Excavations at Little Kimble, Buckinghamshire

HAT, 16 February 2024 - About Archaeology in Buckinghamshire , Recent archaeological finds

In 2023 an archaeological excavation was carried out by Thames Valley Archaeological Services (TVAS) ahead of a new development of 45 residential units at Little Kimble on behalf of Cala Homes Ltd. This excavation revealed a wealth of finds and features from several time periods, the earliest feature being a Neolithic or Bronze Age pit, filled with worked flints and pottery.

The site is located on the Lower Icknield Way, a Roman road and potential earlier prehistoric trackway, and the majority of the occupation evidence dated to the Late Iron Age and Roman periods. This may therefore suggest the site to be some iteration of a roadside settlement. A second likely trackway or droveway was identified within the site, coming from the Lower Icknield Way at a right angle and heading across the site, potentially being an access point off the road.

The site was mainly characterised by numerous ditches and gullies which would have acted as land divisions for settlement and agricultural use. The presence of rubbish pits, personal dress items and cremations indicates a settlement. A defining feature of this site comes in the form of the unusually high number of wells uncovered by the excavation – 14 in total. These wells varied in depth, size and shape, and were concentrated mainly in the southern half of the excavation area. The number of wells alludes to the longevity of the settlement; however, it is entirely possible that some of the wells would have been in use at the same time, with some being used as seasonal wells due to the slow water percolation of the local geology – something that was observed during the excavation!

A person holding a copper alloy Roman brooch

©Thames Valley Archaeological Services

A high number of metal finds were recovered from the excavation, with a full metal detector survey of the site yielding 44 coins and personal dress items such as rings, bracelets and brooches. The recovery of these dress items combined with several organic examples such as bone hairpins gives us a rare glimpse into the fashion of the times as well as the trade links with the wider Roman world. Out of the coin assemblage, seven pre-Roman conquest coins were found. These included two Iron-Age gold quarter staters and two bronze coins, and three silver Roman coins, one of which dates to the Roman Republic and was likely minted in Rome itself. These high status finds, along with imported samian pottery from Gaul, indicate the trade links the settlement had with the Roman world before the conquest. Due to its position along a known road and trade route, it is possible that this site could have started out as a trading settlement. A collection of these finds can currently be seen on display at the Discover Bucks Museum.

A display case with finds from the Little Kimble excavation and descriptive text.

©Discover Bucks Museum

The field has been extensively ploughed from the Medieval period onwards, which has brought a lot of finds out of their original context, but has not seemed to damage the site in any substantial way. The high number of finds recovered from this site will help us better understand the connection between the local Iron Age population and the wider Roman world, and how these two worlds interreacted before and after the Claudian invasion in 45 AD.

A coin of Tetricus II

©Thames Valley Archaeological Services

With thanks to TVAS, Cala Homes Ltd and Discover Bucks Museum for the production of this blog post.