Elaborate stone-built structure


Excavations in 2016 revealed a strange but interesting feature cut into the natural limestone on top of a hill. It had partly destroyed a drip gully of one of the Late Iron Age/early Romano-British roundhouses (100 BC to AD 410), and so was clearly later in date. It appeared to have a ‘keyhole’ shape, but as excavation progressed it was shown to comprise a T-shaped stone-lined slot with a circular pit at its northern end, and outer stone walls built at a higher level. The slot walls and outer walls were bedded a yellow mortar. 
This identified the feature as a type of Romano-British structure commonly called a ‘corn-drying oven’, but which may also have had other uses. The pit at the bottom of the ‘T’ would have been the stokehole from where a fire would have been set in the mouth of the flue. The flue, which formed the stem of the ‘T’ and was roofed with four large stone slabs, up to 1.1 m wide, carried the heated air to the uncovered vent at the back (the bar of the ‘T’), so that it could circulate in the structure above, as defined by the outer walls. Some of the slabs had tooling marks from when the stone was quarried.
Strangely, no evidence for a fire was detected, and its it possible that the structure was never used. Nonetheless, at some point is was abandoned, after which it had become infilled, perhaps helped by being used as a dump. The remains of a Romano-British pewter plate and a coin dating to the late 4th century AD were recovered at the base of the feature, along with a horse mandible. There was also a wide range of Romano-British pottery, including high-status wares such as samian and Black Burnished wares, and a large quantity of cereal remains, including barley and wheat.