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Five trial trenches (c.20m x 2m in total area) were excavated by the AOC Archaeology Group during September and October 1998, relating to a planning application for the redevelopment of the site of the Head Street Post Office (29-39 Head Street), c.0.26ha. in total area, to provide an eight screen multiplex cinema, a restaurant bar, retail use and a residential building on the western part of the site (CBC application 99/0353).
Three trenches were taken down through the complete sequence of archaeological deposits to the underlying glacial gravels and sands. The level at which this material was found confirms that the basements of the buildings fronting Head Street have destroyed all archaeological remains in a swathe 18 – 21.5m back from the street frontage; the frontage was not evaluated and there were 2.40m deep basements beneath the eastern part of the site.
The glacial gravels and sands were found at a level of between 32.72 – 31.70m OD, above which were remains of the Roman fort established in c.AD 44. This appeared to demonstrate two phases of construction and demolition prior to the Boudican uprising of AD 60. Evidence of this revolt was seen in the form of burnt structures and surfaces in two trenches (T1 and T2). Post-Boudican first and second century construction and occupation was noted, principally in the form of mortar foundations and an apsidal bath structure (3/019, initially discovered in 1934 excavations; MCC2057) in T3, relating to a presumed residential structure. The decline of Roman Colchester occurred in the period c.AD 350-410 (Phase VIII). Evidence from this period was recovered, including a severed human head, together with a large amount of ironwork and bone pins, (apparently) casually discarded in a pit (2/039) in T2. Little medieval activity was seen, apart from a few sherds of residual pottery in later contexts. Post-medieval pits and construction was extensive across the site, damaging the upper Roman sequence.<1>
The evaluation followed a desk-based archaeological assessment, also by AOC, in January 1998.<2> It was followed by an excavation by Colchester Archaeological Trust in 2000.<3>
Evaluation Report: Howe, Tony and Moore, John. 1998. An archaeological evaluation at 29-39 Head Street, Colchester. AOC Archaeology Group.
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