Musselburgh Primary Care Centre
For copyright information please contact ELC Archaeology Service
- HER number: MEL10191
- Site Name: Musselburgh Primary Care Centre
- Grid Reference: 334317 672226
- Civil Parish:
- Summary: Roman settlement and field system; Roman cemetery; Iron age cist burial and inhumations
- Description: (1) In November & December 2009, Headland Archaeology undertook an evaluation on the site of the Former Brunton Wireworks, Musselburgh in advance of the construction of the new Musselburgh Primary Care Centre. A 10% sample of the proposed development area was subject to trial trenching (equating to 518m of linear trenching), which revealed that former topsoil survives across the entire evaluated area beneath modern concrete and levelling associated with the Wireworks complex. The topsoil seals archaeologically significant features which are assumed to be Roman in origin on the basis of the recovered artefacts. The features include several ditches and pits cut into the underlying sand, as well as two upstanding linear features, comprising cobbles capped with clay, that may represent rampart bases or roads. Beneath the former topsoil to the south of the site, a midden-rich deposit was revealed overlying two ditches and an early ground surface. This deposit contained cattle, pig and horse bones as well as domestic Roman pottery. The discarded material may come from the fort itself, or from a civilian settlement associated with the fort; of which the proposed development site may have been part. A cremation was also identified, possibly the remains of a child, in the southeastern part of the site; adjacent to a ditch containing Roman pottery.
(2) In July - December 2010, CFA Archaeology Ltd undertook an excavation at the Former Brunton Wireworks, Musselburgh in advance of its redevelopment as the new Musselburgh Primary Health Care Centre. The excavation revealed a suite of archaeological features which are interpreted as
evidence of multi-phased activity within the site, within two discrete periods
(Mesolithic and Iron Age/Roman).
A deposit containing Mesolithic and possibly Neolithic flints represents the earliest
activity on the site (Phase 1). A large assemblage of worked flint was recovered and
will form the basis of a publication report on this aspect of the site.
An undated curvilinear ditch (Phase 2) which may originally have been circular in
form was identified towards the south-eastern corner of the site. This feature had been
cut by a probable Roman period burial (Phase 4), which had in turn been cut by a
ditch associated with a probable Roman field system (Phase 6).
Four burial pits have been identified as Iron Age in date (Phase 3), one of which was
a stone-lined cist. The pits contained a minimum of six individuals, as two of the
graves contained double inhumations. Apart from the fragmentary human remains, a
few other artefacts were recovered, including a brooch from one of the single burials.
Six inhumation burials have been identified as Roman (Phase 4), although this will
need to be confirmed with radiocarbon dating as none contained any artefacts.
Stratigraphic evidence suggests that they predate the Roman field system (Phase 6)
and finds-rich soil deposits (Phase 7). These skeletons were generally better
preserved than the Iron Age group, and four of the six had evidence of decapitation. If
these skeletons were contemporary with the 2nd-century Inveresk fort, they are some
of the earliest Roman decapitation burials to be found anywhere in Britain. The
various cremation deposits and possible pyre site are also likely to be Roman,
although again there is no definitive dating evidence at present. A horse burial may be
another contemporary deposit, although it could also be Iron Age.
A rampart base may have been part of a Roman military structure (Phase 5). This
may be contemporary with the burials (Phase 4), but is earlier than the field system
A network of ditches is interpreted as a Roman field system which is likely to be
contemporary with the use of Inveresk fort (Phase 6). This was sealed by finds-rich
soil deposits (Phase 7) which may be related to the abandonment of the fort, and
which contained large quantities of pottery and animal bone. The very large fragment
size of this material suggested that the deposit had not been reworked and that the
material was found in its original deposition site.
A later post-built structure (Phase 8) was identified within the rampart. One of the
post-holes associated with this feature had been cut into the backfill of one of the
ditches thought to be associated with the Roman period field system (Phase 6). This
would indicate that the post-built structure post-dated both the rampart and the field
- For more information contact: East Lothian Council HER
- Related Places:
- Associated Periods:
- (1) Unpublished document: Robertson, A. 2010. Data Structure Report of an evaluation at the Former Brunton Wireworks, Musselburgh.
- (2) Unpublished document: Kirby, M. 2011. Musselburgh Primary Health Care Centre, Former Brunton Wireworks, Musselburgh, East Lothian: Archaeological Excavation.