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Springfield Essex is traditionally considered to be a county with little visible prehistory. True, Clacton is the only town in the country to have given its name to two type sites - the Clactonian in the palaeolithic and the Rinyo-Clacton in the late neolithic, but there are no specĀ­ tacular hill forts and few upstandĀ­ ing barrows. However five major rivers, the Thames, the Blackwater, the Crouch, the Colne and the

Stour cut through the county, and recent work, notably by the Archaeology Unit of Essex County Council, has shown that the terraces in these river valley gravels, like those in the rest of the country, were densely occupied throughout much of prehistory. Recently extensive excavations have been carried out at Springfield on the eastern outskirts of Chelmsford. Here air photographs revealed crop marks over a large area due to be redeveloped for industry, a shopping centre and housing. Two sites have been excavated, a cursus and, about a mile to the north, a late Bronze Age "prince's stronghold", later to be covered by an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery and a late Saxon settlement.

Cursus monuments are one of the big problems of the neolithic long parallel ditches running across the landscape, with no obvious use. The Springfield cursus is of medium length, about 700 m, but it has very definite ends, for at both ends the ditch continue round at a sharp right angle, so that it forms a very long thin rectangle. The ditches are not exactly parallel - there is a kink in the middle of the south side, so that whereas at the west end the ditches are 49 m apart, they are 37 m apart at the east end.

Since it was not possible to excavate the whole length, they decided to concentrate on the two ends, the kink in the middle and the various apparent entrances. At the west end they found nothing the typical barrenness of cursuses. At the east end, however, there was a circle of post-holes 2 ft deep. They could not be quite certain that it was a full circle, for a sewer trench had removed the western third, but it was centrally placed in the middle of the cursus. Some sherds of Mortlake bowls were recovered from the postholes, and a large sherd of Mortlake ware was found about a foot from the bottom of the east terminal ditch. There were a number of pits, both inside and outside the circle, most containing

Left. Plan of the Springfield area, with, below, a plan of the cursus. Modern Chelmsford looms off to the top left.

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