Monday, 3 December 2012


This is a dull bit - there's more drama,
and more archaeology,
in other places.
photo: John Sutton CCL


Born: Millet Arnold Maitland, England

Physical Characteristics: 5’11’’, black hair, watery blue eyes, glasses, wiry build

Education: with the aid of a scholarship, I attended Penville College, Cambridge University, read for a Masters of Ancient History degree  Forcibly removed after completing studies, I joined every dig I could find until the money ran out. Later, I pursued a teaching career teaching in a range of secondary schools

Former Occupation: For two terms each year I worked as a teacher: Middle and Secondary School experience

In the summer term, I threw myself into archaeological digs: I excavated sites in various counties/countries sometimes when political situations could make an archaeologist look for danger money. The past – like a child - has to be saved, it can’t save itself.

Present Occupation: Supply teacher – no school refused although danger money is often demanded.


If I don't stick with my original plan to put a pin in the centre of my map of the Roman Roads of Derbyshire and request permission to dig there, I'm probably going to end up in Cambridgeshire. I'm not saying where.

I'm researching, and narrowing down my options.

There's a high bank and ditched barrier running from Balsham to Fulbourn. In the past, before all the wear and tear, it was massive. Fleam Dyke.

The name Fleam may derive from the Old English for “flight” or “fugitive”. This kind-of confuses me. Does anyone ever build a barrier  to help people escape more easily? No. I don't think I fall into the camp that thinks it's more about imprisoning them either. Planning to run away? Let me stick out my fleam and trip you up. If you build a ditch and a wall, the chances are you're planning to keep somebody out. Obviously, if I was able to dig at the site and found stakes pointing inwards instead of out, I'd change my mind and believe the defence wasn't built to keep trouble out of the wuffing kingdom of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Today, Fleam Dyke is a footpath. Less visibly, it’s a parish boundary. I would say the presence of Fleam Dyke makes the area monumentally important.

Mutlow Hill, a Bronze Age round barrow, that butts along the edge of the earthwork was important long before any Anglo-Saxon decided it would make a better place for a wall rather than a meeting place.

As if 4,000 year old cremated burials weren’t enough,  rare third century BC Greek coins were found close to the burial mound.

Unsurprisingly, those canny Romans planted a temple on Mutlow Hill. It perched way up there, on the top of a hill, overlooking key junction of several routeways including the Icknield Way.

Historians have been studying this part of Cambridgeshire for a long time - in short bursts -although slightly longer in duration than a Time Team visit. The investigations in 1921-2 established that the construction was post-Roman, that no causeway had been left for access along the Icknield Way, and that an Anglo-Saxon estate charter of 974 mentions the Dyke as part of its boundary.

Scientific techniques helped with the analysis. Fleam Dyke had more than three distinct building phases. The shells of buried snails showed that the defences had been built on gazed grassland and disturbed ground. And, interestingly, a fourth century Roman coin was also found beneath the bank.

Reference: Malim T et al 1997 ‘New Evidence on the Cambridgeshire Dykes and Worsted Street Roman Road’. Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian SocietyVol. 85, pp. 27 – 122.