Thursday, 27 September 2012

Beaumont Leys, a suburb already in the Iron Age?

One of the most interesting things archaeologically about the Beaumont Leys estate is not necessarily how it stands for the modern architectural ideals that went slightly sour, but how it is a site of ‘aggregated’ Iron Age settlements. No isolated farmsteads here, but a sinuous linear boundary and north from it the remains of nine or so roundhouses, some of them comfortably c. 10 m in diameter.

The sites at Beaumont Leys (© Leicester City Council and MapInfo)

There were signs of earlier visits during the Neolithic and Bronze Age in the form of occasional sherds deposited in otherwise Iron Age structures. This site is one of the hut sites at Beaumont Leys presented in the City Council MapInfo Historic Environmental Record (HER). This is not even the only area with a site of this type but there is another one, excavated around the same time in Humberstone and published in the same volume (Thomas 2011). Nevertheless, visiting Beaumont Leys every week and normally just seeing the shopping centre or the petrol station makes it delightful to know that there is more to the reputation of this estate.

Linear feature on Google Maps

Now the main archaeological site is the site of an Office depot and your average industrial estate warehouse building with a huge car park, virtually approachable in Google Street View. The astonishing fact is that in Google Maps the excavation is still visible and you can follow with your own eyes the linear boundary (see above) rounding up the site on the southern site. In your mind’s eye you can almost see ‘Asterix’ and ‘Obelix’ walking into the roundhouse of the village druid while keeping the troubadour at an arm's length.

Game model of the Gaulish village (linked image from Eclypsia game pages)

Thomas, J., 2011. Two Iron Age 'Aggregated' Settlements in the environs of Leicester. Excavations at Beaumont Leys and Humberstone. Leicester Archaeology Monographs 19.

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