2009 Community Dig
18 test pits were excavated in Cottenham in 2009 during two episodes of activity, one a standard HEFA event with secondary school pupils and the second a special weekend event funded by the University of Cambridge as part of a wide-ranging programme celebrating the 800th anniversary of the founding of the University in 1209. The aim of the latter event was to give local residents and other members of the public the chance to look for archaeological evidence in their own locality which could reconstruct the development of the village during the centuries of the university's earliest origins. Most of the test pits were sited in the centre of the present village, with just three along the road towards the church. Four pits, sited in three locations separated by c. 400m, all in the southern part of the present settlement, produced pottery of Roman date, although in only one instance was more than a single sherd found. Together, this pattern hints at the possibility of scattered low-intensity activity in the Roman period. Four test pits produced handmade pottery of early Anglo-Saxon date (450-650AD), but the distribution of these appears more likely to indicate settlement as three of these pits (COT/09/02, COT/09/04 and COT/09/05) were sited close together in the same part of the settlement, immediately south-west of Rooks Street. This same area (COT/09/04 and COT/09/06) also produced pottery of middle Anglo-Saxon date, suggesting that settlement persisted in this area, possibly shifting its location somewhat. Test pits in the same area (COT/09/04; COT/09/05 and COT/09/06) also produced pottery dating to the later Anglo-Saxon period, as did two further pits to the south (COT/09/12 and COT/09/16), suggesting that the settlement was expanding at this time. If settlement was continuous between the areas where these pits were excavated, it would be reasonable to infer the presence of a nucleated village at least 400m in extent from north to south, although further test pitting in the intervening areas would be required to test this hypothesis. It is interesting to note that these pits all lie within the Rooks Street/Denmark Road/High Street area suggested by Ravensdale as the early core of Cottenham: the evidence from the test pits appears to support this hypothesis, but suggests that its origins are considerably earlier than he suggested.