In September 2002, Alan Meek, a metal detectorist found a hoard of silver and gold decorated sheets and jewellery in a field near Baldock on a known Romano-British settlement site. As a member of a responsible detecting group, the find was recognised as potential treasure under the law which must be reported to the Local Coroner. Our Society’s Field Officer, Gil Burleigh, was immediately contacted and the discovery was recorded in the field. Later, the finds were taken to the British Museum to be studied. There, Dr Ralph Jackson confirmed that the hoard was temple treasure, extremely rare in this country. It consisted of 26 gold and silver objects and included gold jewellery, a silver figurine, and gold and silver alloy votive plaques. A field project was organised that included geophysical, surface artefact collection and metal-detecting surveys over more than 8 hectares of ancient settlement. These surveys have given us a plan of the layout of a large area of late Iron Age and Romano-British settlement together with the related distribution of archaeological finds.
An initial evaluation excavation was undertaken in March 2003 on a small area around the votive hoard findspot, where geophysics revealed an unusual polygonal enclosure. This exposed a small rectangular chalk platform within an organic soil deposit thought to be a silted-up former springhead. This feature was bounded by a chalk walkway. During the excavation, significant other finds were made, including a deposit of pig remains with a pipe clay figurine, much fragmentary pottery, oyster shells and many metal objects, including Bronze Age tools and weapons, Iron Age and Roman coins and brooches, and Iron Age mail armour fragments. One of the most significant finds was the silver base for the figurine found with the temple hoard, bearing an inscription to the hitherto unknown goddess called Senuna (initially read as Senua). Further analysis by the British Museum on the votive plaques showed that some of them bore dedications to Senuna, too. It is believed that she was an older Celtic goddess whom the Romans twinned with Minerva and continued to use her sacred site. Senuna’s shrine may have been a ritual spring into which offerings were placed or thrown, surrounded by a complex of buildings including probably a temple, houses, shops, stables, workshops, inns for pilgrims, as well as a bath-house by the nearby stream. The investigations were carried out by a mixed team of professional and amateur archaeologists, including volunteer members of the NHAS and Stevenage Archaeology Group, staff from The Heritage Network Ltd and members of The North Herts Charity Detector Group. Funding came from the NHAS, the BBC and Hertfordshire County Council.
In September 2004, a more extensive open area investigation was undertaken, again involving the same mixture of
professional and amateur archaeologists. The information upon analysis was found to be more pig burials and votive
offerings of coins, brooches etc. The previously identified chalk platform was found to be the floor of a small, roofed, structure, possibly used to house a cult statue of the goddess Senuna. To the west of the enclosed springhead was a gravel road surface and to the south a courtyard formed of laid chalk pebbles. Subsequently, Society members have assisted in the ‘finds processing’ of the large number of bones, pottery, shell and metal finds prior to their analysis by the professionals. The work has been funded by the Townley Group, Friends of The British Museum, the NHAS and the Mid-Anglia Group of the Council for British Archaeology.
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