). A recent study of Bronze Age hoards from England and Wales contends that most were a product of random accumulation and that their deposition was intended to be temporary (Wiseman 2018). Studies specific to the Eastern Region which address key themes raised in Medlycott (2011) are outlined in further detail below.

The National Mapping Programme’s Archaeology of the A11 corridor (Cattermole et al 2013) provides an important platform for future fieldwork in Norfolk. Finally, Howard et al’s (2016) synthesis of palaeoenvironmental investigations in Suffolk river valleys gives vital broader context to earlier surveys focused around the fen edge (Waller 1994).         

Summary of key excavations

The findings of key E/MBA excavations undertaken since 2011, or of E/MBA investigations undertaken prior to this but which have only recently been reported on or published in full are summarised by county/Local Authority in the table below. Overall it is worth stressing firstly, the significant scale and wealth of excavations especially in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Peterborough and, secondly, the particular richness and novelty of evidence for the MBA.

Bedfordshire

Some outstanding E/MBA landscapes have been excavated in Bedfordshire since 2011, particularly in the area immediately west and north of Bedford. Building on earlier work to the west of Bedford (Luke 2008) recent excavations covering a total study area of some 200 ha have revealed monument complexes, burials, settlement, land divisions and palaeoenvironmental evidence spanning the E/MBA, adding significantly to previous understandings of long-term river valley occupation for these periods (Luke 2016). The major EBA group of large pits and shafts associated with three clusters of ring ditches at the Biddenham Loop stands out, both in terms of the number of cut features and their association with unusual animal bone deposits – mainly of wild species. Other notable findings from this landscape include the broad spatial separation of EBA settlement and monument-related activity, the array of burial practices over the duration of the E/MBA (with an overall increase in the intensity of burial in the MBA), the close association between EBA and existing (E and LN) monumental earthworks, and the use of varied boundary constructions (including both post alignments and ditches) to divide the landscape up from c. 1500 BC. Essential to the success of the Biddenham Loop project was the integrated approach taken both to investigating the landscape (combining both intrusive and non-intrusive methods) and to publication (the findings of several nearby but separately funded fieldwork projects were combined). More recently, excavations to the North of Biddenham have exposed unusual and well-dated M/LBA settlement architecture comprising a palisaded enclosure and post alignment appended with a later ditched enclosure. Recently excavated EBA evidence from Broom Quarry, Biggleswade accords well with contemporary evidence from across the region. It includes a combination of plough-truncated ring ditches, and occasional clusters of or isolated Beaker/Collared Urn-associated pits.

Cambridgeshire

Intensive excavation on an unprecedented scale around the southern edge of Cambridge has produced exceptional evidence, particularly for the MBA. EBA activity in this area includes burials at a remodelled Neolithic barrow (Trumpington Meadows) and at an EBA barrow (Fawcett Primary School), and a low level of EBA settlement activity more widely. Extensive MBA fields, a remarkable series of post alignments (Bell Language School), a major cremation cemetery (Fawcett Primary School) and settlement features (roundhouses, enclosures, waterholes) associated with a high density of occupation debris and important palaeoenvironmental remains have been excavated across this area, the initial results from which have recently been published (Evans 2018). This important series of excavations on the southern edge of Cambridge provides a lynchpin for understanding E/MBA landscape development across the region. More widely, significant evidence for LN/EBA settlement and environments has emerged from long-term excavations at North Fen Sutton; diverse and important EBA ceremonial and burial activity has been excavated at North Fen Sutton, Turners Yard Fordham, Needingworth Quarry and at Alconbury TEA2 (A14 excavations). Further major MBA settlements and fields have been excavated across the county, notably (and unusually) on the clay uplands at Cam Drive, Ely, and at North West Cambridge where an integrated landscape of burials, monuments, fields and settlement features were uncovered (see also evidence from Mitchell Hill Common Cottenham, MMUK Processing Plant The Stukeleys, Milton Landfill and New Road Melbourn). While materially sparse compared to the MBA settlements from the southern edge of Cambridge, these wider settlements provide a vital counterpart to the richer excavated landscapes, furthering significantly our understanding of occupation dynamics during this period. One key feature of MBA landscapes from across the county is the regular occurrence of odd metalwork deposits, human fragments or high densities of occupation debris in ditch fills and waterholes. Important MBA burial evidence comprising two cemeteries – one with cremations and inhumation burials, another with cremation burials only has been found at Field End, Witchford. A rather different mode of activity was revealed at Must Farm, where a substantial MBA oak-pile causeway built over a river channel provided a focus for metalwork deposits – two dirks, one pin, one rapier, two spears and one sword were found along its south eastern side. This adds yet another element to our understanding of the internationally important Bronze Age landscape around the Flag Fen basin.

Essex

EBA monuments and diffuse settlement activity characterise the recent evidence from Essex. Several plough damaged round barrows have been excavated. Key examples include barrows from the Chelmsford-Maldon Effluent Pipeline excavations, where one ring ditch was centred on a cremation deposit in a tree throw; and from New Hall, Harlow where the central grave contained four remarkably similar Beaker pots three of which were probably smashed during the burial ceremony. Occasional pits with Beaker and Collared Urn pottery and LN/EBA flints have been excavated in several contexts. The regular occurrence of single isolated pits with large Beaker pottery (and sometimes also worked flint) assemblages is interesting and underlines previous suggestions that such features do not straightforwardly represent settlement practice (Garrow 2006). The LN/EBA burnt mounds from the recently published Stumble, Blackwater Estuary excavations provide useful balance to inland evidence for this period. In contrast to other parts of the region, no substantial new MBA settlements have been found in Essex. MBA activity includes the urned cremation burials and pottery deposits from EBA barrows at New Hall Harlow and on the Chelmsford-Maldon Effluent Pipeline. Field boundaries at Bulls Lodge Quarry, Boreham may also be MBA in origin (although Ennis 2016 assigns them to the LBA).

Hertfordshire

There is little in the way of substantial new evidence for the E/MBA in Hertfordshire since 2011. EBA evidence comprises primarily cropmark or truncated ring ditches with very few associated finds (e.g. at The Walkdens, Ashwell). Only one of these ring ditch sites was also associated with sparse, probably contemporary (Beaker) occupation evidence (Wilbury Hill, Letchworth). Recently investigated MBA settlement evidence is fragmentary – it comprises a single round house (Old Manor, Wormley), pits (Kings Park, St Albans), and potentially enclosed settlement at Luynes Rise, Buntingford. This last site awaits excavation but could add substantially to existing understandings of MBA occupation in Hertfordshire. Other potentially E/MBA sites are essentially undated: a palaeochannel (Manor St, Berkhampstead), a flint scatter with associated features (Box Lane, Boxmoor), and a burnt spread, possibly representing waterside activities similar to those found at burnt mounds much more broadly (Frogmore Meadows).

Norfolk

An abundance of fieldwork in Norfolk since 2011 has produced significant E/MBA evidence. Perhaps the most important development has been the identification and characterisation, for the first time in this county, of MBA enclosed roundhouse settlements, fields and droveways. MBA landscape features have now been excavated at Ormesby St Michael; Stonehouse Road, Salhouse; Norton Subcourse Quarry, Heckingham; Sidegate Road, Hopton on Sea and along the Norwich Northern Distributor route at Furze Lane, Taverham and Bell Farm, Horsford. The excavation at Ormesby St Michael was groundbreaking in terms of revealing that known cropmark enclosures across Norfolk might actually date to the MBA rather than being significantly later. Evidence from Bell Farm, Horsford is remarkable for the density of roundhouses excavated and the association of the enclosed settlement with monumental post-alignments. Meanwhile the unusual metalwork deposit – two torcs, two ring headed pins and two bracelets laid out as if in a grave – from a field ditch at Sidegate Road, Hopton on Sea raises important questions about the strictly functional character of land boundaries and also the sharp distinction that is often made between burial and hoard deposits. Beyond these key sites, survey in the area surrounding Holme II Timber Circle identified clusters of M/LBA post-built structures and a trackway providing important evidence of coastal activity for this period. Evidence for the EBA is relatively understated yet still important. Episodes of Beaker period/EBA settlement activity – including pits and artefact scatters, and a near complete Beaker pot deposited in a tree throw at Woodgate Farm, Aylsham – have been identified in at least five separate locations. Isolated Beaker burials were recovered at Norton Subcourse Quarry Heckingham and Bressingham Hall Farm Fersfield, while a possible mortuary enclosure of this date was identified at Drayton Lane, Horsford (Norwich Northern Bypass). These relatively rare discoveries highlight the true diversity of Beaker period funerary practices.

Peterborough

Understanding of E/MBA fen edge occupation has been developed hugely by investigations along the north-eastern edge of the Flag Fen Basin, east of Peterborough. Landscape-scale excavations at Pode Hole Farm, Willow Hall Farm and Briggs Farm, Thorney have uncovered extensive E/MBA occupation comprising Beaker period pits, EBA pit clusters, cremations, boundary ditches, waterholes, droveways and barrows and MBA field systems, waterholes, roundhouse-associated settlement and salt-working debris. It is now possible to develop a closer understanding of the emergence and organisation of fen-edge landscapes prior to inundation in the later Bronze Age, and of the relationship between settlement, burials, industry and farming. One intriguing complexity of the E/MBA evidence east of Peterborough (see also Patten forthcoming) is the sparsity of datable material culture associated with these extensive landscape features. In relation to this point, it is worth noting that understandings of this evidence are hampered by the very different approaches taken by different excavating units to (a) unpicking the chronology of these landscapes and (b) seeking to understand ecological change. Archaeological features which are very similar in form – but which essentially lack any definitive dating evidence – have been assigned confidently to periods spanning the EBA to the MIA. A key research priority in this area must be to develop more inventive and systematic approaches (supported by C14 and other dating methods) to unpicking landscape chronology. The detailed dating and environmental sampling programmes undertaken by OA East at Brigg’s Farm were exemplary in this respect. Such testing is essential to developing better interpretations of what fields did. Ongoing work on the fringes of Peterborough at Maxey, Fengate and Gores Farm complement the results of these landscape-scale projects. The variability of EBA monument types (a pond barrow, a post-built structure, and more traditional barrow forms, diverse in size) is a key feature of these investigations. The undated but possibly MBA palisaded enclosure at Fengate Power Station has only one potential regional parallel (at North of Biddenham, Bedfordshire) and, once again, emphasises the diversity of MBA architectures.

Suffolk

The recent burgeoning of evidence for the E/MBA is perhaps more notable in Suffolk than in any other part of the region. One key aspect of recent discoveries in Suffolk is the high intensity of settlement, ceremonial and burial evidence for both the EBA and MBA – this offers an unprecedented opportunity to explore the emergence of landscapes over the duration of the later 3rd and 2nd millenniums BC. Substantial Beaker and EBA occupation comprising mostly pit clusters has been found at Church Road Saxmundham, Flixton Park Quarry, Fordham Road Newmarket, Ingham Quarry and Wangford Quarry. More unusually, EBA activity at Flixton Park Quarry also included a midden deposit, a hedged boundary and a possible structure. EBA ring ditches (with and without burials) have been excavated in at least 10 locations since 2011. Contemporary burials (inhumations, and both urned and unurned cremation burials) have been found both in direct association with ring ditches, with a possible mortuary structure (Ravenswood, Ipswich), in apparent isolation (Land NW of Bury St Edmunds, Fornham All Saints), and in flat cemetery (Wangford Quarry). Important EBA grave good assemblages accompanied the barrow burials at Flixton Park Quarry and at Great Cornard, where one inhumation burial was associated with a necklace of large amber beads and about 400 tiny jet and white shell beads. MBA settlement features and fields have been identified across the county and on a range of geologies, most notably at Fordham Road, Newmarket where a long sequence of enclosed settlement including at least eight round houses was excavated. As was noted for landscapes south of Cambridge, in several cases MBA land boundaries (both within and beyond settlement areas) have produced unusual deposits – an infant cremation burial at Ravenswood Ipswich, an entire inverted MBA urn at Felixstowe Academy, large quantities of freshly broken pottery and loom weights at Primary School, Kessingland. Numerous isolated MBA cremation burials have been found in association with earlier and contemporary ring ditches. In addition, three major MBA cremation cemeteries were excavated at Wangford Quarry (close to a ring ditch), at Cherry Tree Inn, Debenham (seemingly in isolation) and at the SWISS Sixth Form Collage, Pinewood. Tiny ring ditches (as small as c. 2.5m in diameter) with central cremation burials are a regular feature of the MBA in Suffolk (e.g. at Sutton Hoo, Ingham Quarry, SWISS Sixth Form College Pinewood, Ravenswood Ipswich).

Key Projects: Early to Middle Bronze Age

AuthorityHER_idProject nameSummaryThemesKey reference(s)PriorityPeriod
BedfordshireBiddenham Loop, West of BedfordAmazing multiperiod landscape. EBA evidence comprises three clusters of ring ditches associated with both cremation and inhumation burials, isolated cremation and inhumation burials, a concentration of ritual pits and shafts, and settlement features - pits, flint scatters and water holes. MBA evidence comprises three main settlement clusters, an extensive field system, potentially associated with a system of post alignments and an array of cremation and inhumation burials clustered in the vicinity of earlier monuments and distributed across the landscapeMonument; Burial; Occupation; Odd deposits, Land division; EnvironmentLuke 20161Both
BedfordshireBedford Water MainTwo undated pits potentially of LN/EBA date. MBA ditched boundaries forming part of a much more extensive field system investigated previously in this area (Luke 2016)Occupation, Land divisionLuke 20112Both
BedfordshireBromham Road, BiddenhamTwo EBA ring ditches (no firm dating evidence) and isolated pit clusters. Unusual M/LBA enclosure including both ditched and palisaded elements and a central post alignment. Occasional MBA pits and a waterhole. Postholes from the palisade and the central post alignment produced c14 dates spanning the MBAOccupation; Monument; Land divisionLuke forthcoming2Both
BedfordshireBlack Cat Roundabout Quarry, RoxtonNo information availablen/an/an/an/a
BedfordshireDairy Farm, Willington QuarryNo information availablen/an/an/an/a
BedfordshireA5-M1 Link Road, DunstableLN/EBA flint scatters, ?M/LBA occupation features, undated prehistoric ditches (potentially representing a MBA field system). No further details availableOccupation; Land divisionBrown 20153Both?
BedfordshireBedford Western Bypass (Northern Section)One certain ring ditch (c. 22m in diameter) that produced no dateable material; a second curvilinear ditch with worked flints (but not identified in other relevant trenches)MonumentLuke 20122EBA
BedfordshireBroom South Quarry, BiggleswadeSingle isolated pit with a small assemblage of Beaker pottery (see however Cooper 2005). Pit cluster including two EBA cremation burials with Collared Urn pottery. Substantial but essentially undated ring ditch (few associated objects)Occupation; Burial; MonumentTabor 20162EBA
BedfordshireBroom Quarry, BiggleswadePlough truncated/partially excavated LN/EBA ring ditch (no burial evidence) and an isolated pit with a deposit of Beaker pottery and burnt/unburnt animal bone (Tabor 2014, 7-10)Occupation; MonumentTabor 20143EBA
CambridgeECB4376; ECB4797; ECB4840Addenbrookes, Cambridge2020 Lands (Collins 2009): Two large MBA enclosures, with very different forms and ditch fills suggesting different functions together with wider MBA BA land divisions XX; CBC (Newman et al 2010; ECB3039): MBA land boundaries, pits and waterholes; MSCP (Tabor 2013; ECB3884): Possible MBA land boundaries and burnt stone pits; AstraZeneca (Tabor 2015) XX; Bell Language School (Bush and Mortimer 2015; ECB 3736): EBA waterhole, burnt mound and associated features (c14 dated 1772-1628 cal BC), MBA field system and waterholes (c14 dated 1413-1235 cal BC), M/LBA post alignments (ambiguously dated - potentially respected by, correspond with and respect the MBA field system)Occupation; Land division; Monument; Burial?Bush and Mortimer 2015; Evans et al forthcoming1Both
CambridgeECB3686; ECB3984Clay Farm, CambridgeClay Farm (ECB3686): Diffuse EBA pits associated with Beaker and Collared Urn pottery (one with a near complete Beaker vessel), extensive MBA fields (including an early 'strip field' phase), waterholes and enclosed settlement associated with a significant amount of occupation debris (loom weights, pins, awls, a spatula, quern fragments, an amber bead and flint arrowheads), waterlogged wood, and important palaoecological remains (plant, insect, etc.). Occasional deposits in enclosure ditches and waterholes include a side-looped and socketed spearhead, a possible scabbard chape, human fragments, a dog burial, and other unusual animal bone deposits (e.g. a polecat skull). C14 dates span the later 2nd millennium BC. Regionally important plant and animal remains, Deverel Rimbury and flint assemblages; Fawcett Primary (ECB3984): EBA barrow/double ring ditch (c. 17m in diameter, only part excavated), single inhumation burial cut into the base of the ring ditch, MBA cremation cemetery (37 cremation burials with c14 dates spanning the MBA) cut into ring ditch fills associated with a large assemblage of MBA worked flint, MBA droveway associated with later burial depositsMonument; Burial; Occupation; Odd deposits, Land division; EnvironmentPhillips and Mortimer 2012; Phillips 2015a1Both
CambridgeVariousDimmock's Cote Quarry, WickenC-shaped monument associated with a small collared urn deposit, two Beaker pits, Collared Urn deposit in solution hollow, MBA pit and ditchBurial; Monument; Occupation; Odd depositsGilmour 2014a2Both
CambridgeXXFordham BypassBeaker pits; Beaker midden. MBA cremation cemeteryOccupation; BurialMortimer 20052Both
CambridgeECB2637Milton Landfill, CambridgeE/MBA waterholes, MBA field system (including sections of post alignment) and possible settlement features but with little dateable materialLand division; OccupationPhillips 2015b2Both
CambridgeECB4111; ECB4112; ECB4114North West CambridgeSites II and IV (ECB 4111): Low intensity EBA occupation (possible pits, material deposited in a tree throw); four E/MBA ring ditches, three small cremation burial groups, single crouched inhumation; MBA enclosures, occupation and waterholes associated with a low density of material culture; Site V (ECB4112): possible MBA boundary ditches; Travellers Rest subsite (ECB 4114): LN/EBA flint scatter, possible MBA boundaryMonument; Burial; Occupation; Land divisionCessford and Evans 20142Both
CambridgeECB3323Trumpington MeadowsEBA recutting of MN ring ditch (associated with a Collared Urn deposit - potentially a truncated cremation), Beaker double inhumation burial with turf mound, cremation burials (three unurned, one within a Collared Urn), EBA pits containing settlement debris, undated post-built structure (possibly BA)Monument; Burial; OccupationPatten 20122Both
CambridgeECB4241 New Road, Melbourne; Munceys Farm Melbourn2014a EBA ring ditch, Collared Urn deposit in tree throw, MBA fields and possible settlement features; 2014b: Undated ring ditchMonument, Occupation; Odd deposits; Land divisionLadd 2014a and b3Both
CambridgeXXNorth Fen, Sutton(Connor 2009): Ring ditch with central urned cremation burial (inverted Collared Urn and planoconvex flint knife) and associated pyre deposit; (Webley 2009): LN/EBA in-situ flint scatter, pits, postholes and waterholes, alongside a palaeochannel. c14 dates span the period 2400 -1800 cal BC; (Tabor 2015): XXBurial; Monument; Occupation, EnvironmentConnor 2009; Webley 2009; Tabor 20151EBA
CambridgeECB3854Turners Yard, FordhamTwo round barrows - one with a central Beaker inhumation, one with a central Collared Urn cremation. An unusual collection of material (including Beaker pottery, a significant flint assemblage and a fragment of greenstone axe) was deposited in a pit next to the earlier ring ditch; a tightly bound E/MBA inhumation inserted in the ring ditch itself. A jet bracelet accompanied the Beaker inhumation; the Collared Urn cremation was with a copper alloy knifedagger and a burnt pierced bone point. c14 dates on cremated bone are disparate.Monument; Burial; Odd depositsGilmour 2015a1EBA
CambridgeA14 - multiple sitesAlconbury TEA2: LN/EBA henge associated with four urned cremation burialsMonument; BurialCasa Hatton et al 20172EBA
CambridgeECB2884; ECB3644; ECB3913Needingworth QuarryNeolithic henge monument remodelled as a Bronze Age barrow in an environment affected by the development of fenland conditionsMonument; Burial; EnvironmentEvans et al 20162EBA
CambridgeECB3977Must FarmNE–SW aligned MBA causeway comprising a double row of very large oak piles, built over a river channel. Metalwork deposits - two dirks, one pin, one rapier, two spears, one sword - were found along the south eastern side of the causeway, in the contemporary river siltsMonument; Odd deposits; EnvironmentKnight et al 20171MBA
CambridgeECB4413Cam Drive, ElyBackground scatter of EBA material, large sub-rectangular MBA ditched enclosure with internal divisions, possible post built structures, pits and a waterhole. A sizeable assemblage of MBA occupation debris was recovered from one section of the enclosure ditchOccupation; Land division; Odd depositsPhillips and Morgan 20152MBA
CambridgeField End, WitchfordTwo MBA cremation cemeteries - one with both cremation and inhumation burials, the other with just cremation burialsBurialCasa Hatton et al (eds) 20172MBA
CambridgeMitchell Hill Common, CottenhamBurnt mound, MBA settlement featuresOccupationCasa Hatton et al (eds) 20172MBA
CambridgeMMUK Processing Plant, The Stukeleys, AlconburryMBA enclosure ditch, settlement features and cremation burialsOccupation, Burial, Land divisionCasa Hatton et al (eds) 20172MBA
CambridgeECB2108Papworth EverardMajor MBA cremation cemetery (41 cremation burials, 14 urned) arranged alongside a field ditch terminal, close to a stream on boulder clayBurial; Land divisionGilmour et al 20102MBA
EssexChelmsford-Maldon Effluent PipelineEBA triple-ditched ring ditch associated with six MBA cremation burials (3 urned, 3 unurned) identified but not excavated in an evaluation trench (Gilmour 2013). Excavated evidence includes: Area A: Single Beaker pit with large assemblage of worked flint and Beaker pottery from eight vessels; Area D: a ploughed-out EBA barrow focused around a tree throw, associated with a primary EBA unurned cremation burial (1872-1639 cal BC; 3423±29 BP; GU35119) and five MBA urned cremation burials (some associated with unburnt flint; C14 dates span the period 1500-1100 cal BC); Area E: pair of EBA pits associated with settlement debris and EBA potteryOccupation; Burial; Monument; Odd depositsGilmour 2015b1Both
Essex46442New Hall, HarlowLN/EBA causewayed ring ditch (c. 16m in diameter) with central Beaker burial (four very similar Beaker vessels but no surviving human remains), probably constructed in two main phases. Single isolated Beaker pit. Truncated MBA urn deposited in upper ring ditch fill (no human remains). Potentially contemporary pit located just outside ring ditchMonument; Burial; Occupation; Odd depositsDyson 20151Both
Essex46212-3, 46463, 46881Bulls Lodge Quarry, Boreham Airfield2011: two isolated pits containing Beaker and ?EBA pottery respectively. Some of the other undated pits and postholes in clusters across the same area probably also date to this period; 2016: later BA field boundariesOccupation; Land divisionEnnis 2011, 20162Both
Essex13659-60The Stumble, Blackwater EstuaryLN/EBA burnt mounds associated with a broader scatter of worked flint and pottery and cut features - postholes, pits, cooking holes. c14 dates span the period 2882-2145 cal BC (95% probablility)Occupation; EnvironmentWilkinson et al 20122EBA
Herts30253-4Wilbury Hill, LetchworthTruncated barrow represented by a shallow, undated ring ditch (c. 19m in diameter). Clusters of Beaker period to EBA occupation pits located to the south-west of the ring ditchMonument; OccupationBarlow and Newton 20132EBA
Herts30227Old Manor, WormleyMBA occupation represented by a roundhouse (c.7.6m in diameter), and a pit containing fragments of decorated Deverel-Rimbury potteryOccupationCapon 20122MBA
Herts16243Frogmore Meadows, SarrattBurnt deposit on the bank of the river Chess, characteristic of Bronze Age burnt mounds. Extensive burnt deposit (limits not established) comprising charcoal, ash and fire-cracked flint, and associated with an undiagnostic flint scraper, potentially BA in date. Probably represents activity similar to that associated with burnt moundsOccupationKaye 20152Not specifically dated
NorfolkENF139692; ENF139693; ENF139696; ENF139698Norwich Northern BypassE/MBA archaeology identified at three separate locations: Area 1, Furze Lane, Tavenham: BA boundary ditch; Area 3 Bell Farm Horsford: Significant MBA settlement enclosure associated with 7-8 roundhouses, M/LBA post alignments; Area 5 West of Drayton Lane, Horsford: LN/EBA mortuary enclosureMonument; Burial; Occupation; Land divisionPooley et al 20151Both
NorfolkNHER42674Former RAF Radar Station, Watton, Norwich RoadSmall round barrow (c. 6.5m in diameter) with a central cremation in a MBA barrel urn. Five unurned cremations and an undated inhumation were located beyond the mound. Undated pits and postholes and a small assemblage of Beaker/EBA pottery were recovered more widely suggesting EBA settlement activity at the siteMonument; Occupation; BurialMason 20112Both
NorfolkNHER40918Heckingham, Norton Subcourse QuarryTwo late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age inhumation burials in a shallow depression. One a female (c. 30 years old) with two jet toggles by the skull (earrings?). Second burial truncated by a MBA ?droveway ditchBurial, Land divisionGurney 20112Both
NorfolkNHER38044; NHER38205; NHER38212/38213; NHER38046; NHER38221Holme-next-the-sea, Holme II Timber Circle, Holme BeachDating and scientific analysis of timbers from Holme II Timber Circle and surface survey of surrounding area. Felling of trees for Holme II dated to the spring or summer of 2049 cal BC (identical to Holme I); E/MBA post-built structures (c14 dated to 1620-1400 cal BC), a M/LBA trackway (c14 dated to 1210-900 cal BC) and evidence for EBA woodland management (c14 dated to 2140-1500 cal BC) recorded in the intertidal zone close to Holme I and II (all dates 95.4% probability)Monument; OccupationRobertson et al 2016; Robertson and Ames 20152Both
NorfolkENF127270Hopton-on-Sea, Sidegate RoadPossible EBA round barrow; MBA droveway, fields and low-level settlement activity; MBA hoard (2 torcs, 2 quoit-headed pins & 2 bracelets) cut into one of the field ditches. The items were buried in a manner 'suggestive of a burial' (following the form of a body) and at least three of these items were broken in antiquityMonument; Land division; Occupation; Odd depositsAdams et al 20112Both
NorfolkENF132710Woodgate Farm, AyleshamNear complete and crushed Beaker pot deposited in a tree throwOdd depositsGilmour 2014b2EBA
Essex46442New Hall, HarlowLN/EBA causewayed ring ditch (c. 16m in diameter) with central Beaker burial (four very similar Beaker vessels but no surviving human remains), probably constructed in two main phases. Single isolated Beaker pit. Truncated MBA urn deposited in upper ring ditch fill (no human remains). Potentially contemporary pit located just outside ring ditchMonument; Burial; Occupation; Odd depositsDyson 20151Both
Essex46212-3, 46463, 46881Bulls Lodge Quarry, Boreham Airfield2011: two isolated pits containing Beaker and ?EBA pottery respectively. Some of the other undated pits and postholes in clusters across the same area probably also date to this period; 2016: later BA field boundariesOccupation; Land divisionEnnis 2011, 20162Both
Essex13659-60The Stumble, Blackwater EstuaryLN/EBA burnt mounds associated with a broader scatter of worked flint and pottery and cut features - postholes, pits, cooking holes. c14 dates span the period 2882-2145 cal BC (95% probability)Occupation; EnvironmentWilkinson et al 20122EBA
Herts30253-4Wilbury Hill, LetchworthTruncated barrow represented by a shallow, undated ring ditch (c. 19m in diameter). Clusters of Beaker period to EBA occupation pits located to the south-west of the ring ditchMonument; OccupationBarlow and Newton 20132EBA
Herts30227Old Manor, WormleyMBA occupation represented by a roundhouse (c.7.6m in diameter), and a pit containing fragments of decorated Deverel-Rimbury potteryOccupationCapon 20122MBA
Herts16243Frogmore Meadows, SarrattBurnt deposit on the bank of the river Chess, characteristic of Bronze Age burnt mounds. Extensive burnt deposit (limits not established) comprising charcoal, ash and fire-cracked flint, and associated with an undiagnostic flint scraper, potentially BA in date. Probably represents activity similar to that associated with burnt moundsOccupationKaye 20152Not specifically dated
NorfolkENF139692; ENF139693; ENF139696; ENF139698Norwich Northern BypassE/MBA archaeology identified at three separate locations: Area 1, Furze Lane, Tavenham: BA boundary ditch; Area 3 Bell Farm Horsford: Significant MBA settlement enclosure associated with 7-8 roundhouses, M/LBA post alignments; Area 5 West of Drayton Lane, Horsford: LN/EBA mortuary enclosureMonument; Burial; Occupation; Land divisionPooley et al 20151Both
NorfolkNHER42674Former RAF Radar Station, Watton, Norwich RoadSmall round barrow (c. 6.5m in diameter) with a central cremation in a MBA barrel urn. Five unurned cremations and an undated inhumation were located beyond the mound. Undated pits and postholes and a small assemblage of Beaker/EBA pottery were recovered more widely suggesting EBA settlement activity at the siteMonument; Occupation; BurialMason 20112Both
NorfolkNHER40918Heckingham, Norton Subcourse QuarryTwo late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age inhumation burials in a shallow depression. One a female (c. 30 years old) with two jet toggles by the skull (earrings?). Second burial truncated by a MBA ?droveway ditchBurial, Land divisionGurney 20112Both
NorfolkNHER38044; NHER38205; NHER38212/38213; NHER38046; NHER38221Holme-next-the-sea, Holme II Timber Circle, Holme BeachDating and scientific analysis of timbers from Holme II Timber Circle and surface survey of surrounding area. Felling of trees for Holme II dated to the spring or summer of 2049 cal BC (identical to Holme I); E/MBA post-built structures (c14 dated to 1620-1400 cal BC), a M/LBA trackway (c14 dated to 1210-900 cal BC) and evidence for EBA woodland management (c14 dated to 2140-1500 cal BC) recorded in the intertidal zone close to Holme I and II (all dates 95.4% probability)Monument; OccupationRobertson et al 2016; Robertson and Ames 20152Both
NorfolkENF127270Hopton-on-Sea, Sidegate RoadPossible EBA round barrow; MBA droveway, fields and low-level settlement activity; MBA hoard (2 torcs, 2 quoit-headed pins & 2 bracelets) cut into one of the field ditches. The items were buried in a manner 'suggestive of a burial' (following the form of a body) and at least three of these items were broken in antiquityMonument; Land division; Occupation; Odd depositsAdams et al 20112Both
NorfolkENF132710Woodgate Farm, AyleshamNear complete and crushed Beaker pot desposited in a tree throwOdd depositsGilmour 2014b2EBA
NorfolkNHER58407East RudhamMBA ceremonial dirk found by a farmer during ploughing then kept for some years in the farm office before being presented to the FLO. One of only four known from Britain (one other from Norfolk at Oxborough). Originally thought to have been bent prior to deposition but recent analysis suggests the damage is recent (PAS record summary)Odd depositsRogerson and Ashley 20142MBA
NorfolkNHER30626Ormesby St Michael, Land North of Main RoadMBA enclosed settlement, field system Occupation; Land divisionGilmour et al 20142MBA
NorfolkNHER57422; NHER57426; NHER54670National Mapping Programme The Archaeology of the ‘A11 Corridor’63 possible BA barrows in river valley-side locations identified including at least one new barrow cemetery at Sandpit Hill, Bridgham (NHER 57422) and possibly another (could alternatively represent roundhouse settlement) at Overa Heath, Quidenham (NHER 57426); possible BA settlement enclosure identified on the Ashwellthorpe and Tacolneston parish boundary (NHER Monument; OccupationCattermole et al 20133Not specifically dated
NorfolkENF134151Postwick Hub, NorwichN/BA activity, undated ditches and pits. No further informationOccupationCattermole (ed) 20163Not specifically dated
PeterboroughBar Pasture Farm, ThorneyPhase 1: two EBA round barrows with central inhumations and a cremation burial, extensive M/LBA system of land boundaries, numerous undated pits and postholes together with clusters of MBA settlement features, LN-MBA water holes; Phases 2-5: dispersed Beaker settlement activity including a possible structure (and a single pit with a large ceramic assemblage), EBA enclosed settlement (Collared Urn and Food Vessel pottery), MBA land boundaries, droveways and occupation; Phase 6-8a: Beaker period settlement activity (pits, waterholes, a ditch), EBA settlement activity (Collared Urn and Biconical Urn pottery), ditched enclosures, droveway and isolated cremation, MBA droveways, ?loomweights), settlement activity including at least five post-built structures, salt-making debris; Phase 9: two ring ditches (report pending)Monument; Burial; Occupation; Odd deposits; Land division; EnvironmentRichmond et al 2010, 2013; Francis and Richmond 20161Both
PeterboroughBrigg's Farm, Prior's Fen, Thorney, Significant E/MBA evidence including Beaker and EBA settlement activity (pits), pre-barrow inhumation and cremation burials, an EBA barrow, further cremation burials associated directly with the barrow and located in EBA pit clusters, and MBA fields, water holes, roundhouse settlement and salt-making debris, close to the Fen Edge. Key pottery assemblage and extremely well datedMonument; Burial; Occupation; Odd deposits; Land division; EnvironmentPickstone and Mortimer 20111Both
PeterboroughWillow Hall Farm, ThorneyEBA ring ditch, settlement activity (pits), cremation; MBA field system, settlement, waterholes. The latter are all dated to the IA in the report but for no clear reason (dating based on finds from nearby pits recovered in one small area)Monument; Occupation; Burial; Land divisionIngham 20162Both
PeterboroughMaxey Quarry, PeterboroughNumerous undated pits and postholes (isolated and in pairs), focused around a series of palaochannels, most probably of Neolithic/EBA date. Five were associated with pottery of this date, three of which were potentially EBA in originOccupationAtkins and Jones 20162EBA
PeterboroughGores Farm, PeterboroughPossible pond barrow and contemporary settlement activity (pit) tested in trial trenchesMonument; OccupationStreatfield-James 2015 3EBA
PeterboroughFengate Power Station, Peterborough EBA post-built circular monument; ?MBA palisaded enclosure; MBA field system (part of much broader Fengate land boundary system)Monument; Land division; OccupationMiddleton 20122MBA
SuffolkFLN008; FLN062; FLN013; FLN053; FLN009; FLN091; SEY035; FLN068 Flixton Park Quarry, FlixtonFLN 008: EBA ring ditch associated with a surface spread of EBA pottery and cremated human bone; FLN 013: EBA ring ditch, overlapping with but offset from LN post circle monument, and associated with a single unurned cremation; FLN 053: isolated unurned cremation; FLN 062: undated ring ditch (no associated burial); FLN 009: LN/EBA pits, M/LBA unurned cremation (c14 dated 1210-970 cal BC, 95% confidence); FLN 091/SEY 035: Multiple clusters of LN/EBApits, numerous undated pits and postholes; FLN068: Significant complex of Early Bronze Age ring monuments. One ring ditch was multiphase, with post ring, two phases of segmented ditches, and then uninterrupted ditch, central pit with crouched inhumation with stone wristguard, amber toggles and beaker vessel. One ring ditch double circuit. More pits with Beaker pottery and flintMonument; Burial; OccupationBoulter et al 2012; Brudenell and Plouviez (eds) 2014; Minter ed 20161Both
SuffolkNKT047Fordham Road, NewmarketE-MBA settlement activity including a LN/EBA midden/buried soil abbuting some sort of boundary feature, a pit cluster (associated with E/MBA pottery), a post built structure (potentially actually MBA), and a line of 'tree-throw pits' (a possible boundary feature, associated with Beaker pottery). MBA evidence includes parts of three phases of enclosure that frame at least eight roundhouses, associated settlement features rich in occupation debris and a wider landscape of fields and droveways. The latest roundhouse was c14 dated to the LBA (1191-941 cal BC), with the remainin c14 dates sitting firmly in the earlier part of the MBA. Location on chalk geology provides a useful balance to existing evidence of MBA settlement on gravel terraces. Key long-term flint assemblage.Occupation; Land divisionRees 20171Both
SuffolkFSG017Ingham Quarry, Fornham St GenevieveWidely dispersed pit clusters with rich charred seed, pot and flint assemblages and associated with a range of Beaker, Food Vessel, Collared Urn and Biconical Urn pottery; two ring ditches (one c. 27m in diameter, the other much smaller) associated with at least four cremation deposits; two 54670) additional mini ring ditches with central cremation depositsMonument; Burial; Occupation; Land divisionNewton and Mustchin 20151Both
SuffolkWNF023Wangford Quarry, Wangford and HenhamImportant Beaker period activity including pit clusters, a group of flat graves and a ring ditch associated with further EBA burials. The ring ditch later formed the focus for a large MBA cremation cemetery including 17 cremation deposits in Ardleigh-style urnsOccupation; Burial; MonumentMeredith 20151Both
SuffolkSNP106Blyth Houses, Church Road, SnapeBlythe Houses (2014): Single LN/EBA pit containing six thumbnail scrapers; (2015): LN/EBA pits, substantial MBA boundaries and gullies, undated pits. No further information availableOccupation; Land divisionMustchin 2014; Minter (ed) 20162Both
SuffolkIPS676Ipswich AcademyEBA pits, E/MBA ring ditch (no burial), MBA roundhouse settlement and fieldsOccupation; Land division; MonumentStump and Woolhouse 20132Both
SuffolkMRM157; MRM162Land South of Main Road, MartleshamExtensive system of MBA land boundaries/enclosures covering an area of c. 1.5 ha; EBA pits (Beaker and Food Vessel associated) plus undated pits and postholesLand division; OccupationWoolhouse 2014a2Both
SuffolkFEX 299North of High Street, Walton, FelixtoweAt least one barrow together with associated c14-dated MBA cremation burials spanning the E/MBA; potential MBA settlement features and land boundariesMonument; Burial; Occupation; FarmingHouse 20122Both
SuffolkIP39GD; IPS756Ravenswood, IpswichIP3 9GD: Possible Beaker burial within a mortuary enclosure, represented by a deposit of freshly broken sherds from the upper half of a Beaker vessel and a flint flake, similar to a plano-convex knife. No human remains survived in the acidic soils. Undated (but probably MBA) land boundaries. Undated burnt stone pits, some with evidence for in-situ burning (potentially em); IPS 756: MBA enclosed settlement and fields, two small (c. 2.5m in diamter) ring ditches integral to the field system, urned infant cremation cut into field ditchBurial; Monument; Land division; OccupationWoolhouse 2014b2Both
SuffolkVariousSuffolk river valleysSummary of palaoenvironmental investigations in Suffolk/Norfolk river valleys during the early 2000s. One key aim was to complement more detailed palaeoenvironmental work in other parts of the region (particularly around the Fens). Overall a picture emerged of increasing woodland clearance combined with more extensive areas of grassland after 2000 BC. Water tables rose significantly in river valleys from the mid-2nd millennium BCEnvironmentHoward et al 20162Both
SuffolkBML018Sutton Hoo, BromeswellDiffuse scatter of LN/EBA pits over three excavation areas, associated with Grooved Ware and Beaker pottery; small MBA barrow (c. 7m in diameter) with central cremation burial c14 dated 1490-1320 cal BCMonument; Burial; OccupationFern 20152Both
SuffolkCOG028; COG030Rugby Ground, Great CornardThree E/MBA ring ditches within a broader ceremonial landscape overlooking the R. Stour, one of which produced a nationally important grave good assemblage. Monument 1 (c. 37m in diameter) was associated with a cremation burial accompanied by a pair of bone tweezers. Monument 2 (c. 25m in diameter) comprised two unequally sized concentric ring ditches enclosing a large central inhumation burial. A second (undated) crouched infant burial cut into the mound material. The central grave contained a young adult woman accompanied by a Beaker vessel and an unusual necklace of large amber beads and c. 400 tiny black jet and white shell beads. A further smaller ring ditch (potentially MBA?) was associated with two cremation depositsMonument; BurialAntobus and Muldowney 2011; Boulter et al forthcoming1Both?
SuffolkESF23632; FAS055; FAS056NW of Bury St Edmunds, Fornham All SaintsPhase 1: LN/EBA pit cluster, EBA urned cremation burial; Phase 2: Possible BA settlement features. HER also mention a BA burnt mound but not mentioned in eval reportsOccupation; BurialBeverton 2013a and b2Both?
SuffolkSXM022Church Road, SaxmundhamAt least four main clusters of EBA pits, each slightly different in their makeup and material associations; one group with a flint-dominated assemblage, two associated with Collared Urn pottery, one rich in material including Beaker potteryOccupationNewton 20131EBA
SuffolkFXL061Foxhall, SuffolkPossible LN/EBA ditched enclosure, associated with a small Beaker assemblageOccupation; Land divisionGlover 20122EBA
SuffolkERL147; ERL203RAF Lakenheath, EriswellERL 203: EBA ring ditch (29m in diameter) with an off centre crouched burial, possibly of a child. Adds to evidence for EBA occupation (ERL 147) and E/MBA burial (ERL148) from earlier excavations at this siteMonument; BurialCraven 20122EBA
SuffolkSPT035SWISS 6th Form College, PinewoodTight cluster of 18 MBA cremation burials with one outlier (17 within Ardleigh Urns, 2 unurned). One of the cremation burials was surrounded by a small (c. 3m in diameter), shallow ring ditch associated with flint and sarsen fragments, potentially from a ploughed out mound. 14 pits with dense charcoal deposits and evidence for in-situ burning (potentially pyre pits?) were found amongst the cremation burials and in the wider areaBurial; MonumentSommers 2011a; Beverton et al forthcoming1MBA
SuffolkDBN132Cherry Tree Inn, DebenhamLarge, and seemingly isolated/unmarked MBA cremation cemetery including at least 17 separate cremation-related deposits (7 urned, 10 unurned), grouped in small clusters over an area of c. 70m by 30m. One distinguishing feature of this cemetery was the occurrence of four multiple burials (cremation deposits with more than one person represented), with two of these cremation deposits including fragments from at least five individuals. Two dated cremation burials suggested the cemetery was in use between 1661 and 1401 cal BC. The full extent of the cemetery was not establishedBurialSommers 2011b; Cass 2012, 2MBA
SuffolkFEX281Felixstowe Academy, WaltonMBA enclosure associated with an inverted Ardleigh vessel deposit; wider system of ditched land boundariesOccupation; Land division; Odd depositsWoolhouse 20132MBA
SuffolkADT016Frith Cottage, AldertonRing ditch with urned cremations in biconical urns, c14 dated to the MBAMonument; BurialAtfield et al 2011; Boulter et al forthcoming2MBA
SuffolkKSS080Land to Rear of Primary School, KessinglandTwo sides of a MBA enclosure (c. 49 x 26m) with two narrow causeways on the S side. The upper ditch fills on the eastern side were rich in occupation debris including charcoal, freshly broken MBA pottery, decorated loom weights and flints. This deposit produced C14 dates of 1420 and 1260 cal BC. Several small pits/postholes in the surrounding area included material of a similar date and suggest settlement activityOccupation; Odd deposits; Land divisionHeard 20112MBA
SuffolkEX6101Burwell Road, ExningBA round barrow with single cremation. No further informationMonument; BurialMinter and Plouviez (eds) 20142Not specifically dated

Progress since 2011

In order to assess progress in E/MBA research since 2011 it is worth revisiting priorities for this period raised in earlier regional framework documents (Glazebrook and Brown 1997; Medlycott 2011). These are listed in Table 2. Progress on specific topics within this list is outlined briefly first. Developments in our understanding of key aspects of the E/MBA evidence base (settlement, fields, burial, and so on) are considered in the remainder of this section. Overall, progress has been made in a number of important areas identified in previous research frameworks, both through attempts to actively pursue these topics and due to the sheer volume of recent development-led fieldwork. More broadly there have been significant advances in terms of our knowledge of the E/MBA archaeological repertoire.

Progress on earlier research priorities

Important progress has been made in the following areas mentioned specifically in earlier research reviews:

Addressing ‘gaps in knowledge’ (MBA settlement, archaeology beyond the river gravels)

The sheer scale of development-led fieldwork, in particular the recent drive to create affordable housing in south east England, means that our knowledge of Bronze Age archaeology on clay geologies is much improved and that examining the relative scarcity of MBA settlement in the Eastern Region is no longer an issue. Significant E/MBA archaeology has been recovered from the claylands to the north and west of Cambridge (e.g. at Papworth Everard) and around Ely. Evidence for MBA settlement (and fields) is now perhaps richer in the Eastern Region than anywhere else in Britain. Extensive aerial surveys, particularly on the chalklands of Norfolk during the early 2000s have borne fruit in recent years, with the identification and excavation of a growing number of previously lacking MBA landscape features.

Ceramic studies

Material from the Eastern Region provided a key case study in Law’s (2009) detailed survey of British Collared Urns, enhancing significantly our understanding of EBA ceramic chronologies.

The role of burial monuments in determining/understanding landscapes

Cooper’s (2016 a and b, forthcoming) study of the role of EBA burial monuments in the emergence of later landscapes in East Anglia addressed directly the theme of understanding how such enduring earthworks were built into MBA landscapes.

Developing multi-stranded investigative approaches and research outputs

Work by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, particularly in the Ouse Valley and around the Flag Fen Basin, has led the way in terms of developing multi-stranded approaches to Bronze Age landscapes, that combine the findings of detailed scientific analysis, Bayesian modelling of radiocarbon dates and evidence from excavated features (Knight and Brudenell forthcoming; Evans et al 2013, 2016, forthcoming b; Garrow et al 2014; see also Luke 2016; Pickstone and Mortimer 2012). Key to the success of these projects has been the creation of strong partnerships between fieldwork units, university academics, other regional experts and the developers that fund the work. Inventive publically accessible outputs (in particular interactive websites) have been another extremely positive outcome of these close fieldwork unit-client relationships (e.g. http://www.mustfarm.com/; https://www.hansoncommunities.co.uk/en/sites/needingworthquarrycommunitypage/archaeology%20; http://www.nwcambridge.co.uk/nwcommunity/archaeology). The Colchester Archaeology Group’s (2014) investigation of cropmark evidence from the Stour Valley makes a useful contribution towards synthesising prehistoric archaeology in an area threatened by agriculture.

Progress in knowledge of the E/MBA evidence base

Settlement

Beyond Bryant’s (2013) overview of settlement and landscape in Hertfordshire from 1500 BC, and

Garrow’s (2006) study that covered EBA settlement in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, synthesis of E/MBA settlement in the Eastern Region is lacking. There has, however, been significant progress both in terms of the number of known E/MBA settlements across the Eastern Region and the variety of practices found to be associated with these. In particular, it is no longer possible to view MBA settlement as a rarity, even in the north eastern part of the region (Glazebrook and Brown 1997, 16).

One notable characteristic for the EBA is the ubiquity of isolated occupation features – single pits, pit clusters and flint scatters. In Suffolk alone, twelve additional discoveries of such features are mentioned in PSIAH for the period 2011-2016 beyond the sites listed in Table 1. This adds nuance to existing arguments for the diffuse character of EBA occupation (Garrow 2006) and suggests that settlement traces for this period are perhaps more widespread and more diverse than was previously recognised. Along with greater volume of evidence for EBA occupation, comes greater capacity to unpick settlement dynamics for this period. In truth, none of the EBA round houses or the single settlement enclosure identified since 2011 are securely dated. However there is now ample evidence for more irregular postbuilt structures, midden deposits, pit clusters, waterholes and even possible settlement enclosures from across the region.

As already mentioned, arguably the most significant development in E/MBA archaeology in the Eastern Region over the last 8 years has been the discovery of numerous MBA settlements in a range of different forms. Whereas in 2011, MBA settlement was still viewed as being relatively scarce and was entirely absent in Norfolk, settlement of this date has now been investigated across the region and, importantly, on a range of geologies and in a variety of landscape locations (fen edge, river valley and upland). Open settlements and enclosed settlements defined by ditches, by palisades or by both have been identified. Some of these sites are associated with roundhouses (e.g. Norwich Northern Bypass); others mainly comprise pits, enclosures and working areas (e.g. North West Cambridge). At some sites, settlement features are associated with substantial quantities of occupation debris offering a significant opportunity to investigate settlement practice in detail (e.g. Clay Farm); elsewhere material culture is virtually lacking (e.g. Bar Pasture Farm). Overall it is in seeking to understand these contrasts that major interpretative progress can be made.

Fields and farming

Although small sections as well as huge expanses of many more MBA field systems have been excavated over the last 8 years, progress in terms of understanding these features has been limited. Yates’ (2007) synthesis for southern England as a whole, and Evans et al’s (2009) exploration of land division around the Flag Fen Basin are still benchmarks in this respect. Having said this, an increasing number of boundary features have been assigned to the EBA (e.g. at Bar Pasture Farm, Peterborough), pushing back dates for the emergence of land enclosure in the region. Knowledge of the diversity of boundary architectures has also grown – the clear integration of varied forms of land division at the Biddenham Loop, Bedfordshire is noteworthy in this respect. Thorough palaeoenvironmental sampling has been undertaken in the vicinity of extensive field systems at Biddenham Loop, Clay Farm, Cambridge and around Thorney, Peterborough, adding to previous detailed sampling programmes at Over, Cambridgeshire (Evans 2016) and Bradley Fen, Cambridgeshire (Knight and Brudenell forthcoming). It now seems likely that farming practices associated with these systems were varied and that there is no straightforward relationship between the layout of fields and droveways and the activities that accompanied them directly. Progress has also been made in terms of understanding the wider role of field systems. The findings of recent excavations together with studies of major excavated BA landscapes (e.g. Cooper 2016; Evans 2016; Gilmour 2010; Luke 2016;

Patten forthcoming; Richmond et al 2010) highlight increasingly that land boundaries played a key role in MBA funerary activities and understandings of the world – they were closely integrated with existing funerary monuments and were a common focus for unusual deposits (of objects, human fragments) and for burials. Burial

No major overview of E/MBA burial evidence from the Eastern Region has taken place since 2011.

Robinson’s (2007) detailed study of MBA cremation burial in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk and Caswell and Roberts’ (forthcoming) survey of British Bronze Age cremation burials, provide the most recent relevant syntheses. However a significant number of E/MBA burials have been excavated and published since 2011, demonstrating the diverse ways in which the dead were treated. For the EBA, as well as well-furnished and intriguing barrow burials (e.g. at Turner’s Yard, Cambridgeshire and on the Chelmsford-Maldon Effluent Pipeline, Essex), isolated Beaker burials, a Beaker-associated flat cemetery (Wangford Quarry, Norfolk), Collared Urn-associated cremation burials within pit clusters, and human fragments in waterholes (North Fen, Sutton) have been identified. Bayesian modelling of radiocarbon dates from E/MBA burials at Over, Cambridgeshire provided an important refinement to understandings of barrow cemetery chronology and the part played by memory in such contexts (Garrow et al 2014). Isotope analysis on the same dataset emphasised the mainly very local origins of those interred at this particular site (Appleby forthcoming). For the MBA, further major cremation cemeteries have been excavated, both in apparent isolation and in association with round barrows and land boundaries. This adds to a growing corpus of previously known MBA cremation cemeteries, particularly along the Ouse Valley (Evans and Appleby 2008; Evans and Hodder 2006; Evans et al 2013; Evans 2016) and at Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire (Gilmour et al 2010). More importantly, there is increasing evidence that MBA burial practices were both more intensive and more diverse than has previously been recognised. MBA inhumations (recently, at Field End Witchford, Cambridgeshire) and human fragments as well as formal burials (occasionally with grave goods) in MBA field ditches and waterholes are now a fairly regular occurrence. Indeed at the Biddenham Loop, Bedfordshire, even within a dense Neolithic and EBA ceremonial landscape, formal MBA burials were more abundant than EBA ones.

Monuments

Knowledge of E/MBA monuments has, once again, increased mainly in terms of awareness of the sheer diversity of forms these take as well as the varied practices associated with them and their historical significance. Many forms of ring ditch have been excavated and sampled over the last 8 years, with chronologies that span the E/MBA, varied architectures, diameters ranging from c. 2.5m (Ravenswood, Suffolk) to more than 80m (Hopton on Sea, Norfolk), and a range of associated practices not always including burial. Recent excavations at the Biddenham Loop Bedford, Trumpington Meadows Cambridge, Needingworth Cambridgeshire and along the A14 corridor remind us that interest in existing monuments was not just restricted to EBA round barrows – henges and even Early Neolithic round barrows were remodelled and reactivated as funerary sites during the EBA. Alongside numerous finds of diminutive MBA ring ditches, and leaving aside the longstanding debate over whether MBA fields also operated as a form of monument, knowledge of M/LBA monumental constructions has also flourished since 2011. Adding to the earlier known example at Barleycroft, Cambridge (Evans and Knight 2001, Evans et al forthcoming b), monumental post alignments that cannot easily be explained as extensions to or components of MBA field systems have now been identified at several sites across the Eastern Region. These also raise important questions about connections across the North Sea where similar monuments occur (Fokkens 2012; Bradley et al 2016). The massive MBA ringwork surrounding an earlier pond barrow at Over, Cambridgeshire (Site 9) provides further evidence of the previously unrecognised importance of monument building in the mid to late 2nd millennium BC (Evans et al forthcoming b).

Broader interpretative themes: material culture studies, depositional practices, human ecologies

No major E/MBA finds studies have been conducted in the Eastern Region since 2011. Progress in this area, and on depositional practices more broadly is therefore limited. Yates and Bradley’s (2010) study of fenland metalwork deposits provided an important broad grammar for understanding the deposition of different metalwork types in varied landscape locations. Recent University of Reading dissertations have helpfully compared the deposition of flint and cu-alloy daggers in East Anglia and of stone and copper alloy axes more broadly (Dolan 2017; Rogerson 2017). Similarly, an overarching synthesis of human ecologies in the E/MBA in the Eastern Region is still lacking. However, Evans (2013) made a compelling argument that collections of pierced marine shells – probably from necklaces – that occur on a growing number of (inland) fenland Bronze Age sites mark a distinctive local response to expanding floodwater and marshland environments during this period. Evans’ (2015) synthesis of the evidence for prehistoric aurochs in the Eastern Region outlines thought-provoking arguments for the extinction of this species in Bronze Age Britain. Meanwhile in a forthcoming article, Evans considers shifts in Fenland resource exploitation over the duration of the Bronze Age (see also Brittain and Overton 2013). These important contributions highlight the interpretative potential both of the region’s palaeoecological data and of undertaking analyses that cross-cut traditional analytical categories (in this case, material culture and palaeoecological studies).

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