| 5 July 2008
New finds at Rotherwas, while road over it is complete
The remains of animals burnt at extreme temperatures have been confirmed among finds from the Rotherwas Ribbon, the 4,000-year-old archaeological site uncovered by roadbuilding work near Hereford (England) last year.
An initial assessment report prepared for Herefordshire Council suggests the Ribbon was some sort of ceremonial site, and one of many that early man etched into the surrounding landscape. Recently, archaeologists working on the southern fringes of Rotherwas found a fire cracked stone surface similar to the Ribbon and links to burnt material like flint and pottery. Specialist post-excavation assessments of the Ribbon saw that the badly weathered bones of cattle, pigs, dogs, cows and probably sheep showed evidence of burning at more than 800 degrees celsius. A human finger was also found.
Radiocarbon tests are now under way to define the Ribbon’s dates. Flint tools found at the site include finely flaked scrapers for wood working and meat preparation, and 'strike-a-lights' to produce sparks against iron pyrites. The latter struck the assessors as particularly unusual as such strikes were usually kept among personal items and not casually discarded. Of the 143 pieces of flint found, many also showed evidence of burning and breakage – again, unusual compared to flint found on similar sites.
Unfortunately, Hereford Council succeeded in building a road over the site despite the protests of campaigners. The road was officially opened to traffic last 30 June 2008. Maybe English Heritage could have saved the Ribbon by scheduling it. But last september they said "It is not expected that a decision on scheduling will be made in the immediate future." Now it is too late.
In the meantime, another archaeological discovery has been uncovered close to the site of the new Rotherwas access road: a platform of burnt stones, thought to date back to the same period as the Rotherwas Ribbon. The platform is much smaller in scale than the Ribbon but is constructed of similarly burnt stones and is of apparent prehistoric date.
Andy Boucher, managing director of Archaeological Investigations Ltd which is carrying out the work, said: "There is a clear similarity in the use of fire-cracked stones in the formation of this platform compared to the Ribbon discovered last year so it seems unlikely that they were separated by any great span of time. This is exciting because the new discovery is associated with features containing a wealth of evidence about the past environment and could well help to further unlock our understanding of the Ribbon."
Source: Hereford Times (15 and 30 June 2008, 1 July 2008), Heritage Action Journal (4 July 2008)
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