Andrew Simmonds, Edward Biddulph, and Ken Welsh
Oxford Archaeology, £15
Review Andy Mudd
This new publication by Oxford Archaeology is a monograph report of an excavation undertaken between 2009 and 2013 ahead of house-building just outside the site of the Roman town of Corinium – modern Cirencester. It is copiously illustrated in full colour, with thorough accounts of the archaeological sequence, the finds, biological evidence, and radiocarbon dating, plus a synthesis and discussion.
The excavation site occupied a low plateau overlooking the south-east quarter of the Roman town across the River Churn. Land on this side of Cirencester shows a spread of low-intensity occupation covering most of the prehistoric and Roman periods. The discussion emphasises the ordinary rural character of the late Iron Age and Roman farmsteads, despite proximity to the Bagendon ‘tribal centre’ upriver and the early Roman fort and civilian settlement at Cirencester.
The most significant prehistoric occupation at Kingshill South was a late Bronze Age house – but one surely larger than is suggested, with the postholes more likely internal roof supports than the wall-line. This was followed by a farming settlement from the late Iron Age, and two Roman-style stone buildings were present from the early 2nd century AD. These only lasted 100 years or so, without the elaboration of the later villas in the area, although agricultural enclosures here lasted until the 4th century and associated buildings are presumed to have lain not far away. The buildings are well analysed. The main residence (the term ‘villa’ is largely avoided) was unusual in form, similar to an early villa at Ditches. Building 2 has a number of possible interpretations, a thatched aisled barn being the most convincing to this reviewer.
Kingshill South is now part of the modern suburb called the Beeches. This has been the location of several excavations over the years, of which this is the largest, closely followed by Kingshill North, also excavated by OA and published as Cirencester Before Corinium in 2011. One should ideally have both volumes to hand to follow the full story of the discoveries in this archaeologically intriguing area, although the excellent discussion here draws all the findings together.
This review appeared in CA 342.