The new extension was subject to an archaeological scheme of work, secured by a condition on the planning permission. Surrey County Archaeological Unit (SCAU) undertook a controlled topsoil strip, followed by recording of the archaeology revealed. Scattered over an area of nearly 5Ha were features of a number of periods. The Neolithic and Bronze Age features were almost all pits, to which it is difficult to ascribe specific functions. The Iron Age evidence was more varied, including pits, some of which seem to be associated with metal working, and post holes belonging to a 4-poster structure, as well as others that are part of a fence line. The Roman period is represented only by stray finds. Saxon and early medieval activity is shown by ditches, pits, including a probable waterhole, and a number of post holes. Some of the more interesting of these features occurred near the limits of the present stripped area, and it is likely that a better understanding of them will be achieved when further stripping takes place.
The most exciting evidence to emerge was, however, of Mesolithic date. A series of pits were identified, including several clusters. These are themselves of considerable interest and importance as deliberately dug pits of this date have only rarely been identified. Their significance was, however, greatly enhanced by the identification of a 'buried soil', containing only material of Mesolithic date, and in some quantity, within a topographic hollow occupying an area of almost 1Ha.
Further evaluation in 2002 revealed that the 'buried soil' had a complex formation process both during, and perhaps prior, to Mesolithic activity. In situ evidence was revealed for flint working at several of the sampled locations, and there was also evidence of fires and/or cooking activities. Repeated visits were evidently paid to the area from around 8000BC down to around 4500BC.
Hunter-gatherers have rarely left any visible trace on the landscape, so the vast majority of evidence for Mesolithic society consists of isolated scatters of flint artefacts. Set against this background, the discoveries at North Park Farm clearly provided a remarkable contrast, and offered considerable opportunities to advance our understanding of the chronology and character of the period.
The evidence that has emerged, with flints, hearths and other activity areas, will undoubtedly yield important academic benefits.
The areas of recovery of in-situ Mesolithic flints are numbered on the plan below and can be summarised as follows (The plan can be enlarged by clicking on it):
It is estimated that the full total of struck flints from the site, including that from a buried soil that sealed the Mesolithic stratigraphy, amounts to c25,000, and detailed analysis of this vast assemblage is now underway.
Also shown on the plan are some later features that include several later Bronze Age and Early Iron Age pits on the northern flank of the shallow hollow. At least three of these produced complete pots that may contain human cremations. Some, at least, of the eleven burnt flint scatters found in the west of the site may also be of later prehistoric date. On the southern side of the hollow c20 pits and a hearth of early medieval date were found and several slightly later field ditches were traced across the site. The latest feature is a loosely constructed causeway largely comprised of Merstham Stone and probably dating to the early post-medieval period. The present farmer and his father had never realised it was there as it had become sealed by up to 0.5m of accumulated soils.
SCAU will be helping to organise events during 2006 in relation to the Mesolithic period in Surrey, incorporating the findings from the North Park Farm archaeological investigation. Our "News and Events" web page will shortly list the programme of events and activities, which will be carried out across the county over the coming year.