Blog: Iron Age & Roman Life at Bowden’s Somerset Lias Quarry

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Our Bowden’s quarry, which towers above the Somerset Levels has an interesting past.

As there continues to be such demand for our iconic Somerset Lias stone, we decided to extend the quarry and as part of the planning process and to ensure we met with planning conditions, we undertook some initial explorations and discovered that Lovell Stone Group were not the first people there!

We began to find what looked like interesting remnants of a bygone area and thought it best to seek professional help. So we were lucky enough to come across TVAS South West who have spent many months on site, meticulously uncovering the site. What we found is astonishing.

Middle and Late Iron Age and early Roman roundhouses, spanning the time from roughly 300BC to AD150 were present on the site together with a growing amount of early Iron Age pottery, probably dating to the 6th century BC. What this means is that a substantial midden (waste dump) had formed on the hilltop, a rare find that suggests it was a venue for large, prestigious social gatherings and feasting.

At least seven Iron Age round houses and four small rectangular buildings have been unearthed, which could possibly be for grain storage. A later Iron Age ring ditch has been uncovered, measuring 12m in diameter has provided some of the most exciting finds on the site including pottery and glass.

We’ve seen the complete skeletons of three sheep that we placed over a short iron sword. A number of human skeletons have been found including a woman in a foetal position laid on large lias slabs.

But the hilltop was very much a place of the living. Textiles were important and based on the rearing of sheep. Tools found include cotton reel-like clay spindlewhorls and a bone needle and agriculture was critical with some walls from at least three Roman buildings and two, possibly three stone-built wells saw a state of the art corn drier in operation. The local farmers were even affluent enough to be able to buy bottles of scent.

The settlement which existed by around 500BC lasted for around a 1000 years, possibly beyond the end of the Roman occupation. The excavation of our quarry has been a fascinating insight into how the land was used and we are proud that so much that’s been found there is of historical significance. The work on site will continue when the weather improves and we look forward to finding out more.

If it wasn’t for the expansion of Bowden’s quarry, we would never come across this fascinating site and been able to properly record, excavate and investigate its past. We’re thrilled that we have been able to share such significant information and fragments from the County’s historic past.

(With thanks to Richard Tabor, TVAS South West)

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