Andrew A S Newton
BAR Publishing, £51
Review Sam Lucy
This volume in the British Archaeological Reports series presents the results of excavations by Archaeological Solutions Ltd in advance of gravel-quarrying on a hilltop next to the Thames Estuary in Essex, just to the south-west of the Mucking ridge, where comparative Bronze Age and Anglo-Saxon occupation is well documented.
The open-area excavations at Chadwell St Mary in 2012- 2014 recovered evidence for a later Bronze Age ringwork (to add to the known examples nearby at Mucking and at Mucking North, plus those further afield, with good topographical representations in the discussion chapter), as well as an extensive series of pits and post-holes representing contemporary (settlement?) activity. These are exhaustively presented with plans and section drawings of the majority of the features. They have rather amorphous arrangements, with just a handful of probable identifiable structures, and, as no non-cremated bone survived, finds were limited to archaeobotanical evidence, small amounts of copper-alloy wire and lead cubes, perforated clay plates, and an extensive pottery assemblage.
The discussion chapter presents distributions of the cremation burials, while the pottery distribution is presented in the specialist chapter, but overall the synthesis of finds and features could have been more systematic. Mapping distributions of the fired-clay and pottery fabric types and forms, for example, might have added to the interpretation of the site (while the pottery report details feature groups, this is hard to follow without visual referencing, and the additional downloads referred to as ‘Appendix 1’ are simply tables of feature descriptions with associated finds). Nevertheless, this report represents a useful addition to the known examples of such sites, and it is presented in a way as to enable further research to take place.
The early medieval features seem very much an afterthought, with just a handful of sunken-featured buildings, one timber-framed structure (possibly two), and rather minimal amounts of material culture. While this is useful broader context for the area, it is clear that the post- Bronze Age usage of this part of the near-Mucking landscape was very different from the long-lived occupation seen at Mucking itself.