Roman Wells?

brypop
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brypop
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Joined: December 6th, 2006, 11:47 pm

September 13th, 2007, 3:29 pm #1

Hi everyone I have been working on a small excavation on a Roman/Iron Age site in Dorset and we have discovered a well-like structure. It had been filled with Stone, soil, bone and pottery after it went out of use. It is approx 1.6 m deep and 1.5 m in diameter. The walls are built of local limestone but the lower half has large upright stones. The base is again of limestone slabs, which may be the natural bedrock. There is no obvious source for the water which may have filled it as it is on top of a hill and does not penetrate the water table.
Has anyone encountered a similar construction? What were the wells like at Vindolanda?
I have attached a photograph
Bryan
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MBetz
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MBetz
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Joined: November 2nd, 2006, 11:10 am

September 13th, 2007, 7:55 pm #2

An interesting discovery Bryan. I wonder if the well-like structure was used for storing grain instead of water. I have read that some cultures would store grain in the ground for the winter. Some of the grain would go bad, I guess rot, but the majority would be protected by the outter layer of "bad" grain and be useable at some later date. Any grains or seed found in the "well"?
Matt
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Sue Munro
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Joined: November 7th, 2006, 7:24 pm

September 14th, 2007, 9:45 pm #3

Hi Bryan

Whereabouts in Dorset were you?

Sue
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brypop
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brypop
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September 14th, 2007, 10:32 pm #4

Hi Sue and Matt nice to hear from you.
I will answer Sue first, the "well" is on the Isle of Purbeck not far from Swanage and there are a number of other features in the field, including a Roman barn and a couple of Iron Age roundhouses. These were excavated a number of years ago by Southampton University. Part of the barn structure is still exposed.
To answer Matt, I must say that we thought of that, but it is really too big for that purpose and there were only very few seeds found and these were inside two cow skulls. One would expect a lot more from a grain store.
We are of the opinion that it may have been a water storage tank, collecting rain and run-off water from the top of the hill. There may also have been some sort of channel running into it, at some stage of its use, as there is a large piece of pottery wedged between the stones, about half way up. The stones around it appear to have been placed there in a more haphazard way, as if filling a hole.
There were also some strange pieces of pottery found towards the bottom, they were base shards with holes drilled in them, some with 3 and some with 5.
One theory is that these may have been part of pots used to get the water from the well. The water would have entered the pot through the holes when it was lowered but when it was pulled out those holes would be covered and sealed by flat stones placed inside the pot, thus acting as a kind of valve.
What do you guys think?
B) Bryan

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David Ingham
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Joined: May 14th, 2007, 10:30 pm

September 15th, 2007, 7:10 pm #5

Hi Bryan,

Pots with holes drilled in the base (and sometimes the vessel wall) turn up all over the country. I had 27 of them with between 1 and 10 holes in the base from a site near Cambridge a couple of years ago, including 17 from a single deposit. No-one's really sure what they were used for - a popular idea is that they were strainers or presses for making cheese, but they have also been interpreted as steamers for brewing beer (examples have been found at maltings in Peterborough and Suffolk), charcoal heaters, proto-Bunsen burners for use in metalwork, timing devices, or part of the dyeing process. Some people have suggested they had a 'ritual' function, which basically confirms that no-one knows what they were - getting water out of a tank seems as good an explanation as any!

David
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Andy
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Andy
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Joined: September 11th, 2006, 2:15 pm

September 18th, 2007, 12:05 pm #6

My money is on the cheese presses. We get a lot of these things from the gaulish contexts at Vindolanda, so with a bunch of Gauls, you might expect some pretty good cheese. :D
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brypop
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brypop
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September 18th, 2007, 3:08 pm #7

Thanks Andy. We may be going to re-think the dating as most of pot now appears to be iron age ( Durotrigian, forms.
I will keep you posted.
Bryan
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