Excavation has recently finished at the site of the former Sanderson's factory in Denham, South Bucks, in advance of the first phase of a new office development.

The archaeology of this particular part of the Colne valley had been evaluated in 2003 and the results had shown a landscape rich in palaeoenvironmental remains but relatively poor in artefactual remains - despite the proximity of the late Glacial/early Mesolithic site at Three Ways Wharf (Uxbridge) excavated by Museum of London Archaeology Service's predecessor the Department of Greater London Archaeology in 1989.

The Three Ways Wharf site had yielded flint assemblages judged to be of national importance, and the possibility that the Sanderson's site might yield similar finds was keenly anticipated. In fact as each area of the site was looked at it seemed that hopes were to be dashed - until very nearly the last moment when, during excavation of a flood relief channel at the very southern end of the site (in fact, nearest to Three Ways Wharf), a scatter of flint and animal bone came to light.

The flint scatter was situated on an area of relatively high gravel which may have formed the bank of a small island within the braided channel of the Colne. Tools, cores and 'debitage' were all present - over 3,000 flint and bone fragments were recovered by hand, and recorded in 3 dimensions, and a similar number recovered from the bulk sieving of the associated soil horizons.

The tool types were identical to the early Mesolithic assemblage from Three Ways Wharf and appear to date to c 9000 BC; the animal bone found derived from, amongst other animals, red deer, beaver, and possibly otter. The scatter was nearly 10m long and 4-5m wide and was arranged around an area of fire-cracked gravel which suggested the presence of a 'camp-fire'.

Post-excavation analysis of the finds and data from the site is about to begin, but it is already clear that the combination of the finds assemblage and good palaeoenvironmental data has a real potential to add significantly to the current state of knowledge of the post-glacial development of the Colne valley, and will form a fascinating complement to the Three Ways Wharf discovery.

Sandy Kidd, Senior Archaeological Officer at Buckinghamshire County Council, commented: 'This site adds to our knowledge of this early period just after the end of the last Ice Age. The site has been provisionally dated to around 9000 BC, when the ice sheets had receded but when Britain was still connected to the continent by the land bridge. Previous finds in the area indicate that the Colne Valley was particularly attractive to hunter-gatherers.'

'Work is being supported by the developer, Arlington, who have a policy of assisting discoveries of historical importance. Jim Johnston, who heads the Development Services team at Arlington, said: "This find is exciting and we are pleased to support the work to discover its historical origins. In doing so we are helping to build a picture of Uxbridge and its inhabitants thousands of years ago.'

Prehistoric Excavation Artefacts News