News Items

High Wood dig – Ceramic Building Material (CBM) found

The excavations at High Wood in Harpsden have come to an end for another year (2018). This means that the post excavation work is now under way and will continue through much of the winter ready to start again next year. By size and weight the vast majority of finds are classified as CBM (Ceramic Building Material); the majority of the CBM is roof tiles.

Typically, as trenches are opened one first comes to a layer of large, often knapped, flints. Beneath this is a layer of roof tile. This roof tile is carefully removed and stored by context. Each piece of CBM is then classified as, tegula (flat tile), imbrex (convex tile), lydion (flat, rectangular brick),  or unidentifiable. The weight for each class is recorded against the context where it was found. Generally, at the end of each digging season, it is reinterred on the site.

At High Wood we are particularly lucky in being supported by Peter Warry FSA who is the leading expert in Roman CBM. At the end of each season he comes and examines what has been found and stored by context. Evidently, over the Roman period the size of tegula increased. This reduced the weight of the roof so needed less structure to support it. Consequently the cost of roofs reduced over the Roman period. This allows Peter to tell us that the majority of the tiles at High Wood are from the 4th century. This contrasts with other finds that suggest the site was in use from the late Iron Age through to the end of the Roman period. This in turn suggest that the roofs may originally have been thatched or shingle.

One intriguing piece of CBM was uncovered this year on the very  day of Peter’s visit.  A trench was being opened in an effort to find the Eastern enclosure wall for the site. Whilst animal footprints and other marks are common on the CBM recovered at High Wood, a piece with a geometric pattern, see illustration on the right, is very unusual.

For those prepared to brave the October dark to the Village Hall at Whitchurch Hill, Peter Warry is giving a lecture called ‘The evolution of Roman ceramic building material in southern England.’ to SOAG on October the 25th. Details from Andrew Allum(578993) or Ruth Gibson(572271)

Andrew Allum