The Culver Archaeological Project began in 2005 with a simple programme of field-walking, survey and trial trenching in the hope of identifying further archaeological sites within the landscape around Barcombe Villa.
The project operates out of Culver Farm, where our erstwhile Director Rob Wallace lives and works for the majority of the year.The first season saw the identification of a Roman roadway to the south of the villa complex, which became the focus of subsequent fieldwork seasons as we traced the road through adjacent fields.
To date we have identified evidence for the road in four separate fields, and projected its course over a much wider area. The road remains the major focus of the project, but we have since expanded our research questions to encompass activity adjacent to the route and associated settlement. Excavation in 2007 and 2008 exposed the road surface and a wealth of features closely associated with it, from waterlogged wood to pottery filled pits.
While a lot more work is necessary before we come to any iron-clad conclusions, it seems likely that we have identified industrial and domestic activity dating from the 1st to the 4th centuries.
Archaeological sites are, however, rarely straightforward and while our research is largely focused on the Roman period of occupation we have also identified activity from as early as the Mesolithic period and into 19th century gravel quarrying.
The Roman Road
Our investigation into a possible Roman road began in 2005 when an area of flint scatters was pointed out by the local farmer and landowner Mark Stroude. We promptly dropped a trial trench into the area and exposed areas of heavily compact flints with a layer of clay agger and flint foundations beneath. Unfortunately, no dating evidence was recovered from the trench and due to the sweetcorn crop the excavation could not be extended.
Later that year we headed north into the adjacent Pond Field and with the help of a JCB opened two large trenches along the projected alignment of the road.
The first trench held no sign of a road, but did expose a possible Bronze Age field boundary.
Trench two was rather more successful, exposing similar flint foundations as seen to the south along with a possible boundary ditch and two very welcome post-holes! Roman pottery and ceramic building material were recovered from these features and seemed to confirm our initial speculations.
We returned to Pond Field in 2007 and opened up a large area in an attempt to identify the limits of the road and identify any adjacent activity. We were in for a pleasant surprise – much more of the road structure had survived than we were originally expecting, along with a flanking ditch, a series of post-holes and pits crammed with Roman pottery! Furthermore, the exposure of a substantial length of road surface allowed us to project the continuation across a wider distance and thus target future areas of work.
The Waterlogged Wood
The 2006 season focused on a series of evaluation trenches in Culver Mead, targeted on the results of a large geo-physical survey undertaken the previous year. Much of the exposed archaeology reflected 19th activity, specifically gravel quarrying in the area, which unfortunately appeared to have truncated the majority of the earlier archaeological remains.
However, despite the disappointment of a number of the evaluation trenches, one area of excavation exposed a very exciting find ~ three 5ft wooden timbers were exposed beneath a layer of bluish clay in heavily waterlogged features. The extent of the feature in which the timbers were exposed is at present unknown, and further examination is planned for the future.