to that below the brushwood, and we have therefore interpreted it as redeposited material used as the foundation (together with the brushwood) for the first road construction. The road surface was in two layers: gravel and small stones in a matrix of silty sand beneath, and river cobbles compacted into this above. This created an all-weather roadway of hard material, some 5m wide embanked about 50cm above the surrounding ground surface in the centre, with both deposits carefully cambered down on either side to help with drainage. The downhill southern side had been kerbed by a gully which contained a row of holes for stakes, the line of a possible hurdle fence.
The river cobbles that had been used for each of the road surfaces were not of local origin, and must have been imported some distance, perhaps from the Severn itself over 3km away, presumably easier than quarrying the hard gritstone of the hill. Marshall’s Bayesian modelling suggests that at 95% probability the original iron age droveway was created around 200–5bc. Successive road constructions followed at 125bc–ad35, 110bc–ad70 and 105bc–ad105, with an 82% probability that this last phase was also iron age rather than Roman. The radiocarbon dating for one pit found beneath the line of the road, and for other pits surrounding it, are bronze age (three combined with the micromorphological evidence for animal dung and trampling, is that it may have been a marker post. The road’s origins might thus lie in a bronze age droveway that extended over the hill, within a landscape already identified as containing occupation and funerary remains from the period. What are the implications of this analysis?
Evidence for well engineered and carefully surveyed roads reaching back through the iron age into the bronze age, naturally raises questions about the nature of the society that planned them. Why were such roads necessary? Clearly simple tracks are sufficient for humans and animals, so
This pattern of construction was followed in successive phases, so that in time the road grew to over a metre high and over 7m wide, a substantial carriageway to accommodate vehicle traffic. The final phase, of late iron age or possibly Roman conquest date, appears to represent repair for wheel ruts rather than a full road rebuilding.
dates with maximum range of 1740–1120bc derived from oak, ash, birch, alder and hazel charcoal). The pit beneath the road was found at the point where the three historic parishes met, and had been dug to accommodate a substantial post about 70cm across. The interpretation we place upon this,
Interpretation of the road’s history
purpose-built roads in Britain would have been predominantly for the benefit of wheeled traffic. Who were the specialists with the skill and knowledge to design and project manage such enterprises? How was this knowledge invested in new generations, and how were such “professionals”
British Archaeology|September October 2011|17