Roadworks unearth ancient ditch at junction

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of what appears to be a prehistoric settlement on the outskirts of York.

The hearth with burnt cobbles in situ, at the centre of the ring gully. Picture: York Archaeological Trust

The earliest find – a large ring ditch which could have been an enclosure or roundhouse – appears to date from the Iron Age, around 2,500 years ago. At around 52ft in diameter, it is one of the biggest to be unearthed in York.

Pits and what looks to be a hearth have been found alongside, during roadworks at the roundabout of the junction with the road to Wetherby, on York’s outer ring road.

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A nearby ditch has produced a series of related finds, including decorated pottery fragments, a piece of quern-stone and industrial waste material in the form of molten slag. Fragments of possible pumice-stone, a volcanic rock not found locally, have also been discovered indicating possible connections with the wider prehistoric world.

Finds have also been made to the north of the enclosure with a series of other ditches that may indicate the boundaries of the settlement. There is evidence of similar activity from later periods, with medieval ditches cutting through the existing ones, showing how the agricultural landscape changed over the centuries.

Ian Milsted, the York Archaeological Trust’s head of archaeology, whose members were on site from the start of the roadworks, described the finds as “important”, adding: “We will now analyse the finds to understand the story of the people who lived here before the Romans founded the city.”