Just west of Leicester, between the villages of Glenfield and Kirby Muxloe, archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) have uncovered a large archaeological site with evidence of long-term occupation from the Iron Age through to the Roman period. The site had been of interest since 1993, when settlement remains from the late Bronze Age and middle Iron Age were discovered. But the 2013-2014 excavations, carried out in advance of the construction of a warehouse and distribution centre, revealed a larger area of the site and were able to determine just how long the site has been occupied.
The most significant finds were the many examples of prehistoric metalwork, the quality and quantity of which are remarkable. They include iron weapons and tools, dress items, and a copper alloy horn-cap, but, in particular, 11 complete cauldrons. Eight of these seem to have been deliberately buried together in a large enclosure ditch, while the others were discovered in different parts of the site. It is one of the largest assemblages of Iron Age cauldrons ever found in Europe and only the second to be uncovered in Britain – the other being the Chiseldon cauldrons excavated by the British Museum and Wessex Archaeology in 2005 (see CA 214).
As the cauldrons were fragile, they were lifted in large blocks of soil and analysed using CT scanning at the Paul Strickland Scanner Centre. The scans revealed the full dimensions of the cauldrons, as well as potential decoration around the iron band of one of them.
So far, one cauldron has been fully analysed and conserved by the MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) conservation team. The results show that the bowl of the cauldron had been patched up several times – possibly indicating long-term and repeated use of the vessel. Work on the remaining cauldrons is planned to begin next year.
Overall, the cauldrons, along with other finds from the site, are evidence of a dynamic settlement that experienced multiple periods of deposition. The repeated use of the site in combination with the cauldrons might mark it as a potential ceremonial centre, where many feasts took place.
Post-excavation analysis is ongoing and there are sure to be further intriguing discoveries from this site. More information can be found at www2.le.ac.uk/services/ulas/discoveries/projects/iron-age/glenfieldcauldrons, and we will bring you the full story of the site in a future issue of CA.
This article was published in CA 335.