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Handout from the 2007 season Open Day

Publication: (available online):
Lockyear, K., T. Sly and A. Popescu with contributions from Mihaela Ciausescu, Clive Orton, Jane Sidell and Robin Symonds (2006-2007). 'The Noviodunum Archaeological Project 2000-2004: results and conclusions from the pilot seasons.' Peuce, New Series, 3-4, pp. 121-158.

Summary Report of the 2005 Season

The Noviodunum Archaeological Project (NAP) has been running since 2000. The first four seasons (2000, 2002–4) consisted entirely of a variety of surveys including topographic, geophysical, pick-up and environmental surveys (Lockyear 2003, Cronica 2004, no. 122, Lockyear et al. forthcoming). The success of these initial seasons has led to funding being made available for a five year programme of excavation and field survey which began in August 2005 and ran for six weeks. The Project wishes to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, the University of Southampton and University College London for their support of this research.

The principal aim of NAP is to investigate the changing landscape at Noviodunum and its hinterland, and in particular the relationship between the wider Empire, the fort / settlement and its hinterland during the course of the first millennium AD. To this end NAP intends to conduct targeted excavation at Noviodunum itself along with field survey in the wider hinterland. In the latter stages it is hoped that limited small scale excavations will be conducted on a small number of rural settlements to provide the needed comparative material. The aim of the 2005 season was to begin excavation on the fortress at Noviodunum to provide the first of the necessary artefactual and environmental sequences for this work. It is hoped to locate a further tower on the enceinte at Noviodunum which would provide this sequence. Unfortunately, the geophysical survey failed to clearly identify the line of the defences and so a likely location was chosen taking both the geophysics and topographic survey into account. The excavation was back-filled at the end of the 2005 season to preserve the integrity of the deposits for 2006 and the future.

The Project team in 2005 consisted of: Kris Lockyear (Institute of Archaeology, University College London [IoA], director) Adrian Popescu (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, director); Timothy Sly (Archaeology, University of Southampton [SU], director); Simon Davis, Sylvia Kennedy, Antonietta Lerz (Museum of London Archaeological Service, excavation supervisors); Rosemary Burton (excavation supervisor), Michael Bamforth (IoA, excavation supervisor); Mihaela Ciausescu (Cluj, pottery specialist); Robin Symonds (l'Institut National de Recherches en Archélogie Préventive, pottery specialist); Colin Lacey (SU, computing specialist); Jane Sidell (IoA and English Heritage, environmental coordinator); Yvonne Edwards (IoA, faunal remains); Martyn Allen (SU, faunal remains); Nichole Doub, Lyndsey Chambers (IoA, conservation); Kim Lockyear (logistical support); Tim Braybrooke, Elliott Rampley (IoA, photography); Christina Terry (finds support), as well as students from the Institute of Archaeology, the University of Southampton, and other institutions.

The excavation used the Museum of London single context recording system (MoLAS 1994). This system (and minor variants on it) has become the standard system in the UK as well as being adopted by many other projects around the world (for example the Apulum Project, Cronica 2001, no.9). The data created was input to the Integrated Archaeological Database, a system written by Mike Rains of York Archaeology. This database system can incorporate all the context information, along with the individual context drawings and photographs. As the database system is web based it will be possible in the future to make the entire project archive available.

During the excavation, all pre-20th century features were sieved through a 5mm mesh. This improved the recovery of small coins and other objects, small fragments of pottery and small animal (especially fish) bones. In addition, soil samples were taken for flotation. The project has had constructed its own flotation tank to process these samples (Fig. 1).


Fig.1 : The flotation tank

Water is pumped from the Danube using a small petrol pump and into the bottom of the tank through a distributor. The water bubbles up through a 1mm fabric mesh and then flows out via a spout. This water is directed through a 500µ sieve. The soil sample is placed in the 1mm mesh and agitated by hand. Sediment sinks to the bottom of the tank, heavy residue (including stones, bones, ceramic fragments, egg shell, fish scales etc.) is caught in the 1mm mesh and light material (mainly charcoal and carbonised seeds) is caught in the 500µ sieve. The heavy residues and flotation samples are then air dried prior to sorting and analysis. Samples from the 2005 season are in process of sorting / analysis.

All “small finds” from the excavations (essentially artefacts other than pottery and tile) were given a unique number and then passed to the conservators for assessment. The majority of the artefacts, e.g. the ubiquitous fragments of glass bracelet, simply required bagging in inert plastic bags along with an indelible label and packing in appropriate container. All artefacts were photographed prior to packing. Other artefacts such as coins required more active intervention by the conservators, e.g. cleaning with a glass bristle brush, and appropriate consolidation treatment. Information, including the conservation record, for the 600 small finds recovered was input to the IADB. Photographs of the artefacts are currently being uploaded into the system.

Faunal remains were subject to an assessment as an essential stage in the planning of the more detailed analysis. Some 7,924 bone fragments weighing 46.28kg have been assessed so far. This total excludes material recovered from the flotation samples.

Similarly, the ceramic assemblage has only been subjected to an assessment. All the pottery was washed and bagged by context. Material from the substantial layers of topsoil were only quantified by count so as to provide a comparison to the field-walked assemblage. Pottery from the remaining contexts was quantified by weight and count. Full identification and quantification by estimated vessel equivalents (EVEs, Orton 1993) will be reserved for major key contexts within the excavation.

The excavation was located on the south facing slope of the fortress near to the SW corner of the Ottoman fortress. An area of approximately 150m2 was opened up. The initial stage of the excavation involved removal of the topsoil by hand. The topsoil was remarkably deep, particularly on the upslope side of the excavation. This is partially a reflection of the ploughing of the site which continued at least into the 1950s as can be seen in the aerial photographs published by Stefan (1973). Archaeological deposits had been truncated by this activity, particularly on the downslope edge of the excavation. A 2m wide extension to the main area was excavated downslope to investigate a large wall which could be clearly seen on the surface (and had been plotted in the first year of the survey). As the ceramic assemblage has not been fully analysed, the dating of the remains excavated is provisional.


Fig 2 : Context 1065

The earliest feature so far revealed is the large wall explored by the trench extension (Fig. 2; context 1065). This is a well made wall 2m thick. The ashlar facing of the wall has been robbed but the mortar and rubble core survives well. It was revealed to a depth of 1m. It is as yet impossible to date this stratigraphically but it probably contemporary with the defences being excavated by VHB elsewhere at Noviodunum. A major aim of the 2006 season will be to trace the line of this wall and determine if it is part of a tower, or the curtain wall.

The majority of the features revealed and excavated in 2005 consisted of a series of pits, midden deposits and ephemeral buildings of medieval date. Detailed dating of the features awaits completion of the finds analysis, but most appear to be 12th-14th century. Significant quantities of animal bone and ceramics were recovered (see below) especially from contexts 1056/1068 which were the fills of a large oval pit (Fig. 3; 1055).


Fig 3 : Large oval pit


Fig 4 : Possible beaten earth floor

Evidence for buildings was extremely ephemeral, such as the possible beaten earth floor 1030 (Fig. 4) suggesting that occupation in this area consisted of relatively temporary or utilitarian structures. The stratigraphic relationships between many of the features had been destroyed by ploughing. The recovery of some vessels which had been badly burnt, thick burnt daub, metal and glass slags and iron scale suggest that this area was primarily an industrial or craft working area in the medieval period.


Fig 5 : Burial

A single burial was recovered from the NW edge of the excavation. This burial was just below the ploughsoil in a shallow cut (Fig. 5) giving a good indication of the extent of erosion of the site. Preliminary investigation suggests the individual was 12–14 years old when s/he died.


Fig 6 : Pair of earrings

The recovery of a pair of earrings (Fig. 6), one on the skull and one in deposits nearby, probably the result of disturbance by susliks, suggests a female. No other grave goods were found with the body but the burial must be contemporary with or post-date the other features found in this area.

Modern features excavated on the site include a deep square cut into the side of the hill with post holes in the corners (Fig. 7, 1003) which seems to be some form of sunken-featured building, and a small section of 20th century slit trench.


Fig 7 : Modern features

Detailed consideration of the faunal remains awaits completion of the stratigraphic analysis. Some general comments are, however, possible on the basis of the assessment report. Of the 7924 bone fragments examined (which excludes material from the flotation samples) 53.6% were fish bone fragments. Although, given the location of the site next to the Danube, exploitation of fish was expected, the proportion of fish bones is remarkably high. Preliminary evaluation shows the presence of at least eight major families of fish including pike (Esox lucius), zander (Lucioperca lucioperca), catfish (Silurus Glanis) and sturgeon (Acipenser huso). Excluding the fish, domesticated species account for the majority of specimens with cattle (Bos taurus) accounting for 9.86% of the total, sheep/goat (Ovis aries/Capra hircus) 7.4% and pig (Sus scrofa) 4.85%. Other domesticated species encountered in the assemblage were domestic fowl (including bantams, chicken, duck and goose) horse, dog and cat. Hunted mammals such as deer and hare account for just over 1% of total fragments (excluding fish) although more detailed analysis of the pig bones may show the presence of wild boar. Both red (Cervus elephas) and fallow deer (Dama dama) were identified and may have contributed significantly to the diet of the inhabitants, as well as providing antler for the manufacture of artefacts.

In 2006 it is hoped that we will continue the excavations at this point during July and August as well as opening a second trench in the so-called “civilian settlement” at Noviodunum. In addition we are proposing two seasons of field walking, in March/April and in late August/September 2006.

Lockyear, K. 2003 ‘At the edge of empires: the Noviodunum project, Romania.’ Archaeology International [6], 21-24.
Lockyear, K., A. Popescu and T. J. T. Sly (forthcoming 2006) `New surveys on the lower Danube frontier: the Noviodunum Archaeological Project 2000–4.’ Journal of Roman Archaeology.
MoLAS 1994. Archaeological Site Manual. London: Museum of London Archaeological Service.
Orton, C. R, P. Tyers and A. Vince 1993. Pottery in Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology.
Stefan, Al.-S. 1973. ‘Noviodunum. Studii de foto-interpretare arheologica.’ Buletinul Monumentelor Istorice 42(1): 3–14.

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