Archaeologists have found evidence of Roman irrigation – the earliest known in Britain from their excavations on the North West Cambridge Development. 

The discovery is part of excavations undertaken by Cambridge Archaeological Unit’s which have been investigating how communities throughout the ages have adapted to living in the area, on such an inland location away from main river valleys and how regular water supply was achieved. 

Chris Evans, Head of the Unit explained: “The area has a ridgeway where the gravels meet the clay and the excavations have shown settlements and habitation on the site from as early as the later Neolithic period (c.2800-2200BC), right through the ages including the Bronze, Iron and Roman ages. Our findings from excavating around the ridgeway have unearthed zebra-like stripes of Roman planting beds that are encircled on their higher northern side by more deep pit-wells. The gully-defined planting beds were closely set and were probably grapevines or possibly asparagus. Extraordinarily, after carefully peeling off the clays, we saw a series of ditches lining the wells and the horticultural beds. Clearly in dry spells, water could have been poured from the pit-wells into the ditches to reach the beds. This is a tremendously significant find that reflects the area’s intense agricultural regime from the Roman period.” 

Cambridge Archaeological Unit’s excavations continue as part of the works in advance of the North West Cambridge Development. The Unit is currently exploring a lost medieval village in Cambridge at the northern end of the site. 

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