Gaywood Valley Archaeological & Historical Project

Queen Elizabeth Avenue Playing Field

Test Pit and Stratified Prehistoric Burnt Flint

The digging team display a prehistoric flint potboiler and a burnt flint fragment by the test pit.

We have beyond 75cm, below deep riverine silts of Gaywood River, recovered a 'palaeo-soil' that contained charcoal and also burnt flint. The burnt flint had been burnt by people, carrying flint nodules, working, flaking flint (we recovered a snapped flake in situ) on river valley slope. The flint was dropped on the sandy/gravels of the river slope in the later Neolithic/earlier to middle Bronze Age, c.2,900-1,600 BC.

This fits the landscape context approximately, 100m-200m east of the test pit location was a burnt mound excavated when Norfolk County Council was altering the Reffley/Spring Wood cycle path. So, we now know that burnt mound (of the later Neolithic/earlier to middle Bronze Age), extends some distance along the lower slopes. To the north at Reffley Wood there is also a rich later Neolithic/earlier Bronze Age Round Barrow (earthen burial with beakers/cremations), excavated in the 1930s. So, prehistoric communities were very present in this part of the valley.

Flint finds
Examining flint finds for signs of knapping or burning by one of the test pits.

This is highly significant as we have recovered stratified burnt flint in a small test pit (1m x 1m) and this would suggest a level of intensive activity over the slope. This is indicative of repeated and regular communal meetings, perhaps occupations beside the river for a few centuries over successive seasons. Elsewhere on the Norfolk Fen-edge 'burnt mounds', as they are known are common, for example, between the Wissey and Little Ouse at Methwold... 100s have been located by field survey in the 1980s, part of the then English Heritage Fenland Project Survey (all dating to the approximately the same period).

The important thing with this work is that we have documented the Gaywood River silts and also a buried, stratified later Neolithic/earlier Bronze Age old land surface. This is unique, just on the edge of the suburbs of Lynn/Gaywood.

Gaywood Village

Queen Elizabeth Avenue Playing Field

Sieving soil from Test Pit
Local volunteers help to sieve the pit contents

On the weeknd of 18th/19th May the society carried out an investigation of archaeology of Gaywood, formally a village and now part of Kings Lynn. The area chosen was the public playing field at the end of Queen Elizabeth road, a meadow that which lies alongside the modern course of the Gaywood River.

A total of three test pits were dug the first in the meadow close to the public path, the second futher along and closer to the river while the third was in the unmowed area beyond the meadow. As the project was all about the Gaywood Valley we wanted to carry out some research into Gaywood village itself. There were, however a couple of issues with the site. First that it was close to the river and almost certainly in the past subject to flooding and perhaps meanders of the river. The second was that the meadow appeared to have been flattened (to make it more suitable as a public area) and could have be disturbed at least in the upper soil. Today the meadow has a slight slope down towards the river but generally is fairly level and would be not subject to flooding as the River is in a deep man-made channel.

The slot across Test Pit 2
Test pit 2 with the slot finally dug through the clay.

We were working on Test Pit 2 with a reasearcher from Cambridge University and lifted the turfs easily exposing some dry sandy soil which excavated easily. No finds except for a fragment of a clay pipe which probably 18th Century. The first 20cm of soil was well drained and a silty sand but after that the going got tough as we were onto clay. We had coarse-sieved 100% of the top layers but it proved impossible to contue sieving the cloggy clay, digging was difficult and we had no way of knowing how far the clay contexts continued.

Dr Bond and Dr Pryor discussing flint finds
Dr Bond and Dr Pryor discussing flint finds from the bottom on the slot in TP2

We decided at this point to start a smaller 'sondage' exploratory pit in the corner of the test-pit. This would allow us to check how far the clay extended and what was underneath. At around 80cm down the clay changed abruptly and we found a grey silt including clay sand and some organic matter. The size of the sondage (30cm x 30cm) didn't allow enough space to check this out properly so we expanded the area into a slot going North-South within the original test Pit. When the slot had been extended we started to extract the soil from this level and restarted sieving the contents. This layer was a lot more interesting and we found a number of small deposits of charcoal and some flints that seemed to have been used as pot-boilers (flints heated in a fire and then placed in a pot of liquid to quickly heat it). However at the this point water started to seep into the bottom of the slot so we realised that we had reached the water table and after cleaning and photographing it was time to fill the trench in again.

Interview with Volunteer

An interview with one of the local volunteers on Saturday 18th May at Gaywood Village excavations.

Gaywood Village
18th May 2013

Planning a Test Pit
West Norfolk &
Kings Lynn
Archaeological Society